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So far as I’m concerned, the introduction of LED backlighting to the LCD TV world has been almost as important/revolutionary as the development of flat TV technology itself. After all, it single-handedly turns an inherently flawed flat TV technology into something that’s truly and consistently a pleasure to watch. It even allows LCD to take plasma on as the TV format of choice for cinephiles - and in doing so could become a major defining force in the way the TV marketplace takes shape in the coming months and years.
All of which makes Sharp’s 40LE700E one seriously enticing on-paper proposition. After all, it offers 40in of true direct LED backlighting, complete with local dimming, for the remarkably affordable sum of £774.
If the words ‘direct LED backlighting’ and ‘local dimming’ mean precisely nothing to you, allow me to - briefly - explain. The term direct LED lighting describes a situation where the LED lights are positioned directly behind the screen, firing straight out of it. The alternative approach, as currently favoured by Samsung and LG, is to position the LEDs around the screen’s edge, which makes it possible to have a screen that’s just three or four centimetres deep.
Local dimming, meanwhile, describes the key bonus direct LED lighting has over edge LED lighting. For it’s possible with direct LED lighting to control individually each separate cluster of LED lights that make up a direct LED TV’s picture. And so you can, say, totally deactivate one cluster to deliver almost complete blackness if part of a picture demands it, while leaving the adjacent LED able to fire on full brightness. Clearly this makes possible a level of contrast you simply won’t see on a standard CCFL LCD TV.
I’d like to be able to put an actual figure on the 40LE700’s black level talents for you, despite manufacturers’ contrast ratio figures being notoriously untrustworthy. But Sharp rather unhelpfully just describes the 40LE700E’s contrast as ‘mega’ on its marketing blurb. Er, thanks.
The 40LE700E’s design is a classic game of two halves. Its fascia is actually rather nice in its sheer, glass-like finish offset dramatically by a triangular neon blue power button. But the TV’s rear is as ugly and plasticky as they come. The idea of the ‘360-degree’ TV design now being championed by more and more brands clearly hasn’t filtered through to the 40LE700E’s design team. I’d also say that oddly the 40LE700E seems slightly less attractive than its 46in sibling we looked at a while back, perhaps because the attractive fascia doesn’t dominate your field of view quite as much, leaving the ugly rear more exposed in a typical living room environment.