Sharp LE320 (LC32LE320E) LCD TV Review
Mark takes a look at the latest budget LCD LED from Sharp...
The Sharp LC32LE320E is the Manufacturer's entry-level 1080p television and it's not a model that has received much attention either in the press or on our forums. There's no fourth pixel squeezed in, as there is Sharp's higher tier Quattron range, and it comes fairly light on features for a television on the market in 2011.
Whilst the LE320E is by no means an expensive unit, it will find itself amongst some very strong competition with its pricing of around £400. This sector of the market is perhaps the most crowded of all and the LE320E will be up against Samsung's LE32C580 and UE32C5100; the LG 32LE4900; Panasonic's TXL32S20B and TX-L32D28B and the Sony EX403 amongst others. There's also the Samsung LEC530, at some £100 less, that will give most in this tier a run for their money. This 32" model also has a number of siblings in the LC22LE320E, LC26LE320E, and LC37LE320E - where the first two digits denote screen size.
The Sharp LC32LE320E undoubtedly has a fight on its hands if it's to be a success so let's see how it stands up to the AVForums testing regime. The full review follows the summary and scores below.
Styling and Connections
One thing that can be said for the LE320, is that Sharp haven't followed the herd and produced a televsion framed entirely in gloss black plastic. Whilst the main inner frame is fashioned from our 'favourite' material, Sharp have added a strip of grey, to the bottom - housing the IR receiver, and constructed the rear of the housing in Apple style white plastic. The rear casing wraps around the rest of the frame to produce a very thin white outline to the front of the chassis, which is unsubtly rounded at the corners.
The supplied remote control was of the unspectacular variety and very lightweight. I would have preferred the Menu button to have been larger and located higher but, to be fair, the layout was serviceable. The unit gave the impression it had been very cheaply manufactured, which is almost certainly the case.
To the rear of the LC32LE320E there are 2 HDMI ports; a D-Sub PC in - with accompanying audio input; a Component Video input; Stereo Audio - in and out - as well as an SPDIF digital audio output. Finally, the digital aerial connection is also to the rear - note it's a DVB-T tuner, meaning no Freeview HD, just the plain old SD variety.
The side mounted connections comprise of a third HDMI input; stereo in with accompanying composite video input - for video cameras or unsuspecting Wii owners; a USB port; a headphone jack and a C.I. slot for access to premium digital over-the-air services.
Menus and Set Up
I'm not sure if the TV had been used prior to arriving with me but on my first switching-on, I was greeted with a rather unfriendly 'No Signal' message. If this is the standard procedure for the new owner, it's one that needs serious attention from Sharp. However, once I'd navigated to the Menu and found the tuning option, the LE320 was up and running in under 5 minutes.
The menus, themselves, we're like stepping a few years back in time and looked very basic. The main background was dark blue with selected items highlighted in sky blue. Text was somewhere approaching Cyan and difficult to read. I found the presentation of the menus to be quite poor when compared to their competitors'.
Navigation of the menus was somewhat sluggish but they were laid out, for the most part, logically. Most of the interesting options, for us, are located in the Picture menu but the overscan option - for HDMI sources only -is positioned in the Features menu and we'd advise setting it to 'Underscan' to get the most out of HD sources. The Sound menu has some equalizer options but, with speakers like those in the LE320, they're largely redundant.
Contained in the main Picture menu, we have our usual Contrast, Brightness and Colour options together with a Tint control, Sharpness settings plus picture mode and colour temperature options. Worthy of note, the only 'Smart Picture' preset capable of being meaningfully adusted is 'Personal' but more on this later. Also perhaps worth a mention here, Sharpness was best set at 2, for HD sources, as lower introduced an unnecessary edge blurring effect.
The Advanced Control option, in the Picture menu, brought up five further sub-options - Noise Reduction, Fleshtone, Backlight, DCR and a further Advanced sub menu containing the settings for Sharp's frame interpolation system. Noise Reduction is intended for very poor SD content, Fleshtone proved irrelevant and the Backlight setting is governed by the ambient lighting of the room the TV is situated in. The DCR option controlled the auto-dimming of the panel but whilst enabling the option did improve the deepness of the black level, it was crushing detail to a large extent and we'd advise leaving it set to Off. A minor fringe benefit to having DCR on was it made the menu text more readable.
