Toshiba XF355 (46XF355) Regza LCD TV Review

Having lived with Toshibaâ??s 46â?? HDTV longer than planned, Phil Hinton is surprisingly happy with itâ??s performance..

by Phil Hinton
TV Review

22

Recommended
Toshiba XF355 (46XF355) Regza LCD TV Review
SRP: £1,999.00

Introduction

Toshiba have certainly set out their full Regza HDTV ranges to appeal at many price points. The TV on test here was available at the £2000 level, which may seem initially expensive when compared to the ‘C’ and ‘X’ series, but this model has a few neat features that make up for the extra outlay. This particular model will be replaced this year and is available at cut prices; our review should give you an idea if it is worth going with the '07 model.

The first thing to hit you when unpacking this 46” TV, is the fact it actually takes up no more room than a standard 42”. The reason is it’s ‘picture frame’ design which does away with large side screen bezels. This means that the actual bezel is only 200mm wide on the top and sides, with the bottom at 600mm and containing the Onkyo designed stereo speakers. So looking head on towards the TV, the actual 1920 x 1080 LCD screen takes up almost all of the set. This makes the Toshiba compact and nothing but screen surface, allowing the TV to look smaller than a normal 46” screen. Indeed our 50” Pioneer Kuro looks massive in comparison with its wider bezel and pedestal, when added to the 50” screen surface. The downside to this design is a slightly wider back case that measures in at 6” from the front of the screen to the furthest point on the rear of the TV. So if you are planning on wall mounting, it would be at least 8 inches from the wall when in place. However I feel that the actual screen design with hardly any bezel makes up for the slightly fat rear end.

The Toshiba comes out of the box with an attached table top pedestal.

Connections


So when we get around the back, what kind of connections do we get? Well as you would expect we have three HDMI v1.3 inputs (number three is situated on the right side panel for easy access for your camcorder). There are also two scart inputs, one component, a DVB common interface and one RGB/PC input. On the right hand side panel there are additional s-video and composite connections. There can be no complaints with the number of inputs available here with almost everything you could possibly need in a living room set up.


So after connecting up our source components it’s time to switch the power on and let the TV set up the analogue, and digital channels. This initial set up takes no time at all to perform, and the EPG is easy to use, if a little basic in design. We will cover the actual performance later. Moving on to the menu screens gives access to most of the features you will ever need in proper set up and calibration. However the lack of RGB offsets and gains will require entry to the TV’s service menu for greyscale calibration, more on this later.


The menus are well laid out and identical in appearance to other Toshiba Regza sets. There are also some new features added which improve the set over the other series screens, such as more available colour temperature settings, which include a correctly named ‘user setting’. These new settings are named, ‘Dynamic’, ‘standard’, ‘cinema’ and ‘user’. As you can imagine dynamic is overly bright with a very blue/red look, standard is more laid back but with an obvious warm look and cinema is closer to being accurate with just a tad of red within the image. User is defaulted when you change any of the settings in any mode, so be warned, if you take the time to properly calibrate the TV (and we highly recommend you do), you really should write down the correct settings as they can be easily wiped out with a wrong selection on the remote. This has always been a problem with the Toshiba sets and we really wish they would give us some dedicated memory modes, to avoid losing our settings by one wrong press of the remote control. We see this as a serious problem with the set, especially if you have kids who are likely to mess around with the remote control. However there is a panel lock option in the functions sub menu which can be used to lock out any changes to any of the picture controls, along with other features.


The menus contain all the usual settings and come in six main areas of operation, picture settings, sound, set up, Regza link, timer and functions. Under each major menu name are a choice of input controls and further sub menus depending on what function you select.

