Toshiba Regza TL868 (46TL868) 3D LED LCD Television Review

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It's time to test Toshiba's entry level active shutter 3D TV.

by Mark Hodgkinson Feb 9, 2012 at 12:00 AM

  • TV review

    15

    Toshiba Regza TL868 (46TL868) 3D LED LCD Television Review
    SRP: £650.00

    Introduction

    We have to admit that Toshiba’s current line-up of LED illuminated televisions causes us some confusion. When you consider that they’ve utilised about half the alphabet in naming their model numbers and offer both passive and active 3D TVs, in similar but slightly differing screen sizes, you could perhaps forgive us our need to carefully check the sticker attached to the back of each and every Toshiba TV before posting a review. The Toshiba TL868 we have here for review is a Full HD 3D LED TV utilising the active shutter system but is not imbued with many of the unusual extras found in the CEVO powered, higher end WL and YL ranges. That’s not to say the TL863 is a basic ‘no-frills’ television and we’ve still plenty to explore.

    It seems Toshiba out-source panels to a very wide extent and so what holds true for one range may not be the case in another. The omission of the CEVO processing engine may also have a large bearing on our findings so it will be interesting to compare the TL868 to WL863 we recently reviewed and recommended in the very same testing conditions. Online prices for this 46inch 3D TV are commonly around £650 so the TL868 certainly represents the opportunity for a bit of a bargain provided, of course, it stands up to our demanding standards. Read on to see what the TL868 is capable of.


    Design & Connections

    We really rather like the departure Toshiba have taken design wise with many of their TVs, this year, and the TL868 sits unpretentiously on its solid, glass-effect swivel stand with a very narrow bezel in stylish brushed charcoal. It’s plastic but not offensively so and makes a nice change from the almost endless cavalcade of gloss black designs we see. The Toshiba TL868 is definitely not the sleekest of LED TVs and the downward facing speakers, at the rear of the chassis, cause its maximum depth to measure around 6cm, so there are more suitable options for those seeking a super flush wall mount set up. It’s not as though the added depth of the speakers provides any benefits as they’re amongst the worst we’ve heard over the last 12 months, and that’s saying something.

    Where the daft, designer crafted remote control with its ill-advised sliding panel found in some of the other ranges frustrated, the handset that ships with the TL863 was something of a welcome, almost retro, surprise. It’s certainly far chunkier than your average flat panel remote and it’s unlikely to get lost down the sofa as a consequence. The buttons are also fairly large, and that’s no bad thing, but some may find the overall feel a bit cumbersome as the majority of the weight comes at the front owing to where the battery compartment is placed. Toshiba have provided a finger rest to the back of the remote but it doesn’t really stop the feeling of it being a touch top heavy. Still, its curves and trim are quite pleasing to the eye and we’re left with slightly mixed feelings on its merits overall. We certainly wouldn’t mind Toshiba carrying the design onwards but we would suggest putting it on a bit of a diet.

    The TL868 doesn’t come with any active shutter 3D eyewear but, for the purposes of the review, we were supplied with a pair of the FPT-AG02 glasses. We found them very light to wear but the compound of rubber used in the nose rests was relatively hard and so long viewing sessions resulted in ‘nose pinch’ markings and some slight discomfort. We also didn’t really like the fact the lenses didn’t extend fully out to the extremes of the rims and it did cause some distracting flicker to peripheral vision as a result; it would have been much better to have blacked the gap out. On a positive note, the lenses only caused a very slight amount of yellowy green tint to images and are amongst the most neutral we’ve tested.

    The fact the majority of connections to the rear of the Toshiba 46TL868 are outward facing will only further confound the’ wall- mounters’ but the range of inputs and outputs is certainly generous enough. There are 3 HDMI ports on the rear connection panel and one on the side facing panel. Also facing outward are the antennae connections (both aerial and satellite); a VGA PC input; SPDIF optical audio out; a LAN connection and legacy SCART and Component connections together with L&R audio jacks. Along with the side-facing HDMI connection are two USB ports – the bottom of which can be used with an optional wi-fi dongle – and a CAM slot plus there’s also some very basic button controls – Power/Source/Up and Down.


    Menus

    It’s refreshing when a manufacturer takes on board suggestions to improve their usability and it would seem as though Toshiba took heed of our suggestion to make the menu system a more unified experience. The overall structure consists of 5 sub menus - Picture, Sound, Applications, Preferences and Setup and it makes far more sense to have all the Smart TV functions now grouped under Applications rather than in the 3 disparate areas we’ve seen with other Toshiba’s.

    The Picture Menu contains all the usual Picture Mode, Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Colour, Tint and Sharpness sliders one would expect. The available Picture Modes are Dynamic, Standard, Autoview plus 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 is home to the ‘ColourMaster’ Colour Management System(CMS) that in the past we have found to certainly anything but its billing. 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. A frustrating omission from the TL868’s menu’s is the 10 point White Balance control widely found in the other Toshiba’s. Instead, under Colour Temperature, we have a single slider for each of Red, Green and Blue; so not even a basic 2 point (high/low) control. Quite what effect that will have on our calibration efforts remain to be seen but it’s sure not to make things any easier.

    There’s no access to the limited 3D viewing settings from the main menu and these are instead reached by using the QUICK button of the remote control. From where you can select format (Side by Side & Top/Bottom) should the TV not auto detect. Preferences for how a 3D signal is handled – whether automatically, or not – plus setting a PIN lock and opting whether you wish to see the 3D warning message each time 3D material is about to play (we certainly don’t) are found in the Preferences Menu, funnily enough.

    The Electronic Program Guide provided in the TL868 is typical of the entire Toshiba range with its white background home to a 13 channel/2 hour view. Whilst we applaud the number of channels on view, perhaps it could be scaled down a little to avoid the slightly cluttered look.

    We still think there’s perhaps a little room for improvement with the menu structure but we’re very pleased with the changes Toshiba have made so far. Bar the omission of more flexible white balance controls of course.


    Features

    As we mentioned earlier, it’s good to see Toshiba has rethought their menu placements, in terms of grouping all the Smart TV functionality in one location, even if they’ve resisted the temptation to use the ‘Smart’ moniker and instead elect to term the features as Applications. There’s nothing wrong in that, of course, and considering the relative budget nature of the Toshiba 46TL868 we’re also not complaining over those features that didn’t make the cut in the transition down from the higher end ranges – many of which were not much use in any case, truth be told. It’s worth noting that the best of the applications can also be more easily reached using the Quick button on the remote control, once again.

    The manufacturer’s new cloud based service, Toshiba Places, is still in its nascent stage but it does show some promise. There’s various areas for Video, Music, Social Networking, News etc and although they’re currently fairly sparsely populated, there’s still enough to have a play with in the likes of the internet music service, Auepo, and Woomi, an internet video portal, plus the stock YouTube and BBC iPlayer services. In fact Toshiba have recognised the latter two as those likely to see most use by placing them as separate entities in both the Applications and Quick Menus. Good move.

    The TL868 also features a pretty reasonable media player both through USB and 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, which can only be a good thing for those interested in this side of things. Naturally we’d also recommend you download the manual to confirm your needs will be met if it is of importance to you.


    Test Results

    Having measured the available picture modes, unsurprisingly, the two Hollywood modes proved closest to the standards. In fact nothing else was even remotely close. As we’ve just a very limited ‘catch-all’ slider for each of the channels, we’d be hoping to see any deviations here to be very linear, to give us a fighting chance of flattening the greyscale throughout. As it turned out, that wasn’t really the case:

    With only green tracking in a straight line we’re going to struggle for neutrality and, furthermore, gamma response is not what we’d hope for; and there’s also no dedicated gamma controls in the user menus. We did contact Toshiba to obtain a service menu code but unfortunately they didn’t have one for the TL868 at the time and none of the codes for various Toshiba’s worked either. So we’re stuck with what we’ve got in terms of getting the desired results.

    What we do have, in terms of advanced calibration controls, is a 3D Colour Management System (CMS)with full control over both primaries and secondary’s but readers of previous reviews will know it’s prone to introducing nasty artefacting when utilised so we’ll again be hoping for something close to the Rec 709 HD standard without intervention.

    What we got was pretty much the polar opposite of what we desired. Very large luminance errors in both Red and Green were already apparent prior to measurement and, to make matters worse, they’re out in opposite directions with green far too bright and red well under target luminance. Unless the CMS can function without introducing nasties, we’re going in to be a situation of major compromise and we get the feeling there’s fun and games ahead…

    As we more or less expected, attempting to get the greyscale anything like ruler flat was a challenge beyond the limited controls on offer but we did manage something acceptable and certainly an improvement over the out of box state.

    With errorsbelow three through most of the scale, the TL868 was now displaying a greyscale stair step pattern with a respectable lack of tint in all but the black portion looking particularly wrong, with a very murky red tinge to it. There was still a problem, however, and gamma is totally unsuitable for the majority of viewing environments being far too low and consequently dim with a lack of shadow detail. We decided to give it another go by way of some extreme use of the Colour Temperature sliders and achieved this:

    Whilst greyscale tracking is not quite so good as previously, we have managed to bring gamma closer to our 2.2 target that we deem suitable for a reasonably dimly lit living environment. It’s far from ideal, however, but at least we’ve got the important mid-scale looking respectable. When the essentially more down market RL853 can pack 10 point white balance controls, it seems a real pity the TL868 doesn’t follow suit.

