Although Sharp has a proud history of TV innovation, it's sometimes struggled to make an impact at the entry-level end of the market. But, with the strikingly cheap, 40-inch, 1080p Aquos LC-40CT2E LCD TV, Sharp could be about to change all that. Sporting a built-in Freeview HD tuner, it costs around £750.
Gloss over it
The LC-40CT2E doesn't look like an entry-level TV, and the glossy finish and silver strip on the bottom edge add a touch of panache. It could have been more imaginatively sculpted, though, and the finish is slightly plasticky. You're never going to get a design masterpiece at this price, though.
Given its price, it's really impressive that the LC-40CT2E sports a built-in Freeview HD tuner. Any user living in an area able to receive Freeview HD broadcasts will be able to enjoy high-definition pictures through their normal TV aerial.
As demanded by the Freeview HD specification, the LC-40CT2E's connections include an Ethernet port. It's only there to cater for 'future Freeview HD interactive services', though -- you can't use it to go online or stream files from a DLNA PC.
You can, however, connect a PC via the D-Sub port. Other connections include a respectable three HDMI ports, and a USB socket able to play JPEG photos and MP3 music files from connected storage devices.
Besides its basic multimedia functionality and Freeview HD tuner, the LC-40CT2E doesn't really pack any interesting features. The screen is a basic 50Hz affair, for instance, and there doesn't seem to be any heavy-duty picture processing at work.
None of this, however, prevents the LC-40CT2E from delivering a very engaging picture performance -- at least with HD sources. Hi-def pictures look extremely sharp, with plenty of fine detail.
Colours look good with HD content too. They're richly saturated and much more natural in tone than we're accustomed to seeing from Sharp's affordable TVs. Colour blends are also free from striping or patchiness, which makes skin tones, in particular, look better than we'd usually expect at this price level.
As usual with TVs that boast good colours, the LC-40CT2E's black-level response is also decent. The distracting blue undertone to black colours that we often noted on previous Sharp TVs is gone. While there's a trace of the low-contrast grey mist common to almost all LCD TVs, it's seldom diverting. The TV's backlight looks consistently bright across the whole screen too.
Unfortunately, though, the LC-40CT2E isn't nearly as accomplished with standard-definition material as it is with HD content. Colours are generally more muted, resulting in some slightly unnatural tones. Pictures look softer and noisier than we'd like them to as well.
Also, as with many other LCD TVs, the LC-40CT2E's contrast and colour reduce considerably if you have to watch from any sort of angle, and moving objects suffer from a degree of judder and smearing.
The LC-40CT2E's audio is nothing to write home about either. It sounds so short of bass that a provided subwoofer line out on the TV's rear feels more like a necessity than an option. The set's treble performance is strong but, without bass to accompany it, the overall sound quality is poor.
The Sharp Aquos LC-40CT2E's problems with standard-definition material let down what would otherwise have been a stellar entry-level TV. But, if your household is fast becoming HD-only, the LC-40CT2E has a great deal to offer, especially if you have a separate sound system or make use of the set's subwoofer line out.
Edited by Charles Kloet