Sharp Aquos LC-52XL2E HD LCD TV Review

Our latest Sharp LCD HD TV review features the company’s 52-inch, high-end XL2E 1080p model and now means Best4Reviews has completed testing the current range of Sharp’s LCD TVs. The question is of course, is it any good?

The Sharp Aquos LC-52XL2E is the largest in the AQUOS XL2E range of LCD TVs that include a 42-inch and a 46-inch variant. This is undoubtedly an impressive tele and its piano black lacquered finish makes it an attractive looking set and one choc full of advanced features.

With this test, I have reviewed all Sharp’s current LCD TVs and it’s quickly obvious how much better the larger screen technology is compared with the spec trimmed smaller/budget variants.

This set features Sharp’s Advanced Super view technology and the 100Hz Double Frame Drive technology that helps ensure crisp pictures and makes fast moving action silky smooth, even for standard definition sources such as those provided by the built-in TV tuner or a DVD player for example.

 The TV also has a Film Mode; this automatically detects a film-based source (images encoded at 24 frames per second) for the picture and analyses the signal recreating each frame to get optimal high definition picture quality.

And these two systems are particularly effective, working extremely well on my Blu-ray test discs: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Spider-man 3, I Am Legend and Jumpers.

The matching screen and piano black lacquered finish plus the remarkable slim line design combine with a matching metal stand that comes in the box. The stand bolts quickly and easily into place on the base, alternatively the set can be wall mount with an accessory bracket.

All the ports on the reverse are recessed (and more on these in a moment) while the manual controls are discreetly tidied away on the right edge of the set (from the front).

The set is quick and easy to set up with auto tuning for the digital TV side of things. The size and the 34kg weight (with stand attached) means it is actually just about manageable with two to set up on the stand and get out of the box. And once set up and ready it’s certainly an impressive machine.

The screen provides 6,220,800 dots from its 1920x1080-pixel (x3 red, green and blue pixels) resolution so; this is a Full HD 1080p TV and provides the best output from your Blu ray or HD sources.

The “Pure Black Panel” screen technology provides as near as black as possible with LCD technology and helps ensure the XL2E’s Dynamic Contrast Enhancement contrast ratio of 10,000:1 and a screen brightness of 450 cd/m2 all helps to give the picture plenty of punch.

The fact that this and the other TVs in the range feature that all important native 1080p “Full HD” ready screens means any HD signal is presented without down sampling, as with lower resolution HD Ready screens and that means the picture quality is stunning.

An LCD refresh of 4-milliseconds (in the TV’s action mode) means there’s no judder or blur problems during fast action from HD sources. However, once again and as with the other sets in the Sharp range, I noticed odd flickering on high contrast areas of standard definition pictures such as upscalling from DVDs or when using the internal or an external DVB digital tuner.

The flicker takes appears in predominantly black, vertical parts of small areas of the picture where the pixels appear to “crawl” for a few seconds until the TV’s processing caught up and properly adjusted the errant pixels.

When playing HD sources there are no problems however, and playing Blu ray discs on my PS3 connected through one of the three dedicated HDMI ports, the true impact of what the TV can deliver becomes quickly evident.

Stand out scenes that push the TV are where the character Sandman first reforms after being zapped at a physics research lab in Spider-man 3; the battle sequence at the end of Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End, the nighttime attack in I Am Legend and the rapid jump sequence where the two protagonists in Jumpers fight there way around the world.

Each sequence shows off the different attributes of the XL2E be it fine detail, dynamic contrast performance, flicker free action, and colour the frame by frame processing in the 24Hz mode and subtleties of shade for pristine picture quality.

To help optimise the picture presented you get pre-optimised AV modes for Dynamic, Dynamic (Fixed), Standard, Game (contrast, brightness and the Action mode are automatically set to help get the most from any game played on the set), Movie and there’s a User mode that allows you to tailor the set’s settings to whatever you wish.

The automated features notwithstanding, each of the system’s presets can be further tweaked in menus with powerful advanced settings available to further enhance or change the way the screen behaves.

Menu’s run across the top of the panel and can be activated at any stage overlaying the picture, scrolling options is done via the supplied and superb IR remote control. Using the menus is straightforward and quickly allows you make adjustments and see what effect the adjustment has on the image still displayed on screen, so is very user friendly indeed.

The Eco mode power control system allows you to customise the TVs power consumption performance while the Optical Picture Control (OPC) uses a small light sensor on the front of the TV to monitor ambient lighting. When on, it adjusts the TV’s brightness and contrast to suit the ambient light, the brighter the ambient conditions, the brighter the TV becomes and vis versa.

Small green leaf icons that appear on the bottom of the screen indicate OPC adjustments, the more little leaves that appear, the less power is being used and the dimmer the screen. OPC keeps pace with the surrounding ambient light so you don’t really notice as it slowly adjusts particularly if the little green leaf icons are switched off (they’re off by default by the way).

Colour balance is excellent and can be adjusted via a set of predefined colour temperature settings. “Normal” and digital broadcast pictures are very good thanks largely to excellent noise processing, while finely controlled sharpening means you can tune your picture quality to get great results from any source.

If you have other kit to connect to the set then apart from three HDMI sockets you will find following: A UHF/VHF antenna port, an RS-232C PC connection, two scarts and an S-Video port, there’s a 15-pin mini D-sub 3.5mm jack and a component “in” as well. Add to these an optical digital audio out, a headphone port and an RCA audio out and you can connect just about any multimedia device to the TV including external surround speaker systems, games consoles, DVD, VHS player or of course, a Blu ray player and all at the same time.

The lag suffered on other Sharp IR remote controls is less apparent when pressing a button so that’s an improvement but there is, nevertheless a slight delay, which is a little frustrating until you get used to it.

The IR controller includes controls for any AQOUS Link kit – other Sharp HDMI devices can be controlled from the one remote – so that’s cool and helps keep remote clutter to am minimum if you have more then one Sharp device to use alongside the TV.

The set’s built-in speaker system provides ample volume from its dual 15-watt speakers, but as with the other Sharp sets using similar sound systems, the sound lacks richness, even with the bass at full, audio lacking any real punch. However, there’s little distortion – even at full volume – while brighter sounds are crystal; the NICAM surround system does its job well too.

The TV’s built-in DVB-T tuner provides the usual eight day program guide and fills the entire screen when active, or you can get fast access to the program’s due up next by pressing the Okay button, so it’s easy to use and follow.

Other features include the truD anti judder picture processing and Sharp’s RGB Plus (“Sharps Fourth Colour Dimension”, according to the company) that uses normal red, green and blue colours plus the addition of crimson red, which helps smoother reproduction of natural shades with reds that are more natural.

Verdict: 
The LC-52XL2E is a cracker, the sheer quality of the picture and the slim-line design and good build are readily apparent. Even though the built-in speakers may leave something to be desired, you’ll probably plug in a separate surround system for full cinema surround audio so perhaps it is not a major issue but given the price of the TV, you would be justified in expecting a bit more auditory oomph. Otherwise, there’s little missing from this TV in terms of kit and connections, which means if you want a big screen TV and have budget enough to buy into it with this set, it should be very high on your list indeed.