Sharp's LC-20PX1U: LCD with built-in PVR

Sharp's 20-inch flat-panel LCD TV, the LC-20PX1U, is part of Sharp's new Open Aquos product line, which seeks to cram additional functionality into a flat-panel LCD. It features a built-in digital video recorder (DVR) that allows you to record TV without a separate set-top box, as well as pause, rewind, and fast-forward live shows. The LC-20PX1U, along with the smaller 15-inch LC-15PX1U, will be available in October 2004 at list prices of $1,900 and $1,400, respectively.

Upside: The LC-20PX1U offers two Type II PC Card slots. One comes with a 5GB DVR, and the other is open to options such as a wireless card, for connecting to a Wi-Fi-equipped home network. Built-in software allows the LC-20PX1U to access media files such as MP3 music, MPEG movies, and JPEG photos over your network. The set also includes built-in games and other software-based functions, such as the ability to leave a voice message on the TV. Connectivity is highlighted by a component-video input, an S-Video input, and two composite-video inputs. There is also an audio output and a headphone output, which are handy if you want to listen using something other than TV speakers.

Downside: Don't throw away your TiVo just yet. The DVR does not include an electronic programming guide (EPG), so you'll have to manually set the time and date of anything that you'd like to record. Also, the small 5GB hard drive can hold only four hours of video, so you'll have to be selective about what you record. Alternately, you could purchase an additional Type II PCMCIA memory card. Unlike competing products such as Philips's Streamium 23PF9976i, the LC-20PX1U lacks built-in wireless capabilities, does not support the faster 802.11g standard, and has a relatively low native resolution of 480x640.

Outlook: The LC-20PX1U offers a good deal of functionality, especially for networked media junkies. And although its features don't compare to those of the Streamium 23PF9976i, the LC-20PX1U is less expensive. Keep an eye out for our full review, where we'll give you a more in-depth look at the LC-20PX1U.