Yes, we did say edge LED lighting back there. For as well as being Sharp’s debut Quad Pixel TV, the 46LE821E is also the first TV we’ve seen from the brand that uses edge rather than direct LED backlighting.
As we would hope, this has enabled Sharp to radically improve its design credentials compared with last year’s chunky direct LED 600E and 700E models. The 46LE821E sports a slender (39mm), sleek and polished design, given added panache courtesy of a glass-like external trim, and an angled sliver of metal along the bottom edge containing an attractive illuminated Sharp ‘triangle’ logo.
We’re not done with the 46LE821E’s pioneering spirit yet, either. For it also sports 8GB of built-in memory for recording programmes – losslessly – from its built-in digital tuners. Cool. These digital tuners include the latest Freeview HD system, too, with the 8GB memory able to store up to two and a half hours of standard definition content or around 50 minutes of high definition material.
The 46LE821E’s already strong shelf appeal merely grows as we check out its connections. For alongside an eminently respectable collection of four HDMIs, you can find an RS-232 control/system integration socket, a USB port for playing both JPEG stills and DivX video files (including HD ones), and even an Ethernet port.
This is the first time we’ve seen an Ethernet port on a Sharp TV – and frankly, it’s long overdue in this multimedia age. But before we get too carried away, it turns out that the Ethernet port is not capable of accessing any online Sharp services along the lines of Sony’s Bravia Internet Video or Samsung’s Internet@TV platform. What it ”can” do, however, is both handle potential future Freeview HD interactive features and access stuff stored on a DLNA-ready PC.
Turning to the 46LE821E’s onscreen menus, even here Sharp has decided to do things differently – to great effect. The first thing that happens when you call up the onscreen menus is that the whole picture shrinks a bit, so that a double-axis menus style can wrap itself around the picture’s edges without, excellently, sitting over it. So you can continue to watch an unsullied picture while you explore what the menus have to offer. This idea works so well we can’t believe nobody has done it before.
The 46LE821E has a decent selection of picture fine-tuning features, with highlights spotted during our calibration efforts including a solid colour management tool, a Fine Motion setting for reducing judder, decent colour temperature flexibility, and plenty of gamma adjustments.
It’s a pity, perhaps, that the 46LE821E forces even TV novices to explore at least some of its more involved fine-tuning tools on account of its picture presets being pretty ill-judged. But this is hardly unusual in the LCD TV world.