Sharp LC-40CT2E television
Sharp has hit the headlines recently for its new Quattron TVs, which feature a new tech that adds yellow to the traditional RGB (red, green, blue) mix that dominates on all other TVs. They've been nicely reviewed, but a brand cannot survive on high-end, pricey products alone - and with this back-to-basics mass market LCD TV, Sharp looks to have a safe future.
On paper, the star turn on this 40-inch LCD TV is an integrated Freeview HD tuner; much in demand in the run-up to the World Cup, the ability to receive the BBC HD, ITV 1 HD and either Channel 4HD (in England) or S4C Clirlan (in Wales) is almost bound to become a de facto standard feature of all flatscreen TVs over 26 inches in size in the near future.
BBC One HD and Five HD should follow in autumn, though for now the high-def trio are well treated by the LC-40CT2E - picture-wise, at least. Tune-in to any of them to enjoy excellent, colourful and contrast-heavy HD images that sparkle as much in terms of depth as detail.
The problems we have with the LC-40CT2E's Freeview HD tuner are two-fold. Firstly, standard definition channels look really poor. We're talking broken-up pictures that wobble and don't look soft as such, but more strained. This TV badly needs some upscaling, and in that respect, the LC-40CT2E just doesn't offer the same kind of performance as most dedicated Freeview HD set-top boxes. Secondly, the software that looks after Freeview HD is rough-and-ready. The 7-day electronic programme guide is fairly straightforward and has a lot of options to zoom in on 1-, 2- or 3-hour chunks of schedules, but surveying schedules is a slow process, and the yellow onscreen menus just don't look the part.
Unlike the TV itself, it punches above its price in the style stakes. Its expensive titanium fascias may be long in the past, but Sharp's Aquos TVs have suffered from skimpy build quality in the past - so we're pleased to report that the LC-40CT2E has a solid feel. Nicely curved, its glossy black frame's simplicity is the match of any brand out there.
And that continues with Blu-ray. Considering the LC-40CT2E uses an LCD panel rather than a trendy LED design, its contrast levels and rendition of colours are awesome; black actually looks black - for perhaps the first time on a LCD of this price - and colours across the spectrum are stunning in their saturation and accuracy, though watch it from the wings and it's a different story.
Detail levels are very high and Blu-ray looks very clean, though this Sharp does fall at the final hurdle - there is some distracting judder and blur, the latter no doubt a consequence of the LC-40CT2E's lack of 100Hz.
It's not exactly busy with features elsewhere, but the LC-40CT2E does add simple JPEG and MP3 support from a USB stick (there are two slots on a side panel, though only one accepts digital media). There's also a subwoofer output on the rear panel - something of a novelty - but it's a shame the LC-40CT2E's built-in speakers don't offer much in the way of bass or power.
Find the LC-40CT2E for a decent price and it makes a lot of sense; some great Freeview HD pictures match contrast-heavy and generally filmic Blu-ray images. It's not all good - standard definition channels on Freeview are disappointing and so is both sound and the Freeview HD tuner's user interface - but the LC-40CT2E is worth considering if you're hooked on high-def.