Today is one of the most frustrating days Trusted Reviews has had. For dominating the test bench in front of us is a product that’s come painfully close to being the biggest TV bargain we have tested, only falling short of becoming one of our favourite ever products on account of a single irksome flaw. Grrr.
To start at the beginning, the product we’re talking about here is the Sharp LC-60LE636E. And as its name suggests, this is a 60in TV - a pretty impressive figure to get the ball rolling. But it’s when you combine this 60in figure with another one, a price tag of just £999, that the 60LE636E becomes much, much more than just "impressive".
We picked up from Sharp’s stand at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year that the brand had decided to pursue a business model involving shipping massive screens for relatively small prices. But we had no idea that Sharp’s plans were going to enter quite such extreme value territory as the 60LE636E.
It should be clarified here that the £999 price we’ve found the Sharp 60LE636E going for is, at the time of writing, apparently a one off. Most sites are selling the TV for between £1300 and £1500, with Sharp itself crazily asking £2,600 for the screen on its own sharpdirect.co.uk website. But while only one site - www.currys.co.uk - is selling the TV for so little, that site is large and reputable, and the price doesn’t seem to be some kind of short-term special.
Still reeling from the 60LE636E’s extraordinary price/screen size combination, our obvious focus in getting to grips with this monster TV has to be looking out for reasons for its extraordinary affordability. But in a theme that will persist through the vast majority of this review, there’s absolutely no sign of cheapness in the 60LE636E’s design.
In fact, it’s an exceptionally attractive TV for its size, thanks to its surprisingly narrow and robust-but-pretty black bezel, plus the little illuminated Sharp ‘tick’ logo sitting at the heart of its bottom edge.
Some people might feel it’s a bit deep 'round the back compared with some of its glamorous rivals. But personally we have no problem whatsoever with a few mm of extra depth in return for the 60LE636E’s extraordinary price.
Turning our attention to what’s going on inside the Sharp 60LE636E, it’s a Full HD screen, of course. It’s illuminated by edge LED lighting (a fact we’ll come back to later...), enjoys 100Hz processing for clearer motion handling, and the tuner inside is a Freeview HD one. This latter feature is something we’d been particularly worried might have been sacrificed to keep costs down.
We were startled to discover, too, that the Sharp 60LE636E supports multimedia playback - including video files - via either USB storage device or networked DLNA PCs. Neither of these features were at all expected on such a cheap screen, but they’re there, and they work with a decently varied selection of file formats to boot.
Even more incredibly, you can enjoy the set’s network potential wirelessly, via a USB wi-fi dongle that’s included free with the TV. Excellent. And still we’re not done with the set’s unexpected features, for it further transpires that the TV supports recording from the HD tuner to USB HDDs, as well as letting you access a selection of online features under the catch-all name of AquosNet.
This all goes well beyond the call of budget duty. We guess it should be said that the AquosNet service is very limited in content terms versus rival online services. It’s essentially a stripped down version of the Philips NetTV platform, with highlights of YouTube, Picasa, a Web browser, and a few subscription-only video services, including the Cartoon Network and Box Office 365. You currently don’t even get the BBC iPlayer - though Sharp claims this will be coming to the platform reasonably soon.
But come on people: surely getting ANY online system on a 60in TV that costs under £1000 has to count as a bonus, right?