The 46XV635DB is an LCD TV from higher up in Toshiba's REGZA range. At this level, the user gets access to 100hz frame interpolation (the LCD world's attempt at improving motion resolution), full 1920x1080p resolution, and Toshiba's "Meta Brain" AV processing chip. Toshiba's more affordable LCDs haven't really thrilled me in the past, but there's often a lot to like about the company's less cost-conscious displays. Let's see how this one does!
Toshiba's latest products always strike me as looking somewhat cheap because of their reliance on shiny gloss black. The front bezel and tabletop stand (which the TV is supplied already fitted to) are styled in this trendy finish, and a blue-tinted "TOSHIBA" logo lights up during use. You can turn this off in the menus if it irritates you, which leaves you with a silver logo instead. The speaker grille is covered in stippled, mesh-like plastic, and is separated from the rest of the front of the unit by a silver fade effect.
The back of the 46XV635 includes 3 HDMI outputs, 2 SCART terminals, Component video and stereo audio inputs, analogue audio outputs, and a subwoofer output. On the side, there's an SD card slot, a DVB CI card slot, a USB port, a fourth HDMI input, an S-Video input, as well as Composite video and Stereo audio jacks, which sit above a headphone output.
Menus and Set up
Toshiba's current menus use a simple, easily readable black and green design. Most of the controls of interest are in the first "PICTURE" menu. The top-level adjustment is Picture Mode, which defaults to "AutoView". I switched over to "Movie" for higher quality video without visible fluctuation.
Control is given over the intensity of the Backlight, and there are the usual controls for Brightness, Contrast, Colour, Tint, and Sharpness. The more cryptic controls are in the "Advanced Picture Settings" menu, where we can enable or disable "3D Colour Management", which unlocks the "Base Colour Adjustment" control (which houses the CMS controls). Underneath this, we have Greyscale controls in the form of "Colour Temperature", Auto Brightness and Active Backlight features (leave both off to avoid light output fluctuation), as well as a mysterious "Black/White Level" control, and a "Static Gamma" control.
Next, we have two "Noise Reduction" options, the first of which is an MPEG artefact reduction control, which works by simply cutting off higher frequencies in the image and thus blurs the picture. These sort of controls are never terribly effective anyway, given that overcompressed video is typically beyond effective (economical) repair. This control can smudge the edges of the visible compression blocks, but this is only a small part of the battle in trying to repair hideously compressed video. Following this, we have a "DNR" option, which is a simple temporal averaging feature, useful for smoothing out sources which contain analogue noise.
Then, there's the "Resolution+" control. You can turn this on to enhance outlines in the image, and choose from 5 levels of strength. I left it off, because with SD TV sources, it only amplified mosquito noise, and higher quality sources didn't need it anyway.
"Active Vision M100" is Toshiba's 100hz frame interpolation system, and we can turn it on or off here. Unlike many competing implementations, this one didn't make film content look laughably soap-opera like, although it did still interfere with motion and did produce processing artefacts, so off it went.
"Film Stabilization" can be set to Off, Standard, or Smooth. "Off" tells the TV's deinterlacing circuitry to not attempt film cadence detection. "Standard" is the best option, which performs cadence detection and activates film mode deinterlacing for film content. "Smooth" is the same as Standard, only it applies motion interpolation, so movies will be given video-like movement.
Lastly, we have an "Expert Mode" screen. This screen houses controls which allow you to turn off the Red, Green or Blue components in the image, so in other words, you can turn off Red and Green for a Blue-Only display. Right below this are controls for Colour and Tint. This is very useful, because it means that people who aren't going to get a full calibration of the display done can at least set these controls by using an appropriate test pattern (no measuring device and software are required).
There are a few more video-related features packed away in the "PREFERENCES" screen: make sure "4:3 Stretch" is disabled so that older 4:3 material is shown without distortion, and turn off "Blue Screen" to avoid seeing said blue screen inbetween input switching, if you prefer.
Toshiba's display comes with SD Card and USB ports, from which Photos, Music and Movies can be played. It also features Dolby Volume, which ensures audio output levels are consistent across programmes and channels (the most obvious application for this is making sure TV commercials are output at a volume consistent with the rest of the programme).
Measured Results Out of the Box
The 46XV365 was a fairly good-looking display prior to full calibration. Only setting Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness and, thanks to the "Expert Mode", Colour and Tint, resulted in an image that's better than several other LCDs on the market. Like most manufacturers, Toshiba don't publicise where the LCD panel module in this display was struck from, but from its performance, it looks very much like one of Samsung's SPVA type. In a nutshell, this typically means excellent contrast (by LCD standards), as well as acceptable motion resolution and off-axis viewing.
