The 46XL2E also grabs your attention positively with its colours, which are vivid and for the most part eminently credible in tone, even during the extremely vibrant Casino Royale scenes in the Bahamas.
Yet more good news can be seen in the set’s black level response. Numerous previous Sharp TVs have suffered a slightly blue tone to the blackest parts of their pictures, but here Casino Royale’s opening black and white scenes display some of the best blacks seen on any LCD from any brand. Especially as the blackness doesn’t seem ‘forced’, in that dark areas still retain decent amounts of the shadow detailing that helps give dark scenes a sense of depth.
With practically no video noise to speak of in HD images either (except where it comes from a source), I really can’t praise the 46XL2E highly enough as an HD monitor.
Pity, then, that its standard definition pictures aren’t in the same league. Seriously, switching between a Sky Movies HD and standard def Sky Movies showing of, um, Ghost Rider was like switching between two different TVs. While the HD image looked outstanding, the standard def one looked slightly fuzzy, rather soft, and possessing of one or two quite curious colour tones, especially – though not exclusively – where skin is concerned.
I should also say now that we’re talking negatives that actually Sharp’s 100Hz processing has arguably gone all the way from being ludicrously overcooked last time out to slightly too genteel here. Though there’s no doubt that overall the 100Hz/natural pictures balance is far better on the 46XL2E and is now only a fraction from perfection.
One other area where the 46XL2E didn’t exactly blow me away was with its audio. The whole soundstage appears very cramped within a disappointingly narrow dynamic range, so that trebles can sound over-dominant and sibilant, vocals can sound a little thin, and bass sounds ‘poppy’. On the upside, the set can deliver more volume and soundstage width than you might expect given its dynamic range issues, but it’s still only average overall.
As an HD monitor for, say, a dedicated home cinema room, the 46LX2E is a stunning option. Especially given that it seems an absolute steal with its sub £1200 price tag. But if you’re looking for a more all-round set that’s as happy with standard def as HD, its rather uninspiring standard def performance may just make you pause for thought.
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