Sharp LC-37RD2E

6th Jun 2007 | 23:00

Sharp LC-37RD2E

Evolution of a smooth mover

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

We can't recommend a TV with processing that distracts you from what you're watching

Like:

<p>Neat looks</p><p>Minimal motion blur</p>

Dislike:

<p>Processing issues</p><p>Unnatural picture</p>

Sharp's cutting-edge 100Hz LC-37RD2E screen stands before me anonymous in its designer threads. Suddenly, I find myself agitated at the sheep-like nature of the AV mass market.

If one manufacturer has success with a particular finish, colour, material or shape - for its TV, DVD player, gizmo, gadget or doohickey - the herds are set to follow. Granted, technology is a different kettle of fish. Picture processing and other trickery may differ dramatically, but a major consideration on buying a prominently-viewed slab of tech is how it looks, surely.

I'm far from a flatpanel fashion fascist, but I happen to like individuality more than clone-centric aesthetics. And in this respect, I feel Sharp's made a boo-boo by moving away from the silver-togged, high-design aspects of its Aquos range and, essentially, dressing its latest range of LCD panels in the same gloss black shell-suit of its peers.

In a Currys.Digital photo parade you'd be hard pressed to pick them out from Samsung or Tosh and the rest of the crowd.

However, hoards of happy customers love their gloss black frames, so what do I know? Rant over.

More important is this model's selling point, 100Hz, which is double the refresh rate of other UK LCD TVs. That's an extra 40-50 frames-per-second for free - better than a plastic Honey Monster. And it's a feature LCD has been crying out for.

Smooth detailed motion is liquid crystal's Holy Grail. An ideal that's remained largely beyond arms reach since LCD's inception. It's prompted a host of minor improvements in other areas, such as response time, but its continued absence remains the focus of the gloating plasmaratti. No longer...

One thing Sharp's 100Hz frame-rate-doubling technology definitely does is minimise LCD's trademark motion blur. Objects that were previously followed by more ghosts than Derek Acorah are now clean, smooth and comparable to plasma - most prominently with camera pans and travelling vehicles in DVD and HD movies.

And in that respect, the LC-37RD2E is a triumph. It's the first LCD TV to show footy without introducing 22 extra players. Fast-action Xbox360 games, such as Gears of War, are displayed as intended, and the Parkour-inspired opening scenes of Casino Royale on BD are uninterrupted by stutter. There's no doubt, then, that the picture processing does what it says on the tin.

However, it does a bit more besides - and not in a good way. What they giveth with one hand, they taketh away with the other. Sharp's 100Hz processing, it seems, comes with a caveat party hat.

As with Philips' early Pixel Plus technologies, moving objects, while free of blurring, gain a Ready Brek glow, a shimmer around edges that can drive you bonkers, especially on HD DVD and Blu-ray images. At the same time, foreground objects seem detached from the background, like a cut-out puppet show.

While not as noticeable with the in-built digital tuner - thanks to being merely another addition to Freeview's artefact soup - I find the panel performing far better with higher-quality feeds when the mode is switched off.

And there's the rub. With 100Hz processing deactivated, the HD Ready-capabilities of the 37RD2E spring to life. Matching the 50/60Hz outputs of hi-def players, at 720p, it offers superlative clarity and few artefacts.

Admittedly, fast movement slightly betrays LCD's foibles, but it's a small price to pay for some of the best LCD pictures this side of two grand, especially as the truD-HD Picture Enhancement continues to eliminate judder, 100Hz or not. Yep, that's right, even without its bells, there's enough whistles to raise this Aquos to the upper tiers.

The black level may not impress a coal miner but, compared to a Bravia or Regza, it more than holds its own. And the colour field is defined, bold and filmic. After calibration, that is - the panel's presets only reveal a modicum of its potential.

But, as easy as it is to be wowed by HD images, the meat and potatoes of all home entertainment set-ups is standard-def, and I'm pleased to report that upscaled (even standard 576p) pictures from a half-decent source look mighty meaty - detailed and movie-like, bold and exciting.

Freeview pictures, as mentioned, are as good as the MPEG-2 transmission format can allow and actually benefit from 100Hz Double Frame Driving. There's an 8-day EPG too.

The 37RD2E's sound is not a priority as all home cinemas should have a separate speaker set-up, but for those who prefer the housed alternatives, there are no quibbles from me. The strip at the screen's bottom reflects the audio from two speaker units and ably supplies a rounded soundstage.

So that's all the tick boxes checked and I'd happily recommend this TV over many of its HD peers. But its own stablemate, the LC-37XD1E, which is cheaper and Full HD, is a better buy. And its lack of 100Hz processing, on this evidence, is no big deal.

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