The Sharp LC32LE320E's Electronic Program Guide (EPG) continued the rather outdated look of the menus and was, quite frankly, poor. The EPG displays an eight channel view but, with only the highlighted channel's programming displayed, it makes for limited usabilty - Sharp should really be looking at providing a grid view. Furthermore, programming is only displayed up until midnight so nightowls will need to hit the Next Day button to see what horrors of late night/early morning television await.
The length of this section is entirely dependent on the amount of features a manufacturer packs in to a display and, as such, this will be a short one. In fact, I could spend longer discussing what the LC32LE320E lacks in a television on the market in 2011.
The LE320E does sport a USB connection that supports playback of Photo's/Music and Video files. Codec support for video files is fairly generous but, as ever, it wont play everything so there will be some instances of incompatibilty despite the listed support for MPEG1/2 , MPEG4 (*.AVI, *.MP4, *.MOV, *.MKV)H.264 (*.AVI, *.MP4, *.MOV, *.MKV, *.TS)DivX (*.AVI)XviD (*.AVI) files.
Despite its size, the LE320E is equipped with a Full HD 1080p panel that is illuminated by LED edge lighting. Other than conservative power useage, the LED's brought nothing to the party and they certainly didn't enhance the picture quality.
And that's about it, feature wise, for the LE320E so if you're looking for internet connectivity, PVR functionality or networking, you'd be advised to look elsewhere
Measured Results Out of the Box
Having evaluated the available picture mode presets that Sharp label 'Smart Picture', it became clear that only the Personal mode was capable of being adjusted. If you attempt to make changes to Movie, Vivid, Standard or Eco it will immediately switch you to the Personal mode, which is a very poor state of affairs particulalrly as every mode was severely crushing blacks with Brightness at default. The Picture menu also reveals that here are no advanced calibration options available in the form of [tip=WhiteBal]white balance[/tip] and [tip=gamma]gamma[/tip] controls, nor is there a [tip=CMS]colour management system[/tip].
Having set Brightness and Contrast in the Personal mode, we were presented with the following results:
As we can see from the larger graph, whilst blue and red are tracking reasonably well, there's a deficiency of green across the [tip=Greyscale]greyscale[/tip]. It's an unfortunate position that we're unable to do anything meaningful to address the issue, given the lack of [tip=WhiteBal]white balance[/tip] controls so we'll look to mitigate the overtly pinkish cast to skin tones using the Colour control. It's not ideal, a simple 2 point control would have done much to improve matters and it's something we'd ask Sharp to provide, as standard, in next year's user menus. [tip=gamma]Gamma[/tip] performance, however, was tracking reasonably close to the targeted 2.2 value.
Having looked at greyscale and gamma results, let's take a look at how the [tip=gamut]colour gamut[/tip] holds up to inspection:
If you think of the entirity of the [tip=cie]CIE Diagram[/tip] as the spectrum of colours visible to the human eye, the triangle inside it represents, at the points, the levels we're aiming to hit - for hue and saturation - of the primray colours, as prescribed by the HD [tip=Rec709]Rec.709[/tip] standard. The seconday colours (cyan/magneta/yellow) are represented by the small squares between the primaries.
Again, we're presented with failry large [tip=DeltaE]Delta Errors[/tip] with only the Colour and Tint control to make amends. The hue performance of magenta and the crucial luminance results for blue and green were of particular concern. A [tip=CMS]CMS[/tip], here, would have probably meant we could have got our errors down to near indiscernible proportions but we have to work with what we have.
Having tweaked the relevant controls, it was apparent that very little could be done for the greyscale. I was able to make a very minor improvement but nothing worth wasting bandwidth on by publishing a photo.
Colour performance was something more of a dramatic improvement as evidenced in the charts below:
The crucial luminance errors were improved across the board and careful use of the Tint control had brought about a very worthwhile benefit to the hue of magenta. On screen results were now a lot better but far from [tip=IndStand]industry standards.[/tip] We hope Sharp see fit to include at least a white balance control in next year's low to mid ranges, as many of their competitors do.
Before running any tests, I took the chance to view some content from the inbuilt tuner and it was apparent the scaling engine, within the LC32LE320E, was not up to the standard of any of the LCD's I'd tested recently. Bringing up a few test patterns confirmed that the LE320 wasn't producing the full detail from 576i signals and was producing haloing atrefacts to boot. I think it is fair to say the scaling of SD is toward the poor side for a display in 2011.
