Console-based video games--whether played on the Microsoft Xbox 360, the Sony PlayStation 3, the Nintendo Wii or something else--are a major reason why people buy HDTVs. So it stands to reason that most manufacturers have a game mode on their HDTVs, which usually involves brighter picture settings, claims of eliminating lag between the controller and onscreen action, and other hyperbole. Sharp has had a picture setting labeled "game" for quite a while, but the LC-32GP1U is the first HDTV it's marketed specifically toward gamers. The meat behind the marketing consists of a prominent Game button on the remote and 1080p native resolution. The latter feature is difficult to appreciate on a 32-inch HDTV, and despite the prominence of the button, it doesn't seem to have much effect aside from switching inputs. As a gaming display, the LC-32GP1U doesn't offer any more than your typical LCD, and although its overall image quality is nothing to sneeze at, it's hard to justify the Sharp's relatively high price.
Sharp dressed its best 32-inch LCD TV the same as its larger brethren, such as the 52-inch LC-52D92U, and we like the look overall. A squared-off frame of glossy black surrounds the screen, and along the bottom there's a strip of chrome that bows downward in the middle like a sly grin. Below the chrome is an area of microperforated plastic that hides the speakers, and a glossy, black stand that seems a bit large for a TV of this size. Including the stand, the set measures 31.4x23.3x10.8 inches and weighs 44 pounds. Remove the stand, and you get a panel with dimensions of 31.4x20.9x3.8 inches.
The company has been using the same remote for years, and the LC-32GP1U continues the tradition. It has full orange backlighting, the ability to command four other pieces of gear, keys that are nicely spread out and differentiated well, and a generally logical button layout. We say "generally" because the key to control aspect ratio is stashed clear at the top of the long wand, the one for freezing the image is given an unduly important spot near the main directional keypad, and the one for changing picture modes is hidden beneath a flip-up hatch. The menu system is simple enough to navigate and includes helpful explanations that appear along the bottom.
At the top of the Sharp LC-32GP1U's feature list is 1080p native resolution, which surpasses that of any other 32-inch HDTVs we know of. All of those extra pixels allow the set to display every line of 1080i and 1080p sources, although you'll be hard-pressed to see the difference even from a close seating distance (see Performance for more). As always, all other sources, including 720p HDTV, DVD, standard-definition television, and computer sources are scaled to fit the available pixels.
Sharp makes a big deal about the gaming capabilities of this display but, as far as we could tell from using it and from reading the manual, pressing the button labeled Game just toggles between the side-panel inputs: HDMI and component or composite video (inputs 4 and 1, respectively). It doesn't actually engage the "Game" picture mode or any other sort of processing we could detect, although the manual claims it displays signals from these inputs "at the optimum speed." We suppose it's nice to have quick access to the side inputs, but if you happen to connect your console to another jack--say, one of the rear-panel jacks--then the button's label might be confusing.
The LC-32GP1U's array of picture controls, although less extensive than that of many HDTVs, offers a healthy total of seven picture modes, including the aforementioned Game mode. One of those picture modes, labeled "Dynamic (fixed)," cannot be adjusted; five others can; and the seventh, labeled "User," is independent per input. We appreciated the wide range of the backlighting control, which affects overall light output. There's a setting labeled "OPC" that adjusts the picture according to room lighting; a choice of five color temperature presets (Low came closest to the standard); a Black control that adjusts the image according to picture content (we left it off); and a Film Mode setting that engages 2:3 pull-down detection. Unfortunately more-advanced settings, such as a user-adjustable color temperature fine-tuning option, go missing.
Aspect ratio control includes four choices for HD and standard-definition sources, including a dot-by-dot option that displays the incoming resolution without scaling it. For 1080i and 1080p sources, of course, that means they'll be displayed with no overscan and at perfect, full resolution, so we recommend using dot-by-dot with those sources.
People who like to divide their attention might lament the omission of a picture-in-picture. Like all new HDTVs with tuners, the LC-32GP1U has an ATSC version for grabbing over-the-air HDTV. Aside from input labeling and a freeze function, that's about if for conveniences.
We were duly impressed by the LC-32GP1U's smorgasbord of connections. There are three total HDMI inputs as well as a DVI input for PCs (maximum resolution 1,920x1,080). There are also two component video inputs and an A/V input with composite and S-Video connections. As we mentioned, the side panel sprouts one of the three HDMI inputs, one of the two component video inputs, and a composite video input. Finally there's an RF input for an antenna and cable along with an optical digital audio output.
Sharp also makes a 37-inch gaming-friendly HDTV, the LC-37GP1U, which is identical to this one except for screen size.
The Sharp delivers a good picture in most respects, with relatively deep black levels, a clean image, and solid video processing. But its Achilles' heel is color accuracy, and the fact that color temperature cannot be improved beyond the relatively blue Warm preset. It's also worth noting that 1080p at this size just doesn't provide much benefit.