Toshiba 32RL958 TV Review
Mark looks at Toshiba's nifty little RL958B
What is the Toshiba 32RL958?The Toshiba RL958B was introduced at IFA, Berlin in September 2012 with a host of new features to augment the range. We know there’s no more cut-throat a market than that for 32 inch LED/LCD TVs and, as such, the 32RL958 faces enormous competition from all and sundry. At its launch price, at the back end of 2012, of £449 it would face almighty competition but the current online asking is under £299 so its approaching entry-level status which, when you consider the goodies on offer, seems very reasonable. So does the RL958 deliver mid-high end performance on a mid-low end budget? Onwards…
Design & ConnectionsToshiba don’t claim the RL958B has had any named designer input – they’re always keen to tout Jacob Jansen on the high-end sets – but the RL looks pretty much like a shrunken version of the recently reviewed WL968, save for the lack of metal-effect strip on the outside of the bezel; it’s plain black but that’s no issue to us and the bezel, itself, is quite narrow measuring around a centimetre to the top and sides and double that at the bottom where it angles in with mirrored plastic in a similar fashion to the WL. It’s certainly a more attractive package than last year’s RL858, which had an all metal look we didn’t much care for.
We can’t imagine the absence of a fourth HDMI port – the RL958 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, a USB port and an optical digital audio out. The side connections are completed by a headphone jack, another USB input and a CAM slot. 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.
MenusThe overall menu structure consists of 5 sub menus - Function, TV Programmes, Setup, Media Player and Toshiba Places and it’s reasonably well planned but perhaps could be trimmed down, the Function Menu in particular doesn’t really justify its own existence. Here we’ll largely concentrate on the Picture Menu found under the Setup 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 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; Resolution+ 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. The Expert Picture Settings Menu houses a catch-all test pattern and a RGB Filter allowing for a quick colour and tint calibration using just a test disc and blue filter. We can also choose between BT.601 and BT.709 colour decoding or choose to have the TV auto detect.
The last iteration of the RL series - the RL858 – had only a one-point White Balance control so it’s good to see the 958 has both 2 and 10 point options. We also have a Cinema mode on/off option that we’ll check for efficacy in the video processing tests that - he recently reviewed, and higher end, WL968 had no such option! Unfortunately, like the WL968, the RL958B does lack a Static Gamma control that may mean calibration is a bit of a challenge.
A new addition appears under the TV Programmes menu, as well as the standard EPG there’s a new MediGuide EPG powered by Rovi. The guide takes a few seconds to load but the interface is worth the wait and is able to give far more detail than the standard EPG. It’s also possible to arrange programming by genre by Children, Films, Sports and News options. To enable MediaGuide, users must enter the Preferences Menu and access the TV Guide Selection item.
FeaturesWe covered the Toshiba Smart TV platform recently but since we conducted that review, Toshiba has bolstered the RL958’s offering with Skype, WiFi Direct (WiDi), a new browser and the aforementioned MediaGuide. Setting up the built-in Wi-Fi manually is a bit of a chore and there’s no instruction for the on-screen keyboard meaning we had to work out what the backspace, character toggle and enter buttons were for ourselves, which was a tad frustrating; remember Toshiba that not everyone’s router has one button configuration. Toshiba Places – their online portal - retains the same look and structure and we like its red-on-black striking appearance. We got to try out the Skype app with Toshiba’s new Freetalk Conference videocam/mic add-on and it worked very well. Audio was quite clear, in fact a bit too loud at default settings, and the video quality was certainly passable although you will need make sure the room is well lit else the other caller will be hard pressed to pick you out on the other end.
The browser and MediaGuide would undoubtedly have been more fun to use had we been able to use the Android apps to accompany them but since we were unable to download the MediaGuide app because of a region restriction and, just as with the WL968, the RL958B wouldn’t connect to our smartphone so we weren’t given the opportunity to find out. The new Toshiba AV Remote was said to be incompatible with our phone, also, which was made more frustrating as it’s specifically listed as so on the Google Play page so we were unable to try that out. Toshiba’s smart offering is quite modest against the likes of LG and Samsung but showing signs of improvement.
Test ResultsAs per our experiences with many Toshiba’s, the Hollywood Picture modes offered the best base for a detailed calibration, although there was a noticeable greenish yellow tinge to everything. Our experiences with the WL968 told us that the 10 point White Balance control probably wouldn’t be enough to flatten the gamma response to the yellow line that represents our target on the Gamma Point Graph but it’s in reasonable shape, as is. Colour performance was very good for a pre-set mode but they were a little too dim this time. Would we be brave enough to tackle the notoriously flaky ColourMaster system in an attempt to fine tune the colours? Read on...
Frankly there was no point in risking unpredictable bugs with the use of Toshiba’s colour management system; with results like above where overall delta errors are below perceivable there was simply no point as once we’d managed to get a near perfect balance in the greyscale the formerly errant secondary colours sat in their boxes happily. As we can see below, we couldn’t get the gamma quite as ruler-flat as we’d like but it’s not a huge crime.
Colour saturation at lower stimuli is also very good with nothing hugely worrying to report. When compared to a display with better colour decoding it would be possible to see some slight differences but we wouldn’t expect much – if any - of the target audience would know; nor care.
