Sharp is traditionally known as a premium LCD TV brand. Yet it's savvy enough to know that in today's market of downward-spiralling prices, you just can't afford to ignore the budget buyer. Cue the Aquos LC3AD5E: at just £450 -- or even less if you shop around online -- it's comfortably the cheapest 32-inch LCD Sharp has ever launched. But how many compromises has Sharp had to make to hit such a low price?
No prizes for guessing the single most appealing thing about the LC32AD5E: its cost. At £450 it's only a few quid more than the sort of ultra-budget fodder flogged under the Goodmans and Bush brands.
The LC32AD5E's shelf appeal is enhanced further by its design, which contrasts a shiny black bezel against a chic, angled-in silver speaker section to great effect. Cheap-looking it certainly is not.
There's nothing to complain about regarding the TV's connections, either. Two HDMIs are perfectly fair at this price, especially as they're joined by, among other things, dedicated component video and PC inputs.
As you'd expect, the LC32AD5E isn't exactly over-burdened with features. But it does manage to provide a few handy picture tweaks, such as noise reduction, a black level enhancer, and a film mode for adjusting the set's progressive-scan settings for movie sources.
In action, the biggest strength of this Sharp's pictures is the extreme intensity of their colours. During bright scenes colours look bright, vibrant and stable -- traits that commonly elude other mega-budget LCDs. What's more, this colour intensity helps bright pictures in general look unusually solid and three-dimensional.
Also good is the LC32AD5E's crispness when showing 720p high-definition sources, especially since moving objects in the picture aren't besmirched by LCD's motion blur issues anywhere near as badly as we would have anticipated. In fact, video noise of all sorts is kept to an absolute minimum, with high and standard definition alike.
A couple of final plus points find black levels able to get reasonably deep, provided you knock the set's backlight setting down to –4 or –5, and unexpectedly potent audio from the rather diminutive built-in speakers.
Although we praised the LC32AD5E's black levels just a few words ago, we should add that the only way dark parts of the picture can be made to look quite black is by sacrificing quite considerable amounts of brightness. This means dark picture areas can look rather devoid of the sort of background detailing that would give them depth and thus make them feel more like a natural part of the image as a whole.
On a related note, we should also point out that unlike the vast majority of LCD TVs these days, the LC32AD5E does not employ a dynamic contrast system, whereby the TV can reduce the backlight output automatically when it detects a dark scene. You can only set brightness levels manually.
There's something of a Jekyll and Hyde situation with the set's colours, too. Although, as we mentioned earlier, colours are very rich, they're also prone to some rather odd, unnatural-looking tones, especially during darker scenes.
Our next concern is with the TV's viewing angle. Even if you sit as little as 30 degrees or so off axis from the screen, you'll start seeing considerable reductions in the picture's colour saturation and black levels.
Wrapping up our dislikes about the LC32AD5E is its operating system. Sharp has chosen a bizarrely untidy-looking and cluttered font style for the TV's onscreen menus, making them hard to read at times -- especially if you're positioned any sort of distance away from the screen.
The Sharp Aquos LC32AD5E is clearly a product that's been compromised by a need to hit a specific low price point. But while this means it doesn't offer the performance to become a serious AV fan's main TV, it's still not bad by budget standards, and could certainly be considered a solid second-room option.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide