The inventor of LCD technology, Sharp, has been busy transforming its HD-ready range into pixel-packed Full HD 1080p sets. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also fitted its latest 37-inch Aquos LCD TV with a frame that’s less than a centimetre in depth.
It’s ideal to hang on a wall, but that’s not the only reason we love the LC37B20E. Most importantly, it covers the basics. It’s got a huge 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, can play Blu-ray discs at 24 frames per second ("as the director intended"), has three HDMI inputs and a set of component video ports – crucial for those with an Xbox 360. There’s also a PC input and digital audio output for taking Dolby Digital sound to an amplifier. Its remote control can even wake-up a Blu-ray player and negotiate you around basic menus and chapter skipping.
For those after a flatscreen TV primarily to watch Freeview, the LC37B20E puts in a mixed performance. Although it manages to hold even weak digital TV signals, the picture quality can be disappointing. Even with its digital noise reduction option switched on we still found quite a lot of video nasties such as MPEG blocking and shimmering edges. At least the 7-day electronic programme guide is well designed, giving information on as much as 6 hours of TV across 12 channels.
The EPG can be slimmed-down and customised to your heart’s content, a trend that’s continued elsewhere on the LC37B20E. AV inputs can be re-named and aspects of the picture can be endlessly tweaked. If you really can’t be bothered to gauge the colour temperature and dim the backlight, Sharp has provided some picture presets that work really well.
The finest is undoubtedly the movie mode, which is useful if – you guessed it – you want to watch Blu-ray discs. Although this mode decreases the brightness and lends a wholly cinematic feel to proceedings, it’s at the cost of some detail. It’s not a serious flaw, but when you buy a Full HD set you do expect a jot more from close-ups.
Still, there’s plenty more to be thankful for, with high contrast ratio and a terrific colour palette the most obvious results of this latest-and-greatest LCD panel. What most impresses, however, is the polished appearance of Blu-ray discs. Sure, there’s occasionally some film grain, but that’s often at the film director’s behest, in any case. What we love is the almost total lack of picture noise, interference in the signal that usually leads to at least some dotty noise in backgrounds and in dark areas of the picture. Not here. Super-smooth picture dominate from Blu-ray, with little smearing or blur in evidence.
Put to work on an Xbox 360, the LC37B20E goes one better. On Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 it retains those stunning colours, deep contrast and immaculate picture with an extra dose of fine detail.
That’s enough to convince us that while the LC37B20E isn’t the greatest if you’re after a jack of all trades screen for the living room, it’s a seriously good value choice if you have a Blu-ray player or high-def games console to think about.