The WL863 doesn’t stop at innovative backlighting solutions either; there’s auto-calibration, face recognition technology and USB HDD recording too, not to mention it’s our first look at Toshiba’s attempts in implementing an active shutter 3D system so there’s going to be an awful lot to look at. Can the WL863 earn its place at the top table of 2011 televisions? Let’s dive in and take a look.
Design & Connections
Moving to the back of the WL863 and we have all the connections and inputs we’d expect from a flagship product. The connection plate is well recessed from the edge of the bezel with the three side-facing HDMI ports 20cm in, the good news doesn’t stop there as there’s also a downward facing HDMI port that's ARC compliant so the natural choice for an AV receiver, especially for those looking to wall mount. Accompanying the side facing HDMI’s we have a connection for component video, with matching audio, via a supplied break-out adapter; a CAM slot; digital audio out; a headphone jack and two USB ports – one of which can be used for hard disc recording duties. The downward facing inputs are completed by a VGA PC in (with audio); a Scart (again via an adaptor) terminal; a LAN port and antennae sockets for both satellite and digital terrestrial (Freeview HD) broadcasts. In our book, that’s pretty much all bases covered!
Not supplied in the box (and we’re still non the wiser where consumers would get their hands on them) is the TPA-1 Picture Analyzer that’s required for the auto-calibration feature. The tool itself is manufactured by X-Rite and is likely based on either their Tri-Stim Display 2 or 3 meter. It's actually very neatly put together with an ambient diffuser protecting the lens when not in use. The diffuser arm can then be swung around and clipped in to a locked position allowing the TPA-1 to be placed on the screen and the USB connector placed in the back of the TV, with a counterweight to keep it in place. We’ll go in to the nuts and bolts of the process later in the review.
The Picture menu houses some interesting options being as the WL863 is enabled to use the Toshiba Auto Calibration tool, more on which later. Besides the auto calibration options and standard Backlight, Contrast, Sharpness and Brightness sliders we have various picture modes with Hollywood Day and Night mimicking isf or THX day/night modes. There are two further sub picture menus in the Advanced and Expert Picture Settings areas. Under 'Advanced' we have Toshiba's notoriously buggy CMS, labelled ColourMaster; Colour Temperature; Auto Brightness Sensor Settings; LED Backlight Control; Black/White Level; Static Gamma; Noise Reduction, Resolution+ and Active Vision M800. 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. From here we can also calibrate the greyscale using the 2 or 10 point White Balance controls as well as use the calibration tool in conjunction with the Colour and Gamma Calibration items. We'll deal with this, in detail, later on. Finally we have a Control Visualisation option that produces graphs showing representations of APL and gamma response, it's a nice if fairly superficial touch.
It’s always nice to see built in Wi-Fi functionality and the WL863 doesn’t disappoint; equally being able to hook up an external hard drive for some PVR lite duties is also a nice feature to have. What’s more, owners will be able to record in HD thanks to the inclusion of both HD capable aerial and satellite tuners. You will have gathered by now that the WL863 is a 3D capable set, producing, hopefully, Full HD 3D images and with promises it will have ultra-fast screen response, and thus a low amount of crosstalk, thanks to the power of CEVO – the processor evolved from the CELL found in Sony’s PS3. Cevo will also power the 2D>3D conversion function as well as the motion interpolating Active Vision M800 200Hz frame interpolation, both of which we’ll look at later on.
Taking centre stage, as far as Smart TV functionalities are concerned, is Toshiba Places which is a web based portal providing access to video portals such as iPlayer, Box Office 365 and The Cartoon Network. There are also a few news services and social networking/sharing in the Twitter and Picassa apps. Perhaps the star of Places is Woomi TV that's a cloud based video portal offering a wide range of content, not much of which is UK specific but it does show promise provided they can gain enough interest to expand what's on offer.
The WL863 is fully certified for DLNA playback of media files and had no problem in picking up the media servers on our PC and made a reasonable job of most of what was thrown at it. As usual, it's not going to replace a dedicated unit for these duties but it fared better than most in what it would show. There's also support for files from USB that showed similar file support. As well as the ability to stream to the 863, the TV can also act as a media renderer to devices connected to your network, although we could never get it to play ball with anything we had to hand here.
