A huge brand in its native Japan, Sharp is striving to make inroads into the flatscreen market with a series of good value TVs – and this Full HD 37-incher is one of its best yet. It’s certainly great value: a Full HD 1920 x 1080 pixel screen, 100Hz double frame rate mode for preventing blur, and three HDMI inputs. As well as its screen being capable of displaying every single pixel from Full HD sources, such as some high-def PS3/Xbox 360 games and Blu-ray, it can play the latter discs in their native speed - 24 frames per second.
There are things missing that normally find their way onto TVs of this reputation and price. It’s always nice to have a USB input, which can usually play digital music and pictures, and sometimes even video. Not so on the LC-37XL8E.
We’re also slightly concerned that the sleek black shell of the LC-37XL8E belies its position as a top-of-the-range flatscreen. It’s not the only brand that’s obviously made cutbacks on build - Samsung and Toshiba TVs, to name but two big brands, are increasingly using cheaper-looking frames that was the case a few years ago. At least the LC-37XL8E’s style, which consists of the usual Sharp "wave" design that hides the speakers strung out on its undercarriage, helps give an attractive yet compact look that will impress in any living room.
The LC-37XL8E is also thoroughly friendly to non-techie types. A simple, PC-like menu system and a logical remote control result in a TV that’s a cinch to use. But while being simple is always a good thing, there’s plenty of picture tweaking and other features to get to grips with if you’ve a mind to. One such mode is OPC, a feature that monitors the light in the room you’re watching it in and lessens the brightness of the screen. It avoids scorch-your-eyes-out images while also cutting down on power usage, which is useful given its size.
Still, the key feature is 100Hz. Although it’s not a new feature, it’s only the second time Sharp has used such technology on its LCD screens. And it’s got it nailed. By refreshing the screen 100 times every second instead of the normal 50, Sharp is trying to prevent motion blur. Although 100Hz is done just as adeptly on other brands’ TVs, they do tend to be a touch more expensive than the LC-37XL8E. Blur is a major problem in LCD TVs - watch a camera pan or a fast-moving piece of action on a cheaper set and you’ll soon notice it. On the LC-37XL8E it’s almost banished, but that’s not to say that its pictures are perfect.
Colours can be a touch too garish at times, but the real problem is detail. This is supposed to be a Full HD screen, but it’s sometimes hard to tell. Even with the latest and greatest Blu-ray discs there’s a distinct lack of fine detail during close-ups as well as wider shots.
In all other areas the LC-37XL8E does a good job. Black levels are deep and shadow detailing is impressive, helping to give images depth. The viewing angle is also reasonably good, though murky scenes can seem grey when viewed from anywhere but from dead-on centre. Freeview pictures have a solid look about them; there is little blocking or digital artefacts, and the software used to skip around the channels and inspect now/next info is also very useable and attractively designed.
Add a thoroughly respectable audio system, which compromises an effective Clear Voice mode and a less useful SRS TruSurround XT, and the LC-37XL8E seems a tempting package. Though it stops some way short of greatness, there’s plenty of value here - and if you can find it for a few hundred less in the run-up to Christmas, it’ll be hard to ignore.