I ran a sweep of measurements on the 46XV365 to get an idea of what it was doing to input video signals, and discovered some somewhat uneven Greyscale tracking. "Greyscale tracking" refers to the TV's ability to consistently produce equally-coloured grey (or white) all the way up from the blackest blacks to the whitest whites. The middle intensities (30-70 IRE) were somewhat consistent, but there was visible on-screen deviation at the lowest and highest ends, with 10 IRE looking visibly biased towards blue.
It turns out that the culprit here was the Gamma manipulation that the 46XV365 was performing on incoming video signals. The Gamma curve was being bent into an S-shape; in plain English, this means that the TV was losing details in bright and dark areas. Manufacturers often configure displays to perform tricks like this in order to make the on-screen picture look more superficially punchy, but in reality, it degrades detail.
Colour was good for an out-of-the-box result, but not exceptional. Luminance levels for all of the colours were too high, and Saturation and Hue were never entirely correct, either. Fortunately, the deviations are not excessive, like the Wide Gamut LCDs that were fashionable in the mid-2000s.
Toshiba's user menus feature Greyscale, Gamma, and 3D Colour Management controls, so we should be able to improve the 46XV365's image quality via calibration.
To improve the 46XV365's image quality, I first started by trying to remove the display's twisted Gamma curve. It turns out that the "Black/White Level" control in the advanced picture menu controls the severity of this S-shaped curve, and turning it to 0 removed this unwanted quirk. Still focusing on Gamma, through a lengthy process of Trial and Error, I found that "Static Gamma: -3" produced Gamma characteristics most in-line with our desired target of 2.2.
With this correctly set, I then cleaned up Greyscale reproduction by using the "Colour Temperature" menu. It's quite strangely implemented; the user first picks a "Colour Temperature" from 0-10 (the lower numbers are lower in temperature and thus look redder, the higher ones are blue-tinted). Measurements revealed that "3" was the best starting point, from where I could use the individual Low and High end controls to produce a wonderfully accurate, consistent result. After calibration, all Delta Errors were either lower than 1 or just barely over, which simply means that the average human eye would not even be able to detect the difference between this and a TV with 100% perfect Greyscale, even if both were placed side-by-side in the same room. Of course, this is an LCD display, so these results do degrade when the display is viewed from the sides.
After perfecting Greyscale, Gamma, too, slid further into place, with very, very consistent tracking. The end result is magnificent – just take a look at how imperfect Greyscale and Gamma were prior to calibration, and compare the finished result!
Colour was a little trickier. Irritatingly, Toshiba's 3D Colour Management System was not entirely useful, as perfecting colour reproduction using all three controls (Hue, Saturation and Brightness) produced results that, while respectable with test patterns, caused bizarre background noise with actual content. As a result, I had to recalibrate and attempted to avoid using the third "Brightness" colour control whenever possible, to avoid this problem. Truth be told, the results were really not appreciably worse than before, and in the end I was left with very good colour reproduction. Red and Yellow were slightly undersaturated, and Green was off-hue, but the post-calibration colour reproduction was accurate enough to keep me happy. I would have to have a nearby reference-grade display (or have actually produced the content I was watching) to pick fault with it.
Toshiba's marketing department has touted their REGZA line of displays' apparently unique "HD Upconversion" feature, which is somewhat misleading for the average buyer, who is probably unaware that all fixed-pixel TV displays (LCDs and Plasmas) are equipped with a scaling feature! Since such a big deal has been made of "HD Upconversion", though, the 46XV365 had better do a good job of it!
First of all, I tested the TV's Film Mode detection capabilities. With "Film Stabilization" set to "Normal", the TV sadly failed to pass the 2-2 cadence test on the PAL HQV test disc, showing jagginess at all times. However, with real-world material, the display would do a better job, sometimes detecting the 2-2 cadence and compensating for it. However, both the real world and test results indicate that this area of the TV's performance was not ideal. With the equivalent US/Japanese standard tests on the NTSC version of the HQV test disc, none of the cadences passed except for the common 3-2, which at least covers the most important base.
Next, I ran the Diagonal Interpolation tests, which allows us to assess how well the TV will disguise jagged, flickering lines in pure video material, such as sports events or other video camera content. Here, the TV did a somewhat decent job, with jaggies – albeit soft ones - being visible at all times.