For example to enter the 3D colour management menu you need to select picture, then switch the 3D colour option on, then select the base colour adjustment menu. However, although it may look overwhelming at first, the actual layout of the menu system is pretty easy to master in a matter of 10 or so minutes. Other features that can be accessed are the sound controls which allow set up of the SRS WOW settings, adjust the tone controls and balance and also select TV speakers or an AV Amp selection. The tiny stereo speakers under the front bezel are designed by Onkyo and offer up a reasonable sound quality, if you are not using the set with an AV sound set up. The final settings to select are the inputs and aspect ratios. This is done from the remote control and brings up small menus at the left side of the screen. Input selection allows DTV and all the aforementioned input connections, where the aspect controls allow various settings, including exact scan which allows 1:1 pixel mapping.

The remote control supplied with the set is identical to other Regza series TVs, with a clear layout of main controls, as well as easy access to advanced controls such as the main menu. Selecting between HDMI and the built in digital and analogue tuners is easily achieved using the large AV button, at the bottom of the number selections. Overall, a nicely laid out and solid remote. As a side note the Toshiba allows CEC control using HDMI so you can control your Blu-ray or Amplifier using the Toshiba remote when set up correctly, even if those sources are from other manufacturers.

So with the Toshiba set up and ready to go, out comes the measuring and testing equipment for a closer look at the out of the box, calibration and video processing performance of the XF355DB.

Test Results

We started out by checking what the XF355DB is like out of the box, with its various colour temperature settings, to see if any get close to being accurate in terms of picture performance. The Toshiba has 3 main selections, dynamic, standard and cinema. There are also cool, natural and warm colour temperature settings under the picture menu. The Toshiba has other features which will likely affect the picture performance, such as active backlight, black stretch and noise reduction settings. It is ideal to switch off all the picture controls which may affect different areas of performance, so we can then assess the standard picture quality. We can then look at making improvements through correct set up for our viewing environment, and material. We always advise the TV you buy is correctly calibrated to achieve the best possible performance, but as most have no idea how that is done without hiring a professional, we also check what settings give an acceptably improved picture out of the box.

As you can imagine the dynamic (or showroom) setting is far too bright in temperature, with an very overly blue image. We always advise you avoid this setting. Using such will do nothing but clip whites and blacks and show up every possible artefact within a picture.

This is normally the most common complaint about LCD screens, as users suddenly have an unwatchable and noisy image as soon as they switch their new TV on. Moving onto the standard setting improves the temperature slightly, now with a warmer orange and brown feel of tone to the image, but again it can still look overly noisy at times with artefacts seen. The best starting points with the XF355D is the cinema option with warm temperature and correct setting of the brightness (dark areas) and contrast (white areas). As a warning here, your contrast and brightness should never be set at 100%, as you will be over driving the components and adding clipping into your image. Set both at the half way point and invest in a copy of Digital Video Essentials which has the test patterns for setting these correctly. Correct settings will vary between day and night and without separate memory options, like the Toshiba, we would advise the standard setting for bright daylight (your correct brightness, contrast and sharpness settings will be added automatically to this setting, remember not to change anything in standard mode as it reset your user settings). For accurate viewing in the evening you then use your ‘user settings’ which you set up using DVE or a professional calibration. So with a simple calibration just using the main controls and in the cinema mode, how accurate is the Toshiba?

The first thing we would advise with an LCD set is to reduce the back light control to avoid washing out the image, or making the back light visible during viewing. The correct setting will be dependant on the viewing conditions of your room, but we would advise as low a setting as possible. We found that in a normal viewing room setting the backlight between 25 to 35 was ideal. Obviously if you have a very dark room you may find that is still on the bright side, but to achieve a respectable brightness we would advise against going below 20.

Looking at the colour gamut and temperature in cinema mode and the main controls, set for our review room, we achieved the following result.
As you can see out of the box, the colour gamut of the Toshiba is, like most other HDTV’s, oversaturated in the green end of the scale. But fear not the 46XF355D has a full colour management tool in the main menus; this is good news and should allow a more accurate calibration. However you never set the colour management until you have set the TVs greyscale, and this is where we meet our first problem. The Toshiba does not have any access to the cut and drive controls to correct the high and low RGB signals in its menus. To set the greyscale we have to enter the service menus. A word of caution here, unless you know what you are doing, and what the controls within the service area do, please leave it well alone and get a professional in. It can so easily end in disaster if you change any settings, without first making a note of the original setting and also knowing exactly what your remote keys do in this area. For this review we will test the TV with viewing material in the best out of the box settings, as well as entering the service menus and fully calibrate the TV to see just how good it could be.

