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Sharp LC-37LE320 Review

The 37-inch LC-37LE320 is the second largest of Sharp’s new designer LED sets. These screens are not loaded with the latest tech, such as the brand’s extra-yellow-pixel Quattron system, and they certainly don’t require you to wear funny glasses to view them, but they are affordable and contemporary.

Using edge LED backlighting, Sharp has managed to compress the depth of the cabinet to a trim 45mm. Other brands are making slimmer sets, but let’s face it – they’re just showing off.

The 37LE320 has a pleasingly small footprint and the curved creamy white back panel juxtaposed against the black bezel is easy on the eye.

Sharp’s clear aim has been to create a range of TVs that look upmarket yet don’t cost the Earth. Objective achieved: this stylish model can be snapped up for under £700. It’s an everyman screen for those who don’t wish to rummage in the bargain bins.

It’s perhaps surprising to find that the LC-37LE320 does not have a Freeview HD tuner, even though it has a Full HD (1920 x 1080-pixel) panel. For many buyers this will mean an instant demerit. The omission may be less significant if you are a Sky+HD or Virgin Media subscriber, in which case you’ll already have a stream of hi-def content on tap.

Of course, adding a set top box will instantly rob you of an HDMI port, which might prove painful, since there are only two HDMI v1.3 inputs on the back panel. There is a third on the left hand side for quick connection of games consoles and camcorders, however.

You also get a component AV input and a pair of Scarts. There’s also an electrical digital audio output, should you need to feed TV sound (maybe a radio station from the Freeview tuner) to a separate hi-fi system.

Joining the aforementioned side-mounted HDMI is a CI (Common Interface) slot for a Top Up TV Cam, phono AV input, USB, PC VGA (D-Sub) input and a headphones jack.

On the opposite side of the screen are key controls, should the remote find itself buried beneath a pile of ironing. There are channel and volume rockers, Menu and Source select buttons and a power switch.
With no internet connectivity, the humble USB input finds itself the centre of attention.

The USB media player offers a thumbnail browser from which you can select your media type for playback.

Music playback is restricted to MP3s, but video file support is wide and covers AVI, MPG, MOV, MP4, XviD and MKV. All our test files played back successfully, including HD MKV downloads. There’s even support for SRT subtitles. However our MOV test file played back in the wrong aspect ratio. JPEGs can be viewed as a slideshow, with or without transitional effects.

It’s worth noting that USB support is only for FAT32 devices, NTFS is not recognizable. File playback size is limited to 4GB.

The set also enables you to register for DivX VOD downloads. Once authorised, you’ll be able to play DivX VOD content, although dealing with DRM-heavy media generally isn’t worth the hassle.

Another feature you’re unlikely to use is a parental lock to disable certain inputs. If you lock HDMI one, for example, you’ll be asked for a password each time you select it. The Parental menu itself can also be locked.

The supplied stand is relatively easy to assemble, although it requires that the TV be supported while the pedestal is screwed into the neck. Use something soft for this, perhaps a pillow, to avoid damaging the screen.

Alternatively, you can wall-mount. The 37LE320 takes a standard 200 x 200 mm VESA wall bracket. Remember to ensure that the bracket you buy offers enough clearance between the wall and the screen to accommodate the connections – SCART leads can be notoriously chunky.

When placing the screen, think about the position of the seating. The viewing angle of this panel is limited. Sit off axis by 45 degrees or more and you’ll notice a significant drop in colour and contrast.

Given the nature of the TV, setup is fast and straightforward. The screen prompts you to scan for channels and that’s about it. The interface is functional and text based – nothing to get the juices flowing.

Selecting inputs is a case of calling up an onscreen list. Here the component input is called YPbPr, even though it’s referred to as “component” elsewhere in the manual. This unnecessary jargon assumes way too much knowledge on behalf of the owner.

The TV’s Now & Next EPG (electronic programme guide) is not full-screen and occupies just the centre portion of the screen. You can create a favourites list of preferred channels or renumber should you feel the need.

The remote is a generic zapper that sadly doesn’t really match the screen aesthetically at all. Still, the buttons all work. It also suffers from a lapse in usability.

All remotes should be intuitive and avoid obtuse labels, which makes you wonder what Mr and Mrs shopper might make of buttons labeled ‘PR list’ and ‘Pre Pr’ (respectively, a list of TV channels and a return to the previous channel, it transpires).

On the plus side, the ‘Video (Adj)’ button offers fast access to the set’s various picture setting modes (Personal/Standard/Vivid/Movie/Eco).

Beneath the bonnet of the LE320, the picture processing engine is standard-issue 100Hz, which means no local dimming or scanning tricks to improve contrast or reduce blur. The screen also offers a ‘film dejudder’ Film Mode.

Picture controls are comprehensive enough for a screen of this size. In addition to the usual options of Brightness, Contrast, Colour, Tint, Sharpness and Colour temperature, there are more options in an Advanced menu.

Here you can choose from one of three noise reduction settings, make a flesh tone adjustment, alter the brightness of the backlight (High or Low) or activate DCR (Dynamic Contrast Ratio).

