While the TV world anticipates high definition like the second coming, Sharp predicts that only a select group of people will adopt Sky HD and Blu-ray upon release. There are far more people who want a flat-screen TV but who have no intention of paying the premium for early HD content.
The P50 range, here in a 32-inch flavour, has been designed specifically for these people. It features a PAL-resolution panel, which is matched perfectly to DVD movies and digital television. In theory, this will give a picture quality more akin to a CRT than high-definition LCDs, which have to process and filter the picture to prevent video artefacts being amplified. In reality it works very well -- pictures from DVDs are brimming with detail and solidity. While not quite at CRT quality yet, these Sharps are the best you're going to get from standard definition sources on an LCD.
The television boasts a designer pedigree -- it was styled by Toshiyuki Kita, a long-time Sharp collaborator, and his fame has even earned him a signature on the rear. The TV is sleek and rather attractive, even standing up well next to Sharp's high-end LCD range, which has won its fair share of plaudits. The frame is a contemporary mix -- the speaker grille sitting under the main panel is silver, while the two side panels are finished in a smooth black plastic.
The remote control is just as memorable for its outlandish design. Seemingly inspired by a hammerhead shark, it's not the first Sharp remote to break from tradition. It's not particularly unusable -- the wide head offers room for more buttons along the top -- but it will certainly garner laughs. "Why has that spatula got buttons on it?" will probably be heard from friends more than a few times during its lifetime.
This is a standard-definition TV, but the connectivity roster still includes an HDMI input. This allows digital video and audio to be sent to the TV across one thin cable. Not many devices support it as yet, but its importance will grow in the future -- Sky will be using HDMI on its HD digibox and it has already appeared on DVD players from Samsung.
Apart from this super-modern connection, it's business as usual -- the back panel detaches to reveal two Scarts (both RGB compatible) plus composite and S-video inputs. There's also a set of component inputs that we suggest you use for playing DVDs, as they improve picture quality over RGB Scart. The back panel then slots back into place to keep the cables out of view, but it would have been nice to have an S-video or composite input on the side for easy access.
The LC-32P50E has a native panel resolution of 960x540 pixels -- a widescreen format, but much lower res than the majority of other LCDs. Sharp claims that this allows the TV to match the resolution of PAL broadcasts and DVDs, and therefore the picture quality should be much more natural. Sharp describes the TV as a flat version of a CRT -- something that will allow you to get the very most out of the TV and DVD sources you watch at the moment. And let's face it, while high definition is all very exciting, standard definition isn't going anywhere for a long time to come. Heavens, the government hasn't even turned off analogue TV yet, so it's not about to ditch Freeview anytime soon.