You’ve got to admire any company with the chutzpah to produce a premium TV these days; after the calamity that struck Pioneer’s Kuro range, you’d have thought most manufacturers would have decided to stay well clear of the wallet-busting sector.
But not Sharp. This 52in TV really does cost £9,000, which of course is way more than any rival at its size. Okay, so Sharp isn’t expecting to shift big numbers at that price – think of this LED-backlit LCD as a technology showcase that you can actually buy, and you’d be about right.
LED the way
We’ve seen LED backlighting in TVs before: the system allows for local dimming of the backlight in an LCD set, improving contrast, and it also helps reduce the depth of a typical TV chassis.
But not all LED systems are the same, and the LC-52XS1’s RGB design allows for a far wider range of colours and contrasts than a regular, simpler set. In fact, Sharp claims it has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.
As you’d expect given this set’s formidable price, it’s a work of art to behold, being both ultra-slim and beautifully made. Its key inputs and tuners are mounted in an external box about the size and shape of a DVD player – all the better to aid in wall-mounting the screen itself – and the 52XS1’s Pioneer-developed loudspeaker system is housed in a neat pod underneath the screen.
A heavy, solidly constructed tabletop stand is also available if you prefer not to wall-mount.
Exceptional picture and sound
In action, thanks to its unique RGB backlighting system, the Sharp has an incredibly broad colour palette, and its black levels are almost as good as the best plasmas.
That’s bolstered by a clean and precise image, with little visible noise and terrific stability. It can be a little sensitive to motion smearing with some content – gaming caused it a few headaches to start with – but that’s more a matter of optimising settings than any particular problems with the set itself.
Other than that, this is one of the finest pictures available. Even the sound has plenty of guts for one so slim.