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Turning to slightly more prosaic but still significant features, the 52XS1E carries a 100Hz processing engine, Full HD resolution, and built-in tuners for both Freeview and, unusually, DVB-S satellite systems (though the satellite compatibility only extends to free to air, non-HD broadcasts).
Actually, the tuners are only sort of built-in. For as is often the case with extremely skinny TVs, Sharp has actually placed its tuners into an external AV receiver/connections box that ships with the TV.
Also easy on the eye, this box connects to the TV via a single cable - handy for cable haters. And alongside the RF and LNB inputs it carries three HDMIs, a USB port so you can play JPEGs or MP3s from USB sources, and a D-Sub PC input. The greedy AV lover in me would have liked to find such a premium TV sporting a fourth HDMI, if I'm honest. But if this proves to be the 52XS1E's only shortcoming, it's not really a big deal.
Unable to contain myself any longer, I switched the 52XS1E on and prepared myself to be blown way. But it didn't quite happen - at least straight away.
The problem is that the set's colours just don't look quite right 'out of the box'. Everything - but especially skin tones - looks that bit over-ripe. Just as well, then, that the TV provides some pretty extensive adjustment options for making colours look much more convincing. The hue and saturation levels of all the six main colour elements can be tweaked, as can the TV's Gamma set up. And some time spent with these options in conjunction with a simple set up aid like the Video Essentials - HD Basics Blu-ray yields significant levels of improvement.
Once this has been achieved, the 52XS1E starts delivering on its extravagant promise. For instance, now I can properly appreciate the extraordinary intensity of the set's colours, which really do enjoy levels of richness with extremes of the colour spectrum that I haven't seen on any TV before - including Sony's LED-based X4500s and Pioneer's KURO plasmas.
The opening credits of Casino Royale on Blu-ray, for instance, are an absolute revelation, as I witness levels of saturation and intensity with the card-game based graphics that I've honestly not seen before. Reds are particularly dazzling, reminding me vividly just how difficult lesser TVs find it to render a rich, deep red accurately.
The extraordinary expansiveness of the set's colour palette also gives me a new-found respect for just how important rich but also subtly shaded colours can be in creating a sense of solidity and depth in a video picture. At times the Casino Royale credit sequence almost looks like 3D - without the need for any silly glasses.
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