What is the Toshiba 32RL958?
Design and Connections
The supplied remote control 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.
The Function doesn’t really need to exist being as it only contains a Sleep and On Timer and so could have been housed elsewhere. Next we come to the Media Player that allows the playback of files either via your network or connected USB storage. On to the Setup Menu which affords access to the Picture and Sound controls, along with the System Setup Menu and Preferences where you save your preferred settings. The Preference item has options for 3D, including a test pattern that didn't seem to serve much purpose.
The two further sub picture menus are the Advanced and Expert Picture Settings areas. Under 'Advanced' we have Toshiba's notoriously buggy CMS, labelled ColourMaster; Colour Temperature; Auto Brightness Sensor Settings; Active Backlight Control; Black/White Level; Noise Reduction, Resolution+ and ClearScan. 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.
There’s no film mode present in the Toshiba WL968 and it shows by virtue of the fact it was unable to pick out progressively shot material when sent in an interlaced signal. In this day and age, there will not be many of our readers that undertake such an archaic procedure – at the least we’d expect an ‘upscaling’ DVD player – but for those that prefer the old ways, it’s something to consider if they have a large DVD collection. Those hooking up a Blu-ray player to view a 1080p24 won’t be disappointed as the WL968 handles that medium pretty well without any additional judder or frame skipping although it’s not able to reproduce full chromatic detail, evidenced by the Spears and Munsil Chroma Multiburst pattern. Scaling of standard definition signals was good and even on a TV of this size, the better SD channels were quite pleasing. Video deinterlacing was not quite so impressive and on close examination we could spot a little break up of fine detail under movement, which ironically was all the worse when we turned on the motion interpolating ClearScan function, which was not to our liking at all.
Contrast and Black Level
The obvious place where the insertion of the IPS panel in to WL series was going to impact its performance was in its ability to lend a convincing dynamic range to images and so it proved, at least without any dimming manipulation brought to the party. Without Active Backlight Control being used, a full screen black pattern returned a measurement of 0.11 cd/m2; with it on, a dramatic improvement to 0.011 cd/m2 was made. One needs to balance that measurement with the loss of detail in some very dark scenes and the fact it throws the gamma response out, to quite some degree, but we felt it best to have Active Backlight set to Low both on picture quality and screen uniformity grounds. In actual fact, once brighter elements were introduced to that picture, courtesy of the ANSI Checkerboard test, average black levels diminished to 0.1 cd/m2, in any case, so real world improvement isn’t all that great. An ANSI contrast figure of 1051:1 is pretty typical by IPS standards and not going to satisfy black level junkies although the deployment of an effective filter means the WL968 holds its own in a ‘typical’ living room environment.
It’s an absolute necessity to switch in to Game mode for anyone with anything like reactions above the level of comatose; without using it, expect lag in the 150 millisecond range. The improvement to around 55ms in Game mode is certainly tangible but it is subject to a lot of crushing in the shadows which is obviously a major drawback in competitive shooters. There’s also some ghosting in high contrast scenes to contend with so the WL968 is probably not one for a dedicated gamer.
The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 88W
Calibrated – Hollywood Day Mode: 83W
3D Mode: 145W
Toshiba 32RL958 Picture Quality
Colour performance was reasonably convincing but put next to a display with better tracking through the saturation points, the tones of grasses, trees and skin tones didn’t appear quite right but that’s a relative thing and not something likely to bother most once it’s in situ. Motion handling was OK but on a screen of this size it’s not difficult to spot some ghosting and blur on rapidly moving objects. Switching on the motion processing, labelled ClearScan, does clean some of that up but it is extremely aggressive - even in its lowest setting - and the video-cam like soap opera effect was very noticeable and not at all to our tastes. Another issue we noted was with lip-sync through HDMI connected sources and although there is the ability to make an offset in the Sound Menu we could never get it quite right and once you notice, it's difficult to 'unnotice'. We clocked latency of the HDMI input as around 155 milliseconds in Hollywood Modes, which seems about right for the audio delay, so those with HDMI amps where a specific delay can be set may want to take note.
The Toshiba WL968 certainly doesn’t deliver the same level of performance as its predecessor in many areas, although general colour performance is improved, and that’s something of a pity but we understand that commercial decisions have to be made and that sometimes these are at the expense of quality. We’re not saying the WL968 is a disappointing TV but when you consider, at current pricing, it’s up against the likes of the Panasonic 55ST50 and Sony 55HX853, it’s an uphill battle.
Picture Quality 3D
- Nice design
- Decent colour reproduction
- MediaGuide is attractive
- Excellent greyscale following calibration
- Toshiba Places interface is quite striking
- Poor 3D performance
- Average black and contrast levels
- Not good for gamers
- Hobbled calibration controls
- Lip Sync problems via HDMI connected sources
- Issues with apps and WiDi
Toshiba 55WL968 TV Review
Feature wise, Toshiba has added Skype, WiFi Direct and a new browser to the smart porftfolio whilst bolstering the media player to make it a very capable one. Toshiba’s new Freetalk Conference videocam/mic works well in good light conditions but the browser is a chore to use without the smartphone/tablet app which we couldn’t get to work with our Android device. We’d had no such issues with other Toshiba kit recently so we’re puzzled as to why we couldn’t get it to work with the WL968. We experienced similar frustration with the WiDi feature.
Even in the absence of the gamma control we were able to extract excellent results from the WL968, owing to the first-rate 10 point white balance controls and as colour reproduction was very decent by default, we didn’t have to play Russian Roulette with the ColourMaster engine. Colour tracking at lower saturation points was quite inaccurate, for green and red in particular, and when compared to a more accurate display it was fairly easy to spot. Since most won’t have that luxury at home, it’s not a huge issue but we’ve seen TVs costing far less than the WL968 do better in this area. The same could be said for video gaming where crushed blacks, image ghosting and a relatively lethargic input latency of around 55ms doesn’t really lend itself to that pursuit.
The biggest loss from the outgoing WL series comes through the diminishment of black and contrast levels which has gone from the stellar to the mediocre in one fell swoop. Admittedly things can be improved by use of the dimming control but that’s at the expense of some of the shadow detail and tonal evenness in the pictures. Still, the creditable colour accuracy and effectiveness of the filter means it will fare well in the average living room but it’s not one for viewing in ‘critical’ conditions. The biggest let down with the WL968B is in its 3D performance, which has a lot of ghosting effects with movement. The algorithm is clearly not working and this needs to be addressed post haste by Toshiba, it is priced with a premium for the feature.
There was a time when 55-inch TVs were something of a rarity but the sector is fast filling up and Toshiba’s 55WL968B has a massive job on its hands to compete with the outgoing Panasonic ST50 and Sony HX853 that are currently priced around the same mark, not to mention all those new models announced at International CES 2013.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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