    Once bitten twice shy is not a maxim we adhere to amongst the AVForums review team and we once again set about tackling Toshiba’s Colour Master system to see whether we were able to make improvements to the charts and picture quality, and not just the former.

    Even the controls in the CMS weren’t able to get the luminance errors in red and green to where we would want them but it is a major improvement and, bar those two primaries, everything else was displaying overall errors below 3, where the eye can’t discern them. In truth, the artefacting issues we’d previously encountered were again rearing their ugly heads and we proceeded in a lengthy back and forth, with real world material, to determine what adjustments the panel could stand. Happily we only had to reign in the adjustments slightly before the problems disappeared. The errors in green and red became larger than the chart above, however, and indeed, still noticeable to the eye.

    We’ve fed back our disappointment over the lack of controls available in the TL868 so we’ll leave it to Toshiba as to whether we’ll see any improvement going forwards.

    Picture Processing

    This section of testing proved to be a case of the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ll get the good news out of the way first; the Toshiba TL868 did a nice job with standard definition content, cleanly scaling both 480 and 576 lined resolutions to fit the Full HD panel, with no obvious signs of softening or haloing artefacts. The Tosh also managed respectable levels of video deinterlacing with jaggies only apparent at the extreme angles of diagonal interpolation.

    The bad: none of the standard definition cadences tested were detected with the TL868, meaning it performed deinterlacing processing on material that should have stayed untouched, in that respect. In real world terms, it means your DVD collection is going to be better represented on other displays unless you have a better solution in your video chain, be it a Blu-ray player, AV Receiver or video processor. Whilst the wedge pattern on the Spears and Munsil disc is a torturous examination for any TV, we rarely see it displayed so badly with 24p material as we did in this instance, with lots of moire and flickering in the portions where it really shouldn’t be present. Translating this in to actually viewing Blu-ray disc and it’s likely you’ll see some motion artefacts from time to time.

    And now for the ugly. Perhaps the reason the TL868 didn’t fare so well in the 1080p24 tests perhaps lies in the fact the motion interpolating, Active Vision, system seems to have a mind of its own. It can be switched off, toggled and reset but still be operative and the first few days of testing had us wondering of our sanity and frequently entering the menus to check we’d disengaged it. It’s not a particularly aggressive brand of frame interpolation but it’s certainly very noticeable with film based material and we found it most irritating to be forced in to the menus to toggle it off every time we changed channel or source. Again we’ve made Toshiba aware of the issue and investigations are underway as it’s surely something fixable in software.
    If ever the Toshiba 46TL868 were showing its budget nature it was in this area of testing but at least the major processing sin should hopefully see correction.

    Gaming Performance

    This won’t make pretty reading for anyone considering the TL868 as a 3D gaming display as input lag performance was not great. Out of Game mode, we saw numbers ranging between 100-135 milliseconds and even in the designated picture mode, we saw a highest figure of 63 milliseconds delay, with a lowest of 33ms. It’s unusual to register such large differences but perhaps it’s as a result of the unwanted processing kicking in randomly.

    Energy Consumption

    In the out-of-the-box, Standard, Picture Mode the TL868 drew an averaged 82.5W. Once calibrated, the Hollywood 1 pre-set asked a fair bit less, registering 64W over a 10 reading sample. In standby power usage was under 0.5W

    Picture Quality - 2D

    Ignoring the annoying processing bug cited in the Picture Processing section on the Test Results Page, the images the TL868 managed to produce were impressive, at times. We’d wrongly assumed the TL would be fitted with an IPS variant panel, meaning uninspiring contrast performance and black levels, although they have their other merits. Instead it seems sure there was a Samsung VA panel inside and the resultant pictures were imbued with the deep blacks associated with the Korean’s products. With a passable greyscale and reasonably convincing colour palette, we did enjoy a lot of what we were watching and, of course, high definition images were especially pleasing.

    There were, however, two other major bugbears with this particular sample; one of which could well be specific to our review unit and the other, alas, likely to be a fairly common issue. The first problem we noticed was in a screen tearing effect that popped up from time to time through all 4 of the HDMI sources connected. Basically a thin black horizontal line would appear momentarily on screen in seemingly random positions. Whether this points to a problem in the HDMI board or an error in processing, we couldn’t be sure but we are certain that it was quite irritating. The second problem, and sadly one common to LED technology was in the propensity of the TL868 showing up its panel structure from beneath the matte screen. It manifested in thick vertical bands running across the screen and was particularly noticeable on solid patches of colour - think ocean, sky, grass etc. Of course there will be unit to unit variance, to some degree, but had this been delivered to us a consumers, it would have been back with the retailer within the week.

