There are budget TVs and then there’s the Sharp 55FN2KA – a 55-inch 4K TV that can be yours for just £399. You don’t get only the absolute basics for that money either; there’s also a fully fledged Android TV smart system, Dolby Vision HDR and even a speaker system designed by Harman Kardon. So what’s the catch?
Sharp no longer sells TVs on a concerted international basis, meaning that different Sharp-branded models turn up in different territories. So the 55FN2KA is a purely UK model, with no direct international equivalent.
When you’re talking about a 55-inch TV that only costs £399, price is clearly its number one attraction. A cheap price doesn’t necessarily equate to great value, of course, but the 55FN2KA’s feature list is longer than you might expect for so little money and, as we’ll see, in some ways at least, its pictures aren’t that bad. So long as you’re sat in exactly the right place.
The Sharp 55FN2KA looks OK if you don’t scrutinise it too closely. The screen frame is strikingly slender around three of its four edges, and while its lightweight build quality reveals the bodywork to be built pretty much entirely from plastic, the bezel’s slightly glossy finish just about manages to disguise the flimsiness when assessed from typical 55-inch TV viewing distances.
The screen is supported on a pair of bog-standard plastic feet that are positioned out towards the screen’s bottom corners, meaning you’ll need to have a fairly wide bit of furniture to rest the TV on.
The screen is accompanied by a mostly similarly plasticky remote control that tries to hide its basic build by featuring a metal-effect silver navigation ‘ring’ around the OK/Select button and including a helpful selection of direct stream app access buttons.
The 55FN2KA has more tricks up its sleeve than you might expect of such a cheap TV. Its 4K screen, for starters, also supports HDR in not just the HDR10 and HLG standard versions, but also the ‘premium’ Dolby Vision flavour, with its extra scene by scene picture information.
Its smart system is powered by Android TV bolstered by the Freeview Play app to ensure the 55FN2KA supports all of the UK’s major terrestrial broadcaster streaming services. The Android engine means there’s built-in Chromecast support, too, as well as Google Assistant voice control.
The screen uses a VA rather than IPS LCD panel type, which should help it deliver more contrast at the expense of more limited viewing angles. The panel is direct- rather than edge-lit too, which again typically leads to a superior contrast performance – though inevitably for such a cheap TV the backlighting doesn’t feature any local dimming control.
Picture processing is provided by the grandly named ACE Pro Ultra Engine, though it’s hard in truth to find much evidence of what this does in either the 55FN2KA’s picture setting options or its picture quality.
Surprisingly the 55FN2KA does go to the trouble of including an 11-point white balance adjustment, as if it imagines someone might be willing to pay a calibrator more than they spent on the TV to get it calibrated…
Screen size 55 inches (also available in 43 and 50 inches)
Type LCD w/ direct LED backlight
HDR formats HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision
Operating system Android TV
HDMI inputs x4
HDMI 2.1? No
Gaming features ALLM
Optical output? Yes
Dimensions (HWD, without stand) 72 x 123 x 9.1cm
Other picture tweaks of note include a rather mysterious (given there’s no local dimming system) Local Contrast Control feature, and an Adaptive Luma Control feature that adjusts incoming pictures to create the perception of more contrast. Unfortunately the Local Contrast Control feature doesn’t seem to make much difference, while the Adaptive Luma Control causes horrible amounts of shadow detail to be crushed out of dark picture areas on anything higher than its Low setting.
The 55FN2KA’s connections are impressive up to a point for a £399 55-inch TV, including as they do four HDMIs, two USBs, a headphone jack, an optical audio output and even a Micro SD card reader. The only HDMI 2.1 features supported by the 18GB HDMIs, though, are eARC, enabling pass through of object based audio to soundbars and AVRs, and auto low latency mode (ALLM) switching for automatically activating the TV’s Game mode when a game source is detected.
