Now that we've all got big old HD Ready TVs in our living rooms, we're increasingly turning our flatscreen-loving attentions to second, and even third rooms. The result, naturally, is something of a renaissance for the small-screen TV -- a renaissance that the 19-inch, HD Ready, LCD Sharp Aquos LC-19D1E seems well-positioned to exploit.
At roughly £200, if you scout around online, the LC-19D1E is, remarkably, the second big-name, 19-inch TV we've seen in a week to comfortably come in under the £250 barrier, the other being the Toshiba Regza 19AV505DB. This gets the LC-19D1E off to a great start in these cash-strapped times.
Our early enthusiasm grew once we clocked the set's aggressively stylish looks, led out by one of the slimmest bezels we've seen. What's more, while our version had a fetching, high-gloss, black livery, you can also get the TV in white, if you fancy something more iPod-like.
It's also good to find a D-Sub PC port among the LC-19D1E's connections, especially given the conspicuous lack of such a jack on the 19AV505DB. The LC-19D1E also scores over the Toshiba model by including an S-Video port among its sockets.
Other headline specifications, given the LC-19D1E's price, are a built-in Freeview tuner and a dynamic backlight arrangement, via which the TV has a good-looking contrast ration of 7,500:1. But there are also an amazingly high number of options for you to mess with in the LC-19D1E's menus.
A 'film mode', for instance, is on hand to manipulate the TV's progressive-scan functionality to suit film rather than video sources. Plus there are well-considered 'movie', 'game' and 'PC' image presets, and even a colour-management facility that lets you adjust the saturation, hue and brightness of the six main colour constituents. In many ways, the LC-19D1E's feature count is not all that far removed from those of Sharp's big-screen models.
Happily, the good feeling generated by the LC-19D1E so far is enhanced by its pictures. In fact, they're far and away the best pictures we've seen at the sub-£250 end of the TV market. The set's 1,366x768-pixel resolution means it can show HD Ready images at 720p.
Especially pleasing is how relatively little blurring and smearing is generated by moving objects as they traverse the LC-19D1E's screen. This, additionally, helps you appreciate the screen's sharpness when showing high-definition material. Seriously, if you're one of those people who think HD only makes a difference on really big TVs, the LC-19D1E will make you think again.
All of this talk of HD glory, however, shouldn't disguise the fact that the LC-19D1E is also a good handler of standard-definition material -- the stuff that's likely to be its bread and butter, given its second-room focus.
If there's one area, above all others, where the LC-19D1E scores over the 19AV505DB, it's black level response. Even the darkest scenes in the darkest movies are dealt with well, thanks to how little greyness the LC-19D1E shows over parts of the picture that should look black.
Finally, as is so often the case, the LC-19D1E's good black levels are accompanied by rich, accurately toned colours.
As with the 19AV505DB, it's impossible not to wish that the LC-19D1E had more than one HDMI input.
It's also impossible not to wish that the LC-19D1E had better on-screen menus. Those you get are so ridiculously small that you'll need 20/20 vision and a seat only a couple of feet from the screen before you'll be able to read everything they're telling you comfortably.
Turning to that generally outstanding picture performance, the LC-19D1E does have one area where there's room for improvement: brightness. Claiming a light output of just 300cd/m2, there's no doubt that the LC-19D1E's pictures might struggle in a room rich in sunlight, such as a conservatory. But we wouldn't envisage any problems in a typical office or bedroom environment.
We also spotted a very occasional colour tone slip, usually involving objects that are supposed to be red looking fractionally orange.
So long as it's not for a conservatory, the Sharp Aquos LC-19D1E is pretty much the perfect second-room TV. After all, it's cheap, performs magnificently well by 19-inch standards and looks fantastic. In fact, now we come to think of it, maybe the LC-19D1E would also work rather well in a third and fourth room as well...
Edited by Charles Kloet