Sharp Aquos LC37XD1E 37in HD TV
There's high-definition and then there's high-definition
Review There's HD and then there's full HD. While both will give you better pictures than normal TV, the latter offers a degree of future proofing by enabling you to take advantage of 1080p, the highest HD resolution currently in use. With both Blu-ray and HD DVD supporting it, you'll need a Full HD TV such as Sharp's LC37XD1E to experience the best high definition currently has to offer.
For Full HD, you need a panel with a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, which enables it to display the whole image from a 1080p source without having to downscale it. However, unless you sit really close to your TV, the increased resolution only really makes sense for sets bigger than 32in. The LC37XD1E has the required number of pixels to display 1080p and a screen size of 37in, making it a good companion for HD DVD or Blu-ray.
Stepping up from 720p to 1080p does make a difference - there's a noticeable increase in the level of detail, especially backgrounds or crowd scenes, and the image is crisper. However, it's not as great as the jump from standard definition to high definition. That said, if you've opted for HD DVD or Blu-ray, than it makes sense to go for a Full HD TV so you can take advantage of the additional resolution available. Explosion scenes in The Matrix did look stunning when viewed at 1080p.
The majority of your viewing schedule is still likely to be taken up with standard definition material. The LC37XD1E does the best it can with the signal, but there's no escaping the fact you're watching a low resolution source. Freeview images were sharp, but there were noticeable artefacts from the compression visible.
The Freeview EPG and menu also looked at little basic - with blocky text and very little styling. It feels bolted on when compared to the TVs main menu system which is much more polished.
Overall performance was very good, with realistic flesh tones and well defined colours. The large 176° viewing angle means you should be able to see a decent picture from most places in the room.
Sharp has included two HDMI interfaces - which is enough for now, but an extra one wouldn't have gone a miss for future proofing. Only one has an analogue audio input, useful if you're attaching a DVI source via an adapter.
Slightly more disappointing is the shared Component-video and VGA port - you can only use it for one or the other, with a supplied adapter for Component-video input. The audio input is also a 3.5mm headphone connector, rather than phono, which is more common on A/V kit. There are two Scarts for your SD sources, but only one supports RGB, and there's also an S-Video connector.
Despite its 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, it's limited to just 1,280 x 1,024 when using the VGA port, which seems a fairly needless restriction.
The LC37XD1E includes a feature called Optical Picture Control that allows it to adjust the backlight to best suit its surroundings. There's a sensor on the front and when the light level in the room changes it will adjust the display to suit. It's a nice option that works well, saving you from having to constantly tweak the backlight settings.
Audio reproduction was decent, if a little lacking in bass. There is also a clear voice option for boosting dialogue, so you can lower the volume overall and still make out what people are saying.
The design is pleasant enough to look at finished in sleek shiny black plastic and with hidden speakers. The stand is inconspicuous and attaches to the display body via four bolts. It's not too large for a 37in model, measuring 92 x 66 x 12cm. The remote control feels nice and substantial with a sensible button layout that doesn't leave you hunting for commonly used items.
The recommended of price of £1,249 is quite high, but hunt around online and you should be able to pick one up for around £1,000, which is reasonable for a Full HD set of this quality.
If you're a fan of HD DVD or Blu-ray, then it makes sense to opt for a TV that can display the material at its best - and the LC37XD1E is more than capable in this regard. The lack of dedicated Component-video input and hobbled VGA resolution are annoying though. It'll do its best to make the most of SD material, but unfortunately it can only do so much and it'll soon having you wishing there was more HD content out there.