There’s no support on any of the HDMIs for such cutting-edge gaming-related features as 4K/120Hz (the screen is only 60Hz too) and variable refresh rates – but nor would we expect there to be for so little money. There is one genuine disappointment for gamers, though. Input lag, the time the screen takes to render its images, remains at a performance-damagingly high 50.3ms even with the 55FN2KA’s Game mode active. The best TVs this year get input down to below 10ms, by comparison.
First impressions of the Sharp 55FN2KA’s pictures are pretty positive – at least to the extent that things don’t look nearly as nightmarishly bad as we might have expected with a 55-inch 4K TV that costs less than £400.
We’re struck right away, for starters, by how bright it manages to look with HDR content. While we’re inevitably not talking anything even close to the sort of brightness you get from OLED or, especially, premium LCD TVs, the 55FN2KA shows both peak brightness highlights and full-screen bright HDR images with more light behind them than we’d normally see with such an entry-level TV.
You can certainly still argue that the 55FN2KA isn’t bright enough to deliver a true high dynamic range experience, but that doesn’t alter the fact that it does more justice to such an experience than some 55-inch TVs costing twice as much.
Colours on the 55FN2KA, meanwhile, while not very vibrant or voluminous, do at least manage to retain a decent sense of balance, so that no tones jump out too strongly against the rest. Similarly, while the backlight system is very basic and only results in average black levels, average is actually a pretty good result for a £399 TV – especially as you can still see plenty of shadow detail in dark parts of the picture.
The simplicity of the backlighting, meanwhile, ensures you aren’t distracted by issues such as blooming and ‘jumpy’ brightness levels that – ironically – some much more expensive TVs can suffer with.
If you can play Dolby Vision into the 55FN2KA you will be rewarded with a slightly more dynamic and rich-looking picture – especially if you opt for the Dolby Vision Dark mode rather than the default Dolby Vision Bright option, the colours of which can look a bit over-saturated.
While the Sharp 55FN2KA’s pictures get more of the basics right than might have been expected for its money, though, there are a few issues to be aware of, including a couple of real potential deal breakers.
First and worst, the 55FN2KA sports what may be the narrowest viewing angles we’ve ever seen. If your seating position is even just a few degrees off from directly opposite the screen, the already average black levels slip into looking outright poor.
The second big issue is that when watching 24fps film sources, a combination of quite pronounced judder and a touch of resolution loss means that motion doesn’t look comfortable or natural. And there are no motion processing options on hand to help you sort this out.
Smaller issues include areas of faint clouding during very dark scenes, the occasional appearance of a faint light border running around the image’s edges, some minor clipping of subtle shading in the brightest parts of HDR pictures, and a slightly softer presentation, even with 4K sources, than you would expect to see from a more premium 4K TV.
With fairly routine audio sources the 55FN2KA sounds pretty decent for such a cheap TV. Dialogue sounds clear without becoming too exaggerated, and also feels like it’s coming from the screen rather than from somewhere below or behind it. The midrange is clean and dynamic enough to avoid harsh treble or general thinness, and the Harman Kardon-designed speakers are sensitive enough to create a nicely busy soundstage.
The 55FN2KA doesn’t cast its soundstage wide enough or accurately enough to get much value out of its built-in Dolby Digital Plus and DTS Virtual X decoding, though. Also, while there’s at least some attempt to inject bass into proceedings, this bass tends to phase in and out quite inconsistently and can descend into distracting levels of distortion and crackling when pushed hard by a potent action scene.
Such action scenes can also cause the 55FN2KA’s sound to collapse in on itself, becoming quieter rather than louder and more impactful as they escalate towards their explosive payoffs.
Ultimately the 55FN2KA sounds like a TV with audio ambitions beyond its actual capabilities, rather than a TV that’s aware of and willing to work within its limitations.
We’d really wanted to love the Sharp 55FN2KA. Being able to wholeheartedly recommend a 55-inch TV that only costs £399 would have made our day. Unfortunately, though, while it does a few things better than you might expect for so little money, its limitations when it comes to motion handling, response times and, especially, viewing angles may well feel like one compromise too far for TV fans and gamers alike.
- Picture 3
- Sound 3
- Features 3
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