A 20-inch TV is perfect for any dorm room, bedroom, or kitchen, and in those tight spaces, it makes sense to go with a flat-panel LCD--if you can afford one. The Sharp LC-20B8U does cost a bit more than some no-name sets, but its feature set includes the ability to accept high-def sources. Plus, with 2:3 pull-down, aspect-ratio control, and a decent jack pack that includes dual high-bandwidth component inputs, it has the potential to serve up decent DVD or HD content when necessary.
While it's attractive enough, style isn't the LC-20B8U's strong point. It sports silver trim on its top and bottom, as well as black plastic surrounding the screen, which also houses the speakers that flank the panel. The whole shebang sits atop a silver plastic base with W-shaped feet. Unlike many LCDs, this Sharp can both swivel and tilt on its base. A handle is built into the top of the back of the TV, making it convenient to set up or move between rooms. Channel-up/down, volume, menu, input, and power buttons all reside on top of the panel. The somewhat small remote control has plastic ridges on the sides for better gripping action. It isn't backlit and doesn't have dedicated input-selection buttons or an aspect-ratio control button, but the buttons it does have are well laid out.
The Sharp LC-20B8U's native resolution of 1,024x768 isn't enough for full 720p HDTV, but it is plenty for DVD or standard-definition television. All incoming signals are scaled to fit the available pixels. One NTSC tuner serves up standard-definition, over-the-air TV. If you want to watch HD, you'll need an external tuner or an HD-capable cable or satellite box.
In one rare bonus for a TV of this size, Sharp saw fit to incorporate independent input memories. Color-temperature controls include High, Middle, Low, and User settings. The Film Mode setting engages or disables 2:3 pull-down. Aspect-ratio controls are listed as View Mode in the Options menu and include 4:3, which properly displays 4:3 material; 16:9, which properly displays 16:9 material; Zoom, which crops left and right sides of the image to fill the screen; and Stretch, which evenly stretches the picture to fill the screen. Simply having a choice of aspect ratios with a 4:3 television is a nice plus.
Inputs include two component, one S-Video, two composite, one RF, one RGB, four stereo RCA pairs, and one stereo minijack. Outputs include one composite, one stereo audio RCA pair, and one minijack headphone. A DVI input for a computer might be nice, but for a TV of this size, it's not expected.
Out of the box, with its color temperature set to Low and in the Movie Mode picture preset, the Sharp LC-20B8U had a blue cast to its picture. Since there are red, green, and blue gain controls in the user menu, we were able to calibrate the TV. While the calibration removed much of the blue cast, this Sharp's color temperature still varied significantly from the reference 6,500K. On the plus side, the color decoder showed only a slight red push, and the primary colors looked natural.
Watching chapter 2, "Cut the rope!" of the Vertical Limit Superbit DVD, we noticed that much of the detail in the shaded parts of the cliff face was lost. While the Sharp LC-20B8U obviously has problems with its black level and can't produce a convincing black, it still isn't as bad as some LCD panels we've seen in this price range. Also, it had only a minor white crush. Toward the end of chapter 2 of Vertical Limit, while Chris O'Donnell is shooting photos of what appear to be snow leopards, some of the detail was obviously lost in the brightest parts of the image, but we were still able to see the leopards' footprints in the snow. The opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection revealed that this TV does have 2:3 pull-down.
High-definition content, including The Emerald Forest on HDNet Movies, also had a minor amount of noise, although there was still plenty of detail visible. Small branches and leaves in the forest were portrayed clearly and naturally, with plenty of vibrant color. Watching a preview for The Fog on HDNet's Nothing But Trailers, the dreaded false contouring reared its ugly head, turning smooth gradations of light to dark in the mist into sharp steps between tones.
Given its size, the Sharp LC-20B8U isn't meant for home theater. But it would make a decent display for casual viewing in a room with some ambient lighting. And if you need a dual-use display, and it fits your budget, it's worth a look.
|Before color temp (30/80)||9,750/7,880K||Poor|
|After color temp||6,150/6,800K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 2,078K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 413K||Poor|
|Color decoder error: red||+5 percent||Good|
|Color decoder error: green||-5 percent||Good|
|DC restoration||Gray patterns stable||Average|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||No||Poor|