Toshiba Regza UL863 (37UL863B) 37 inch LED LCD TV Review
Steve Withers takes a look at Toshiba's latest feature heavy LED TV
The model we have for review is the Toshiba Regza 37UL863B 37 inch Full HD LCD TV with LED edge lighting, a Freeview HD tuner and full UK specifications. Also available are the Toshiba Regza 32UL863 32 inch, 42UL863 42 inch and 46UL863 46 inch Full HD LCD TV with LED edge lighting which have not been reviewed here but should offer the same features and a similar performance.
We recently reviewed Toshiba's Regza 42VL863B which sported both active shutter 3D capability, their new Toshiba Places video portal and perhaps most interestingly, for those who are concerned about picture accuracy at least, the company's auto-calibration feature. Unfortunately in testing we found that the auto-calibration feature was something of a disappointment and failed to perform to the required standards.
Now we have Toshiba's Regza 37UL863B in for review and whilst this model doesn't have 3D capability it is certainly not short of features. In fact we would go as far as to say this is one of the most feature packed displays we've seen in a while. Aside from the usual 1080p resolution, LED edge lighting, 100Hz picture processing, DLNA and Freeview HD, the 37UL863B also has the aforementioned video portal and auto-calibration feature. If that wasn't enough the 37UL863B includes Toshiba's Resolution+ image enhancement, AutoView light sensor, built-in WiFi, iPhone remote control and Personal TV feature. The Personal TV feature doesn't just allow you to save your preferred settings, there is a built-in camera that uses face recognition software to detect you and automatically select your saved settings.
This all sounds very interesting and there's no denying the impressive achievement of being able to include all this technology in a modern display but the question is how does the picture look? The primary reason for purchasing a TV is to watch video images on it and if it fails in this area then all the bells and whistles in the world won't help. So let's take a closer look at the 37UL863B and see if the performance matches the features. The full in-depth review follows after the summary and scoring.
Styling and Connections
The design of the 37UL863B follows the same Jacob Jenson styling that was used on the 42VL863 and, overall, we rather like it. There is an understated simplicity to the design that is both elegant and practical. The display has a brushed charcoal effect bezel that is 2.5cm wide at the top and sides and 5.5cm wide at the bottom and has a silver trim at the edges. Also along the bottom is a gloss black strip that houses some touch sensitive controls such as menu, input, volume and channels. The buttons themselves illuminate on contact - and briefly during start up - and there is a standby button that shines red when off and blue when on, unfortunately this light can not be deactivated from the menu. The screen itself is of matt black finish which means that it doesn't suffer from reflections the way that glass fronted displays do. Since the 37UL863B uses LED edge lighting the chassis is only 3cm deep and with a metal back the whole display has a solid and well engineered feel. The stand is a rectangular gloss black glass and metal affair that can be swivel and offers solid support. The power cable is hard wired and only 1.5m long which might prove an issue for those wishing to wall mount the display.
At the rear of the chassis are the majority of the connections and here you will find three HDMI inputs, the first of which offers the Audio Return Channel (ARC). There is also an aerial socket and a satellite antenna connector as well as a LAN cable socket for those without a wireless router. There is also a SCART connector as well as a component video input using RCA plugs and an analogue audio in. There is also a PC audio in, a VGA connection and a digital audio out. These connections all point outwards from the rear which might make wall mounting difficult but, then again, at least they aren't all stuck at the edge of the screen as seems to be the trend these days.
There are some side inputs as well and here you will find a fourth HDMI input as well as the composite video input and another analogue audio in, all using RCA plugs. There are also two USB 2.0 sockets, a Common Interface (CI) slot and a headphone socket. Overall this is a fairly comprehensive set of connections.
Whilst we rather liked the design of the 37UL863B, the design of the remote control left a lot to be desired. There was a sliding metal cover that could either sit half way up the remote control, covering certain buttons or sit at the bottom revealing all the available controls. When this cover was at the half way point it felt lose, rattled and slipped, giving a slightly unstable feel to the remote control. When the cover was at the bottom it made the remote control too long and unwieldy. We definitely didn't like this design and found the remote control difficult to use and uncomfortable to hold. We would recommend that Toshiba rethink this design and in the meantime any owners might want to consider buying a programmable remote control instead.
