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Sharp Aquos LC-52XS1E 52in RGB-LED LCD TV
I hope you were sitting down when you clocked the £9,000 price attached to Sharp's LC-52XS1E. For it's definitely the sort of thing that might get your average punter feeling a bit faint, especially in the recession. Even a politician would have a hard time putting one of these babies through on expenses, for heaven's sake.
Of course, though, while the 52XS1E might be phenomenally, even ground-breakingly expensive (conveniently forgetting the £12k or more price tags of the very first plasma screens all those years ago), it's also pretty damn interesting. For surely any TV that reckons it can persuade people to part with so much money must have some pretty special talents tucked away up its sleeves.
There are probably three main 'excuses' for the 52XS1E's price. The most instantly obvious of these concerns its build quality. Designed to a no-expense-spared spec by charismatic Japanese design guru Toshiyuki Kita, its bezel is resplendent in a brushed aluminium finish. And the seriously meaty, also-aluminium stand is about as heavy duty - while still being very attractive - as it's possible to get.
The screen is remarkably slender too; just 23mm at its slimmest point. This really reinforces the sense that you've got your hands on a piece of genuinely next-generation technology.
The already positively regal design prowess notches up even higher if you attach another of the 52XS1E's big selling points: the detachable but 2.1-channel speaker 'bar' Sharp has put together - in conjunction with Pioneer, no less. This gently curved bar is clad in the same metallic clothing as the TV, and somehow softens the sharp rectangular lines of the screen to give it a more elegant profile.
The single most important 52XS1E selling point for me, though, is the technology driving its pictures. For it's Sharp's debut LED model, and despite the screen's extreme slenderness, it actually uses 'direct', rear-mounted LED lighting rather than an edge-based system, meaning that it can use local dimming technology to deliver potentially total blackness right alongside extremely bright whites.
Even better still, those whites should look more crisp and natural than most thanks to the 52XS1E's use of RGB dimming rather than the more common - and cheaper - black and white LED dimming system.
Using coloured Light Emitting Diodes should additionally, hopefully, enhance the TV's contrast performance beyond that of even normal LED screens, as well as helping colours look richer and more natural, since the actual illumination point of the TV is in tune with the pixel colour of the source image.
To put some numbers on this, Sharp claims a colour range of 166 per cent of EBU colour systems for the 52XS1E - a really extravagant colour palette that should reveal levels of colour dynamism and subtlety well beyond the capability of most ordinary LCD TVs.