LCD sure has come a long way. For the last couple of years, this flat-panel technology has taken a backseat to plasma in image quality, but the gap is narrowing with each generation. Sharp is at the leading edge of LCD development, and its LC-32GD4U, the company's top-of-the-line 32-inch Aquos set, shows off the best the technology has to offer. The company somehow squeezed all the latest features into a thin four-inch frame, including a built-in over-the-air HDTV tuner and a CableCard slot--no external media box required. The set's classic picture-frame look makes other LCDs appear downright bulky, and its image quality outdoes that of any 32-inch LCD we've seen. Naturally, you'll pay big bucks for this kind of television, but if you don't need quite so many features, the step-down LC-32G4U is a worthy alternative. The Sharp LC-32GD4U looks attractive even when turned off. When powered up and viewed head-on, it's almost all picture. A 0.75-inch, angled silver bezel is on the outer edge of the unit, ringing a thin, black border that abuts the screen. Only a couple of subtle status LEDs and logos interrupt the silver.
Sharp includes side-mounted speakers and a tilt/swivel stand, both of which can be detached to further enhance the all-picture look. The panel is a mere 4 inches deep, and with speakers and stand attached, it measures 38 inches wide by 22 inches high (the stand is 12 inches deep) and weighs 55 pounds.
Sharp sells flat (model AN-LCGWF) or tilting (AN-37AG2) wall mounts. If you prefer your speakers along the bottom of the frame, as opposed to on the sides, check out the otherwise identical LC-32GD6U.
Unlike many well-equipped LCD and plasma sets, this Sharp does not require an external media box to house its inputs and other features. In some installations, this may be a detriment, since the box eliminates the need to connect a bunch of wires directly to the set. The LC-32GD4U provides some relief, however; if you place the set in a position where the back panel is visible, detachable panels on the back of the set will help conceal the tangle of wires.
The long, thin remote control isn't our favorite; its numerous keys are haphazardly placed, and you have to flip open a little door to get to a few important ones. At least it's entirely backlit and can be programmed to operate up to four other pieces of gear. The onscreen menus are comprehensive and easy to understand, although you'll definitely reach for the thick, well-thought-out manual if you want to use some of the more advanced features.This is one loaded HDTV. The Sharp LC-32GD4U's 32-inch (diagonal) screen is composed of 1,366x768 pixels, which qualifies it to fully resolve 720p HDTV sources--at least on paper (see Performance). All sources, including DVD, computer, HDTV, and standard television, are scaled to fit that resolution.
Unlike most other current LCD TVs, the LC-32GD4U comes equipped to receive over-the-air digital and high-def TV without the need to buy an external tuner. And since it's digital cable ready, it will accept a CableCard from your cable provider, allowing you to receive digital cable (including HDTV) without an external box.
If you invest in a flash memory card and a matching PC Card adapter, you can take advantage of the LC-32GD4U's ability to record still images and low-quality moving video via the S-Video and composite inputs. This isn't, however, designed to provide TiVo-like functionality; the moving images are very low quality, and you have to actively press Record to capture them--as opposed to TiVo's always-on recording. You can also place a card full of digital photos in the adapter and display the images on the TV.
The set's more common features include side-by-side picture-in-picture (limited to a standard-def 480i source for the second window), four preset picture modes, independent input memories, four aspect-ratio selections with standard-definition sources (you can't change aspects with high-def sources), and an excellent range of advanced picture adjustments, especially for color.