Menus and Set Up
Setting up the 37UL863B was very simple and quick, there are friendly instruction screens to follow which take you through the process of tuning in the TV and accessing your wireless network. This process was surprisingly quick and the overall menu system is quite well designed, intuitive to use and very responsive.
The Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) on the 37UL863B is somewhat cluttered, rather boring to look at and difficult to read. Whilst it was quick to navigate we found ourselves unable to easily tell what was on each channel due to small type and a lack of space for each programmes title. We have definitely seen better designed EPGs and it looked decidedly pedestrian compared to the rest of the menus.
The 37UL863B includes Toshiba Places which is their new internet portal but for some reason they have decided not to use a single home page for all the internet functionality. Instead these functions are spread across different pages which results in a rather fragmented experience. The first menu selection is Connected TV which has sub-menus for YouTube, Toshiba Places and BBC iPlayer. Then there is TV Programmes which includes the EPG, as well as Genre Search and the Library and Programme Timers that can be used in conjunction with a USB HDD.
Then there is Media which allows you to access Media Player Setup, Photo, Movie and Music sub-menus for use with content accessed via USB or streamed from a home network. The Function menu gives you access to the Photo Frame and Timer sub-menus. Finally there is the Setup menu which gives you access to the Picture controls, the Sound controls, the System Setup and preferences where you save your preferred settings.
The first page of the Picture sub-menu gives the user access to the standard TV controls such as Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Colour, Tint and Sharpness. It is also here that you can select your preferred Picture Mode. At the bottom of this menu page you will also find the options to select Advance Picture Settings and Expert Picture Settings.
Under Advanced Picture Settings you will find controls for [tip=Colortemp]Colour Temperature[/tip], Auto Brightness Sensor Settings, [tip=gamma]Gamma[/tip], Noise Reduction and Active Backlight Control. There are also controls for the Resolution+ feature as well as the ActiveVision M100 features and the Motion Detection Range.
The Expert Picture Settings sub-menu allows you access to the Test Patterns and the RGB Filter, as well as the choice of Colour Decoding ([tip=gamut]gamut[/tip]). There are also the [tip=WhiteBal]White Balance[/tip] controls for calibrating the [tip=Greyscale]greyscale[/tip], the Gamma Calibration controls and the Colour Calibration controls which is where you will find the [tip=CMS]Colour Management System[/tip] (CMS).
Within the White Balance controls there is a choice of two point or ten point accuracy and within the Colour Calibration controls you have the choice of manual or auto calibration. If you choose Manual then you can adjust the coordinates of each colour in order to correctly calibrate the colour gamut.
The Gamma Calibration screen is used in conjunction with the auto-calibration software, so you connect the meter via USB and place it over the white square. You then enter your target for gamma and your target coordinates for colour temperature ([tip=D65]D65[/tip])and start the process. The software will then control the meter and take a series of measurements until the gamma reaches the target you have selected and the colour temperature measures at the coordinates you have input.
You follow a similar process with the auto-calibration of the colour gamut and once again place the meter over the coloured square and start the auto-calibration process. The software will measure each individual colour and adjust the coordinates to match your target colour gamut ([tip=Rec709]Rec.709[/tip]).
The 37UL863B is certainly a feature packed display and includes just about every TV innovation of the last few years. Obviously it is a Full HD display with 1080p resolution and it also uses edge LED lighting which allows for the thinner chassis we mentioned previously. We have also touched on the Freeview HD and WiFi that are built-in, as well as the very useful iPhone remote control application. There is also Toshiba Places which is their internet portal, giving you access content like BBC iPlayer, Flickr, YouTube, Woomi, Viewster and Box Office 365.
Other features include ActiveVision M100HD 100Hz picture processing to reduce motion blur and Resolution+ image enhancement. There is also the AutoView ambient light sensor that adjusts the image depending on both the environment and the content. There is also full DLNA compliance for streaming content and the capability to record and playback via USB HDD.