Steve had some troubles with the face recognition technology built in to the UL863 and, unfortunately, my experiences were equally as frustrating. The use of the feature is to store personalised settings and preferences. First of all, no matter what lighting conditions the room was subject to, the WL863 steadfastly refused to capture my fizzog. Now I don’t claim to be any George Clooney but to be snubbed by a TV is a bit much. In an effort to get it to work, I subjected the long suffering Mrs H to the ordeal and I was more than a little miffed that it captured her first time! We soon turned the feature off, however, as it became very annoying, very quickly. As with Steve’s findings, every time anybody moved from in front of the TV, and returned, WL863 asked if you wanted to select a saved setting and became confused by multiple viewers. To put in to context, as well as poor Mrs H, there’s two lively under 5’s resident that aren’t too inclined to stay still so the TV was asking every minute or so or, if we were keeping still, it would say that it hadn’t detected movement for a while and would go in to power saving mode. As it stands, the feature is definitely something of a gimmick and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Finally we have the auto-calibration feature that misfired with our previous attempts but it’s a positive move by Toshiba and one that we applaud the principle of. More on the auto-calibration coming right up...
So, with some trepidation, we set about taking initial measurements. It was easy enough to identify that the Hollywood picture modes were offering greatest accuracy to standards by eye and, in fact, required no alteration of the Contrast and Brightness controls to best suit or environment. There are three Hollywood picture modes – Day/Night/Pro – with the Day/Night modes allowing for manual calibration and the Pro designed to work with the auto-calibration process. As it turned out, the Night and Pro presets matched identically with their only difference to the Day setting being their lower backlight settings. Below are the pre-calibrated Day/Pro greyscale and gamma results for reference:
Toshiba place three options for colour gamut reproduction in the menus, with choices of Rec 601, Rec.709 and Auto. Having checked all three, we found the Rec.709 option closest to, wait for it, Rec. 709 (you’ve got to check!) but we’ve seen much better results from many other TVs than these…
Our main concern, most certainly, is the under-saturation of Red and it’s a long way off, which was the case with all the options so likely a limitation of the panel. The questions are, how much of a problem is it with real world images and what can we do about it with the available controls? The answer to the former is, it’s noticeable with objects of solid red – particularly with things like football kits or the GUI’s for the Virgin TiVo box - for which we have a good visual imprint; the answer to the latter is probably not too much without sending Green off the scale, and that would be a bigger problem given the way our eyes perceive the spectrum. Our only, and frankly bleak, hope is that the auto-calibration can somehow work a little miracle. So let’s see what it can do…
With the first stage out of the way, it was on to tackle the auto colour calibration options. First we tried with the TPA-1 and were met with these results:
Having learned from past experiences, we bypassed the 2 point White Balance controls in favour of the very accurate 10 point option and we were quickly able to achieve the following, rather excellent, results:
Whilst on paper we’ve been able to make quite significant improvements, all round, with the under-saturation of red still the only real concern, it didn’t take long to see things weren’t how they should be. Observe the two photographs below where ColourMaster is off on the left and engaged on the right. The first obvious difference is in the skies behind Brian Cox where the ColourMaster system is making a total mess, with artefacting all over. Next take a look at Cox’s face… you get the picture.
Toshiba need to take a good look at both their manual and auto-calibration options for colour management as they’re almost equally flawed and, whilst they’re at it, they can sort the red saturation issues too!
As with the other Toshiba’s we’ve seen this year, the WL863 lacks any kind of film mode and, as a result, is unable to pick up on even the most common film cadences, failing every single test thrown at it. Whilst it’s not ideal, it’s only those that don’t have an upscaling DVD player, or watch a lot of films from broadcast TV, that are going to suffer as a consequence. Scaling of standard definition signals was actually handled very well, with no loss of detail and very little ringing and that was with or without Resolution+ enabled in the user menus. Deinterlacing of standard definition was also handled competently with the WL863 able to handle motion whilst retaining most of the fine details – source permitting, of course.
Likewise, deinterlacing of 1080i HD signals was conducted without much fuss or jaggedness and the WL863 was able to resolve a mixture of video based text over film content, either scrolling horizontally or vertically, without shredding the text. Directional filtering showed a very reasonable degree of accuracy, also, with flag waving tests showing no undue break-up. Provided overscan is disabled, the 863 is capable of displaying full video and film resolution and with our Blu-ray player set to 4:2:2, displayed both the luma and chroma signals cleanly and fully. Note: it really didn’t like 4:4:4 or RGB. The 55WL863 showed an excellent dynamic range and had no troubles displaying the full 0-255 signal without any clipping; although we would only be calibrating from 17 (video black) up, it’s potentially handy for owners that will be hooking up a PC via DVI/HDMI.
It would be a pretty poor state of affairs if a Flagship television wasn’t able to faithfully reproduce 1080p24 material, and so it was the case with the WL863 displaying no judder, beyond what the source dictates. Whilst we certainly wouldn’t advocate the use of Toshiba’s motion interpolating Active Vision M800 200Hz scanning system with your Blu-ray discs, used in its standard configuration, fast paced video action can be aided by its implementation with only a minimal amount of artefacting and no perceptible soap effect. It seems like CEVO has worked a little magic here, when compared to the non-CEVO equipped Toshiba’s we’ve seen, so far, but that’s not to say we’d recommend blanket usage and it’s something of a matter of personal taste that we’d advise owners to experiment with.
