Toshiba TL963 (40TL963) 3D LED LCD Television Review
Mark checks out Toshiba's revamped TL Range
IntroductionThe model under testing here is the Toshiba 40TL963B 40 inch 3D LED LCD TV with a Freeview HD tuner and full UK specifications. Also available is the Toshiba 46TL868 40 inch 3D LED LCD TV, which has not been reviewed here but should offer the same features and a very similar viewing experience. The Toshiba TL963B is an update to the TL863B that we reviewed back in February 2012 and, as such, represents their mid-tier active shutter 3D offering. The TL863 was mostly let down by very bad panel banding and some dodgy handling of Blu-ray disc; there was also a screen tearing bug that was slightly irritating and we’re looking for improvements in all three of those areas with the latest interation. Toshiba have been working on the styling of the TL range to give it a more up market look, let’s hope they’ve been as busy in the engineering department.
Design & ConnectionsThe Toshiba TL963 takes its design cues from the rather more upmarket YL series with its slim, brushed chrome bezel that might divide options but at least it doesn’t glint distractingly. The bezel is fairly slender – measuring about 1.5cm to top and sides, increasing to around 2cm at the bottom which is also bolstered by a black strip underneath that houses the IR sensor for both 3D glasses and the remote control, as well as the power indicator light.
The supplied controller is certainly a bit more ‘stout’ than average but we like it although it is rather weighty. 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. The curves and trim are quite pleasing and the large buttons, which are very well positioned, make for efficient operations.
The Toshiba TL963B doesn’t come with any active shutter 3D eye-wear 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 majority of connections to the rear of the Toshiba 46TL868 are outward facing and generous at this price-point. 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.
MenusThe overall structure consists of five sub menus - Picture, Sound, Applications, Preferences and Setup. 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, Game (for external sources) 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).
Further controls for the Auto Brightness Sensor, which alters luminance based on ambient lighting; Active Backlight Control; Black/White Level; Noise Reduction and Active Vision 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. We’d hoped that Toshiba would have seen fit to include its 10 point White Balance control in the 40TL963B but, instead, under Colour Temperature, we have a single slider for each of Red, Green and Blue.
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 are found in the Preferences Menu.
FeaturesThe TL953 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. Toshiba Places, the manufacturers cloud based internet portal is still in development but content is certainly on the increase. Within this hub are areas for Video, Music, Social Networking, News etc. Naturally the likes of BBC iPlayer and YouTube are supported but there are 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.
Test ResultsThe most accurate modes on recent Toshiba’s have been labelled ‘Hollywood’ and so it proved again with the TL963. Simply by switching to that mode and optimising the Contrast and Brightness controls yielded far more pleasing results.
Greyscale is now tracking much better with all three channels more evenly distributed throughout, especially in the most crucial areas from 40% stimulus and up. In actual fact, greyscale Delta Errors are almost all below the level where our eyes can pick them up which is both impressive and something of a relief, given the lack of control we have over the white balance in the menus. Given that the errors are greater near black, it’s actually very unlikely we’d be able to make any significant improvements using the one point controls. Colours are generally better too but green is still wildly over-bright and over-saturated. We nominally do have much more control over the gamut with Toshiba’s Colour Master CMS but it’s given us many a problem in the past.As we suspected, there was nothing we could do with the low end of the greyscale without spoiling the brighter areas so we left the Colour Temp sliders as they were. Against our better judgement we did play Russian roulette with the Colour Master and came out living to tell the tale. We’d normally expect even small adjustments of the Toshiba CMS to produce picture-spoiling banding and blocking artefacts but, provided we didn’t push it too far, they didn’t show up this time. In all honesty, the process was a complete pain of back and forthing between patterns and real world material for damage assessment but we ended up with very good results.
Most importantly we managed to tame green and red but we had to take the cyan and blue errors on the chin as altering their values in the CMS led to banding in sky-scapes. Still, we did better then expected!
Contrast and Black Level
The TL963B punched well above its weight here and although the intra-frame ANSI contrast ratio of nearly 3,000:1 couldn’t quite match up to the less revealing On/Off contrast of 4625:1, it’s still very impressive. With an averaged black level of 0.038 cd/m2, the TL963 is one of the best LED TVs for dynamic range we’ve tested and only the spot of edge bleed, bottom left, stopped it from doing better still.
The Toshiba TL963 did a nice job with standard definition content, cleanly scaling a 576 signal, with no obvious signs of softening or haloing artefacts. The TL963 also managed respectable levels of video deinterlacing with jaggies only apparent at the extreme angles of diagonal interpolation. It was, however, unable to pick up the 2:2 film cadence so there is some unnecessary deinterlacing introduced and with it some resolution loss and jaggies. Like its predecessor, the TL868, the TL963 didn’t make a very good job of 1080p24 Blu-ray disc with frequent judder and frame skipping evident. In fact, we suspect that the TL series uses Vestel processing, rather than their own (much better) version, which is a shame as it undoes a lot of the good work elsewhere.
It is possible to improve the Blu-rays performance by means of using the motion interpolating Active Vision processing, in terms of the judder, but we didn’t like the soap opera effect it induces; so, unfortunately, the user is left with the choice of skippy and stuttery or over-smoothed with artefacting. At least the bug where Active Vision cuts in and out, randomly, appears to have been ironed out.