    To be fair to Toshiba, they are going to investigate the review sample to check if we had a faulty unit. We will of course update the review with their response when we have it and, if necessary, check another example.

    Picture Quality - 3D

    Having had direct and recent experience of the - UK flagship – WL863, we were somewhat concerned that the non CEVO ‘engined’ TL868 might not be up to the task of 3D processing. Happily our fears were misplaced and the TL868 performed extremely well with our test patterns and material. Where the WL struggled with Side by Side material, universally used in broadcast 3D, the TL868 fared far better, exhibiting very little in the way of crosstalk and showing no signs of parallax issues either. Our 3D Blu-rays were handled with equal competence and the TL868 can certainly be regarded as one of the better active shutter system 3D TVs we’ve tested; up there with the Panasonic’s and Samsung’s, all of which is a great credit to Toshiba. The glasses helped here, too, as they weren’t too prohibitive in the amount of light let through whilst also being relatively tint free and they also helped mask the panel banding to a certain extent.

    Conclusion

    5
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Very good black levels
    • 3D performance is excellent
    • Mostly well planned menus
    • Cool (but fat) 'retro' remote
    • Price
    • Decent array of 'Smart' functions
    • Media players are quite good

    Cons

    • Panel banding
    • A few bugs - most annoyingly a motion interpolating one
    • Lack of decent calibration controls in the user menus
    • Input lag is high
    • Out of box gamma response unsuitable for most environments
    • Rubbish speakers
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Toshiba Regza TL868 (46TL868) 3D LED LCD Television Review

    Were it not for a couple of irritating traits then there’s no doubt the Toshiba 46TL868 could have been looking at a Recommended - or even perhaps a Best Buy - Award. As it is, the problems marring the images are such that it misses out. It’s a pity that the highly noticeable panel banding eats away the extremely respectable black level performance; and it is equally lamentable that a likely bug in the software causes the motion interpolation engine to seemingly kick in at random as, otherwise, Toshiba would have had a cut-price winner on their hands, particularly as the 3D presentation was so good..

    Toshiba have managed to produce a classy looking television for a tight price point, even if the build quality doesn’t feel as high-end as the appearance would suggest. We were also quite fond of the almost retro remote control, even if it was a touch cumbersome to operate. The menu structure is far better planned than those we’ve seen from Toshiba’s recent efforts and the fairly generous suite of ‘Smart TV’ applications now sit happily under one roof. Toshiba Places, the manufacturers cloud based internet service, has certainly grown since last we saw it but it does lag some way behind several of their competitors' offerings, in terms of sheer content.

    If the layout of the menus was a nice surprise, there was an equally unwelcome one in the lack of effective calibration controls in the user menus. We’ve become accustomed to Toshiba’s, rather excellent, 10 point White Balance controls but all we had here was a catch-all slider for each of the channels. Not only that, but a lack of gamma control was a serious miss given the unsuitable response from the out-of-the-box state. We did our best with what we were given and at least managed to gain a respectable greyscale performance. Toshiba’s Colour Master system proved its usual inconsistent and troubled self but were able to improve the gamut performance, to a degree, with careful manipulation.

    Once calibrated to an acceptable standard, there was certainly pleasure to be gleaned from the pictures the TL868 produced but the aforementioned uniformity and processing problems were too pervading to allow for full submersion in what we were watching, in 2D at least. The TL868 excelled with content in 3D and punched well above its weight, when the price is considered. Unfortunately the gaming experience was not quite so impressive and the Tosh showed some very high, and somewhat inconsistent, lag time measurements. Quite why there were such inconsistencies, we couldn’t be sure but it’s possibly as a result of the processing ‘bug’.
    We can see the Toshiba TL868 bringing pleasure to many although it doesn’t quite meet our exacting standards. If Toshiba can iron out the bugs and mask the banding, somehow, we’d be quite happy to reconsider.


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £650.00

    The Rundown

    Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

    7

    Screen Uniformity

    7

    Colour Accuracy

    6

    Greyscale Accuracy

    6

    Video Processing

    5

    Picture Quality

    6

    3D Picture Quality

    7

    Sound Quality

    3

    Smart Features

    5

    Build Quality

    6

    Ease Of Use

    8

    Value for Money

    6

    Verdict

    5

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