Toshiba VL963 (42VL963) 3D LED LCD TV Review
Mark looks at Toshiba's Passive 3D TV
IntroductionThe model we have for review is the Toshiba 42VL963B 42 inch 3D LED LCD TV with a Freeview HD tuner and full UK specifications. Also available is the Toshiba 47VL863B and 55VL963B which have not been reviewed here but should offer the same features and a very similar viewing experience. We recently got a look at Toshiba’s 40TL963B which narrowly missed out on an award owing to a couple of glitches but showed great promise. The Toshiba 42VL963B is a slightly different proposition and instead of employing an active shutter 3D system, it caters for those who prefer the passive approach. Elsewhere specifications are quite similar but the differing panels in each will no doubt mean that there will be numerous performance differentials so let’s see what they are.
Design & ConnectionsThe Toshiba VL963 bears a strong resemblance to the LG LM660T, which is no bad thing, at all, as that is a fine looking TV. If anything we prefer Toshiba’s all black approach and the remarkably slim bezel blends in to the gloss black screen in a very attractive fashion. The 42TL963B doesn’t share the glamorous ribbon stand of the LG, however, and instead sports a much more prosaic rectangular base-stand hewn of glass and bearing a black ‘insert’, much in the style of the Finlux F8030-T we covered earlier in October 2012. With deerstalker donned and opium pipe at the ready, we’d say there’s a high probability that both LG and Vestel – the manufacturers who produces for Finlux – have a hand in the VL963B. OK, we lied, we don’t own a deerstalker!
The supplied controller is chunkier than your average but we quite like it despite the extra ballast. Toshiba has provided a finger rest to the back of the remote to aid one-handed operation 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 and the fact it’s too big to get wedged down the back of the average sofa is a plus.
Most of the connections to the rear of the Toshiba 46TL868 are outward facing and it’s good to see, what we consider, the requisite 4 HDMI ports equipped, three of which are rear connecting, with one close to the edge and facing sideways. Also outward facing 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 menu system aboard the Toshiba 42VL963B are a complete facsimile of that in the TL963 and consist 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 house the ‘ColourMaster’ Colour Management System CMS.
Further controls including 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. Unfortunately there isn't even a 2 point White Balancecontrol in the VL963 and instead there’s a single slider for each of Red, Green and Blue under the Colour Temperature setting. The 3D settings are accessed by using the QUICK button of the remote control 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.
FeaturesSince we’ve written an in-depth review of the Smart features inside Toshiba TVs and Blu-ray players, we’d suggest you click here to get the full picture of what’s on offer. If you haven’t the time to read that right now, as a very brief summary, our biggest criticism of Toshiba’s Smart TV system is the lack of content through the online Places platform which makes the overall offering solid rather than spectacular. The undoubted highlights are excellent video media file support together with a very intuitive user interface. With the Smart TV Alliance promising to bear fruit in the near future we’re optimistic that the future is bright for Toshiba’s platform but, for now, it trails some of the other big boys; notably Samsung, Panasonic, LG and Sony.
Test ResultsToshiba label their attempt at hitting the industry standards as Hollywood 1 and 2 in the Picture Mode selections and we’ve usually found their TVs to display decent out-of-the-box accuracy in them but, whilst they weren’t as bad as the Standard mode, the VL963’s Hollywood modes weren’t too clever either.
From the RGB Tracking graph we can see there’s still a large excess of green which is more noxious than any other of the channels given that it makes up around 70% of the visible spectrum and thus dominates all before it. Gamma tracking isn’t good either and because its value is far too high, near black, shadow detailing takes a big hit as result. Mystifyingly, if anything, colour performance against the HDTV Rec.709 standard is probably worse than the default and looking difficult to correct as Green is hugely over-lit and red significantly under done. Toshiba’s CMS is notoriously awful although we’ve seen better results with it, of late, so we’d be crossing our fingers it doesn't introduce any picture crippling artefacts this time.
