Even with its backlight reduced to 60-65 to suppress the backlight clouding, the 32UL863 manages to produce some pretty punchy pictures, combining vibrant (but not gaudy) colours with a pretty expansive contrast range despite the not particularly inspiring black levels.
However, it has to be said that the 32UL863 is a bit short of shadow detail in dark areas once the backlight has been set to the best level for achieving backlight consistency. Also, in keeping with many other small, flat TVs, its viewing angle is very limited, with contrast drop-off and other backlight problems setting in rapidly once you get to around 30 degrees off axis.
After a bit of a warm up - 20 minutes or so - the 32UL863 did noticeably better with its natural motion performance than its 46in sibling did. Without any motion processing active there’s less loss of resolution and blurring when showing moving objects than usual for the 32UL863’s price level - a fact which helps the screen produce some really very sharp, detailed HD images. Turning the Active 100 system to its Standard setting removes judder too, though we didn’t find the results of its efforts particularly natural looking - a problem that counts double if you try to use the Active 100 Smooth option.
There are further signs of a lack of picture processing quality with the 32UL863’s standard definition pictures, which can look a little noisy and soft. Toshiba’s provided Resolution system can help on the sharpness front, at least, provided you only used it on one of its lower strength settings (for setting it higher starts to introduce pretty aggressive amounts of noise).
While on the subject of the processing in the 32UL863, it also - as we would expect - has absolutely no part to play if you’re using the screen as a gaming monitor. For where we measured anywhere up to 100ms of input lag using the TV’s non-Game presets, switching it into the processing-free Game mode brought the lag all the way down to an actually superbly low average figure of just 19ms.
The 32UL863’s audio performance, finally, is acceptable for a skinny 32in set, but nothing more. Its strength is its clarity in the treble and upper-mid audio ranges, but unfortunately and entirely predictably there’s precious little going on in the lower-mid and bass segments of the audio spectrum.
The 32UL863 is altogether a more engaging option than its bigger 46UL863 sibling, thanks in particular to its less extreme backlight consistency flaws and the fact that its smaller screen isn’t quite as revealing of other issues. But its Places online system is still behind rival systems, and it’s still not quite good enough in the black level and standard def departments to deserve an unqualified recommendation.