After running a full calibration on the Toshiba, we achieved the following results which are very acceptable from a technical point of view. The greyscale took the most amount of time to set, it looks like the Tosh is struggling to track perfectly, however saying that the dip is less than 4 delta E. (This error will be unseen by most eyes as it is so small, your aim should really be 4 or under for delta E, so we are hitting the spot quite nicely.) Temperature is also pretty consistent, with less than a 3% deviation at any point, with gamma almost hitting the desired 2.2 curve.
Colour temperature before Colour temperature after
RGB levels before RGB levels after
Gamma curve before Gamma curve after
Overall the Toshiba calibrates very well, it’s just a pity that the cut and drive control are in the service menu, and not like many sets, in the main menu system. That said if you know what you are doing, or hiring someone qualified, then it should be a pretty straight forward task to get the greyscale right. In terms of calibrated contrast we measured 6429:1 on/off with a very good black level, and the overall screen uniformity was also very good with no signs of fading in the corners or extremes of the image.

Picture performance

Moving on to how the set performs, I first tested it over a few weeks of viewing in the best out of the box configuration. This was in cinema mode, natural temperature, and the main controls set for my viewing environment. The only problems I encountered with this set up, was when the room was filled with bright sunlight. In these circumstances it would have been ideal to have had a day time setting. As it was I just set the TV into standard setting, which brightened up the screen to cope, but maintained integrity of the image. It was however in this setting that artefacts do start to become apparent, with poorly transmitted TV signals. In the evening settings the image was strong, with only the very worst of TV transmission quality showing up problems, and that was clearly not the Toshiba's fault.

The built in DVB tuner performs well with a very good image for the majority of material. Colours are kept in check and never look overblown, and the black levels on the Toshiba are very good for an LCD screen. It was the good black level coupled with strong, yet accurate looking colours, that impressed me with the DVB material. There were signs of digital artefacts with some material, and I guess this is a problem we will always see on any TV, even the best. ITV are the main culprits when it comes to poor transmission quality, and watching the Euro 2008 games in SD just confirmed that for me. But for the majority of viewing the Toshiba performed better than it should have with freeview pictures, and if you can overlook the odd artefact problem with poor transmissions, you will be pleasantly surprised at the image quality. I should obviously point out that all the picture processing built into the set was switched of, apart from NR which I had on low for TV viewing.

With HD material from SKY HD the 46XF355D performed to its best capabilities, with an image that looked sharp and acceptably natural for out of the box settings. The exact scan setting allows 1:1 pixel mapping and slightly increases the image. I also noticed that when exact scan was switched off with HD content, there was a slight 5% overscan applied to the image. This wasn’t an obvious flaw and I only noticed the set was doing it when displaying test patterns. One thing that is annoying, is the fact you have to reset the exact scan mode, each time time you change to another resolution such as SD TV, then back to HDTV signals. BBC HD football coverage looked sublime with no problems of image blur or banding. The fast pans within action shots did lose some of the fine detail, but never broke up into a digital mess like some competing screens do. Testing with the FPD Benchmark disc gave a moving fine detail reading of around 300 lines, which for an LCD is really rather good. This set does not have 100hz processing like some of the new sets out there, but it's overall video processing was very good indeed, with very few artefacts seen in real world pictures, and almost all the HQV tests passed with flying colours. By adding Blu-ray to the mix just confirmed that the image quality provided by the Toshiba, when set up in the optimum settings, is very good indeed. Blacks are strong, colours rich and free from bleed, with fine detail popping off the screen. The set does lack that overall breathtaking three dimensional look that HD is capable of, but I have only ever experienced that kind of performance on plasma and projectors, offering far higher contrast and deeper blacks than the Toshiba. In terms of LCD performance, the Toshiba is a fine set that when set up correctly can look very good indeed.

