Toshiba scored a big success last Christmas with the launch of its TL series, as their slinkily-bezelled designs and extremely aggressive price tags struck a chord with consumers. So it’s no great surprise to see Toshiba picking up on the TL’s successful formula with the first of its genuine new 2012 models, the Toshiba 40RL953.
This 40in edge LED screen costs under £480, and again features a very slender bezel - barely 2cm wide along the top, left and right edges, and only a touch bigger along the bottom. The bezel is predominantly black versus the silvery grey of the TL series, but it still looks nice, and is offset to pleasant effect along the bottom by a shiny though slightly cheap-looking metal(ish) strip.
Connections are solid considering how cheap the Toshiba 40RL953 is. There are only three HDMIs when our HD-obsessive side would ideally have found four. But on the upside there’s a USB port capable of playing back video, photo and music files, as well as a LAN you can use to hook the TV up to a DLNA-capable PC or a router so it can access Toshiba’s Places online service.
Wherefore art thou Wi-Fi
The Toshiba 40RL953 unfortunately - albeit understandably for its money - does not have built-in Wi-Fi. If you want Wi-Fi, you’ll have to pay extra for a USB dongle. While this situation might be justifiable by the 40RL953 on pricing grounds, research suggests that TVs without Wi-Fi access out of the box are far less likely to have their owners explore their online capabilities.
Delving into the 40RL953’s menus brings us face to finger with one of the most gargantuan remote controls we’ve seen. In principle we don’t have a problem with a remote being big, so long as it’s well balanced and uses its space sensibly to emphasise the most commonly used buttons. But the monstrosity shipped with the 40RL953 does neither of these things, feeling both top heavy and absurdly crowded. It even manages to feature a few buttons at its lower end that have to rank as the smallest we’ve ever seen. Bonkers.
The onscreen menus are much more elegant than the remote that accesses them, using a stylish, graphically rich and genuinely effective twin radial system to streamline your navigation. The only complaint you could raise about them is that their text is a touch small.
The set carries a useful-sounding set of picture presets - including Game and two ‘Hollywood’ movie modes - while tucked away in an Advanced Picture Settings submenu are such non-budget aids as a colour management system, off/low/high options for the set’s active backlight control, separate MPEG NR and DNR adjustments, and a very simplistic black/white level adjustment that lets you pick low, middle or high options.
Heading next into the Toshiba Places online "zone" (after wishing the remote had a dedicated button for accessing it), first impressions are strong thanks to the service’s really pretty interface.