The one part of the 32RL953’s picture make up we haven’t put through its paces fully yet is its black level response - so often a point of weakness for budget LCD TVs. But while the 32RL953 isn’t perfect in this area, nor is it anywhere near as bad as it could - maybe even should! - have been.
Using either of the TV’s Hollywood picture presets with a couple of our favourite ‘dark’ test Blu-rays (Casino Royale and, especially, the final Harry Potter film), we were instantly struck by just how deep the 32RL953 can go with its black level response without - and this is crucial - crushing out too much shadow detail.
Well balanced black levels
This combination of deep blacks and retained shadow detail is a really tough balance for any small, edge LED TV to strike, so to see it handled so well by the 32RL953 is borderline miraculous. Especially when you compare it - as we did - directly with the very grey-looking blacks of the Panasonic L32ET5 and the rather forced, hollow blacks of the Sony 32HX753. Two TVs which, as noted earlier, cost way more than this Toshiba does.
The 32RL953 does sacrifice quite a bit of brightness punch in delivering its extremely credible black levels, but this isn’t a big deal so long as you can mute the ambient light levels in your room a bit when watching films.
Also great to see when watching the 32RL953 while using its Hollywood presets is the impressive stability of dark scenes, which suffer none of the distracting brightness ‘leaps’ witnessed on a few recent LCD TVs we’ve tested.
Minor consistency flaws
Aside from the slight underlying lack of brightness, the only fault we can level at the 32RL953’s handling of dark scenes is that you can make out a few ‘clouds’ of gentle inconsistency at times - clouds that increase in intensity if you try to ramp up the set’s backlight level too much when watching films.
Keep the backlight and brightness settings reasonably low, though, and the clouding’s impact on your viewing can be considered pretty minimal. Certainly it’s far less intrusive than you would expect to find with such a crazily affordable 32in TV using edge LED lighting.
Any 32in TV has a good chance of being used as a gaming monitor at some point. So it’s great to find that the 32RL953 suffers with just 38ms of input lag when using its Game preset - a decently low figure that shouldn’t seriously muck up your gaming skills.
Having considerably outperformed its price point with its pictures, the 32RL953 gets a bit closer to its budget level sonically. The mid-range sounds compressed, leading to a slightly harsh sensation with upper and upper-mid sounds, and a rather flat experience when watching action films. Bass is in short supply too. But for all this the 32RL953’s audio can be considered serviceable, which is good enough when you’re talking about such a cheap model.
In an ideal/impossible world, the 32RL953 would have better sound, a more content-rich online service, and better standard definition pictures. But of course, we live in a world of harsh financial realities, especially at the moment. And in this world of financially motivated compromise, the 32RL953 is a bargain of colossal proportions that leaves almost all similarly priced rivals looking shambolic by comparison.