Despite the presence of the Cinema Mode in the Picture Menu, the RL958B was unable to pick up on the PALcentric 2:2 film cadence, so you’ll be best using ‘upscaling’ players and set-to-boxes to perform the task for standard definition film content sent through an interlaced signal. For those with collections of NTSC DVD’s, the news is better as the Toshiba was able to detect the 2:3 cadence. Scaling performance was good, however, so other forms of SD looked good and especially so on a 32-inch screen. We’ve seen a few Toshiba’s struggle with 1080p24 material – probably those that have some Vestel engineering in them – and the RL958B showed some of the same weaknesses with a certain ‘flutteryness’ displayed on the unforgiving Spears and Munsil evaluation disc wedge pattern. With real world Blu-rays it was hard to spot, in all truth, but we’ve seen and expect better handling of the medium. Video deinterlacing was also a touch sub-par, with some break-up of detail evident under movement and some quite unusual artefacting displayed on a couple of ‘jaggies’ tests involving rotating bars. Again, when watching actual content it’s not hugely obvious but it’s another area of video processing where Toshiba should be looking to improve. On a more positive note, the RL958 was able to ‘retrieve’ the full chromatic information from a 1080p24 source where the WL968 would not.
Contrast and Black Level
We’ll admit to having not much idea what to expect in this area of testing so the RL958B’s performance here came as a welcome surprise. From a full screen black pattern, we got a measurement of 0.06cd/m2 without dimming engaged and 0.02cd/m2 with it on. You have to choose your poison here; 0.06 cd/m2 is pretty good but a black level one third of that is far more impressive to the eye, particularly in a darkened room but with it on there is a certain amount of haloing around objects in darker scenes. A more revealing measure comes through the ANSI checkerboard pattern which displays a mixture of dark and bright which gave an averaged black level of 0.05cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 2200:1, which is good for LCD.
The RL958B proved itself quite the little performer for gamers. With a latency of just 26 milliseconds between controller input and on-screen reaction, we’d class it as unnoticeable and one of the absolute most reactive gaming screens we’ve tested. Default gamma response isn’t great but can be improved by setting Black/White Level to Low in the Advanced Picture Menu and in the same area switching Colour Temperature to Warm should also help the picture quality. Since you’re already there, a few clicks back on the Colour control should get the display closer to a sRGB and Rec.709 colour gamut.
The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 46.3W
Calibrated – Hollywood Day Mode: 39.1W
Toshiba 32RL958 Picture QualityAll in all. the RL958 generally popped out a very likeable image, with lots of detail and a convincing palette. Certainly in the calibrated Hollywood mode it gives the competition it currently faces – online at less than £300 at the time of writing – very much a run for their money. The RL958 boasts strong dynamic range to complement the believability of the colours and reasonable levels of detail in the dark areas. The Active Backlight control isn’t perfect but used in its Low setting it's not too aggressive and worth it for the boost in black levels; there is a little bit of crush but nothing overboard.
We really didn’t like the ActiveScan interpolating engine of the WL968B so its omission here wasn’t troubling in the slightest. In fact, panel response was quite good so there was very little in the way of perceptible ghosting we could see – the relatively small panel sizes probably contributes – but motion resolution is what we’d expect from a LCD panel, i.e. quite average so, if you look closely, you will spot some blurring of objects. Again, due to the 32-inch screen, it wasn’t something we find too troubling. Another plus, or should that be a non-negative, was the impressive screen uniformity (particularly with Active Backlight enabled), although we could occasionally see some of the panel array behind bright colours. We managed to watch a good mix of standard and high definition content during our time with the RL958 and it rarely disappointed. The currently aired, Africa with David Attenborough, was served justice by the 958’s ability to do both well-lit and night scenes very well and we felt only minor cravings for the 55-inch in the other room during its viewing.
We’ll admit we never quite know what to expect from a Toshiba TV but this one had us impressed although viewing angles aren’t the best so a corner position might be best if placed in a living room as there’s no ‘swivelability’ to the stand.
- Good black levels and contrast
- Accurate colours
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Extremely responsive for gamers
- Decent motion handling
- Viewing angles could be better
- A decent gamma control has been removed
- App issues
- Unhelpful interface when setting up Wi-Fi connection
Toshiba 32RL958 TV Review
The Toshiba RL958B is a bit of a plain Jane in today’s designer-lead market but we rather like an unobtrusive display and we’re even happier about the fact Toshiba has dropped last years’ metal-effect from the RL Series. The remote is similarly unspectacular but does its job very well from within its compact and lightweight form factor although it does have a tendency to get M.I.A down the sides of the armchair. Toshiba’s menus are very responsive but perhaps over expansive, we’d recommend they trim the number of main sub-menus down to 3 from the current 5 to aid user-friendliness.
Toshiba’s Smart TV feature-set isn’t the most expansive but they have added a few new ones recently, including Skype, WiFi Direct and a new browser. They’ve also improved the file support in the media player to make it a very capable one. Toshiba’s new Freetalk Conference videocam/mic works well in good light conditions but the browser is a chore to use without the smartphone/tablet app which we couldn’t get to work with our Android device. We’d had no such issues with other Toshiba kit recently so we’re puzzled as to why we couldn’t get it to work with either the RL958 or WL968. We experienced similar frustration with the WiDi feature.
We managed to extract an excellent calibration from the 32RL958B, despite the lack of a proper gamma control and the impressively accurate colours were given due support by a good dynamic range that featured convincing black levels, especially with the dimming control engaged. We’ve seen better handling of various video processing duties, however, and we’d ask Toshiba to look in to new ways of handling cadence detection and video deinterlacing. There’s also room for improvement on the sometimes ‘shimmering’ presentation of 1080p24 although that rarely showed up when watching content on Blu-ray disc. Gamers are very well catered for by the Toshiba 32RL958B, with it returning one of the lowest figures for input latency so far – an ‘unnoticeable’ 26 milliseconds – and with a bit of fine tuning the Game mode can be made to look good with plenty of shadow detail to aid those online 1V1’s.
All in all, the Toshiba RL958 is a very pleasing little TV that combines a bright, detailed and punchy image with a nice bunch of features. At a current online ticket price of under £300 it certainly merits some attention. Recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £449.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
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