The results of the Toshiba TL963B are fairly mediocre here. It is most certainly necessary to call up the Game Mode, else be faced with lag times over 110 milliseconds, where the measurement of around 50 milliseconds latency is far more respectable if not really suitable for the competitive gamers out there. For those that like to game in 3D, the added processing will see lag times increase to 116.5 milliseconds, which is decidedly sluggish.
The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 59.4W
Calibrated – Hollywood 1 Mode: 50.9W
3D Mode: 81.4W
Picture Quality - 2DThe excellent dynamic range and greyscale performance certainly helped the Toshiba TL953B produce some really fine images and, not only that, the contrast wasn’t marred much at all by traditional LED TV blemishes. Overall backlight uniformity was very good, with just a touch of flash-lighting toward the bottom of the screen - evident in a couple of patches - and some mild corner bleed from the bottom left but neither were regularly noticeable. The panel array banding seen with the TL868 was also barely visible and it was refreshing to watch a football match where camera panning didn’t add any unwanted striping of the turf. Off axis viewing was also better than expected and although there is certainly some loss of contrast that occurs very quickly out of the sweet spot, it didn’t drop off particularly more noticeably from extreme angles.
The undoubted weakness in the TL953’s armour is its inability to properly portray 1080p24 material and we’d really expected Toshiba (or Vestel) to have addressed this by now. There really is no excuse for such a faux pas in 2012 and it’s of pressing concern that it gets fixed. If Blu-rays aren’t that important to you, then the 40TL953 certainly delivers outstanding pictures, in the lower mid-sector of the market, but movie lovers will probably want to ponder the alternatives. Unfortunately another of the previous generations’ irritating foibles is also still present and we noticed a screen tearing effect that would intermittently occur with any HDMI connected device, with whatever signal. The ‘tear’ manifests as a thin black line that can occur at any given location on the screen. During our time with the TL963 it only ever invoked a mild, under-the-breath tut to issue from our lips but we suspect, over time, the irritation factor would increase to profanity inducing levels.
Bar the two annoyances detailed above, we were actually very impressed with the overall performance of the Toshiba 40TL963B but they are potential deal-breakers for some.
Picture Quality - 3DAlmost ironically, 3D Blu-rays were handled far better and the out-of-the-box Hollywood configuration provided some very natural looking pictures with plenty of depth. Objects with negative parallax, i.e. those popping out of the screen did show some crosstalk but it was certainly nothing we found too distracting and we were happy to sit through the excellent and recently released 3D conversion of James Cameron’s Titanic for only the second time, so far. The active shutter glasses are relatively tint free and the inherently bright nature of LED means it’s possible to get 3D pictures looking almost as vibrant as their 2D counterparts. The handling of 50Hz Side by Side content – i.e. everything that is broadcast in the UK, is not quite so good but much better than we’ve seen in the past from Toshiba; and certainly watchable. The 953 suffers with some ghosting around white objects, in particular, but motion handling is much better than before and the excessive crosstalk is also a thing of the past
- Excellent blacks and contrast
- Very good uniformity
- Nice scaling of standard definition
- Very accurate greyscale in Hollywood Picture Mode
- 3D is pretty solid
- Some neat features
- 1080p24 Blu-ray is not handled well
- Intermittent screen tearing
- A bit laggy for gamers
Toshiba TL963 (40TL963) 3D LED LCD Television Review
If brushed chrome is your thing, the Toshiba TL963 will slot in to your living room to pleasing effect; it's not necessarily our cup of cocoa but the trim is far from offensive and doesn't reflect light in a distracting way. We were very impressed that a TV in this price bracket had been bestowed with the full compliment of 4 HDMI ports and the chunky remote is great to use, if a little top heavy. In terms of feature-set, Toshiba aren't quite at the level of some of the Smart offerings from the other big boys but things are ever improving and what is there is impressive enough.
Had we been given basic two white balance controls we would have been able to improve further on the, already impressive, out-of-the-box accuracy of the Hollywood picture mode but at least we were able to massage the colours without creating serious picture flaws. Speaking of which, the TL ranges' continued inability to deal correctly with most Blu-ray discs will put some off and the intermittent screen tearing bug is likely to become increasingly irritating to owners as time goes by.
It's a shame that those potential deal-breakers exist, otherwise the TL963B impresses greatly with its excellent dynamic range and rich, rewarding black levels. The 3D processing has clearly been given some attention since last we looked and the reduction in crosstalk and improved motion handling was great to see, particluarly with 3D Blu-ray. Our (side by side) broadcast 3D is also handled far better than in Toshiba's gone by, but some will notice a little ghosting around white objects, in particular. Serious gamers would probably notice the 50 millisecond 2D input latency and your Nan would probably notice the 3D gaming lag of around 116ms.
The Toshiba TL963B offers some truly excellent performance for this level of the market but is just let down by the iffy handling of Blu-ray and a mildly annoying screen tearing bug. If the engineers could sort either issue out we'd be happy to reconsider; if they could sort both then we'd be looking at a TV offering outstanding value for money.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £549.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
3D Picture Quality6
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money6
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