For a lot of consumers, particularly those of you who haven't made the transition to HDTV, a 20-inch non-wide-screen LCD TV is an attractive choice as a bedroom TV. Since it's a 4:3 set, it can display a full 20-inch picture with no nasty black bars. Compared to a high-resolution 23-inch wide-screen LCD such as the , which actually displays a similar-size 4:3 picture with bars, sets such as Sharp's LC-20B4U-S can easily cost half the price. The catch is that this little TV can't handle high-def.
Cosmetically, the LC-20B4U-S isn't the slickest-looking LCD TV we've reviewed, but it has the Aquos subbrand's signature silver coloring and classy design. Like a computer monitor, it sits on an adjustable, swiveling pedestal and has a handle for toting the panel from room to room. (It weighs only 19 pounds.) The included remote is simple enough to use, though its triangular-shaped top makes it look more suitable for serving salad (you'd need two of them, of course) than for controlling your TV. If you're into "modern" objects, you'll probably be quite content with it.
Like most competing 4:3 LCDs, the LC-20B4U-S offers 640x480-pixel native resolution. That's plenty for standard analog TV but nowhere near enough for high-def. Still, the set does have an adequate selection of connectivity options, with one progressive-scan-capable component-video input, an S-Video input, and two composite inputs. Speakers adorn the sides of the LC-20B4U-S's screen.
Convenience features include a wide array of picture-setting controls and the standard parental control and closed-caption options, but little else (no, this isn't designed to be a PC monitor). Though this Sharp looked pretty good out of the box, we made some small tweaks to brightness, contrast, and sharpness using our Digital Video Essentials test disc to ensure we could see the full range of black to white, to make skin tones look natural, and to eliminate any edge enhancement. It's worth noting that this model does accept a variety of video formats, including PAL and SECAM, so it could be considered a "world" TV.
All in all, we were pleased with the set's performance. Comparing the image to that of a 20-inch Polaroid LCD-2050, the LC-20B4U-S's image looked sharper, colors looked more natural, and the blacks looked more inky, which usually means a better overall picture with more detail in shadows. Again, since this panel offers only 640x480 resolution, it won't be able to display all the detail of anamorphic "enhanced for wide-screen" DVDs, but that's not exactly a deal breaker with a screen this size.
In the final analysis, if all you're looking for is a bedroom set to watch standard definition TV, the LC-20B4U-S is one of the best in the 20-inch class. And while we'd still like to see these lower-resolution LCD TVs cost less, this Sharp is well priced compared to its competitors. For example, costs quite a bit more than the Sharp, and its only advantage is offering a bit more detail with DVD material.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.