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The frequently extraordinary picture strengths I've just detailed leave me really no choice but to score the 52XS1E a 10 for picture quality, as an expression of HD superiority over every other domestic TV around right now. But the 10 score doesn't mean the 52XS1E's pictures are totally perfect.
Forced to put on my most super-critical 'glasses' by the nine grand asking price, I would say that while motion is very good, there is still a minor trace of judder with HD - even the very occasional actual stutter with 1080p/24 sources - plus a residue of motion smearing with standard definition sources. Also, no matter how much I tried, I couldn't quite stop skin tones with standard def sources from looking a tad too pink.
Next, the dynamic contrast system can sometimes be a bit too aggressive in its brightness adjustments, causing visible brightness 'jumps', and finally, very occasionally I noticed slightly elevated patches of brightness around really bright image elements, presumably as the local dimming mechanism wasn't able to operate quite locally enough to respond to the brightness demands of a specific bright element without also slightly lightening surrounding pixels. I must stress, though, that I only noticed this phenomenon three or four times - and subtly at that - in the space of a test session that lasted many hours
Still, while these glitches show that not even £9,000 buys you absolute TV perfection, they don't stop the 52XS1E from producing what really could be the finest HD TV pictures I've ever seen outside of one of Pioneer's 'future tech' demo rooms. Which is particularly striking given that Pioneer's TV future tech isn't actually going to appear any more!
The Pioneer references back there leads me neatly into an assessment of the 52XS1E's sound system, with its joint Sharp/Pioneer heritage. And as you might expect, it's outstanding.
The scale and scope of the soundstage is dazzling, filling your room with clean, well-steered audio that holds on to its clarity and range even at extreme volumes, without distorting or sounding harsh.
In fact, I'd say the sound bar actually becomes better the harder you push it, as its mid-range never fails to expand to accommodate a sudden explosion or orchestral burst, and it consistently hits the sort of bass levels that you'd normally only obtain from a separate, dedicated audio system. Home cinema is as much about sound as pictures, yet the 52XS1E is one of only a handful of TVs I've ever seen with the audio power to do this fact justice.
Against my expectations, if I'm honest, Sharp has come up with a genuine 'statement' product in the LC-52XS1E; one that actually arguably delivers on its marketing promise to produce the best flat TV picture quality ever. Plus it throws in one of the best sound performances around, just for good measure.
For all this, though, I still have to question if the LC-52XS1E can really justify its £9,000 price tag. That sort of money could get you a full, high-quality projection system, for instance - not to mention a new car! And while the TV really does deliver ground-breaking picture quality, is the extent of its greatness truly worth the £6,700 over Pioneer's KRP-500A?. I'm not sure that I can honestly say that it is, and for this reason I can't give the LC-52XS1E a TrustedReviews Recommended badge, no matter how awesome a performer it might be.
If you just so happen to be super-rich, of course, and one of those people who just has to have the absolute best of everything no matter what it costs, an LC-52XS1E should find a place in your home as soon as you can arrange it. But for most normal people, the LC-52XS1E will forever remain one of those products we can only dream about, rather than actually even trying to save up for.