Sharp has long been a leader in LCD products, and the company is at the heart of heated competition between LCD and plasma for your big-screen flat-panel dollars. In LCD's favour, the price vs size gap is narrowing rapidly, although it's nowhere near parity yet: you'll still pay a hefty premium for a big-screen LCD. At 45 inches diagonal, the Sharp LC-45GD1E is one of the largest LCD TVs money can buy, and its native 1080p resolution bests that of every plasma currently on the market.
However, resolution is only one ingredient in picture quality, and while the big Sharp does some things well, it has too many performance issues to earn our full recommendation. For now, at least, like-size plasmas such as Pioneer's PDP-434XDE trump this Sharp in both image quality and value.
In terms of appearance and industrial design, the LC-45GD1E is quite impressive. Its outer frame is finished in a metallic grey, darker than the silver typical of some sets, and a black bezel surrounds the outer edge of the screen. The black strip lends to the beauty of the design and also improves the perceived contrast ratio.
The set comes with an outboard A/V controller that acts as an A/V source switcher. The controller is finished in the same metallic grey as the set itself, is the size of a standard A/V component, and routes all video signals to the panel via a 3m proprietary cable. The big advantage of such a setup is that you can fit more connections on a box than you can on the TV itself, and in this respect the LC-45GD1E certainly isn't found wanting. The box also includes FreeView compatibility, making this quite a feature-heavy package overall.
Sharp includes an integrated table stand with this set, which you can detach in favour of an optional wall mount if you so desire. Likewise, you can also remove the single-piece stereo speaker that runs along the bottom of the panel, and it this level we'd really recommend pairing the display with a quality surround-sound system.
The remote is quite chunky, with seemingly a zillion buttons in varying sizes and shapes, making it pretty awkward to use. We were disappointed to find that it doesn't have direct-access keys for input/source selection. The internal menu system is straightforward and fairly easy to navigate, although beginners may find the myriad options intimidating at first.
If you're after something to boast about to your friends, this Sharp is the largest currently available flat-panel LCD TV -- although larger ones were announced at CES 2005. With a native resolution of 1,920x1,080, the LC-45GD1E has enough pixels to display every bit of detail from the highest-resolution HDTV format (1080i), but it didn't quite realise that potential in our tests (see Performance for more). Its internal scalar fills the screen with all other sources, including 720p HDTV, standard-definition video, and computer.
Convenience features abound on the LC-45GD1E. Dual-tuner PIP (picture-in-picture) will appeal to anyone who likes to optimise their channel surfing. The front of the A/V controller also has a slot that accepts PC Card adaptors for various types of flash memory, so you can easily display photos on the big screen.
Performance-enhancing features include four selectable colour temperature settings, five picture presets as well as a custom mode that includes independent input memories. The CMS (colour management system) allows you to at least partially correct the errant colour decoder. There are also four View Modes (aspect ratios) that work with standard-def, high-def, and computer sources.
Connectivity options are quite comprehensive. The external A/V controller houses all of the inputs and outputs and sends the signals to the panel via a proprietary cable with three connections (DVI for video, plus audio and control connectors). On the back of the controller, you'll find one DVI input which is compatible with PCs and Macs that have DVI outputs, up to 1,280x1,024 resolution. There's also one component-video input, one S-Video input, one composite-video input, plus two RGB Scarts -- although with integrated FreeView included the latter might not be used at all. An RS-232 control port for use with touch-panel control systems such as Crestron and AMX is also included. A centre-channel input and an optical digital audio output round out the jack pack.
Overall we found the LC-45GD1E's image quality a bit disappointing for such a high-end set. Out-of-the-box performance leaves something to be desired, making calibration a real must for optimum performance. Even after calibration, however, poor greyscale tracking (the ability to maintain a consistent colour temperature at varying brightness levels; see the Geek box) in particular makes this LCD difficult to recommend for demanding home-theatre applications.
In the plus column, the LC-45GD1E's black-level performance is actually better than that of most other LCD direct-views. When the backlight control is set correctly, you get a reasonably deep black, although it's still not as good as the best plasmas or DLP-based sets. Unfortunately, when we set our Denon DVD-2900's black level correctly (at 0 IRE), material darker than 10 percent above black was crushed, rendering important shadow details invisible. That issue aside, the opening of Alien, a sequence of very dark scenes, revealed quiet blacks with little or no visible low-level noise or artefacts.
The LC-45GD1E has severe red push out of the box, but Sharp's CMS (colour management system) allows a professional to get rid of most of it. This control potentially allows inexperienced users to really screw up the colour, although happily Sharp does provide a reset option. After adjustment, the opening scenes of the Pirates of the Caribbean DVD revealed excellent colour saturation. Because of the relatively poor greyscale tracking, however, skin tones definitely looked a little unnatural.
We then proceeded to use an American JVC D-VHS deck to evaluate HDTV image quality. The D-VHS version of Behind Enemy Lines looked really good, with awesome detail and good colour saturation. The panel's high pixel count really brought out details that aren't available in lower-resolution displays. Nonetheless, according to our Accupel HDG-3000 signal generator, the panel doesn't quite fully resolve the 1,920x1,080 resolution test pattern via either component or DVI. We expect that this slight loss of detail is caused by the internal scalar.
|Before colour temp (20/80)||9,800/6,800K||Poor|
|After colour temp (20/80)||8,575/6,675K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/-1,042K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||+/-597K||Poor|
|Colour decoder error: red||+15% (+5%)||Poor|
|Colour decoder error: green||+5% (0%)||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
Edited by David Katzmaier
Additional editing by Guy Cocker