Sharp's latest 32-inch LCD TV is an attempt to bring the latest flatscreen tech to the masses, but this bare bones approach won't suit everyone. Because aside from its use of LED backlighting - a genuinely new development in the marketplace at this low price - there's little else about the 32LE600E that will tempt buyers.
Crucially, the 32LE600E's LED tech is used to stunning effect. It's also significantly different to other brands' use of LED lighting. Regular LCD TVs use an 'always on' backlight that brightens and dims as one, leaving video with both bright and dark areas looking both uneven and unrealistic. Sharp's Full Screen Direct LED tech entails thousands of tiny LED lights that all emit bright white light when necessary - and can switch-off completely. That's significantly different to a bog standard LCD TV - and it's also a different take on the tech to how the likes of Sony, Samsung and LG have used LED backlighting.
Those brands use either RGB LED, where the same arrangement of LED lights directly behind the screen fire coloured (instead of white) light, or they use edge LED backlighting. The latter employs LED lights only around the parameters of the screen, which fire light across the back of the panel. All three LED techniques can be effective at producing both startling brightness and pitch black, though only 'edge' LED lighting can be done in a super-slim TV.
The 32LE600E is left with a protruding central back panel (the actual screen surround is very slim), but the extra dimensions are worth putting up with; it houses perhaps the most impressive LED engine we've seen at this small size and price.
Tested with a Blu-ray disc, the black level response is indeed excellent; black areas of the picture are deep, rich and realistic, with plenty of detailing within. There's also a lot of fidelity to colour, which is displayed with subtle hues and invisible gradation.
What we did notice, especially during some fast-moving scenes, was a touch of image lag and blur - a common problem on LCD TVs. The blur is down to the 32LE600E's lack of a 100Hz engine, while it's also missing a "film" mode to lend some stability to Blu-ray. Now found on most LCD TVs, this mode, designed to get rid of the judder so often seen in Blu-ray discs (especially during slow sweeping camera shots across landscapes), could be useful here.
In fact the 32LE600E does have a lot missing aside from picture processing. Where's the USB input for watching slideshows of JPEGS? Where's the fourth HDMI slot? Sharp isn't a brand all that interested in packing its TVs with fancy extras - presumably because its aim is to produce new technology at a reasonable price. With the 32LE600E it's managed just that, though its average audio and less-than-perfect picture quality with Freeview finally convince us that this isn't quite the all-rounder it should be.
With average sound quality, average Freeview and a lack of exciting extra features, the 32LE600E may seem a lacklustre attempt. But the 32LE600E sees the debut of Full Screen Direct LED backlighting at this low price and it is a genuinely compelling slice of new tech.