If you want a big, 1080p LCD they don't come much bigger and stuffed full of pixels than the Sharp Aquos LC46XD1E. This huge, high-quality screen is sure to impress everyone who sees it, even before you turn it on.
But the styling isn't the only fantastic thing about this screen. It's also a great all-round TV that offers superb picture quality, even on Freeview.
There aren't many products that cause you to draw a breath when you unbox them -- the LC46XD1E is one of them. Part of its impact is the sheer size of the thing. Although 46 inches isn't the biggest TV we've ever had in the office, it's still an imposing slab of piano-black plastic.
Generally, the XD1E is nice to look at. The speakers are hidden at the bottom of the screen, and while this isn't the best decision in terms of sound quality, it is aesthetically pleasing. It's also safe to assume that the sort of person who buys a 46-inch television is likely to want a slightly better speaker system than two small, built-in, stereo speakers. There isn't, after all, much point spending the best part of £1,500 on a screen only to have rubbish sound.
The remote control is the usual Sharp affair. It's a strange shape, but it generally works pretty well. There's a fairly pointless flap at the bottom of the controller that conceals a couple of buttons, including one that demonstrates how good Sharp's Tru-D picture enhancement is. We could really do without this, and the flap seems like a waste of plastic.
The TV is easy to set up, and tuning in analogue TV takes a couple of minutes. You'll probably be pacing around while this happens, desperate to see what the screen can do with exciting high-definition material. Once this initial tuning is done, the TV will let you have some fun with any 1080p material you've got knocking around.
Setting up Freeview is done separately, and there's a button on the remote marked 'DTV Setup' that enables you to access the digital menu. From this menu you can make the TV scan for any Freeview channels available in your area.
To the rear of the TV there is the usual range of inputs. As usual with Sharp TVs, there is no dedicated component input. If you have a component source you want to connect, you'll need to use the supplied VGA adaptor. This is as irritating as ever, but not a showstopper.
Freeview is what most people will spend the majority of their time watching, so we were relieved by the quality of the standard-definition picture. We didn't notice any major picture problems. There were some deinterlacing artefacts on some fast-moving objects, but nothing too distracting. Normally enlarging Freeview to 46 inches would make it look horrible, so the Sharp scores some points here.
We liked the high-definition performance of this TV. Watching our usual pick of HD DVDs we found the picture amazingly detailed. There were some times we thought the picture had some edge jitter and this was mainly noticeable on straight lines -- even the TV's own menu systems seemed to shimmer a little around their edges. In normal viewing this probably wouldn't be an issue, but it's still less than desirable.
The 46XD1E also has Sharp's Tru-D mode, which aims to reduce film blur and make watching movies a more natural, less juddery experience. It's not bad either -- it certainly does clear up motion judder quite effectively, which is great for an LCD screen. Sharp also claims this TV has a response time of 4ms, which also makes it one of the quickest on the market.
Sound was, as we expected, a little weak. We could make out dialogue with no problems, but there wasn't very much low-frequency response, which meant explosions and deep sounds were below-par. For day-to-day viewing, especially on Freeview, you'll probably be happy with the sound, but for an engrossing movie experience we'd suggest a surround-sound decoder with some decent speakers. You'll have to start saving again -- this home cinema lark costs some serious wedge.
If you're looking for a large-screen television at a decent price, look no further than the Aquos 46XD1E. It's got great performance on all types of material and despite slightly weedy sound, it's a great choice.
The LC46 is due to be replaced soon with a new generation of screens. This means this TVs might be discounted to clear stock, which will make it a very good buy indeed.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide