Toshiba take another stab at the entry-level market but this time come armed with a host of features.
IntroductionTo give you an idea of how crowded a market the 32inch LED/LCD TV one is, Toshiba themselves have a further 3 models available in this size, in addition to the RL858 under testing here. We have a certain amount of sympathy for the manufacturers whom have the job of making their products stand out from the rest but, then, nobody’s putting a gun to their heads and perhaps it might be an idea to rationalise somewhat and concentrate on getting the basics right in addition to adding features the market wants at prices its willing to stand.
As it is, the Toshiba 32RL858 is the manufacturer’s most feature packed 32 inch TV and, as such, we’ve some fairly high hopes for it given the generally good performance recent Toshiba’s have exhibited recently. Will the RL858 live up to expectations or fall short? Let’s crack on and find out.
Design & ConnectionsThe best thing we can say of the RL858’s styling is that it’s distinctive and eschews the general trend of gloss black surrounds and instead has a bezel in a matte aluminium effect, with the emphasis on ‘effect’ as it feels very plasticy indeed. In fact, in our estimation, the entire look and feel of the RL858 is one of cheapness but we guess its retro looks might gain favour with some. The matching base stand continues both the retro and budget feel and disappointingly doesn’t swivel being as it’s supported by two metal feet. Design is, of course, a highly personal thing but we can’t imagine the Toshiba 32RL858 will have shoppers swooning in the aisles and, in terms of build quality, we’ve seen better in TVs costing less.
We can’t imagine the absence of a fourth HDMI port – the RL858 has 3 – will present much of a problem in a television of this size but if your HDMI sources mean you require more, you’re at least forewarned. Two of the HDMI inputs are outward facing from the rear and are accompanied by the antennae connection, a LAN port, a SCART socket, Component Video in - together with L/R audio jacks, a D-SUB VGA PC connection and an optical digital audio out. The side connections are completed by a headphone jack, a CAM slot and a single USB port. There’s also four buttons for on/off and selecting up and down for both volume and channel selection.
The supplied remote control might not look much but it was a joy to use being light in the hand and with well placed, slightly concave, soft rubberised buttons that have just about the right amount of give whilst being of ideal size. It’s an ironic contrast to the designer- fuelled madness of the drop flapped monstrosity that ships with some of the higher end sets and its compactness leaves you wondering why some remotes have to be so large.
MenusAs with the TL868, the overall menu structure consists of 5 sub menus - Picture, Sound, Applications, Preferences and Setup and it’s good to see all the Smart TV functions now grouped under Applications, rather than in 3 areas we’ve seen in other Toshiba’s. For a more comprehensive run down of the Menus, we’d ask readers to refer to the TL868 review and here we’ll largely concentrate on the Picture Menu.
The Picture Menu houses the standard Picture Mode, Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Colour, Tint and Sharpness sliders. The available Picture Modes are Dynamic, Standard, Game, Autoview and Toshiba’s attempt at providing accurate out of the box settings with the Hollywood 1 and Hollywood 2 modes. In addition to the standard controls we have the Advanced Picture Settings that contain the ‘ColourMaster’ Colour Management System(CMS) which we’ve had our fair share of well documented problems with, in the past. Further controls for the Auto Brightness Sensor, which alters luminance based on ambient lighting; Active Backlight Control; Black/White Level; Noise Reduction and Cinema Mode are also found in this area and we’ll cover some of those later in the review but we found no use for either the Noise Reduction nor Auto Brightness Sensor controls.
As with the TL868’s there’s only one-point White Balance controls for each of the channels under Colour Temperature, so fingers crossed for linear RGB errors. We also have a Cinema mode on/off option that we’ll check for efficacy in the video processing tests that. It’s nice to see the option available in the RL858 as it’s been a notable omission in the higher end TVs.
FeaturesThe RL858 features a decent media player either via USB or by DLNA streaming. File support via USB is more extensive than that from the network and those particularly interested in MKV playback will need to utilise the portable storage option. Other extensions supported are too numerous to list in a review but, as is usual, the built in player is no match for a dedicated media player.
Toshiba Places, the manufacturers cloud based internet portal is still in development but content is certainly on the increase. Within this ‘hub’ there’s areas for Video, Music, Social Networking, News etc. Naturally the likes of BBC iPlayer and YouTube are supported but there’s some curios such as internet music service, Auepo, and Woomi, an internet video portal here too. By using the Quick button of the remote control both the iPlayer and YouTube apps are instantly accessible which saves the need to navigate through the menus to get to them, and the same goes for Toshiba Places.
All in all we’re not going to complain at the on-board features in the Toshiba RL858 and it’s good to see plenty of internet content in a sub £400 TV. If we were being cheeky we might have suggested built in wi-fi, rather than the dongle necessary, to really set it apart from the crowd but we understand how cut throat the industry is and manufacturers need to draw the line somewhere. The inclusion of a Freeview HD capable tuner is more than recompense for this, however.
Test ResultsBy and large the Toshiba’s we’ve seen lately have done a fairly good job in reaching the industry standards, when in either of the Hollywood picture modes. As with the recently covered TL868, Toshiba haven’t seen fit to provide multi-point white balance controls - not even a two point correction, never mind ten – and instead we’re left with a solitary slider for each (red/green/blue) of the channels. The only way we’re going to get our channels tracking together along the greyscale is if they’re out linearly so let’s see what the RL858 can do.
It’s not a bad result, by any means, and we should be able to make worthwhile improvements even with the limited controls but, again with a Toshiba, the biggest problem is the gamma which is only really at a level suitable for a light controlled environment, i.e. a very dark one. This isn’t really a problem for us but the average living room lighting will mean the loss of details in dark portions of the image and a general dullness to pictures. We might be able to use the white balance controls to bring it down but even with the pseudo, Black/White Level, gamma control disengaged we can’t improve much on the performance, here.
Moving on to the colour reproduction and it’s already evident, without measurement, that the RL is showing the same characteristics as the TL, with greens that are far too bright and reds which are the opposite as we’ve neon grass and pallid facial tones. Frankly, we’ve no clue how Toshiba’s CMS is going to perform, from one TV to the next, so let’s see the extent of issues it has to contend with, in graphical form.
And the answer is, quite a few. Not only did we have the expected luminance problems with red and green but we’ve also major hue errors with both the cyan and magenta secondary’s. With magenta pushed so far toward blue and with such an under luminance of red, it’s no wonder skin tones are looking so off. We will be approaching the calibration with both fingers and toes crossed; the fingers are for getting the greyscale and gamma tracking well with the toes entwined for the CMS not mucking up images, completely.
We tried a number of strategies to fix the greyscale and gamma but could never get both correct at the same times, the controls are both lacking and a bit clunky in operation so we ended up with the following compromise:
Whilst it’s a deal away from reference results, we’ve managed to bring the channels far close together and our RGB errors are all but imperceptible to the eye. In order to tame the gamma down closer to our target of 2.2 we had to take the decision to beginning clipping the red channel at 90% stimulus. In truth, there’s not much information at these levels in real world content and it’s barely noticeable whilst actually viewing the TV. It’s a sacrifice worth making as we now have gamma tracking very close to our target in the crucial 40-80% range. It’s not ideal, however, and just with the simple addition of a two point control, we almost certainly would have produced a better result.
Toshiba’s problematic CMS has been well documented by us in the past and it’s with a large amount of trepidation that we ever approach using it. Imagine our surprise when having calibrated the RL858 to an almost reference performance, on paper, that ‘Colour Master’ wasn’t introducing nasty blocky artefacts and tonal unevenness. We weren’t able to fully correct the under luminance in red but, overall, the colour gamut was much closer to the Rec 709 standard and images were looking far more natural. It just goes to show you can never take things for granted and, it would seem, doubly so with the Toshiba’s.
Having remarked on the absence of a film mode in any of the Toshiba’s of the last 12 months, it was a little surprising and somewhat ironic that there was one present in the 32 inch RL858. The jaggies introduced by an unnecessary deinterlacing step aren’t going to be that detectable in a screen of these dimensions but we shouldn’t complain. The film mode was semi-successful too and picked up the SD NTSC 2:3 cadence with ease; unfortunately the most common PAL counterpart – 2:2 – wasn’t detected so the film mode will be of most interest to those with collections of Region 1 and Region 2 DVDs.
Other facets of the picture processing were generally satisfactory without being outstanding. We did uncover some 1080p24 issues with the higher tier TL868 but the RL858 had no problems correctly displaying Blu-ray discs. The 858 proved to have a decent scaling engine for SD material but diagonal interpolation of video material could have been better and there was some jaggedness present on the various tests we have for this, but nothing you’re likely to notice on a screen this size. The RL858 had no problems in showing a mixture of film and video mixed content and was (almost) able to show a signal all way the up to peak white. Both film and video were shown at full resolution, provided Native was selected as the Picture Size.