Deinteralcing of video content, at both 576 and 1080i, also didn't impress meaning there was an unnecessary jaggedness to some images, particularly with fine lines, and a fairly noticeable combing effect when things on-screen started to move.
One area where the LE320 did fare well was in its ability to detect both PAL and NTSC film cadences from interlaced material, meaning the Sharp wasn't performing any unnecessary deinterlacing to content shot at PAL 25p or NTSC 24p. The LE320 also had no issues in correctly displaying Blu-ray material shot at 24p with no hint of judder provided, ironically, that the Film Mode frame interpolation system wasn't engaged.
In theory the Sharp LC32LE320E hadn't performed particularly well under our testing regime but, just occasionally, a display can produce a picture that's more than the sum of its constituent parts - however this didn't prove the case in this instance. Not only were colours noticeably innacurate but motion handling was poor with much evidence of LCD motion blur and some very nasty ghosting effects, especially under motion. The motion blur could be mitigated by using the 100Hz settings but all three levels (Low/Middle/High) were riddled with artefacting and I preferred them off.
Without the auto-dimming ADC control activated, black levels and contrast were mediocre - with black displaying a very noticeable blue tint. Enabling ADC did improve the black levels but this was at the expense of losing too much detail in the low tones. The gloss black surround did nothing to improve contrast performance in bright conditions by reflecting on to the screen so, compared to some other LCD's, the LE320 is not one I could recommend for viewing environments that receive plenty of light.
Over all, the image the LE320 produced didn't provide much pleasure and it's not one I could easily live with. We always try and provide balanced reviews, here at AVForums, but I'm honestly struggling to think of anything postive to mention other than that the set did produce a reasonable Blu-ray performance. It's just as well HD material is handled adequately as the SD presentation is somewhat lacking. In short, Sharp need to get more performance out of the MVA panel, that's housed in the LE320, as they're currently a long way behind some of the competition.
If this review were a boxing contest, the referee would have stopped it by now but the bad news continues with the LE320's gaming performance. Not only were the ghosting problems strongly highlighted but input lag was also very noticeble meaning it wouldn't be the best choice for online gamers in particular. The measured figures I was getting ranged between 60 and 70ms lag.
Finally we can impart some positive tidings with the LC32LE320E barely registering any consumption in standby and with a respectable averaged 60W, in use.
- Decent codec support for video file playback via USB
- Detects both 2:2 and 2:3 film cadences
- Lightweight and easy to transport
- Looks OK with Blu-ray
- Poor motion handling with ghosting issues
- Bluish blacks and mediocre contrast performance
- Outdated GUI
- Poor customisabilty of picture options
- No advanced calibration controls to correct average colour and greyscale performance
- Higher than average input lag for gaming
- The stand doesn't swivel
- Poor scaling of SD material
Sharp LE320 (LC32LE320E) LCD TV Review
The Sharp LC32LE320E does nothing to compel itself for recommendation as a purchase, particularly when other televisions in this price range - and below, outperform it in virtually every facet. Other than the outward design, which might find favour for those who's decor suits, it was a step back in time for LCD. From the outdated GUI and limited picture controls, right through to motion blur and ghosting, the LE320E displays all the weaknesses that those who like to round on LCD technology are so happy to quote.
The LE320E hardly boasted a generous set of features, for this day and age, with perhaps the most worthy of note being a fairly generous support of video codecs. Greyscale and colour performance are also substandard by todays standards and the lack of controls to truly correct the errors is a definite disappointment. Out of the box Brightness settings were something of a disaster, in all modes, and I'd strongly advise anyone who has one of these sets to check theirs using an appropriate PLUGE pattern.
Video processing at least had the highlight in being able to detect both 2:2 and 2:3 film cadences but scaling of standard definition signals was decidedly poor, with deinterlacing performace of both 576 and 1080i signals not much better. Again, there are TVs at this price and below that do much better in this area, too.
I did consider that perhaps Sharp may pull a rabbit out of the hat in the gaming performance stakes but the LE320E proved to be an also-ran here too, with a disappointing response time and the ghosting issue frequently haunting the image. Perhaps the LE320E's best performance lay in its energy saving abilities, when in standby, by its drawing virtually no current.
One to avoid.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £399.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level5
Ease Of Use4
Value for Money4
Our Review Ethos
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