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Sharp LC-42XL2E review

An expensive option that doesn't quite perform to the level of its price tag

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Our Verdict

Despite this TV's hi-def talents, it's not a good enough all-rounder to justify its hefty price

For

  • Very good HD pictures
  • Well designed

Against

  • Too expensive
  • Feeble audio
  • Not the best SD

Costing nearly twice as much as some of today's rivals, Sharp's 42LX2E is going to have to go some to impress us.

So it's as well it gets off to a great start by looking very smart indeed, thanks to an impressively narrow, glossy black screen surround, offset tidily by a neat silver strip.

It's not as fulsomely connected as it arguably should be for its money, though. For there are three HDMIs rather than four, and there are no USB or memory card slots.

A mixed bag

Regarding the 42LX2E's other key specifications, there's mixed news. In the plus column, it's a full HD screen, with 100Hz processing, and a film mode that tweaks the TV's progressive scanning to improve film playback.

In the negative column, the set's claimed contrast ratio of 10,000:1 looks a bit low by today's standards, and there isn't as much else going on when it comes to video processing as we would have anticipated from the 42LX2E's price.

In fact, innovation stops at the way the Sharp appears to automatically recognise what devices you've got connected to its HDMI inputs and changes the onscreen name of each input accordingly. Nifty.

Standard def woes

In action, the 42LX2E is the classic 'game of two halves', in that it rocks with HD material, but disappoints with standard-def sources.

The HD strengths begin with its terrific sharpness when showing Blu-rays or HD broadcasts or games. Every detail is portrayed with rare clarity and precision, doing full justice to the format.

Helping develop this sense of sharpness further is the 42LX2E's motion handling, as its 100Hz engine cannily delivers obvious extra motion clarity, but never to a degree that makes the picture look unnatural. What's more, the 100Hz engine works without apparently generating any significant unwanted side effects.

Colours are bright and well-saturated too, and are offset by some pleasing black levels.

The only downside we can report is that despite being vibrant, the set's colours continue to look a little unnatural from time to time even after tweaking the picture settings. And these occasions multiply when you switch to SD, which also tends to look slightly softer and noisier than we've seen on the other TVs.

Joining the decidedly average and off-putting standard-definition performance is a rather impoverished audio performance. For while sonics are fine – good, even – during undemanding 'daytime TV' fodder, any sort of film or drama action scene ruthlessly exposes a lack of power and frequency range, especially when it comes to bass reproduction.