Considering the poor pre-calibration performance and the fact the White Balance controls offer only a one axis control (two is usually the minimum) things didn’t turn out too badly at all. With Delta Es (errors) almost all below the tolerable threshold of 3, we’ve managed to inject a good degree of neutrality in to the greyscale and the slight excess of blue, near white, is barely distinguishable to the eye.
As with the TL963, the Colour Master system actually functioned quite well and the fact that the saturation control heavily interacted with colour luminance proved a plus point. We’d normally bemoan controls that don’t do what they’re supposed to but the disparity in the luminance errors between green and red – one was far too dim, the other the reverse – was such that there wasn’t enough latitude in the luminance control to bring them in to line. In fact, colour performance overall was far better following calibration with only a slightly over-saturated and off hue blue of any concern.
The Toshiba TL963 did a decent job with standard definition content, cleanly scaling a 576 signal, with no obvious signs of softening or haloing artefacts. The 963 isn’t the best video deinterlacer we’ve seen, however, with jaggies appearing in the mid portions of our test patterns. Like the TL963, the VL963B 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 VL963 made a better fist of things, which came as something of a surprise. Whilst 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. We’ve seen some speculation that the Toshiba’s are internally converting the 24 framed signal to fit a 60Hz refresh by adding frames in but we measured the VL963 with the Klein K-10 that showed it was refreshing at multiples of 24 most of the time. There’s definite room for improvement here but the signs are quite encouraging.
Contrast and Black Level
With the Toshiba VL963 being fitted with an IPS panel we weren’t expecting stellar performance here as the reproduction of black has never been a strong point of the technology involved. With an averaged black level of 0.11cd/m2 against a calibrated peak white of just over 120 cd/m2, the VL963 just managed to edge over the figure of 1,000:1 ANSI contrast, pulling it just in to respectable levels. Panel uniformity was actually very good for an edge-lit LED so at least the average blacks weren’t spoiled by light leakage. Off-axis, the contrast performance takes something of a hit but the numbers could be improved to somewhere in the 0.06 to 0.08cd/m2 range by using the Active Backlight setting but we prefer to give you the native panel capabilities and, besides, using it dimmed the whole picture not just the blacks.
Anyone even remotely concerned with enjoying responsive gaming on the VL963 seriously needs to engage the Game Picture Mode else be faced with lag of around 125 milliseconds. The Game mode obviously does the trick in cutting down on any unnecessary processing by reducing input latency to between 48 and 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 123 milliseconds mark in that mode.
The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
Out of the Box – Standard Mode: 72.7W
Calibrated – Hollywood 1 Mode: 72.2W
3D Mode: 72.5W
Picture Quality - 2DFollowing calibration the undoubted ace of the VL963B’s performance was in its convincing colour palette that holds up well in brighter viewing environments and doesn’t lose too much of its pop when viewed from the side, thanks to the IPS panels. Motion handling was also quite good for LED LCD with our pattern showing it could hang on to around 400 lines of 1080 under panning without any interpolation. By engaging the Active Vision processing, motion resolution could be improved to closer to 800 lines and the lowest, Standard, setting provided some benefit to high speed video action but, as ever, we’d recommend leaving it off for film viewing. Panel response was not so good though and we did see some ghosting in high contrast scenarios. Dynamic range – as we said on the Test Results page - is not a strength of the IPS technology but the VL963 is equipped with a decent filter that combats ambient light well which gives the impression of decent contrast in all but low light conditions.
It’s when the lights come down that the flaws of edge-lit technology generally come to the fore but the VL963 didn’t exhibit much in the way of uniformity issues. There was some corner bleed, at all four points, but it was rarely noticeable and only really reared its head with film shot content with black bars. Thankfully there was a noticeable absence of the oh-so-common panel banding we almost expect to see with LED TVs so we can credit the engineers for masking the structure behind the ‘glass’ so well in a TV so slim. That’s not to say there wasn’t any but it was infrequent enough to be deemed non-intrusive. The ‘black line’ screen tearing fault we’d noted on both the TL863 and TL963 when viewing HDMI sources, didn’t occur during our testing but as it’s a random, non-repeatable phenomena we can’t absolutely guarantee its eradication from the processing.
