If we were to dish out a medal for ‘most improved’ this year, it might very well go to Sharp. Its LC-46LE831E TV delivered giant steps forward from the brand’s previous efforts on not one but two fronts.
First, its active 3D playback was a huge advance from that of Sharp’s 2010 debut 3D TV, thanks in the main to it suffering much less with crosstalk ghosting noise. Second, the 46LE831E made a markedly stronger case for Sharp’s innovative Quattron technology (which adds a yellow sub-pixel to the usual red, green and blue ones), thanks to a more natural colour balance and, especially, a much better contrast performance, especially when it came to portraying deep black colours.
It’s fair to say, then, that we have high hopes for the 40LE831E: the 46in 46LE831E’s 40in sibling. Especially as its very reasonable price tag of £750 potentially makes it a great 3D option for people who can’t run to the £1100-plus required for the larger model.
The design of the 40LE831E still looks as pretty as it did on the bigger set - albeit maybe not quite as impressive - thanks to an impeccably slender bezel; a high-gloss, single-layer fascia; a slinky silvery outer trim; and a strangely alluring illuminated Sharp logo.
Connections are excellent too, with highlights of four HDMIs, a D-Sub PC port, three USB inputs, a LAN port, an SD card slot, and rather handily, wi-fi via a provided USB dongle.
Getting into some of these connections in more detail, the LAN/wi-fi options serve an integrated Freeview HD tuner, provide streaming from a DLNA PC, and let you take the 40LE831E online to explore Sharp’s AquosNet service.
The USBs, meanwhile, can play video (including DivX-HD), photo and music files from USB storage devices, and also record video from the integrated Freeview HD tuner.
We mentioned Sharp’s AquosNet online system back there, and we guess to some extent that this too fits into the sense of improvement noted earlier. For there’s no doubt that AquosNet has got a lot more going on than Sharp’s 2010 online service. Its highlights include include TomTom, ebay, myalbum.com, cinetrailer, Daily Motion, Box Office 365 (subscription), the Cartoon Network (subscription), iConcerts, YouTube, Twitter and the FunSpot game channel.
There’s also an open Internet browser, and as promised when we reviewed the 46LE831E, the AquosNet offering now includes Skype - provided you add an optional external camera, obviously.
However, there’s still no BBC iPlayer, or a good movie server like LoveFilm or AceTrax. In fact - especially considering that quite a bit of the content on AquosNet is subscription only - there’s no doubt that despite its improvements, it still feels off the online pace being set by some of its ‘Smart TV’ rivals. Hopefully Sharp will be able to expand the service sooner rather than later.