The Toshiba 40TL963’s screen specifications are better than you have any right to expect for its money. It’s a full HD screen, driven by Toshiba’s AMR200 system, which combines a 100Hz native refresh rate with a blinking backlight to produce a motion-boosting 200Hz effect. This sort of image processing is practically unheard of at the 40TL963’s price level.
Also impressive on paper is the 40TL963’s 1,000,000:1 claimed contrast ratio, achieved with the help of a dynamic contrast system for the set’s edge LED lighting array.
Heading into the Toshiba 40TL963’s onscreen menus continues the ‘more than you could reasonably expect’ theme. Particularly striking is the presence of a decent colour management system, as well as a backlight adjustment alongside the usual brightness and contrast tools, and separate, multi-level adjustments for the set’s two (MPEG and standard) noise reduction systems.
Firing the 40TL963 into action with some HD broadcast fare fed in through its Freeview HD tuner gets the testing phase of this review off to a very appealing start. Detail levels are very respectable, for instance. Not world-beating, but certainly you can clearly make out such tell-tale HD signs as the crosshatch pattern in the nets at Wimbledon, or the weaves of the player’s shirts during close-up shots.
It’s noticeable, too, that Toshiba’s motion processing works quite nicely, reducing the panel’s innate tendency to introduce a little resolution loss over moving objects. You should only use this motion processing on its Standard level if you don’t want the image to look a little unnatural and ‘glitchy’, but otherwise it’s a surprisingly assured system for the set’s price.
Colours, meanwhile, are punchy and well-saturated, and the image is brighter than the set’s claimed 400cd/m2 measurement would have lead us to expect. Blends suffer a touch of banding from time to time, but this isn’t a major issue for the money.
The only problem at this stage, really, is that colours look just a touch ‘bleached’ using the TV’s default modes, leaving skin tones looking a bit unnatural and some very rich colourscapes looking slightly washed out. Thankfully Toshiba has provided you with enough tools to improve this default situation, but it would have been nice if the presets had been more helpfully devised.
Particularly disappointing among the presets were the two ‘Hollywood’ options, which produced pictures too soft and washed out for comfort. It’s hard to imagine even the most ardent of movie enthusiasts persuading themselves that the Hollywood modes – especially Hollywood 1 – are genuinely more enjoyable to watch than a tweaked version of the set’s Standard mode.
Blu-rays look good
Shifting our focus to more contrast-rich HD fare from a few Blu-rays, the Toshiba 40TL963 in some ways underlines how good it is for its money. For black parts of the picture actually look – shock, horror – black. Or at least reasonably close to it. Set the backlight sensibly low – around its 50-60% level – and the set keeps an impressive lid on the sort of grey mist effect that can plague many LCD TVs (especially budget ones).