Toshiba's new line-up looks good but you'll have to be patient
The Toshiba stand at IFA 2014 looked more like the set of a Star Trek movie at times, with some interesting use of mirrored displays on show.There were plenty of Ultra HD 4K TVs to see as well but it was the mirrored displays that first caught our eye. Toshiba have been developing a series of high-tech displays that really do look like something out of a sci-fi movie. There were large mirrored displays that are designed for restaurants or shops, allowing images to be displayed in an interesting and attractive manner. You couldn't really use these displays at home, unless you watched them in a pitch black environment, but these black reflective displays would certainly look very cool in your favourite restaurant.
They also had bathroom mirrors with built-in displays and these gave a glimpse of a future that is much closer than we might realise. Not only could you watch the news whilst shaving but biometric readouts connected to your smart device and pressure sensors under your feet allow you to monitor your health. Your weight, heart rate blood pressure and other useful information is displayed each morning, allowing you to follow your progress and, in the case of people who need to take medication, track that as well. Once you add in touch panels and video calls, then the future becomes all the more tangible.The mirrored displays and biometric readouts made you feel like you'd walked onto the set of a sci-fi movie.
However, as interesting as these high-tech mirrored displays are, that's not why we were at the Toshiba stand. We were here to get a look at their new TV line-up and the first model to grab our attention was the massive 105" Ultra HD 5K TV on display. We saw this monster at CES 2014 and unlike similar models on show, it's flat rather than curved. The '5K' in the title makes reference to the resolution of the 21:9 panel, which is actually 5000 by 2160 pixels. The display scales native 4K content to match the 21:9 panel, which did cause us to wonder if 2.35:1 movies on 4K Blu-ray could be stretched so that they would fit the 21:9 screen without the need to scale the content. Whilst we appreciate this was just a pre-production prototype, there were clearly issues in terms of keeping an even backlight and avoiding banding on such a huge screen but it certainly made an impact.
In terms of Toshiba's new Ultra HD 4K TVs, the Japanese manufacturer had the prototype of their latest model, which will include CEVO picture technology, HEVC decoding support and the next generation Media Guide Replay system. The new U Series will feature the latest version of Toshiba's CEVO picture technology, resulting in sharp and detailed images, even when scaling lower definition content. The blacks and colour gamut have also been improved thanks to the use of more effective LEDs, a full backlight array and an advanced backlight system. Through chipset restoration technology, Toshiba also claim the colour and brightness lost due to compression can be restored to their original state.
Along with the brighter panel, wider colour gamut, direct lighting and local dimming, the new panel also supports HEVC video decoding, as well as HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. This will enable the new TVs to playback native 4K content via internet streaming, USB and SD card and provide compatibility with 4K 50/60p content. The new U Series will be housed in a sleek and stylish design that is designed to fit seamlessly into any contemporary living space. Along with a slim sandblasted metal trim, the U Series will feature a chrome stand for further elegance. Unfortunately we will have to wait until early 2015 for the U Series to be launched in the UK but it certainly seems worth the wait.
The new U Series will also be Toshiba's first Ultra HD 4K model to feature MediaGuide Replay - an intelligent personalised auto recommendation service - that forms part of the company's Smart TV platform. MediaGuide Replay was first introduced on the excellent L74 Series and included a feature for recommending future programmes to record based on users' viewing habits. The U Series will see a significant evolution of MediaGuide Replay, introducing new intelligent features and innovative functionality. Part of this new functionality will augment the user experience between the Smart TV and companion device, such as a tablet, while adding new intuitive features and interactivity.Their CEVO-powered Ultra HD 4K TV looked interesting but won't be available until next year.
Whilst Ultra HD 4K might be grabbing all the headlines these days, Toshiba still have an extensive range of Full HD TVs or, as they like to call it, Premium 2K! In fact the company has taken the approach of building a solid line-up of Full HD TVs before expanding their Ultra HD 4K range and if the L74 is anything to go by, it would seem they have been quite successful in that aim. Toshiba initially felt that due to the price differential they would focus on Full HD but now that the gap between Full HD and Ultra HD is much smaller, they feel the time is right to expand their 4K line-up.
However that doesn't mean the company is abandoning Full HD and they also announced the new L24 at IFA 2014. This low cost Full HD model will include personal video recording via an attached HDD, an integrated media player from a range of sources including USB and HDD and a range of connectivity options. Toshiba also had a curved screen on display although, like many other manufacturers, it will be available to provide consumers with a choice rather than because they feel it's the future of TV. Speaking of which, Toshiba believe that OLED is not ready for the mass market yet. Although as soon as they feel the panels are cost effective they will look at releasing a model of they own.
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