With a recession starting to bite and some broadcast areas currently switching off the analogue transmissions; are there any second TV bargains to be had as the main manufacturers bring in the new ranges this year? Of course the easy route to digital TV in the bedroom or kitchen could be achieved with a simple freesat or freeview box attached to your aging 15" CRT. But with the new TV ranges coming to market over the next few months there might just be a bargain or two to be had. Indeed, an LCD TV like this Toshiba 32inch doesn’t offer any thrills in terms of features or picture trickery, but can it offer some value as a second set?
Lifting and unpacking this TV was simple and after taking a few minutes to attach the base stand it’s just a case of setting up your sources and you should be ready to go. The design is smart with a black gloss type finish and speakers hidden within the bottom bezel. There is a standby light on the far right hand lower corner of the bezel along with two small logo tags for Toshiba and Regza. This allows the set to look sleek and unassuming. It’s not the slimmest TV on the market, but as a flat panel it is also not overly large.
Around the back we have a healthy selection of inputs, with further selections available on the right side panel. On the back we have two HDMI slots, with a third on the side panel. Component video inputs are accompanied by a VGA slot, two scarts, audio inputs, optical output and a subwoofer out. Rounding up the connections on the side panel are an S-video and composite inputs with a DVB common interface slot and the main volume and channel selection buttons. So for a budget set, the connections list is very impressive and offers every kind of set up that will be required by an end user. The final piece of this TV is the remote control which although looking bland, is functional and laid out in an intuitive manner.
Switching the TV on, it doesn’t take too long for the automatic tuning to kick in and find all the local freeview channels that are available. This was checked on three occasions and worked flawlessly on every attempt. Moving to the menu system we are greeted with an old friend as the menus are almost identical to previous and current Toshiba sets. These are easy to follow and allow good control over the main aspects of the picture and other settings. Picture settings are quite comprehensive with the usual main controls (Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Hue, Colour) and some advanced controls such as a 3D colour management system (CMS) and colour temperature modes. Yes dear reader that is right, this budget TV has a fully working CMS system – Panasonic take note! Also encouraging is the inclusion of some colour temperature controls, although these are limited to one set of RGB levels instead of the usual high and low controls. (We can get full greyscale control within the service menu however).
This budget set does not have any fancy video processing controls on board, instead it relies on the companies Active Vision processing engine for low level noise reduction and image stability. There is no 100Hz or frame interpolation technology here and sadly the set doesn’t handle 24p material in a convincing manner either with slight judder visible.
So how does the 32CV505D measure up in picture terms?
Out of the box and Calibration
Moving through the TVs picture modes I settled on the cinema picture mode and warm colour temperature and set the main controls for contrast and brightness as well as setting the backlight level correctly. After this was done the measurements were taken.
As you can see the colour gamut (in all modes including movie) was slightly under the Rec.709 standard with red slightly under saturated and green towards blue. Obviously which this result we will not be able to put back what isn’t there but hopefully we can correct the rest of the gamut towards the standard. Greyscale was also disappointing with too much blue in the mix and this was clearly evident within the images on screen. The tracking is also not as uniform as we would like with all the points varying in intensity across the stimulus points. This should have been expected to be honest in such a budget model with such a restricted contrast range, but it’s still disappointing. So can we do anything to make the Toshiba look better?
The main thing was to try and get the greyscale to track correctly. The main menu colour balance controls are limited to just three RGB level controls and attempting to calibrate with these (at 50ire) was disappointing as the tracking was not uniform. Instead, I broke into the service menu system to access the cut and drive controls and after about an hour had to settle with our results above. So, after all our testing it is obvious that the Toshiba doesn’t have a very good greyscale track and the controls available were rather course in correction values. In the end we had DeltaE errors under 6, but there was no way to completely correct across the stimulus range especially 50-70ire and 90-100ire. The top end is sometimes attributable to a high contrast setting, but there is a lack of dynamic range with this set so that was not introducing any error. Instead we have a high blue level and this does show in the final images.
Moving over to the gamut we were able to have a little bit more success with trying to correct the points I had within range or the Rec.709 standard. In the end I couldn’t add in green and red points as they were not available in the restricted gamut of the Toshiba. However I did manage to get most points close to where they should be plotted and in terms of green and red, tried to get them to fall as close as we could, but they were never capable of being correct. In the end we can be happy with the results obtained here, but it would have been even better with a wider gamut and using the CMS to bring it back, than be under out of the box.
Picture quality SD and HD
The first thing that strikes you about the image of this screen out of the box is an obvious lack of dynamic range. Although claimed to be 30,000:1 I couldn’t help feel that the image produced was quite restricted in the absolute contrast levels and of course a very blue tinged image. After setting up in cinema mode and colour temperature warm the image did look pleasing to a certain extent with good skin tones and a surprisingly consistent black level. Obviously these blacks will never measure up to a decent plasma screen, but for a budget LCD they were very pleasing with some good shadow detail. However, even in the best out of the box settings there was a distinct blue haze to whites. This was disappointing given the other plus points seen within the image.
Moving to Calibrated mode and the image certainly improves over the best out of the box settings. Although the greyscale is not uniform and still over blue at various stimulus points, it did improve the overall tone of the image from black to white, with just a slight blueness still visible. Shadow detail and skin textures are improved with detail added back to where it belongs and the colour tones are certainly more natural looking thanks to the corrections we made to the CMS system. However it’s not all good news.
Even using some light noise reduction settings, the picture processing with some images is disappointing with macro blocking noise especially prevalent with images like the Masters Golf or Match of Day. At times, especially feeding SD images with their restricted bitrates, grass pitches or fairways were a mess of blocking noise which had me surprised to be honest. And this was in calibrated mode; switching back to other picture modes just enhanced the problem of this noise being visible. However, this issue was only visible with certain material and although it still appears in other channels, it is not as visible or distracting. It will also depend on your viewing distance to see how visible these issues will be.
Moving to HD material was more productive for the Toshiba with a nice sharpness to images and a good depth of field when required. Where the Toshiba ultimately lacks in picture terms is with fine gradation of colours. Because of the limited gamut, some finer sun sets lack smooth colour gradation with some tones and hues missing. Obviously this is a 768 resolution screen, but it handles 1080i material from Sky HD with no apparent issues. There is a slight judder on some material and even switching to Blu-ray at 24p this was still the case. I couldn’t get the Toshiba to handle a 24p signal fed to it and this was sadly an issue that looks to be inherent with this model from Toshiba.
When dealing with a budget TV set you have to accept that not every aspect is going to be perfect. Indeed, I do not feel I could recommend this set for any critical viewing of movie material on Blu-ray or HDTV due to it's processing issues. However as a workhorse in a bedroom or kitchen, (where the usual SD fare of say Sky News is to play in the background), then this is where the Toshiba will be best suited.
The image quality is average and video processing can be a let down with certain material. But for watching in the kitchen, bedroom or kids room it will manage fine without breaking the bank. Overall this is an average budget set that does what it needs to do in a competent manner. At present pricing and with a new range coming in, it will be seen as a bargain and indeed it has its place in the market. While we cannot out right recommend the Toshiba, it does most of what it says on the tin with a good black level performance for an LCD screen and a largely pleasing calibrated image.
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