If all the above reads like a mixed bag, that would be a fair assessment but, overall, the good did outweigh the bad and our time with the VL963 was generally one free of deal-breaking annoyances.
Picture Quality - 3DIf the 2D performance was good, it was with 3D that the VL963 really distinguished itself. With a totally flicker and almost crosstalk free presentation I found myself drawn into the screen for longer periods than I would normally need for evaluation but such are the attractions for this reviewer, at least. The sense of added dimensionality to the excellent post-conversion of James Cameron’s Titanic has rarely been more fun to watch since its landing on the door mat and we could only lament the lack of screen real-estate that would have made it that bit more immersive. The Toshiba 42VL963B is capable of producing extremely bright pictures in 3D so the slight dimming effect of the passive eyewear was easily negated and, with fairly minimal alteration, we could get convincing colours too. Sitting, yet again, through some recorded broadcast 3D coverage of Wimbledon in 3D revealed that the Side by Side 50Hz issues that trouble Toshiba’s active shutter 3D tellies wasn’t at all present with images almost every bit as convincing as 1080p Blu-ray. All in all, if you’re a fan of Passive 3D technology, the VL963 is not going to let you down.
- Excellent and convincing colours - post calibration
- Very generous viewing angles
- Decent motion handling
- Flicker free 3D
- Good SD scaling
- Lovely styling
- Relatively good uniformity
- Blu-ray 1080p could still be handled better
- Video deinterlacing is weak
- Mediocre blacks and dynamic range
- Limited white balance controls
- Poor accuracy in default Hollywood picture mode
Toshiba VL963 (42VL963) 3D LED LCD TV Review
We were very happy with the styling of the Toshiba VL963B, its almost all black approach and micro bezel reveals a discreet simplicity that makes it both unobtrusive and chic at the same time. The same couldn't be said of the Fat Controller however although, again, we quite like the remote and we're pleased to see the move away from the daft, Jacob Jensen coffee table adornment we saw in last year's VL range. Connections wise, we hope Samsung and Panasonic are looking in as Toshiba have managed to fit 4 HDMI ports in to what is, to all intents and purposes, a fairly inexpensive TV. General menu presentation is good although the lack of calibration controls may be an obstacle down the line.
The fact that we actually managed to achieve excellent calibration results was more by hook and crook than going by the book but getting there is all that really matters. With the VL963B being equipped with an LG IPS panel we were hardly expecting it to set the world alight with its contrast performance and its rather average in that department but the solid panel uniformity and effective ambient light rejection means it fares well in brighter conditions although the glossy screen is very reflective. The VL963 has quite patchy video processing with good standard definition scaling, poor video deinterlacing and cadence detection and just about passable handling of 1080p24 content.
Perhaps the VL963 strongest suit comes in the way in which it effortlessly handles 3D. With a bright yet convincing colour palette and an almost crosstalk, and totally flicker free presentation it's difficult not to get drawn in but, of course, the immersion factor would be lifted dramatically with the 55 inch version. Gamers would probably find the Toshiba an adequate rather than game winning display with a measured latency of around 48 milliseconds between controller input to on-screen reaction.
Those looking for a chic, modern TV and like a spot of 3D action will find the Toshiba VL963 a tempting proposition. The 963 will fit the bill even more if they view their 2D action with the lights up where the lack of contrast punch will be hardly noticeable. There's room for improvement with the video processing and the feature set isn't exactly wowing us but, for the value on offer, we're happy to recommend a demo.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £749.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level5
3D Picture Quality7
Ease Of Use6
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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