Contrary to our hopes, looking for improvements that might have taken place to Toshiba’s online Places service since July doesn’t bear much fruit. The key video services, for instance, are still limited to YouTube, the iPlayer, Daily Motion, Viewster, Woomi, Box Office 365, The Cartoon Network, and HiT Entertainment. The final three of which are, of course, subscription only, meaning the amount of ‘free’ video fun you can have with Places right now is really quite limited.
Toshiba’s ‘Music Place’ currently only includes the Aupeo personal radio service, while the News Place only carries ‘meteonews.tv’. Woo. In fact, pretty much the only significant addition to Places since July can be found in the Social Places area, where we were pleased to discover a new Facebook app. Presumably Twitter will follow too at some point.
We were also disappointed to find that the latest version of Places still doesn’t fix the annoying issue whereby you can’t actually access the iPlayer or YouTube from within the main Places menus. Instead you still have to bail out of Places and access the iPlayer and YouTube separately for some reason.
Toshiba has introduced an attractive ‘two wheel’ onscreen menu system for its latest TVs, and this does a pretty good job of handling what turns out to be a strikingly long list of picture adjustments for such an affordable and relatively small set, ranging from control of the set’s 100Hz motion processing to gamma and colour management tools.
The first thing on our checklist as we settled down to watch the 32UL863 in action was its backlight consistency. Basically we were praying that it didn’t suffer so badly with the clouding and unevenness that so damaged its 46in sibling.
And... thankfully, it doesn’t. For while there is still a degree of illumination inconsistency, it’s much less defined (so long as you keep the backlight down to 65 at the most, anyway) than it was on the larger model. This means that you only see it on really dark sequences rather than during a really quite wide range of material as you could with the 46UL863. The 32UL863’s backlight clouding is also only a major issue if you’re watching in a very dark environment; in a bright room you’re much less likely to spot the areas of extra brightness.
The less aggressively inconsistent backlighting in the 32UL863 makes it far easier to engage with dark scenes - even though it has to be said that the black levels the set achieves are fairly average by today’s standards, particularly if you opt not to use the provided active backlight control. Personally we surprised ourselves by actually using this tool for most of the time, finding it less ‘jumpy’ with its brightness adjustments than most, as well as largely immune to the sort of light ‘blocking’ sometimes seen with edge LED dimming systems.