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Sharp Aquos LC-32XL8E 32in LCD TV - Sharp Aquos LC-32XL8E
Given that the 32X20E with which the 32XL8E has so much in common garnered a respectable 8 out of 10 when we reviewed it a few months back, I guess the question with the newer model has to be whether the addition of 100Hz takes it up that extra step into genuine best buy territory.
And the short answer is, no, it doesn't. Not because the 32XL8E isn't better than the 32X20E - in fact, it is. But rather because the march of time in the LCD world has brought with it rival models - especially the Philips 32PFL9603D - which highlight a few 32XL8E flaws.
The first of these concerns the Sharp's black level response. Compared with the best rivals, and even with some of Sharp's own bigger-screen TVs, the 32XL8E's black levels just don't look particularly inspiring. During a play-through of There Will Be Blood on Blu-ray, for instance, the extremely dark scenes at the start of the film where Daniel Plainview mines for silver are undoubtedly affected by a degree of LCD ‘grey clouding'. As well as making black colours look slightly unconvincing, this problem reduces the image's depth and costs the picture quite a bit of shadow detailing.
It doesn't help the black level situation, either, that the set's viewing angle isn't particularly forgiving, with noticeable extra greyness creeping in if you watch from more than 35-40 degrees.
The other main issue is that its rendition of HD sources just doesn't look as pin-sharp as it does on some rival Full HD screens. Sure, you can tell you are watching There Will Be Blood on Blu-ray rather than DVD, but you don't get that almost tangible sense of the harsh Southern Californian landscape I've noted with some HD screens. In fact, if I'm honest I feel as if some HD Ready (as opposed to Full HD) screens have made 1080-line sources look crisper than this Sharp does.
To be fair, the 32XL8E's pictures do at least look slightly sharper than those of the 32X20E, because of the 100Hz processing. This ensures that there's noticeably less motion blur around during motion-packed There Will Be Blood sequences such as the aftermath of the oil well blast that costs H.W his hearing.
Even better, the 32XL8E uses Sharp's ‘good' 100Hz engine - i.e. the one that looks natural with hardly any negative side effects - rather than the over-wrought monstrosity wheeled out on Sharp's debut 100Hz products a year or so ago.
But even with the 100Hz engine, there's ultimately no getting round the fact that Full HD 32in screens from Panasonic and especially Philips, to name but two, definitely look sharper.