Sharp LC-32LE600E £749
11th Nov 2009 | 09:25
Old-fashioned 32" LCD is killed-off by this Sharp's budget LED model
Sharp LC-32LE600E: Overview
Flatscreen TVs increasingly come loaded with extras; four or five HDMI inputs are de rigueur, video-capable USB ports are becoming common, and it's even possible to bag wireless home networking and limited internet browsing.
Sharp has eschewed all of that on its latest LCD TV and continues to concentrate on keeping the price as low as possible in the belief that most TV buyers just want two things: a flat screen and a good price.
That's exactly what's on offer from the 32-inch LC-32LE600E, but it's also got something very special up its sleeve: an LED backlight. And here that new technology is going for a song.
Excluding the fact that it uses an all-new (certainly at this price) Full Screen LED backlight (more on how that differs from other LED backlight TVs in the Value & Ease of use section), Sharp's LC-32LE600E LCD is bereft of almost all distractions.
Selling on Sharp's website for £749, we spotted the LC-32LE600E for as low as £450 via a cashback deal. If that's a mighty tempting price, do allow for some surprising omissions that you may or may not be able to live without.
Just two HDMI inputs adorn the rear, with a third on a side panel – that's the fewest we've seen for some time. It also lacks a USB slot or any form of home networking (such as Digital Living Network Alliance, or DLNA), so it's just not possible to get MP3, JPEG or DiVX video files into the LC-32LE600E.
More surprisingly, given that the LC-32LE600E is aimed at mainstream consumers, is that it's not particularly slim. It measures just over 9cm in depth, but Sharp hasn't abandoned aesthetics altogether in its quest for the best possible picture/price equation.
A feather-light TV, from the front the LC-32LE600E sports a slim, gloss black screen surround and silver strip beneath that constitutes an interesting, though muted, new look for Sharp LCD TVs.
It's also worth mentioning that the LC-32LE600E has several 'eco' features. If used, Sharp claims that its 'standard' and 'advanced' power saving modes can allow the set to consume 40 per cent less power than normal LCD TVs.
If you like the sound of this LED TV, but would prefer a slightly more comprehensive version, head for Sharp's LE700E Series, which features 100Hz processing to rid the screen of any motion blur (although this can introduce other video nasties).
Like the LE600E Series, it's available in 32-inch, 40-inch and 46-inch sizes, and adds a 52-inch version.
As well as employing LED backlighting, Sharp has fitted the LC-32LE600E 32-inch LCD TV with its latest X-Gen panel, which, it claims, has a wider pixel aperture.
The evidence for that is in the sheer brightness of scenes in our test disc, Matrix Reloaded on Blu-ray, which features mixed brightness scenes aplenty.
The opening dream scene of Trinity falling out of an exploding building at night puts the LC-32LE600E's strengths at the fore; Trinity and Smith's black clothes are true black, but still contain plenty of detail.
In another key scene – Neo's all-put fight against a legion of Agent Smiths – motion is handled well; the movie's famous bullet-time shots are just as clear, though more rapid shots can produce some headache-inducing blur. It's not serious, but it is common.
Still or slo-mo shots of the busy crowd scenes on Zion are pin-sharp, colours are powerfully, though carefully, handled and well saturated, and the many shadowed areas of the picture are inky black most of the time – though in some scenes the brightness can seem uneven.
If the 'local dimming' of Full LED tech performs well in adding an extra dose of realism, there is a flaw in the LC-32LE600E's lack of any significant picture processing circuitry.
And it does cause a slight lack of high definition detail. That's noticeable during the faster camera work on Zion; as a shot pans quickly across an excitable crowd there is noticeable blur.
People are indistinct, while during a slow pan across, and into, the many levels of Zion, there's noticeable and distracting blur and judder.
The LC-32LE600E could benefit from a 100Hz engine and a film mode that removes Blu-ray judder – common features on many TVs. The latter is included in the onscreen menus, and found on other sizes in this 600E range, but it can't be activated on the LC-32LE600E.
Put simply, this set doesn't render The Matrix Reloaded perfectly, but the LED lighting proves almost as good as higher-end sets and it creates a richness that's rare at this size – and particularly at this low price.
But in many ways the presence of Full LED backlighting on the LC-32LE600E without any significant picture processing is a bit like having the crown jewels – and then displaying them under clingfilm.
Though DVD is treated well, digital TV pictures from Freeview can seem unrealistic, with artefacts creating a picture where objects seem a tad divorced from backgrounds.
Despite its myriad of 'missing' (but in reality rather minor) features, it is a decent 100Hz engine that the LC-32LE600E could benefit from most. It's not a crime; pay a few pounds more and you've got a choice between the various models in Sharp's step-up LE700E Series that all possess 100Hz engines.
Sharp has shaped the LC-32LE600E to hit a particular price point, but there's nothing wrong with that. In introducing LED tech – and Full LED, at that – at this price, it should catch-on in the mass market.
Videophiles after a good value slice of the latest screen tech should investigate, while those after something a little more versatile for the living room should look elsewhere.