One of the most talk about features is Toshiba's Personal TV which allows you to save preferred settings such as volume levels, picture settings and favourite channel lists. We're not sure how useful this is because what do you do if there is more than one person watching the TV, which tends to be the case with most families and if you live on your own you just use your preferred settings all the time. The 37UL863B goes one better by having a built-in camera and face recognition software, the idea being that when you sit down the TV recognises you and automatically selects your preferred settings. We found this to be an incredibly frustrating feature because every time you moved from in front of the TV and came back the 37UL863B asked you if you wanted to select a saved setting. It also became confused by multiple viewers and we quickly turned this annoying feature off. Interestingly the idea of a built-in camera might be useful for making Skype video calls but Toshiba doesn't currently offer that service.
Finally there is the auto-calibration feature which we have touched on in the menu section and will go into more detail in the measurements sections which comes next.
As is always the case, if you can get an accurate greyscale then you are a long way towards achieving a reasonable image and thanks to the excellent performance achieved using the two point white balance control this appeared to be the case. Sadly the colour accuracy wasn't quite as good and there was a slight green tinge to the image but overall the picture looked nice and flesh tones seemed accurate.
When it came to standard definition material there were numerous artefacts no doubt caused by the poor scaling and deinterlacing which resulted in a diminished viewing experience and a loss of resolution. However things improved considerably when watching high definition content, with the higher resolution material offering greater detail and fewer artefacts. Without the need for scaling or deinterlacing, 24p material in particular offered a much smoother and more pleasing viewing experience.
The 37UL863B uses edge LED lighting and as is always the case with this technology this results in an uneven backlight and clouding. The problem was particularly obvious on the 37UL863B and the clouding of the backlight could be seen even during bright scenes. The black levels weren't just affected by the uneven backlight, although this didn't help, and the native blacks on this display were quite poor. As a result, whilst there was reasonable shadow detail, the dynamic range was severely compromised resulting in a poor contrast ratio. Because of this the 37UL863B would certainly not be a suitable TV for critical viewing, especially with dark content or watching in a darkened environment. The off-axis performance was also very poor and what little contrast there is was lost as soon as you moved your head a few feet either side of centre.
Overall, the picture performance was rather mediocre and the 37UL863B would be best suited for watching general content in a light viewing environment or perhaps for gaming where the content tends to be brighter, is already high definition and off-axis performance is less of an issue.
If there was on area where the 37UL863B really impressed it was in terms of gaming performance. In Game mode we measured an input lag of just 16ms which is the best performance we have recorded this year. The result was a very responsive performance that should keep even the most demanding gamer happy. In fact, as mentioned in the previous section, many of the weaknesses of the 37UL863B are less of an issue when it comes to games and therefore it would probably make a good choice for anyone looking for a display dedicated to gaming.
Aside from the input lag, the other area where the 37UL863B is a resounding success is in energy consumption. There are a lot of elements that determine energy consumption, LCDs are more efficient than plasmas, LED backlighting is more efficient than CCFL and obviously screen size is a factor. Taking all this into account, the 37UL863B delivers some of the lowest energy consumption numbers that we have recorded with an average of only 59W. So if the size of your carbon footprint is a major concern, then you might want to take a look at the 37UL863B.
Measured Results Out of the Box
The 37UL863B has a number of presets including Hollywood Day, Hollywood Night and Hollywood Pro and we found that Hollywood Night offered the best out-of-the-box measurements compared to [tip=IndStand]industry standards[/tip]. The manual calibration controls are to be found in both Hollywood Day and Hollywood Night, whilst Hollywood Pro locks them out and is designed to be used in conjunction with the auto-calibration software.
As you can see from the graph above, whilst the Hollywood Night setting gave the best out-of-the-box measurements they were still rather poor. The RGB Balance is tracking 10% above the target in the case of green and both red and blue are tracking at around 5% below the target. The obvious result of this is that there is an excess of green energy which has resulted in sizeable [tip=DeltaE]DeltaEs[/tip] (errors) and visible discolouration on a stair step pattern. The good news is that the three primary colour are at least tracking in a straight line so using the white balance controls we should be able to correct the greyscale. Unlike the 42VL863B which had wildly varying gamma measurements, the gamma on the 37UL863B actually measured very well with a straight line just above our target of 2.2.