Once we’d got over the downgrade in size from our usual gaming display and engaged the Game Picture Mode we were impressed with the responsiveness of the RL858 and the measured input lag figures backed this up. We took a number of measurements and most were around the 17 millisecond mark, although one or two were at 33 milliseconds, which means the Toshiba is lagging between 1 and 2 frames for the average console game.
In the out of box Standard mode, the Toshiba 32RL858B drew an averaged 49.5w but once calibrated the number dropped to 30.5w, which is impressive.
Picture QualityIt looks as though Toshiba have been making deals with Samsung, of late, as like the TL868 the RL858 would seem to be fitted with one of their VA panel variants. This means the RL is capable of producing satisfying levels of black and decent contrast performance. Shadow detailing wasn’t the best and the RL858 was clipping detail just above black but that’s not untypical for LCD. Blacks were a little on the blue side too but, again, this is a fairly common modern phenomena and you could spend far more and still see the same.
Once calibrated, we were impressed by the pictures the RL858B was capable of producing, particularly with HD content and, thanks to the size, SD images were certainly watchable as well. The motion handling was certainly not of the highest standard and fast moving objects suffered the typical ‘motion blur’ issues and there’s no frame interpolation engine to help out. Viewer tolerance to this sort of thing is highly variable but we’d certainly recommend seeing one in action before you part with your money if you’re a fan of either/or sports and action movies.
There was nothing remarkable about the RL858, in all honesty, but sometimes that’s a good thing and it’s good to report that screen uniformity was a way above average for edge-lit LED, with just a little bit of bleed in the corners. Of course, we’d rather it weren’t there at all but we’re starting to accept it’s the norm and all we can hope is that it’s not too noticeable with regular viewing, which , in the case of the Toshiba 32RL858B, it wasn’t, but movie lovers who like to watch in the correct aspect ratio will notice it in the ‘black bars’. Viewing angles were fairly favourable and although there is a discernible loss of contrast, once viewed off-centre, colours remained fairly true.
Considering the prices the RL858 is widely available for, through internet channels, we really don’t have too many grumbles with its picture quality. You can certainly do worse in this section of the market and we’d imagine most would be happy with what’s on offer.
- Impressive Black levels and Contrast
- Freeview HD Tuner
- Plenty of Features
- Excellent Little Remote Control
- Colour Master Worked!
- Decent Video Processing
- Responsive for Gaming
- Mostly Uniform Screen
- Design may Put Off Some
- Motion Blur with Fast Moving Action
- One Point White Balance Controls
- Stand Doesn't Swivel
- Some Light Bleed in Corners
Toshiba Regza RL858 (32RL858) LED LCD Television Review
The Toshiba 32RL858 isn’t a remarkable performer but we feel it’s solid enough to warrant us recommending it to be put on your demo list. With its solid black levels and reasonable accuracy, out of the box, you certainly could do worse although the default gamma tracking doesn’t really lend itself to being placed in a bright viewing environment. With the RL858 being widely available for just over £350 its feature set, including a Freeview HD tuner and access to Toshiba Places, make it a good value proposition in this sector of the market, provided you can put up with its rather retro appearance.
Whilst the outward looks doing nothing for us, the nifty little remote control is a mini-design classic that makes you wonder why others need to be quite so large. Similarly, the menu structure is one of usable simplicity, although the EPG could do with toning down a shade, or two. The only disappointment in the menus was the lack of a multi-point white balance control but we were still able to effect a reasonably successful calibration and, what’s more, the colour management system worked as intended, much to our surprise. The RL858 also displayed some fairly good picture processing, with good scaling and deinterlacing performance accompanied by flawless handling of 1080p Blu-ray content. The Toshiba 32RL858B would be a good choice as a gaming display with its low input lag figures and energy consumption performance that would allow for long sessions without seriously adding to the electricity bills.
The Toshiba RL858 isn’t going to set your world on fire, but then we wouldn’t expect anything in this price range to do so. It’s solid and unspectacular but does get most of the basics right whilst offering features not usually found for such a modest entry fee.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
2D Picture Quality6
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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