It would seem that 32in TVs are like the proverbial buses. As in, you don’t see any for months and then three come along at once. First we had the Sony 32HX753, immediately followed by the Panasonic L32ET5, and now today we’ve got what’s arguably the most interesting option of the lot, the Toshiba 32RL953.
The sudden flurry of activity in the 32in TV sector isn’t accidental. Sales figures show that it’s the most buoyant part of the TV market right now, presumably as more people are starting to snap 32in screens up as second-room TVs.
Standing out in an increasingly crowded 32in market isn’t easy. But the 32RL953 does it for one simple reason: its price. We’ve found the 32RL953 going for just £340 - £200 cheaper than the Panasonic L32ET5, and a massive £350 less than Sony’s 32HX753. We’re used to Toshiba being aggressive on pricing, but even by their standards the 32RL953 is so cheap it almost seems silly.
No silliness here
The 32RL953 sets about trying to convince us that it is anything but silly right away thanks to its strikingly pretty design. Instead of the bland, chunky bodywork we would expect to see at such a low price point, the 32RL953 enjoys a quite chic gloss black finish, applied to a bezel that’s only around 1.5cm wide around three edges. The bottom edge is wider, but only because Toshiba has added a fetching extra cm of see-through trim.
The 32RL953’s connectivity also exceeds expectations. Three HDMIs get the ball rolling, and they’re joined by a USB port able to play photo, music and video files (including DivX HD); a D-Sub PC port; and a LAN for jacking the TV into your network for either streaming from a DLNA PC or accessing Toshiba’s ‘Places’ online service.
It’s disappointing, perhaps, that Toshiba hasn’t included Wi-fi as standard in the 32RL953. But maybe we’re being a bit unreasonable here given how cheap the TV is. You can at least add Wi-Fi to the TV by coughing up around £35 for Toshiba’s WLM-20U2 USB Wi-Fi adaptor.
One other niggle about the connections is that many of them stick straight out of the TV’s rear, rather than being accessible from the side. This could be a problem if you’re looking for a TV to hang on a wall.
Heading into the TV’s onscreen menus continues the good news. For starters, you get the same pretty and effective ‘concentric circles’ menu system that’s found on Toshiba’s higher-level TVs. Also, within the setup section you can find much more flexibility when it comes to calibrating pictures than you might expect from such an affordable TV.
For instance, unlike Panasonic’s LED TVs this year the 32RL953 allows you to adjust the backlight as well as the contrast and brightness settings.
Within an Advanced Picture Settings menu, meanwhile, you get to adjust the strength of the dynamic backlight system, the black/white level balance, and the degree of noise reduction being applied. There’s even a colour management system that lets you adjust the hue, saturation and brightness of the red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan colour elements.