The [tip=cie]CIE Chart[/tip] above shows that the out-of-the-box colour gamut was something of a mixed bag but at least there were reasonably accurate luminance (brightness) numbers, except for blue. Luminance is the element of colour that our eyes are most sensitive too and thankfully the 37UL863B scores quite well in this area. The luminance of blue is rather under-saturated but since Blue is the smallest part of the visible spectrum that shouldn't be an issue and besides it will probably counter act the over-saturated colour of blue. Green is also very over saturated and since this is the colour our eyes are most sensitive to - because it forms the largest part of the visible spectrum - it tends to give images a green tinge. Manufacturers often push green because for the same reason it will make the images appear brighter. The colour of red is quite under saturated but magenta is very accurate which results in natural looking flesh tones. There are also some sizeable errors in the hue measurements of most of the colours. Since there is a colour management system (CMS) we wold hope to improve on this performance.
As previously mentioned the manual calibration controls are located in the Hollywood Day and Night settings, and here you will find the two and ten point white balance controls as well as the CMS.
The two different white balance controls are independent of each other so the usual approach of calibrating with the two point control and then fine tuning with the ten point control is not applicable. Therefore we started by using the two point white balance control and as you can see the results were excellent. The three primary colours are now tracking around the target of 100 and the DeltaEs are all less than 1 which is indistinguishable to the human eye. The luminance and gamma are also tracking well and overall this is an excellent greyscale performance.
Unfortunately when we tried to use the ten point white balance control we discovered there was a bug in the software. Initially everything was going well and we were getting an absolutely reference greyscale performance until we got to 90 and 100[tip=RE]IRE[/tip]. With these two points we were unable to make any adjustments, no matter what we tried, and eventually we had to give up. Since we know that the ten point white balance control on the 42VL863B worked perfectly it would seem to be a fault with our review sample and at least the two point control worked perfectly.
Here we found ourselves facing another problem because not only is the luminance control on the Toshiba CMS prone to introduce artefacts but, in the case of the 37UL863B, by using the CMS we lost the calibrated greyscale, possibly because it was defaulting to the faulting ten point control. Whatever the reason we were unable to improve the colour gamut much beyond the effects of the accurate greyscale. As a result there was still an over-saturation of green but at least we were able to improve the secondary colours and the over-saturated colour of blue was cancelled out by the under-saturated luminance of blue. Even if the CMS had worked correctly there was nothing we could have done about the under saturated colour of red, you can't add what isn't there. We also avoided using the CMS when reviewing the 42VL863B but the out-of-the-box colour accuracy was much better so we were able to produce a much better calibrated colour performance. As is always the case, the more accurate the manufacturer can make the panel from the start, the better the overall performance.
The concept of auto-calibration has been gaining some traction amongst manufacturers since CalMAN launched their v4.0 calibration software last year. When we reviewed AV Foundry's VideoEQ processor back in August of 2010 we found that the auto-calibration produced quite good results. The same was true of Lumagen's Radiance processor which could also be used with CalMAN's 4.0 calibration software. This year both JVC and Panasonic launched an auto-calibration feature on their high end products that was designed to also work with CalMAN v4.0 but unfortunately to date we have been unable to get these features to work properly.
The addition of auto-calibration to the recent Toshiba line-up has been a source of great interest but the question was, would it work? The Toshiba approach involves a calibration tool that has been built by X-Rite and would appear to be based on their Tri-Stim Display 2 meter. It is actually quite nicely designed with a diffuser cover for the lens that can be swung out of the way, soft pads for placing on the screen and a counter weight for hanging the meter on the correct part of the screen. The meter is then attached to the display via a USB socket and as we mentioned earlier you select the Hollywood Pro setting to access the auto-calibration software. We found that auto-calibration on the 42VL863B worked up to a point but struggled with the overall gamma but given the existing bug in the calibration software our hopes weren't high for the 37UL863B.