It’s also here that you’ll find the settings for the 100Hz refresh rate with variable blur reduction, or Film Mode to decrease picture judder. It’s worth noting that 100Hz mode doesn’t function on the PC input.

Bizarrely, the Advanced section of the Picture menu has it’s own secondary Advanced subsection. An advanced menu within an advanced menu? Someone at Sharp isn’t trying hard enough.

To find the set’s Overscan defeat, you’ll have to navigate to the Features/HMDI Scan Info sub-section of the menu. Here you can select Underscan or Overscan. Curiously, this adjustment is not classified as an aspect ratio, that honour is reserved only for Auto, Normal, Zoom 1, Zoom 2 and Wide modes.

When watching an HD source, be it from a set-top box or Blu-ray, it’s always worth selecting an underscan/pixel-matching mode.

It goes without saying that the screen’s static resolution is excellent, giving a prickly 1,080 lines. Motion resolution has less snap, though, and while you’re given options to mitigate against losses, there’s a price to be paid.

The 100Hz processing comes in Off, Low, Middle and High flavours. Set Low, a scrolling motion resolution chart (developed by the Advanced PDP Development Centre) which features an ever-decreasing graticule moving at 6.5ppf (pixels per frame), hinted at detail between 800-900 lines, which can be considered very good. However, this detail is often obscured by processing artefacts.

Edge up to Middle and High and, while more perceived sharpness can be had, the artefacts increase. Switch to Film Mode on Low and they vanish, but the resolution similarly drops away, with nothing much left above 750-800 lines. In 100Hz Effect Off, the result is the same.

To keep this in context though, this should still be regarded as a good performance compared to comparable screens.

The set looks worst with images from its Freeview tuner, which have an unpleasant bleary quality. With a high quality source, such as Blu-ray, the 37LE320′s pictures have a pleasing sharpness.

Black levels are good without being exceptional.

Regardless of the anti-judder Film Mode, this panel is naturally smooth. A panning test from the Blu-ray release of Sleeping Beauty, in which Prince Charming gallops behind a rocky outcrop, plays without any stutter or judder.

Indeed, it looks best without the high 100HZ picture processor engaged. At the faster rates, the moving shape of the prince and his horse is surrounded by a smudgy halo artefact. Regardless of mode, there always seems to be a hint of image blur around fast moving objects.

On the plus side, colour fidelity is good. Hues pop off the screen and a test sequence comprising violins, horns and saxophones looks rich and textured. There’s lustre to the wooden finish of the violins and a gleam to the brass instruments that is definitely satisfying.

As you can see above, the LC-37LE320′s edge-LED backlight is a little uneven, but not woefully bad. You’ll most likely only notice when the screen sporadically fades to black or you’re watching a letterboxed movie.

The screen may only have a modest 2 x 10w output from its integrated 1-bit digital amp module, but there’s a surprisingly high level of audio adjustment offered.

In addition to a trio of presets (Personal, Music and Speech), an equaliser enables you to tweak from mid-bass to high treble (120Hz/500Hz/1.5Hz/5KHz/10KHz), and if standard Nicam stereo is not doing it for you, there’s also virtual surround, which effectively widens the stereo soundstage, pushing back the vocals and teasing out the edges.

Taking a leaf from the Dolby Volume book of tricks there’s also Sharp’s soundalike, AVL (Auto Volume Leveling) function which attempts to negate harsh changes in volume between programmes, adverts and channels.

The set also supports Audio Description, pulling up an extra descriptive audio track for the visually impaired on programmes that have been so blessed.

Value

Typically listed at just under £700, the LC-37LE320 is priced on the high side for a screen with no Freeview HD tuner or networking function. But rapid price erosion is likely and it’s at this point that this model becomes interesting.

It’s a well-built, smart-looking screen with a decent LED backlight. There are issues with motion artefacts and black levels, but those looking for a bright multi-purpose LED might well find that it ticks the right boxes.

The excellent file support for USB media playback could sweeten the deal.

Sharp’s LC-37LE320 is well turned-out LED screen, with advanced USB media playback capabilities. Those running a sneakernet (carrying files around on USB by foot rather than streaming across a network) will appreciate that such a wide range of video formats are supported.

Image quality is also generally good, with vibrant colour and fine detail from good sources. The 100Hz/Film mode picture processing needs to be approached with caution, however, because it does contribute additional motion artefacts.

It’s unfortunate that the screen does not have an integrated Freeview HD tuner and there are also general usability foibles, which won’t endear it casual viewers, but we recommend an audition if you can find it at an attractive price.

We liked

The LC-37LE320 boasts comprehensive USB video file support; interesting cabinet design and vibrant, bright images from Blu-ray

We disliked

The LC-37LE320′s lack of any network capability, the absence of a Freeview HD tuner and the motion artefacts associated with 100Hz picture processing are setbacks that should be considered

Final verdict

Sharp continues to manoeuvre back into the upper tier of LCD TV makers with this solid, LED backlit model. The screen is probably more notable for what it lacks (Freeview HD and networking capability) than what it has, but image sharpness and color vibrancy count for a lot; at its best in relatively high brightness environments.

Source: crosat.us.

 

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