A word of warning about the downsides to the Toshiba, out of the box. Leaving the picture processing switched on full causes some obvious problems, with ticker tape logos on news channels and picture break up can be seen on fast moving action. Use the factory settings on the set and it looks a complete mess, with whites clipping and the black level looking like a solid block of gray. The backlight can be seen as a clear banding of light structures, and artefacts dance around the screen with glee. The image also has a very blue over wash in this setting, and to be honest, if this is the settings used in a showroom, you will probably walk straight past this TV. However you can rest assured that when set up correctly out of the box, and I’m not talking about a full calibration, just getting the main controls right for your room, the picture is far far better in quality. Switch off all the gubbings, like back light control and black stretch, and use a copy of DVE, and you should achieve a very acceptable image that looks very watchable and natural.

Dynamic Mode left vs Calibrated picture right
These images are just for illustration and should not be used to base any purchase decisions on.

In full calibrated mode the Toshiba moves up a gear in overall picture performance, with blacks looking nice and deep and a good degree of shadow detail seen. They are not inky black like a kuro plasma, but for an LCD they are a strong point that never looks gray, they just occasionally lack any real depth. Colours further improve when set with a meter and software, and after a good tracking greyscale is dialled in. Skin tones really benefit and reds look strong without noise or bleed. HD is where you will notice the biggest difference with calibration on the Toshiba, images no longer look flat; but take on a wider sense of depth. The one thing this HDTV does well is bring fine detail to the image, looking very sharp unless the image moves quickly, but even then its not a mess of artefacts like some screens out there. The response time works well the majority of the time. 24p playback is also accepted and displayed correctly but there is still a degree of telecine judder on some material. However I’m not convinced that this is entirely down to the set; rather pans which were filmed that way and hence look wrong anyway, (this was checked on my kuro and projector and it was the same). Even with gaming on the PS3, the Toshiba holds up well and displays things in a clear and concise manner, with little in the way of shimmer or detail decay, and edges appear as they should from the source material.

Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Good value for screen size
  • Full CMS controls for calibration
  • Blacks are very good for an LCD set
  • Good Video Processing for SD and HD signals
  • Nice design
  • Handles 24fps material with ease

The Bad

  • White balance Greyscale controls in service menu only
  • No memory options for saving multiple picture presets
  • Not the slimmest TV on the market

Toshiba XF355 (46XF355) Regza LCD TV Review

In rounding up my thoughts on the Toshiba 46XF355D, I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised with its performance levels, once correctly set up out of the box, and then calibrated. Indeed it has been my main TV for about 4 months now, and I cannot say that I have been desperate to get rid of it in favour of the kuro. That’s not to say it gets anywhere near that kind of picture performance, but rather it does everything rather well for an LCD set, and has a picture that is easy to live with in a livingroom setting. Black level impressed me, and once calibrated the image can look very natural and detailed. It just lacks that overall degree of depth that the very best offer, it can look rather flat with some material; only HD material can give a sense of what could be achieved.
The Toshiba picture frame design does look very stylish, and the lack of screen bezel adds to an immersive picture experience. Colours look natural and fairly accurate out of the box, with a calibrated performance that really brings out the best of this TV. Given the falling prices of this model, you could do far worse than at least demo this screen. The 46XF355D offers a performance level that is certainly keeping up the pace for LCD TVs, and offers better than expected black levels and a nice natural looking image, when set up correctly. I can only recommend that if you are after a bargain that will perform well at the price point, you could do far worse than the Toshiba.

Recommended

Scores

Sound Quality

.
.
.
.
.
5

Smart Features

.
.
.
.
.
5

Ease Of Use

.
.
.
.
6

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Value for Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
.
7

Picture Quality

.
.
.
7

Video Processing

.
.
.
7

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
.
.
6

Colour Accuracy

.
.
.
.
6

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
.
7

Screen Uniformity

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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