At an IFA Show dominated by ultra-thin LCD TVs featuring black-boosting, energy-saving LED backlighting – all being fed by new Blu-ray players – Sharp was no exception, though its stainless-steel set surrounds were a rare relief from the swathes of piano black.
Sharp announced two new premium Aquos XS1 sets – the 52in LC-52XS1E and 65in LC-65XS1E. Both are Full HD LCD models that use a new RGB-LED backlight system, which claims to enable a contrast ratio of more than a million to one.
Sharp also says the sets are designed to offer exceptional colour reproduction, with 12-bit Bit Depth Expansion delivering rich colour gradation. They certainly looked stunning (as is the norm for showcased TVs) displaying an array of 1080p imagery.
LED backlighting and energy savingAs well as the more efficient LED backlight itself, Sharp has included further energy-saving in the XS1 sets with a system that adjusts the backlight to suit ambient lighting. Sharp is the latest manufacturer to offer such a power-reducing feature – earlier examples include LG's Intelligent Eye.
The XS1 sets may not be as skinny as the new Sony sets also unveiled at the IFA show, but they are impressively slim – just 22m at their thinnest part (which is under an inch in old money).
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They are only available with the metallic surround, which Sharp admits is "a bit Marmite – you'll love or hate it", and no further screen sizes have yet been suggested.
Just below any super-slim Sharp XS1 screen sits a separate speaker unit. Co-designed by Pioneer – recipient of Sharp's LCD technology for its new Kuro LCDs, remember – this speaker design uses a 1-bit digital amplifier that claims to offer natural, clear sound.
Also housed in a separate unit – the TU-X1E tuner box, to be precise – are the digital TV tuner and connectivity. Sharp showed the XS1 sets in a range of appealing racks and stands that hid the cable connection between the tuner box and screen, and they've also shown a prototype wireless version – though this won't be available for the 2008 designs.Sharp adopts a touch of German designMany of the rack/stand options – including pole-like rotating stands, and a table stand with a turntable – look remarkably like those available with Loewe's Individual range. With Sharp now owning a slice of Loewe, it looks it's making the most of that German design experience.
The Sharp Aquos LC-52XS1E and LC-65XS1E will both be available in the UK from October. No precise pricing has yet been set, but a Sharp UK spokesperson said to "think in premium terms", with a £3K+ price tag not dismissed.
Meanwhile, seekers of budget Blu-ray thrills will have a new player to consider in October, with Sharp's new BD-H21. Expected to cost "£250 or less", the Blu-ray Profile 2.0 player is also designed for easy, single-remote operation with Sharp Aquos TVs.
Despite making a successful Blu-ray recorder for the Japanese market, Sharp confirmed it has no imminent plans for a European version, blaming the delay on rights management issues concerning HD TV broadcasts.