The wheels come off, however, when you ask the 32SL738 to deal with any predominantly dark scenes. The main reason for this is the recurrence yet again of what’s becoming an unfortunate Toshiba trademark: serious backlight inconsistency. A large chunk of the top edge of our test sample looked considerably brighter than the rest of the picture during dark scenes, with a lesser patch of trouble evident in the bottom left corner.
We often get asked if problems like this might be the result of defective test samples. But while this is possible on specific models, we guess, the regularity of its appearance on Toshiba’s edge LED models makes it look like a definite, reoccurring issue. And actually, partly because of the relative smallness of the 32SL738’s screen, the problem is probably more distracting on this set than it has been on any of Toshiba’s other, similarly flawed edge LED TVs.
We also sometimes wonder if we’re not getting a wee bit obsessed with backlight inconsistencies, so often do we seem to be mentioning them right now. But all we can say is that we just hate any picture flaw capable of immediately and aggressively throwing us out of the programme we were immersed in watching.
The 32SL738 also initially suffered with some over-aggressive light output adjustments as content switched between light and dark content. Turning the set’s active backlight off solved this, but also resulted in a marked drop off in black level depth. Again we were able to improve things to some extent by ramping down the image’s brightness and backlight levels manually, but when all’s said and done the 32SL738’s portrayal of dark scenes is inconsistent and uninspiring. A situation not helped by the set’s pretty limited effective viewing angle before dark parts of the picture start to lose contrast.
The 32SL738’s hit and miss picture quality isn’t helped out in the slightest by the set’s audio performance. Even by the pretty uninspiring general standards of 32in TVs the 32SL738’s extremely limited power and tiny dynamic range sound poor, leaving you to put up with effects and vocals that can totally disappear during high-octane action scenes, and a bass performance that’s best described as non-existent.
With its bold attempt to make edge LED a truly mass market technology, we really wanted to love Toshiba’s 32SL738. But in the end the compromises it asks you to make in terms of both features and performance are more extensive than we feel comfortable with, even at the sub-£350 level.