It’s behind the curve when it comes to features, but solid standard definition performance keeps this Sharp HDTV in the running.
One of the biggest challenges of an HDTV isn’t displaying high-definition content so much as upscaling standard-definition sources like DVDs, cable programming and free-to-air TV without it looking like a blurry mess. 720p sets have an easier time of it as there are less pixels to fill, and it’s something the 37-in Sharp AQUOS LC-37D33X LCD pulls off exceptionally well. Across DVD playback and standard definition cable and TV, its video processor did a superb job of adding the extra detail needed to fill the 1,366 x 768 resolution without compromising too much on quality.
There’s still a discernible difference between standard and high-definition playback – we picked up a lot of background noise and over-sharpening along the edges when playing SD content – but if your viewing habits mainly extend to DVDs and free-to-air, the AQUOS LC-37D33X is definitely one of the better options.
As for high definition, the LC-37D33X is a capable performer, albeit without many of the frills that mark the latest HDTVs, like 100Hz processing and 24p playback. Using our Blu-ray test discs, the LC-37D33X delivered accurate and natural-looking colour tones across the board, as well as rich black levels and smoothly-rendered action sequences. By the numbers, the native contrast ratio of 1,500:1 is low compared to what we’re used to seeing from other vendors, but in practice we found it just as good for depicting dark scenes in faithful detail.
Where it falls short is picture clarity. We found the picture of Blu-ray movies to be a bit soft for our liking, which is ironic given the TV’s brand name. Oddly, it appears to be a problem limited to Blu-ray and gaming, as the HD broadcasts on free-to-air were crisp and well-defined. We were also surprised to find no picture modes for switching between presets like Cinema, Standard and Gaming, so you’re essentially stuck with one profile for adjusting the contrast, sharpness, colour and brightness across each of the connected video sources.
The speakers – located in a grill underneath the screen – are good enough for day-to-day viewing, but the simulated surround-sound mode is a pale imitation of the real thing – you’re best off getting a real speaker set-up if you want proper 3D audio.
The LC-37D33X has a modest selection of inputs: namely two HDMI, two component, two composite, one S-Video and one D-sub. This should be adequate for most users, but if you’ve got a Blu-ray player and games console taking up two HDMI ports, having a third one spare for hooking up a laptop or camcorder would come in handy. All of the ports are located on the back of the TV; unlike most sets, it doesn’t include any easy-access ports on the side or front, nor does the bundled stand (which you need to assemble out of the box) have a swivel mechanism for rotating the display. Also missing is a USB port for plugging in a digital camera or flash drive to display photos.
Appearance-wise, the LC-37D33X looks like every other entry-level HDTV, with the traditional glossy piano-black frame, square edges and oval-shaped stand – no pulsing lights, colourful bezels or frameless displays here. That said, it’s thinner and lighter than most of its peers, measuring less than 2cm thick and weighing only 16kg with the stand attached.
We’ve seen better HD performance in this price range from other 720p HDTVs, but its excellent standard definition playback sets the LC-37D33X apart. If you’re looking to replace your 10-year-old TV with a large flat-screen but can’t see yourself buying a Blu-ray player in the near future, the AQUOS LC-37D33X is a worthy upgrade.