Within the auto-calibration software the greyscale calibration is located within the function called Gamma Calibration as described in the menu section of this review. This function allows the user to select the x and y coordinates for D65 (x=0.313 and y-0.329) and choose from a range of gamma values. The display then goes through a series of 20 point greyscale measurements and makes its adjustments accordingly. Given that the 90 and 100IRE controls didn't work the resulting measurements were as disastrous as we expected. Despite selecting a gamma of 2.2 the resulting gamma was nowhere near that and the RGB tracking was appalling. Quite simply you would have been better off using the out-of-the-box settings. These problems are no doubt related to the faulty ten point white control and the auto-calibration certainly worked better on the 42VL863B.
Well, given the gigantic error in the colour of white, which is clearly nowhere near the selected target of D65, you could hardly expect the colour gamut to be accurate and it isn't. Once again you would be better off just using the out-of-the-box settings. It is a shame that yet another example of a manufacturer's attempt at auto-calibration is unsuccessful but there are probably mitigating circumstances given the problems in the ten point white balance control. Still the lesson in all of this is that if you want a calibration done properly, get in a professional.
The performance of the 37UL863B in the video processing tests was rather poor and clearly this display is using inferior processing compared to the 3D capable 42VL863B. Initially the performance was fine and using both the PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs the SMPTE colour bar test was reproduced correctly, with the 37UL863B scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. However the 37UL863B was less impressive in the jaggies tests on both discs with the motion adaptive deinterlacing appearing quite poor, as did the directional filtering. As a result there were obvious jaggies in the waving US flag tests on both discs. At least the 37UL863B had no problems in resolving all the fine brickwork in the detail tests on both the PAL and NTSC discs.
For some reason cadence detection seems to be tripping up quite a few manufacturers this year and unfortunately Toshiba are no better. The 37UL863B was unable to correctly detect 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) film cadence or 2:2 (PAL - European) cadence. This is unfortunate because being unable to correctly detect these cadences can result in a loss of resolution. Thankfully the 37UL863B was at least able to handle film material mixed with scrolling video text and correctly displayed the words without blurring or shredding.
The 37UL863B includes Toshiba's Active Vision M100HD 100Hz picture processing technology which is designed to reduce motion blur. As is always the case you can reduce motion blur but at the expense of film-like motion. We never engage it when watching movies but it can sometimes be useful when watching fast paced sporting action. The same is true for the Resolution+ feature which is essentially glorified sharpening and is also left off.
At least the 37UL863B performed better on the tests on the HQV Blu-ray using high definition content. With the player set to 1080i the display correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests (as long as picture size Native is selected) and showed very good scaling and filtering performance as well as excellent resolution enhancement. The 37UL863B had no problems handling 24p material as well as showing video text overlaid on film based material.
Using the Spears and Munsil test disc, we checked the high and low dynamic range performance of the 37UL863B. Here the performance was also very good, correctly reproducing from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) as well as down to reference black (video level 17) but not below it.
- Excellent greyscale after calibration
- Very low input lag
- Attractive understated design
- Well presented and responsive menus
- Power consumption is extremely efficient
- Poor native blacks and contrast ratio
- Uneven backlight uniformity
- Off-axis performance was poor
- Out-of-the-box measurements were inaccurate
- Ten point white balance failed to work correctly
- Colour management system failed to work correctly
- Poor video processing
- Misguided remote control design
- Auto-calibration process failed to work correctly
- Smart TV features fragmented in the menu
Toshiba Regza UL863 (37UL863B) 37 inch LED LCD TV Review
The Toshiba Regza 37UL863B was something of a disappointment because it promised so much but ultimately delivered so little. As far as we're concerned manufacturers can include as many bells and whistles as they like, as long as the display is capable of delivering a performance that meets industry standards. After all what use is a built-in camera with facial recognition software, if the display's colour gamut is inaccurate and can't be corrected even with the built-in colour management system.
