The headline act on Sharp's Aquos LC37XD1E is its support for 1080p material, meaning that you can get the very best out of Blu-ray, HD DVD and next-generation games consoles.
It joins a growing list of 'Full HD' tellies. But as we start to see more 1080p screens appear, manufacturers need to do more to distinguish them from the crowd, especially as you'll still end up watching far more standard-definition content than high-definition.
This is easily one of the most stylish televisions on the market. There is nothing new in the 'piano-black' used, or the cunningly hidden speakers, but Sharp has done a great job at making them work well together.
The remote control is heavy but feels well-built. It tapers towards the top in a slightly unusual style -- it's not especially pretty, but the commonly used buttons are easy to find and large enough to press. A flap at the bottom hides some controls, although we're not sure why as we had to use them a fair amount, especially the button to adjust the aspect ratio and turn off the picture optimisation.
Sharp has made some odd decisions about inputs on the LC37XD1E. It gets top marks for including two HDMI inputs and there are also two Scart connectors, one of which is RGB-enabled, so you won't struggle to hook up your older equipment.
Unfortunately, the component video input is far too complicated. Instead of putting dedicated ports on the TV, Sharp has provided a breakout cable, which connects to the PC input. Not only is this untidy, but you'll also find that to switch between PC and component you need to go into the menu system. Separate component inputs would be much better.
The stand is very simple, only taking a few minutes to put together. The TV is lifted on to it, and bolted in with four screws at the rear. You can also wall-mount the television with an optional kit for £130 (ask for part number AN-37AG2).
Setting the TV up is easy. When first turned on, it asks a few questions about the country and language settings you would like to use and then searches for analogue television stations. Once this process is complete, you need to enter the menu system and tune in to any digital stations available in your area. This is still an automatic process, but it doesn't happen during the initial installation.
The menus on the LC37XD1E are very well designed. It's nice to see so much thought going into making a user-friendly user interface. On the downside, the television is quite slow to respond to remote commands sometimes. The Freeview EPG also looks quite messy, which jars somewhat.
While there are generally enough inputs to satisfy most people, it's a shame that the only audio input option for the component in is a headphone-style jack. Most people using this to hook up their DVD player are going to find they need an extra converter to make this work.
High definition on the LC37XD1E looks corking. The picture is clear, with very little motion-blur. Happy Gilmore on HD DVD looked excellent -- colour reproduction was very good indeed and there was plenty of detail in the picture.
Standard-definition pictures from Freeview suffered from some jagged lines -- these are a result of the set displaying an interlaced picture on screen. We've seen better Freeview pictures on televisions from Sony and Toshiba, so we were disappointed with this Sharp. While the picture isn't perfect, Sharp has clearly opted not to simply soften the whole image to disguise the inherent problems with Freeview on LCD screens. So while the picture does have some problems, it is at least sharp and detailed.
It is very disappointing to see that, via the VGA input, the LC37XD1E can only support resolutions up to 1,280x1,024 pixels, despite having a panel that should be able to display up to 1,900x1,080 pixels. This is sure to annoy people who would like to hook up their Media Center PCs or games consoles via this connection. Plus, the only way to get true 1080p out of this set is to use HDMI, which is far less common on computers than it is on next-generation DVD players.
Sound may be lacking in the bass department, but dialogue sounds fine. If you're spending this much money on a new telly, though, you'll probably want to invest in a separate surround-sound system.
This is a smart, well-designed television that can do fantastic things with high definition. It would be a great buy for anyone with Sky HD, or a Blu-ray or HD DVD player.
But the jagged lines when watching Freeview are less than impressive -- thedeals with the digital signal better -- and the breakout cable it uses for component is just weird.
So if you aren't too bothered about 1080p and are likely to end up watching a lot of Freeview, you'll be better off saving a bit of cash and going for something like the Toshiba 32WLT68.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield