Editors' note (March 4, 2010): The rating on this product has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace, including the release of 2010 models. The review has not otherwise been modified..
None of the cheaper 32-inch LCDs we've compared recently will satisfy viewers seeking the best home theater picture quality. The main strength of the Sharp LC-32D47UT, for example, lies not in the fidelity of its image, but in areas that might be more important to shoppers at the entry-level price point: features and energy efficiency. The former is composed mainly of a third HDMI input, conveniently mounted on the side panel and quite rare for the breed. The latter will only save you a few bucks a year, at most, but over the lifetime of your typical bedroom TV, that can add up. The sacrifice compared with other entry-level sets, despite the Sharp's relatively deep black levels, comes in other areas of picture quality, namely color and video processing. But if you want that third HDMI input and prize eco-consciousness, this little Sharp belongs on your own comparison list.
Although it's attractive enough, nothing much distinguishes the Sharp LC-32D47UT from the rows of identical-looking glossy black plastic LCD TVs out there. A subtle gray strip along the curved bottom edge of the panel adds a bit of contrast to the gloss, and the frame rounds slightly on the top and bottom, but otherwise the little Sharp blends right in. The rectangular stand supports a stalk that, despite appearances otherwise, does not allow the TV to swivel.
Sharp's oval remote, with its rows of small, like-sized and different-colored buttons, has a toylike quality. We did appreciate the clicker's grouping of similar button groups by proximity, shape, and color, and all of the requisite functions are accounted for. On the downside, the "freeze" button is given too prominent a place and the unit can't command other gear whether via infrared or HDMI, the way some other entry-level TV remotes can.
Menu design on the LC-32D47UT tends toward the complex and intimidating, and we wish the items in the Advanced menu were accompanied by onscreen explanations. Navigation was relatively logical, nonetheless, and after a learning curve, most users will find their way easily enough.
Like most entry-level LCD TVs the Sharp has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, or 720p, as opposed to the 1080p resolution found on step-up models. Of course, at this screen size the benefits of 1080p are negligible, except with computer sources, so we don't consider this feature omission a big deal. It's worth mentioning that unlike most 720p LCDs we've reviewed, the LC-32D47UT cannot accept 1080p sources (although it can handle 1080i; see Performance for more details).
Like quite a few inexpensive HDTVs we've tested, the Sharp LC-32D47UT has a nice range of picture adjustment options, starting with seven picture modes. Six are adjustable and one of the six, labeled User, is independent per input. Unlike many of its competitors, however, the Sharp lacks the ability to fine-tune color temperature--you're stuck with just the five presets.
More-advanced controls start with a color management system that's as complex as any you'll find, allowing adjustment of Hue, Saturation, and Value for each color. The system wasn't very effective, however (see Performance for more). Other adjustments include three levels of noise reduction, an active contrast setting that adjusts the picture on the fly, and a film mode setting for 2:3 pull-down.
Sharp also endowed the LC-32D47UT with a feature not found on many TVs in this price range: a room-lighting sensor it calls "OPC," complete with sensitivity controls. Two power-saving modes limit the set's peak light output, one of which adds OPC to the mix.
Four aspect ratio controls are available for both standard- and high-def sources. The "full screen" option with HD sources minimizes overscan, showing as much of the picture as possible, so we recommend using it unless you notice interference along the extreme edges.
A third HDMI input, located on the side panel, sets the Sharp apart from the two found on many low-buck LCDs. The LC-32D47UT's additional connectivity is also excellent for an entry-level TV, with two component-video jacks (one can accommodate an S-Video connection instead), one VGA-style analog PC input (1,360x768-pixel maximum resolution), an RF input, an optical digital audio output, and an analog audio output. The side panel adds a composite video input as well.
Picture quality on the entry-level Sharp had its ups and downs, but overall it was among the least impressive of the models we tested. Black levels were deep enough for a low-buck LCD, but color accuracy, video processing and a few other miscues tipped the scales in the negative direction.