Initially the review of the 37UL863B started well, we liked the understated design and found the overall build quality to be very good. The positioning of the connections were largely facing rearwards which might complicate wall mounting but at least they weren't all at the edge, as is the case on most TVs these days. Unfortunately, whilst the design of the display was quite attractive, the design of the remote control was an unmitigated disaster. The addition of a sliding metal cover meant that the remote control felt uncomfortable to hold with the cover slipping up and down. If you moved the cover to the bottom of the remote control to expose all the buttons then it became too long and unwieldy - a definite rethink is required here.
Despite our misgivings over the remote control set up of the 37UL863 was actually very easy and overall we found the menu system to be well presented, easy to use and very responsive. The Toshiba Places video portal is not as impressive as some of the competition but most of the same features are there. The problem is that instead of using a single home page, all the functions are spread across different menu pages, which fragments the whole experience - a more unified approach would be beneficial.
The out-of-the-box performance of the 37UL863B was average with sizeable errors in the accuracy of both the greyscale and the colour gamut. This is surprising given that the out-of-the-box measurements on the 42VL863B were actually quite good but just goes to show how much various panels and models can differ. The errors were actually large enough to be visible to the human eye which will impact image accuracy even in Hollywood Pro mode.
These inaccuracies are less of an issue if the calibration controls can correct them and luckily in the case of the greyscale this proved to be the case. The post calibration measurements resulted in a reference greyscale performance using the two point white balance control. This is just as well because in our review sample there was a bug in the ten point white balance software which prevented it from working correctly. The colour management system was also compromised by a bug which prevented us from using it correctly. However we were able to create a reasonable colour gamut thanks to the calibrated greyscale and the colour and tint controls.
Given the problems we encountered with the manual calibration controls it didn't bode well for auto-calibration feature and sure enough the results were not impressive. We actually found that using the auto-calibration tools resulted in a worse image than if you just used the out-of-the-box settings. In fairness, the problems with the auto-calibration might be related to the bugs that we experienced in the calibration software. Having said that, the 42VL863B had a more accurate starting point as well as correctly working calibration controls and we still weren't impressed with the auto-calibration on that display.
Sadly the problems didn't end with the greyscale, colour gamut and calibration controls because the video processing was also disappointing. In our standard tests the scaling performance was actually rather poor and the 37UL863B also failed to correctly detect either 2:2 or 3:2 cadence. The 37UL863B uses LED edge lighting and as we have come to expect from displays that use this approach the backlight uniformity was very poor with clouding that was noticeable even in bright scenes. This problem was aggravated by the generally poor blacks and the resulting dynamic range was also compromised. The off-axis performance was also poor and what little dynamic range that there was disappeared as soon as you moved your head a few feet to the side. Sadly all these factors combined to result in a rather mediocre picture performance, especially on darker material or when viewing at night.
As we mentioned in the introduction the 37UL863B is quite featured packed and some of these features were useful such as Freeview HD, iPhone remote control, DLNA and built-in WiFi. Others such as 100Hz picture processing, AutoView light sensor and Resolution+ image enhancement were just marketing gimmicks that were ultimately detrimental to the image. The most talked about feature of the 37UL863B is the built-in camera and face recognition software but in actual usage we found this feature to be utterly pointless and mostly very annoying, so we turned it off.
If there was one area where the 37UL863B did perform well it was in terms of input lag, which at 16ms was one of the lowest we have measured this year. The result was a very responsive performance that should keep even the most demanding gamer happy. In fact, many of the weaknesses of the 37UL863B are less of an issue when it comes to games and therefore it would probably make a good choice for anyone looking for a display dedicated to gaming. The 37UL863B was also very efficient in terms of energy consumption so once again this might prove useful for someone who spends a lot of time gaming.
Ultimately, despite all the features and a very low input lag, we felt the picture just wasn't good enough and the calibration controls were inadequate. If you're looking for a display to use exclusively for gaming you might want to consider the Toshiba Regza 37UL863B but if you are looking for a display for watching movies and TV programmes there are better options available.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £500.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level5
Ease Of Use6
Value for Money6
Our Review Ethos
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