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The 55SV685DB’s spec sheet makes for some promising reading. Its quoted contrast ratio is predictably insane, at 2,000,000:1, and it is, of course, a full HD model. It also employs 200Hz processing to tackle LCD’s motion blur and judder issues, and carries a respectable 128 individually controllable LED light clusters to illuminate its pictures.
The fact that the screen can control its LED clusters separately means, of course, that it has local dimming, whereby LEDs in dark parts of the picture can be switched off at the same time as the LEDs in the bright parts of the picture can be left blazing on full. With all the impact on contrast that you would expect such a dynamic lighting situation to deliver.
Toshiba was making a big song and dance at last year’s IFA in Berlin about the lengths it had gone to to calibrate the SV685 range’s pictures so that they’re ideal for video. But just to be safe, they’ve also done the sensible thing and provided a pretty healthy selection of user adjustments for you to play with, including a pretty flexible and intuitive colour management system (with the facility to turn off the red, green and blue colour elements individually), a sliding bar for adjusting the balance between the picture’s black and white content, a static gamma adjustment, the option to deactivate the 200Hz engine if it doesn’t react well with something you’re watching, and the option to adjust the strength of Toshiba’s Resolution+ engine.
Resolution+, for people who haven’t read previous recent Toshiba reviews, is Toshiba’s proprietary processing system (derived from the brand’s Cell processor division) for upscaling standard definition material. And I have to say that while some other reviewers have taken issue with it, I myself have generally been impressed. The only rider is that you have to be very careful how you use it - as in, never set it higher than its ‘three’ level unless you want to experience the grain and exaggerated noise some reviewers have noted.
Settling down to finally watch the 55SV685DB in action turns out to be a very enjoyable experience indeed. Particularly stunning is the extreme contrast the screen delivers. At one end of the spectrum you can get - after a little careful calibration - some really intense, deep and yet also natural and detailed black level response. While at the other extreme bright colours look rich, vibrant and luminous. And crucially, thanks to local dimming these extremes can be seen simultaneously within a single frame. For perfect examples of what I’m talking about, check out the section of Modern Warfare 2 that takes place inside Shepherd’s cave headquarters; the way lights in the caves or highlights on your weapon glint against the inky blackness of the darkest corners is a revelation by LCD TV standards.
Another subtler but in some ways more striking demonstration of the 55SV685DB’s extreme dynamism can be seen in the sequence in Casino Royale where Bond first meets Vesper on a train. The dark suits look perfectly black, yet the screen also manages to render the muted colour palette of the rest of the image content with uncanny accuracy and insight, thanks partly to the amount of shadow detail it’s able to deliver, and partly to the extreme colour range made possible by the LED lighting. When even a rather muted sequence like this gets the videophile in you all hot and bothered, you know you’re onto a winner.