In keeping with this set's rather basic specification, there's little to get excited about from its onboard audio.
You'll find the LC-32LE600E two stereo speakers on the set's undercarriage, and with a slim-ish frame there's no room for them to produce much in the way of bass.
That's the main problem, especially if you're going to watch a lot of movies, because with general TV, sound is acceptable.
The detail present in dialogue-based fare is impressive though background effects aren't, while the lack of low frequency sound makes treble thin and unconvincing. The size of the TV doesn't allow for effective stereo, of course, though Sharp has loaded on a Dolby Digital Plus Surround Sound module.
As usual, this quasi-surround mode isn't quite what's billed. It's designed to take the 7.1 channels of sound found on most Blu-ray discs and faithfully deliver them through 2 channels.
And although this clearly isn't as impressive as a home cinema (it's not even close and can even lessen the level of dialogue in the sound mix) there is an effective separation that does make sense during movies. Just don't expect real surround sound.
If you're after a home cinema sound proper, you'll have to use … well, you guessed it. Luckily, the LC-32LE600E's rear connections panel does include an optical digital audio output, so you can route sound from the set's integrated Freeview TV tuner (and every other source) from the TV straight into a home cinema amplifier.
Value and ease of use
Since being promoted throughout 2009 by the likes of Samsung as an all-new category of flatscreen TV, LED is starting to catch on.
But don't fall for the hype; LED backlighting is merely a tweak to existing LCD technology.
There's also a crucial difference between Sharp's LED system and those used by the likes of LG and Samsung, whose attempts tend to be much slimmer than has been achieved on the LC-32LE600E.
Those 'edge' LED TVs try to create much more dynamic and realistic brightening and darkening of video by lighting the screen only from the sides – an approach that also guarantees a product with a lot less depth.
Sharp's Full Screen LED backlighting is a lot more direct; it goes one stage further by placing hundreds of LEDs in rows behind the screen, which together provide more than 90 per cent of the light.
Able to switch light on and off in small areas of the screen depending on the needs of the video source, the realism it creates on the LC-32LE600E can be spell binding; the extra bulk is worth it. And here those LEDs output pure white light, different from the coloured light emitted by the LEDs in RGB Dynamic LED tellies from Sony.
As usual from Sharp, the TV remote is rather poor. The main body is ergonomic, but the buttons for even major functions are far too small.
Onscreen menus lack the pizzazz of other brands, and its PC-like drop-down menus prove uncomfortable and unnatural to work through, largely because the text on the screen is too small. That said, actions such as tuning in Freeview TV channels is simple.
There's not much going on in terms of features so the lacklustre onscreen menus and cranky remote are not a catastrophe, but everyday controls on the remote, such as the central navigational buttons and the main menu buttons, are hardly thumb-friendly – especially in a blacked-out room.
It's no good for cinema rooms, and neither is the LC-32LE600E suitable for the technophobic.
Usually a brand that concentrates on value rather than top-of-the-range technology and versatility, Sharp has continued that strategy with the LC-32LE600E.
With new tech at old prices creating an extra dose of realism, Sharp's smallest LED set is a step in the right direction, but it's no giant leap.
Mixed brightness scenes are rendered with some pizzazz; light and dark areas of the same image sit alongside each other to startling effect.
Deep blacks and eloquently presented colours that swim in realism are enough to convince us that Full Screen LED backlighting works well, though it perhaps needs to be combined with 100Hz – as it is on Sharp's LE700E models – to eliminate motion blur.
The LC-32LE600E is also a good looking TV on the outside, cleverly making up for its obvious lightweight build with an understated, if hardly ground-breaking, styling.
Everything on the LC-32LE600E works well. Trouble is, there's little tech aside from LED backlighting to get stuck into.
We now consider four HDMI inputs to be the absolute minimum; three seems meagre. Similarly, some kind of nod to the age of multimedia would seem appropriate; a simple USB slot that could read photos and MP3 music would assuage us.
Picture-wise, the LC-32LE600E is in need of some decent picture processing to bring out levels of detail the excellent LED backlight deserves, as well as a 100Hz engine to rid the panel of blur.
Sound-wise, there's little to complain about aside from saying that the slightly fatter Full Screen LED tech – when compared to thesuper-skinny Edge LED tech – could accommodate some meatier speakers if designed differently.
Though simple enough to navigate, the onscreen menus are not slick enough and not helped by the fiddly remote control. It's not a disaster, but it does take the shine off this LCD in terms of its everyday user-friendliness.
Blu-ray and broadcast HDTV channels look great, and even DVDs are carried off with some aplomb. Freeview isn't quite so convincing, though it's the LC-32LE600E's lack of almost any other notable features that put it at a disadvantage when compared to other similarly priced LCD TVs.
None of its cons are so serious as to prevent this 32-inch LED set from representing something of a watershed; the moment when standard LCD died-off and was replaced by its souped-up LED version. And on the LC-32LE600E, at a remarkably low price.
This review was written in conjunction with:
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