It’s worth looking next at some of the TV’s specifications, as they’re rather revealing of just how Sharp has managed to make it so affordable. For instance, the set’s claimed contrast ratio is ‘just’ 1,200:1, revealing that unlike the vast majority of LCD TVs we see these days, the LC32AD5E does not have a dynamic contrast system whereby the backlight brightness can be dimmed automatically for better black level response when dark scenes are detected.
The native resolution, meanwhile, is an HD Ready 1,366 x 768, not the full HD 1,920 x 1,080 Sharp is introducing on a 32in model further up its range. Finally, the set doesn’t have any image processing beyond the film mode we’ve already mentioned. There’s certainly no sign of Sharp’s TruD picture engine.
As you might expect from these on-paper specs, compared with its more expensive siblings, the LC32AD5E’s performance is a little uninspiring. There are two main reasons we say this. First and foremost, colours have a nasty habit of going ‘off message’ tonally, especially during dark scenes. For instance, reds and skin tones tend to look a bit over-ripe, and some deep greens can look sickly.
The other big problem we have is its viewing angle. Basically you don’t have to sit very far at all off to the TV’s side before the image starts to lose considerable amounts of contrast and colour saturation. So unless everyone in your household likely to be watching this set can sit pretty well right in front of it, it’s a non-starter. To be fair viewing angle problems like this are hardly rare in the LCD TV world, but we’ve definitely seen a number of recent 32in screens handle the problem better.
Initially we had a third problem with the LC32AD5E: its black levels. In its ‘out of the box state’, dark scenes were noticeably afflicted by a grey veil hanging over the blackest parts of the picture. However, we eventually managed to discern a manual backlight adjustment option (not an automatic one which, as we said earlier, could have boosted the set’s contrast ratio figure) amid the impenetrable onscreen menus. And nudging the backlight down to its -4 or -5 settings largely removed the greyness.
Naturally this also makes the picture less bright and so not well suited to rooms with a lot of ambient light. Plus it also means you lose a little shadow detailing. But the benefits in terms of extra dynamism and image depth for us outweighed the negatives.