Barring the absence of film cadence detection, the WL863 certainly showed some excellent video processing abilities and it’s really only in that area we’d ask Toshiba to be looking in to making serious improvement.
Other than the 3D, gaming was a pleasure on the WL863 with response times acceptable to us at around 30 milliseconds lag, equating to just less than a frame for the average console game. Competitive PC gamers might be better looking elsewhere but we’re not of that breed and we never found ourselves lamenting the absence of the resident plasma and nor did our performance suffer.
Considering we’d disabled all energy saving functions and that we’re dealing with a fairly substantially sized panel, the Toshiba 55WL863B provided good numbers here and only consumed an averaged 91w, calibrated, and 109w in 3D mode.
Picture Quality – 2D
Another unwanted side-effect often witnessed with LED illuminated TVs is with uneven panel uniformity and the WL863 is amongst the better performers we’ve seen in this facet of testing. That’s not to say it provided blemish free backlighting and things were noticeably worse out of the sweet spot, plumb in front, with pooling particularly noticeable in the top corners with 2:35:1/2:40:1 etc material. Something else that is often brought up on the forums, with this technology, is the phenomena of banding although the term is confusing as, in these instances, it refers to panel banding rather than posterisation down to poor gradation in colours. Whist the 863 did show some panel banding, it was unusual in being only really visible in very dark content rather than in panning on football pitches etc, where it is often cited. We have to say it’s not something that troubled us greatly and only showed up on a couple of occasions in a couple of weeks viewing.
The very decent scaling of SD signals certainly made lesser resolution content watchable, even on a panel of this size, but if you’re looking at a TV of these proportions we’d expect you’ll be mainly concerned with how it looks in HD and the answer is, splendid with the deep blacks and rich contrast giving real punch to images. Unlike the IPS based panels lower down the Toshiba food chain, the WL863 employs a glass screen and this does result in a high degree of reflectivity, so we wouldn’t advise placing it opposite a window if daytime viewing is a concern. That said, the Toshiba is fitted with an effective filter that means contrast isn't easily washed away by ambient light.
Fans of sport or action movies are fairly well catered for by the WL863 provided the Active Vision system is employed on its Standard setting but without, the traditional frailties of LCD are exposed with visible blur and some ghosting on high contrast images. We’ve certainly seen worse, however, and the biggest compliment we can pay the interpolation is that we didn’t noticed we’d left in engaged after watching some of the Rugby World Cup until the following day when watching a movie!
In terms of step-up in image quality, compared to both the UL863 and VL863, the WL863 certainly provides one, largely thanks to the much improved contrast and backlighting.
Picture Quality - 3D
We certainly enjoyed going through (yet again) our reference 3D Blu-ray of Avatar with an immense sense of depth generated by the WL863 and objects of negative parallax positively popped in to our pupils; whilst this is no doubt aided by watching a 55 inch at around 7 feet, the WL863 is undoubtedly a star performer in this regard. The greatest benefit of the claimed ultra-fast panel response should have been in the minimisation of crosstalk and we did find Blu-ray 3D images largely free of this unwanted artefact although there was some evident now and again. Our 3D test pattern (kindly supplied by Cold Fever of Hi-Fi Forum.de) revealed the Toshiba was producing full resolution 3D images, very cleanly, unlike the Sony NX723 we recently saw. The image to the right is a 2D .jpg representation of the test card (we couldn’t get a good photo due to the refresh rate of the screen) but is representative of what we were seeing in 3D with all fine lines reproduced correctly. One thing we would advise owners to avoid is activating the 3D motion judder setting in the Advanced Picture Settings as it lends a video camera look to pictures, and we’re sure that’s not what the likes of James Cameron had in mind whilst shooting!
So that’s a tick in the box for sequential, frame packed material but, much to our surprise, side by side content didn’t fare nearly as well. We were very disappointed to immediately note a major increase in crosstalk with side by side content with our test footage from last summer's Wimbledon and, also, although objects in positive parallax had reasonable depth, foreground images had nowhere near the pop their sequential counterparts exhibited. It’s a real pity that, in its current state, the WL863 really doesn’t do broadcast 3D any favours when its sequential performance is so good. Hopefully it’s something that Toshiba can address in firmware and it’s certainly something we’ll be feeding back to them.
