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What separates Sharp's latest RD2E range from typical LCD designs is that it features advanced 100Hz technology. This should, in theory, improve common LCD constraints, such as unnatural images and staggered movement.
Put simply, the technology doubles the screen's refresh rate so that individual images are replaced more quickly while eliminating the pauses in between. This creates brighter images with more cohesive movement compared to standard models using 50Hz scanning.
This advanced specification was once reserved for more expensive models but Sharp's long-standing experience with LCDs means that the technology is now available at more affordable prices. The difference it makes to performance is impressive.
Although build quality isn't quite as attentive, the design appears similar to Sharp's more expensive XDE1 range. The screen features a broad, lacquered black surround with silver edging that integrates a slim speaker system at the base. The frame is supported by a self-assembled pedestal stand that can be swiveled to allow more flexible positioning with wall mounting options also available.
There are limited controls at the top of the unit that can be used to adjust channels and volume or select a different input source, but you can't access the main menu system without the remote.
The tall, tapered remote looks suitably stylish and is generally easy to use with several short-cut keys to save you from always accessing the menus. It isn't the most spacious, though, and most controls are frustratingly small.
Apart from basic composite and stereo inputs at the side of the screen, all connections are concealed beneath a removable panel at the rear. There are two HDMI digital inputs that can be used to support high-definition images, and conventional users can rely on two RGB-enabled Scart terminals.
Progressive scan supporting component inputs have been ignored altogether, but you can still make component connections through the VGA PC terminal using a supplied adaptor cable. Elsewhere, there's another set of standard AV inputs, a CI card slot for receiving limited subscription channels and a RS-232 terminal for external control.
As mentioned, 100Hz technology or so-called 'Double Frame Driving' is the screen's main selling point. With LCDs, individual images always remain visible until they are replaced by the following image. Using 100Hz scanning to speed up the refresh rate from 8ms to 4ms reduces this lag to create perceivably sharper images with smoother movement.
Another advanced technology that's filtered down from more expensive models is Sharp's TruD HD processing, which claims to reduce the smearing effect and stuttered movement during fast action scenes. Otherwise, it's an average specification that includes 720p and 1080i high-definition compatibility and integrated analogue and digital TV tuners.
Channels are automatically tuned the instant you turn the TV on but the process takes quite a while, especially for the analogue channels. The main menu system is vaguely transparent and positioned to one side of the screen but doesn't disappear while you adjust the settings, making it difficult to properly calibrate your TV.
There are several picture presets, of which the Dynamic mode seems to work best in most environments. Flexible backlight control and a brightness sensor that automatically adjusts according to ambient light can also be used if your room is susceptible to changing conditions. The usual custom settings are accompanied by advanced adjustments, including colour temperature control and a black level enhancer. Unlike similar features in some models, they noticeably influence the picture.
As for sound, there's an additional virtual surround mode that attempts to create greater spaciousness from the typically restrictive speakers, and a Clear Voice feature, which brings dialogue to the fore. Most of the picture and sound settings involve a simple choice of modes instead of fiddly fine-tuning, which makes them easier to use and saves time.
Digital channels are accompanied by an advanced EPG, which includes detailed programme information with moving thumbnails and sound. But channel listings are given limited space and you can only view four schedules at a time.
The influence of 100Hz technology is obviously apparent while watching TV programmes, especially fast moving action like sports programmes. Movement is more clean and cohesive without any jerkiness or blurring around the edges. Even challenging movement featuring changing pace and unpredictable spins from the Wimbledon Tennis Championships was impressively dealt with -- so sports enthusiasts should take note.
Colours are beautifully realised and rich without appearing over exaggerated. This allows you to enjoy vibrant pop videos and then turn to more natural TV dramas without any compromise. Picture noise is also carefully controlled with only the occasional shimmering straight line and uneven shadow gradations disturbing an otherwise remarkably clean picture.
The screen's already impressive realism is enhanced with high-definition content courtesy of deeper black levels, encouraging intricate detail and three-dimensional contrast. Watching Pan's Labyrinth draws you into the detailed dream fantasies without losing definition in the dark, macabre scenes that punctuate the film.
Movement sets new standards for small-sized LCDs, especially watching adrenaline-fuelled action flicks. During Ghost Rider, the whipping motion of the hero's flaming chain is impeccably smooth and smear free, and the fight scenes against the demons are fluid and unflinching.
There's little to criticise the picture for, but the sound is typically disappointing. Although detail and expression are acceptable there's no weight or depth, and adjusting the bass settings or using the surround mode only seems to improve one characteristic at the expense of another.
Sharp's LC32RD2E isn't necessarily the finest LCD on the market -- more expensive models from the likes of Sony and Philips can claim even more impressive image quality and diligent designs.
As an entry-level model for around £650, however, the screen sets new standards for affordable LCDs. The specification is nothing out of the ordinary but the underlying technology including 100Hz scanning is impressive at this price and picture performance is excellent.
Enhanced realism and movement, especially watching sports programmes or video gaming, are the biggest beneficiaries for a screen that offers exceptional quality for unbeatable value.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield