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More bang from the Blu-ray: Sharp aims to beat a storage restriction problem with its second-generation Aquos DX series of LCD televisions. Notable for combining a built-in Blu-ray recorder with an LCD TV, the key improvement for the new range is a 7× extended HD recording mode. Sharp claims that this mode has the same quality as the original TV broadcast. In its normal recording mode, the DX Series sets record two hours and 10 minutes of TV per 25-gigabyte Blu-ray disc. The 7× setting can cram in 15 hours and 10 minutes of HDTV broadcasting. The idea of extended recording has been around since the VCR, but there was always a loss of quality. The trick is to limit the degradation in picture quality to the point that it is not too noticeable. The caveat is that it uses the MPEG4 AVC/H.264 codec that is beloved of small-screen devices like the iPhone, not the real screens of a TV. If the 7× is too much, the new DX sets also offer less ambitious 2×, 3× and 5× modes that also boost recording time, but likely with less image challenges.

Apart from pushing the boundaries of recording times, the DX sets also provide picture innovation in the form of Sharp’s Image Select system. This has the TV set automatically tailoring the image and sound to match the room brightness and type of television and video program or scene. Sharp has also covered the whole gambit with the second-generation series from 26-inch to 52-inch models, all of them featuring the Blu-ray recorder, integrated high-definition tuner and distinctive cylindrical speaker mounted along the bottom of the TVs. The sets are not uniform in their resolutions, however, with most of them sporting full HD resolution of 1,920×1,080. But the 26-inch and 32-inch models cut that to a less interesting 1,366×768. In truth the reduced resolution is hardly going to be noticeable at those screen sizes, but considering the 26-inch set, the LC-26DX2, costs ¥168,000 and the 32-inch LC-32DX2 sets you back ¥188,000, Sharp could have afforded to be a tad generous. The rest of the models climb steadily in price to a monumental ¥478,000 for the top-drawer LC-52DX2. www.sharp.co.jp

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