Sharp is heavily promoting its Quattron 'quad-pixel' technology, but it's currently only found on the company's most expensive TVs. If you can't afford the high asking price of those models, you might want to take a look at the Aquos LC-52LE700E instead. Available for round £1,200, this 52-inch, 1080p, LED-backlit LCD TV offers plenty of screen real estate for the price. It also improves on Sharp's older LE600-series TVs by adding 100Hz processing to help smooth out motion judder.
TVs that use LED backlights are usually supremely thin, but the LC-52LE700E is rather chunky, measuring around 95mm thick. The glossy black finish is pleasant enough to look at, though, and we like the way that the bottom of the frame has a blue hue when the light catches it in the right way. Still, it's nowhere near as stylish as the likes of the LG 50PK590.
With three HDMI ports and a component input on the rear, plus another HDMI socket mounted on the side, you're unlikely to find yourself stuck for ports when it comes to hooking up your high-definition kit to the set. Sharp has also kitted the TV out with a USB port. Its functionality is quite limited, however, as it only lets you play MP3s or view slideshows of photos -- you can't use it to watch videos, for example. Also, as the set lacks an Ethernet port or Wi-Fi connectivity, it doesn't have any media-streaming capabilities either.
Setting up the TV is a straightforward process, but the menus and electronic programme guide look pretty drab. The EPG's default layout also tends to hide program titles for shows with shorter running times. There are a couple of different layouts that you can select from the main menu, but, while they improve matters slightly, they don't really fix the problem.
Unfortunately, the picture presets are rather poor, so you'll need to tweak them using the comprehensive picture controls to get the TV working at its best.
The effort is certainly worth it when it comes to watching high-definition sources like Sky+HD or Blu-ray movies. The set is cable of conjuring up really inky black levels, thanks to the LED backlighting. Colours are also very intense and the contrast performance is good, so pictures have a real cinematic feel. What's more, the LC-52LE700E renders HD movies with impressive levels of sharpness.
We found Sharp's LE600 series rather disappointing when it came to handling motion, but the company has added 100Hz processing to the LC-52LE700E in a bid to improve matters. While it certainly makes a difference, the processing isn't as good as that on similarly sized sets we've seen recently from brands like Sony and Panasonic -- there's still some motion blur visible on faster-moving material, such as sports broadcasts.
Also, while its HD performance is good, the LC-52LE700E's upscaling of standard-definition sources, such as Freeview channels from the built-in tuner, fails to impress. If anything, the set tends to highlight the weaknesses in the signal rather than polish them out.
Given the size of this TV, you'd expect its speakers to be capable of producing reasonably beefy sound but, sadly, that's not the case. Even with the set's bass-enhancer effect turned on, the sound is exceptionally tinny. This makes movies sound rather flat, but it's noticeable even when you're watching daytime shows. This is definitely a telly that you'll need to match with a surround-sound kit.
The Sharp Aquos LC-52LE700E offers impressive black levels and does an excellent job of producing sharp, high-contrast images from HD sources, like Blu-ray discs. Its standard-definition pictures aren't of the same quality, though, and the set's speakers are too tinny for our liking. Nevertheless, £1,200 is a fairly low asking price for a 52-inch LCD screen, so, if most of your viewing revolves around Blu-ray movies, it's certainly worth a look.
Edited by Charles Kloet