Toshiba 40TL968 TV Review
Toshiba's TL series misses a beat
What is the Toshiba 40TL968?Toshiba announced the TL968 around the time of IFA 2012 as a refresh to the series, promising enhancements to its Smart TV services and easier access to their world of online content. The Toshiba 40TL968B includes built in Wi-Fi, a Web Browser, Intel Wireless Display and Skype, to a name a few features. Whilst we certainly enjoy and appreciate some of the things the Smart TV revolution has to offer we are, of course, more interested in the bread and butter – i.e. can it produce great pictures. We’ve had a bit of a mixed experience with Toshiba’s 9 Series so far and Toshiba’s TV division, itself, seem to be in something of a transitionary period with a swing toward Passive 3D tech over Active. The TL968 is firmly in the active camp that will hopefully mean it will possess a panel capable of good contrast performance, like their 32RL958B we saw recently but, as ever, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So let’s tuck in…
Design & ConnectionsToshiba has returned to the silver look for the design of the TL968B and we can take it or leave it but we can see how it would fit in with some home décor. At least the bezel is nice and slender and composed of a matte material, meaning it doesn’t give off any distracting reflections. Around the back of the TL968 are 3 HDMI connections and there’s also one side facing so credit to Toshiba for showing how it should be done instead of penny pinching, like others we could mention. Other video inputs include legacy Component and Composite, a VGA PC input and terminals for aerials and satellite dishes. Audi connections include a S/PDIF digital out, L&R stereo jacks and a headphone output. Completing the connectivity, are USB ports – one to the back, one to the side – and a CAM Slot for premium digital terrestrial content.
Toshiba certainly likes to mix it up with their remote control selection and the one in the box of the TL968B sees a return of their rather retro, and somewhat stout, two-tone offering. It’s so big that it’s not likely to be lost easily and the large buttons make it very easy to operate. It is a touch on the heavy side but that’s only an issue if you’re holding it for prolonged periods, which not many will, and we rather like it.
MenusLike most Toshibas, the TL968’s over-arching 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 ClearScan 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 absence of the Cinema Mode that exists in some of the Toshiba’s is unlikely to be missed as it doesn’t work for PAL content anyhow. 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 TL968 has both 2 and 10 point White Balance options but does lack a Static Gamma control that may make calibration tricky.
A new addition appears under the TV Programmes menu, as well as the standard EPG there’s a new MediaGuide 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. Toshiba could certainly make setting up a Wireless connection to your network more simplistic if you don’t have a WPS type router and the signal was quite weak, even in a room adjacent to our wireless router so it took a lot longer to establish than we would have liked.
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; not everyone’s router has one button configuration, Toshiba. 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 and RL958B, the TL958 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 ResultsThe most ‘accurate’ to industry standards, the Hollywood picture mode, concentrates all the energy into injecting green in to the greyscale, producing comparable Delta Es to the Standard Mode. If anything, the neutrality is worse as green errors are easier to spot than others. From faces looking pallid, we now have them looking decidedly nauseous – very green, with a touch of yellow. Fortunately colour performance is at least better but it’s still some way off and can’t mask the green tinge. Let’s hope the calibration controls can help…
…Well, on paper – at least, the calibration controls give us some decent looking results. Bar a spike at 20% stimulus, greyscale tracking looks very respectable, indeed, and we’ve managed to tame the rather wild gamma tracking. Of course, it’s all very well the charts looking good but if there are issues with actual real-world content, then all efforts are for naught. We know from old that Toshiba’s Colour Master system is fraught with peril so our initial testing was done without its use but there were real posterisation problems and colour tinging. Pale blue skies took on pink fringes and white objects showed a mixture of magenta, red and green banding. Resetting the White Balance controls immediately rectified the problems but then, of course, you’re left with the green cast. So what you see below is actually a lie. The best we could do for grayscale is leave it in default settings.
Just out of curiosity, as much as anything else, we braved the CMS and even though it needed only a light touch to gain the impressive charts below, again its use introduced picture problems, in the form of blocky artefacts. So we were once more stuck with the default Hollywood performance but at least it was reasonable in the first instance.
This new facility in Calman 5 which brings to view colour performance at multiple saturation points has proved most illuminating. In the case of the TL968B we’ll show you the default Hollywood (above) performance and a kind of Bullseyesque, ‘look at what you could have won’ comparison to the left. Had either the CMS or White Balance controls worked, we would have been looking more in the order of the graphs to the right but, alas, we’re stuck with the rather average results in the other chart.
Contrast and Black Level
Overall dynamic range from the Toshiba 40TL968B was good, if not great, but somewhat marred by a panel that was troubled by uniformity problems. Our ANSI test revealed a Contrast Ratio of around 2,500:1 but as you can see from the black portions of the pattern, black level ranged from a good 0.08 to an excellent 0.032 cd/m2 due to the lighter patches around the screen.