- Excellent blacks and contrast
- Excellent out of the box greyscale accuracy
- Reference calibrated greyscale and gamma
- Decent video processing
- 3D Blu-rays looked generally stunning
- Very good stab at 'local dimming'
- Tasteful design
- 3D glasses are well designed
- Auto-calibration of greyscale
- Motion interpolation of actual benefit to some video content
- Daft designer remote control
- Side by side 3D is sub-par
- Smart TV functions feel disconnected and are sparse
- Red is badly under-saturated
- Auto-calibration of colour
Toshiba Regza WL863 (55WL863) 3D LED LCD Television Review
We were impressed with the elegant design of the Toshiba 55WL863; despite the fact it’s quite plain, the ultra-slim brushed charcoal bezel exudes the kind of understated charm we often associate with Sony’s efforts, although quite what Jacob Jensen – the designer with whom Toshiba collaborated – was thinking with the remote control, we’re not sure. It’s most certainly a case of form over function and is perhaps or least favourite this year; it’s unwieldy, uncomfortable to hold and the buttons are too small but at least it’s reasonably well laid out. Connectivity is good and we have all the inputs we’ve come to expect in a flagship TV.
The Toshiba GUI, whilst generally attractive and responsive, does give the feeling of being rather disconnected – especially in terms of the Smart TV functions and apps. We would have cut at least two of the sub-menu items - probably three - and it’s an area we think Toshiba should look at, if they want owners to buy in to the idea of the TV as the complete entertainment hub. In terms of the Smart TV functions, themselves, it’s a fairly basic suite, for now, but the likes of YouTube and BBC iPlayer are present and we’re certain there will be plenty more, going forwards.
As far as the auto-calibration feature is concerned, we were hoping it would be third time lucky - for the AVForums review team - and we were partially blessed by the calibration gods. With greyscale and gamma already tracking very well, out of the box, the combination of the TPA-1 Colour Analyzer and internal software didn’t have too much work to do but, credit where it’s due, it did manage to make improvements over the baseline state. Unfortunately the colour calibration didn’t go quite so swimmingly. Out of the box reproduction was already distinctly average and what changes the auto-cal brought about weren’t all for the positive with real world material. We’re not sure how the software is supposed to function correctly when it doesn’t take a measurement of white, as reference. The semi auto-calibration, using our meter, didn’t really fare any better, probably as a result of the issues raised above.
Despite the acceptable results of the auto-calibrated greyscale and gamma, we were convinced we could get at least gamma tracking better using the manual controls; and so it proved with a flat-line greyscale and gamma response. Unfortunately our efforts with Toshiba’s colour management system were (predictably) in vain and although we’d made our graphs look prettier, the resultant images were most definitely not! The ColourMaster system caused extremely noticeable artefacting and we were left with basically what we were dealt at default levels.
The WL863 seemed to share the same 2D video processing strengths and weaknesses of the VL863, reviewed earlier, with very decent scaling and deinterlacing performance, almost non-existent film cadence detection (it did correctly display 24p) and excellent dynamic range. We even found that Toshiba’s frame interpolation system to be helpful with most video based content but it was disengaged for movie watching.
The (very decent) processing and reference greyscale and gamma blended with excellent contrast performance and deep blacks to produce two dimensional images that were very pleasing in both high and standard definition – despite the size of the panel and under-saturated reds. Unusually for an edge-lit set, we were able to engage the backlight dimming to its maximum setting, to increase contrast, without increasing haloing – it’s still there, to some extent, but that’s a limit of the technology and Toshiba’s implementation is as good in this regard as any. Uniformity was above average although there was the almost inevitable pooling from the corners that occasionally intruded on our films. Panel banding, another issue with LED, was also seen infrequently and, unusually, was mostly seen on dark content.
CEVO seemed to have mainly done the trick when we fired up our 3D Blu-rays too, with little crosstalk and, at times, staggering depth to images. The glasses are well designed to keep stray light and reflections at bay but we would have preferred a little more room around the nose (do I have to mention, again, that I have quite a big conk?). Whilst sequential 3D was a very engaging experience, we unfortunately can’t say the same about the side by side variety; with it plagued with crosstalk. It’s something we’ll be feeding back to Toshiba as it mars both the 3D broadcast and gaming experience, somewhat.
Other than the 3D, gaming was a pleasure on the WL863 with response times acceptable to us at around 30 milliseconds lag, equating to just less than a frame for the average console game. Competitive PC gamers might be better looking elsewhere but we’re not of that breed. Energy consumption figures were very commendable for a panel of these proportions, measuring an averaged 91w, calibrated, and 109w in 3D mode.
We think with it’s contrast rich and natural looking images the WL863 does enough to gain a coveted AVForums Recommendation. There are some shortcomings, particularly with the side by side 3D and the under-saturation of red, but we believe the former could be addressed by firmware and the latter to be not noticeable to the majority of users. When you look at what else is out there - at this price and with this feature set and performance – you’d be silly not to put the Toshiba WL863 on your go-see list.
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
Our Review Ethos
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