Although I’ve now tested quite a few LED-backlit LCD TVs, one thing has been conspicuously absent from the LED ‘canon’: small screen sizes. Whether it’s because manufacturers see LED as a premium technology, or because making LED backlighting work well on smaller screens is difficult, the simple fact is that so far direct LED-backlit TVs have been 40in or more.
So it’s with some interest that I chased Sharp down for a sample of its 32LE600E. As its name suggests, this TV is just 32in across, yet it definitely boasts Sharp’s latest direct (rear- rather than edge-mounted) LED lighting system.
What’s more, its price suggests that LED’s tendency to go with larger screens isn’t down to technical difficulties. For at just £450, the 32LE600E would look cheap even for an ‘ordinary’ LCD TV, never mind an LED one. In other words, if any TV has the utilitarian size and recession-friendly price to really make LED-lit TVs mainstream, it’s this Sharp.
Oddly I also think Sharp’s design for its LE600 LED range sits more comfortably on this 32in model than it does on any of the brand’s larger screens. The silver metallic band across the screen’s bottom edge, accented by a bold little triangular motif under the Sharp logo, has always presented a nice contrast against a reasonably slender gloss black bezel. But because the 32LE600E is smaller, you don’t notice so much the rather plasticky finish that lies beneath the surface gloss.
The 32LE600E is respectably rather than spectacularly connected for its price level, meaning that it has three HDMIs (one side-mounted) rather than four, and while it does have a D-Sub PC port for multimedia use, it doesn’t follow the growing trend towards including a USB port for playback of picture files from USB storage devices.
There’s no getting away from the fact, either, that the 32LE600E isn’t spectacularly well featured, once you look beyond its ground-breaking LED backlighting. There’s no 100Hz motion processing, for one thing - in fact, there’s very little major video processing at all aside from a ‘Brilliant Colour’ system for boosting colour saturation.
Hopefully there will at least be something pretty clever going on in terms of driving the local dimming properties of the LED array behind the screen.
Local dimming, for those of you not familiar with the term, describes the way that direct LED TVs can control clusters of LED lights individually, so that you could potentially have extreme brightness in one part of the picture, and near total blackness (with the LEDs off) in another. Obviously this fact has a potentially profound impact on a screen’s contrast potential versus ordinary LCD lighting systems, where the whole picture, bright and dark bits alike, is illuminated by a single, always-on light source.
With this in mind we’d like to be able to tell you Sharp’s contrast ratio measurement for the 32LE600E, despite such figures being notoriously unreliable. But rather unhelpfully Sharp merely declares that its TV’s contrast ratio is ‘Mega’. Sigh. Presumably this is their way of saying it’s so massive it’s not worth measuring, or something.