Lastly, I checked out how well the TV was scaling the SD images up to 1920x1080 resolution. The SMPTE RP-133 test chart revealed that although the image was still somewhat crisp, there was a moderate amount of low-contrast ringing around sharp edges, almost as if the white characters on the grey chart had had a dark-grey shadow effect applied. Just to make sure that this wasn't the result of any intentional Sharpening post-processing, I tried decreasing the Sharpness control, but this only softened the ringy picture rather than curing the root of the problem. Meanwhile, the "Resolution+" control made the problem worse, and in real-world footage, only made things look less natural and exacerbated compression artefacts.
The 46XV635's image quality, even after only a basic calibration, was noticeably better than many of the cheaper CCFL-backlit LCD displays out there right now. This is because the TV's black level and overall contrast performance are superior to several competing displays, and these aspects of image quality are some of the most important in determining the overall performance. Of course, viewing the TV from an angle still resulted in some colour and contrast wash-out, but the performance here is still at the better end of the LCD scale.
After calibration, things were further improved. Undoing the default Gamma manipulation resulted in an image with better shadow and highlight detail, revealing more of the original source, and greyscale calibration removed any visible colour cast. Using only the Hue and Saturation controls in Toshiba's Colour Management System still allowed for excellent colour reproduction, although viewers used to reference-quality displays would still notice that Greens were off-hue.
I used my favourite 24p test scene (the slow pans across space at the beginning of Chapter 12 of the "Wall-e" Blu-ray Disc) to check that the 46XV365 was handling 24fps film input correctly. This is where things get interesting: when you have the Blu-ray Player output 24p, Toshiba's display introduces problems. With the "Film Stabilization" mode turned Off, we see typical 3-2 pattern judder, as you'd expect to see when a 24fps source is being converted to 60fps by repeating frames. Turning "Film Stabilization" to "Normal" results in correct playback for a short while, but there will be a large jump every so often, which is even more disconcerting than the aforementioned 3-2 judder.
However, as a last-ditch attempt, I set the BD player to output 60hz video, and was surprised to see that this fixed the problem! It seems that Toshiba's display wants to be fed with juddery 60hz video so that its "Film Stabilization" mode (on the "Normal" setting) can pull out only the necessary frames and display clear video. This is a somewhat roundabout process, but appears to work fine. Just be sure that your BD player can be forced into outputting 60hz video, though – some automatically send 24p when they think it will be the best option.
Another thing to note: with 1080 HD content, I had to repeatedly press the remote control's Aspect Ratio button and remind the TV to run in "Native" mode to get the best quality. Most competing displays remember this option now after the user sets it once, but Toshiba's needed to be told every time. The alternative is to turn off the "Auto Format" control in the TV's "Preferences" screen, but if we do this, then we have to manually switch between 4:3 and 16:9 when we're watching TV broadcasts. This situation harms the TV's overall Usability score.
In the "Movie" picture mode, Toshiba's display measured as having around 43ms of input lag, which was immediately noticeable when using a PC with the TV. Fortunately, using the "Game" picture preset cut this in half to a much more acceptable 20ms. This is a pretty standard figure for a modern flat panel display, and should only irritate the most hyper-sensitive gamers (who would be better served by a CRT TV).
The 46XV365 used around 115 watts of electricity at all times. With LCD displays, this number does not raise or lower depending on the picture content, because the backlighting remains constantly lit (unless the user uses a Dynamic Contrast or other such system which raises or lowers the light output to try and match what's on screen).
Toshiba's 46XV365 isn't an HDTV without its problems, and certainly isn't without its strengths, either. Its biggest pluses are the consistent Greyscale quality it puts out after a full calibration by a qualified individual (please don't mistake that with "fiddling with settings"), as well as its black level, which is excellent for an LCD display. Its colour reproduction, whilst imperfect (thanks in part to a Colour Management System which isn't 100% useful), is still very good indeed. Remember, if you don't pay to have this display fully calibrated, then enter the Advanced Settings menu and turn off the "Black/White Level" setting at the very least.
The display's SD video processing is somewhat lacking, although keep in mind that we haven't let this issue stop us from recommending excellent displays in the past, because it's possible to sidestep it with an upscaling DVD player or AV receiver - at additional expense, of course.
Ultimately, although I'm not crazy about the 46XV635 (because there are similarly-priced displays which don't feature its 24p quirks and have better video processing and better accuracy still), it's by no means a bad display. Its image quality can be excellent if the right conditions are met, and the low 20ms of input lag means that it will find favour with gamers. At the prices it's going for right now (around £700), the display will hopefully drop further in price at the start of next year, making it a potential bargain.
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