The Toshiba TL968 did a decent job with standard definition content, cleanly scaling a 576 signal, with no obvious signs of softening or haloing artefacts. The 968 isn’t a good video deinterlacer, however, with jaggies appearing in the mid portions of our test patterns. Like most recent Toshiba’s, the 40TL968B was also unable to detect a 2:2 film cadence so there is some unnecessary deinterlacing introduced and with it some resolution loss. We’ve criticised some recent Toshiba TVs for their lack of proper 1080p24 support, which meant they weren’t displaying the majority of Blu-ray discs at their optimum but the TL968 is decent in that regard; we could see the odd skipped frame and a touch of undue judder, from time to time, most of the time things ticked over quite well.
Anyone even remotely concerned with enjoying responsive gaming on the TL968B will need to change to the Game Picture Mode else be faced with lag of around 135 milliseconds. The Game mode does the trick in cutting down on any unnecessary processing by reducing input latency to around 49 milliseconds, which isn’t too bad but laggier than some we’ve tested. Panel response isn’t particularly impressive and we did notice some ghosting from time to time but it’s likely most won’t find it an issue. 3D gaming is quite laggy, however, and we took measurements around the 140 milliseconds mark in that mode.
- Standby: 0.0W
- Out of the Box – Standard Mode: 52.7W
- Calibrated – Hollywood Mode: 49.2W
- 3D Mode: 72.5W
Toshiba 40TL968 Picture Quality 2DOur struggles to produce a decent picture out of the TL968B are well documented in the Test Results section of the review but to save you reading that before this section, in a nutshell, we weren’t able to calibrate the Toshiba successfully without causing serious issues. Had the Hollywood mode not been so tinged with green energy, it may not have been a problem but the fact it was so out meant we weren’t left with a picture mode we could really enjoy – having grown so accustomed to a calibrated image. Still, Hollywood was just marginally more pleasing than the rest so we stuck with it. Colour performance is of sufficient believability to ensure that some content could look good but in the more nuanced shades, the greyscale issues were obvious.
The problems didn’t stop with the green cast, unfortunately, and the review sample provided suffered with a lot of light pooling, edge bleed and panel banding – the unholy trinity of LED technology. The upshot of those issues were that dark scenes were marred and muddied by the unwanted outpouring of light, obscuring detail; the black bars in material with non-native 16:9 aspect would glow and any panning shots would clearly show up bands of alternating luminance across the screen. We have to accept that LED TVs can be a lottery when it comes to uniformity so we’re more than willing to believe there are better TL968’s out there but this one really wasn’t good. Add those in to the greenish mix of the Hollywood mode and we were left with a bit of a televisual disappointment.
Toshiba 40TL968 Picture Quality 3DAfter the lacking 2D performance we didn’t really quite know what to expect here but, in fact, the Toshiba TL968B doesn’t do half bad with the added dimension. Colours, in particular, were very believable – the combination of slight tint to the glasses married with the native output worked really well and it was actually more pleasing looking in 3D than 2D, which is unusual. There was some crosstalk evident, especially on objects with negative parallax (popping out of the screen) but it rarely really intruded. A recent 3D acquisition is Dredd, which is an excellent example of how to do 3D and looked simply superb on the TL968, even the uniformity issues were somewhat masked by the glasses. Overall we found the 3D experience better than the 2D and whilst we’d prefer it to be the other way around, at least it’s a positive note on which to end.
- 3D was very watchable
- MediaGuide EPG is nice
- Lots of screen uniformity issues
- Unworkable calibration controls...
- ...with poor out of box performance
- Not much in Toshiba Places
Toshiba 40TL968 TV Review
Even if the silver trim of the Toshiba 40TL968 isn’t quite to our taste, we can appreciate how it will fit in to some living rooms and it’s certainly sleek enough to impress. Much more to our liking is the fact Toshiba sees fit to equip the TL968 with four HDMI ports, instead of skimping like some other manufacturers we could mention. The beefy, two-tone remote control is fairly unique and we like it. It makes navigating through Toshiba’s menu structures a relative pleasure, even if said menus could use a prune. Toshiba’s Smart TV platform – Toshiba Places – on the other hand, could use a few extra flowers on the bush but there are most of the major bases covered with YouTube and iPlayer apps added to Facebook and Twitter for social networkers, with Skype video calling to top it all off nicely. If the supplied review unit is anything to go by, however, Wi-Fi reception is weak so it can’t be placed too far away from your router should you wish to avail yourself of what’s on offer.
We’ve had issues with Toshiba’s calibration controls, in the past, but not quite to the extent we suffered with the TL968B. They are, quite simply, unusable in their present state and even a gentle massage with either the white balance controls or the Colour Master system led to on-screen carnage. The result of this meant we were left with the default Hollywood picture mode as the best alternative, which wasn’t too bad in terms of primary and secondary colours but anything in-between could be marred by a heavy green cast. That wasn’t the only problem either, and a triumvirate of screen uniformity issues – pooling, bleed and panel banding – only further unhinged the experience. At least the 3D prowess of the TL968 lets us end on a positive note, where it actually outdid that of the 2D in terms of looking natural. Très bizarre!
We’re certainly happy to believe the review sample provided is an unusually bad example of what a TL968 can do but, based on the evidence in front of us, it’s not a display we could recommend at this time.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £549.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
3D Picture Quality6
Ease Of Use6
Value for Money5
Our Review Ethos
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