High definition hasn't been around for that long and already there's a new standard to contend with. Next-generation DVD players and games consoles are using the latest 1080p format, which claims more detail and cohesive movement than the typical 720p and 1080i hi-def formats.
To be able to watch these images, however, you'll need a compatible screen with a so-called 'Full HD' (1,920x1,080-pixel) resolution, such as Sharp's Aquos LC42XD1E. If you're not into high definition then you can save money with a lower-resolution model and, in truth, the step up in quality isn't massive.
But if you're using state-of-the-art sources or simply want to ensure your screen is future-proof, then this model is capable of stunning performance and for less than £1,500 it's more affordable than you might think.
Although the glossed black design is stylistically similar to any number of the latest LCDs, this screen carries an air of elegance that only upmarket models can afford. The slim frame reserves most space for the screen itself, while subtle contours add some style. Its build quality is exceptional.
The screen is accompanied by a self-assembly, fixed pedestal stand, but optional wall-mounting fixtures are also available -- although its comparative thickness means it protrudes more than some flat screens.
Virtually all of its connections are arranged in a section cut into the side of the rear panel, which allows relatively easy access without having to get behind the screen, which is useful for corner placements.
As the specification suggests, high-definition inputs are given the most attention. There are two HDMI digital inputs, which will support all high-definition formats, offering the purest picture and sound quality using a single cable. Dual inputs mean you can simultaneously connect two hi-def sources -- such as Sky's receiver box and a next-generation DVD player.
Conventional analogue connectivity is comparatively limited, with two Scart terminals, only one of which is RGB-enabled for uncompromised quality. This would ordinarily be an oversight, but since this screen is almost exclusively aimed at high-definition enthusiasts, it's simply a sign of the times.
Component inputs have been omitted altogether, although if you have a progressive-scan DVD player you can use a supplied adaptor cable connected to an RGB PC input. Alternatively, you can use this input to display images directly from your PC or media centre -- with a dedicated audio input and a RS-232 terminal that allows you to control proceedings from your desktop.
Otherwise, there's a set of standard AV inputs that can be used with games consoles or camcorders, although image quality is poor. Sound can be output to an external amplifier using stereo phonos, but there's no digital audio output.
This screen features a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution that amounts to roughly twice the number of pixels displayed by typical WXGA (1,366x768-pixel) models. This means you can display high-definition formats such as 1080i (used by Sky's HD broadcasts) without any downscaling or loss of detail. The resolution will also support the latest 1080p format, which is used by Blu-ray and HD DVD players (such as the Samsung BD-P1000 and the Toshiba HD-E1) and games consoles such as the PlayStation 3 -- when it finally arrives in March.