The Toshiba 40RL953's interface uses bold, colourful icons and separates the online content into simple to understand "places" - the Video Place, Music Place, Social Place, News Place, and Game Place. You can also put your preferred apps into a Favourite Services Place, and dotted around the screen’s edges are one-click shortcuts to popular or promoted services.
Entering a "Place" reveals a simple row of large tiles linking to different services. In the Video Place, for instance, you can find Acetrax, Viewster, the BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Daily Motion, Box Office 365, Woomi, Cartoon Network, and HiT Entertainment - the majority of which, of course, involve some sort of extra expenditure on your part.
Clicking the BBC iPlayer and YouTube apps in Places thankfully allows you to go straight into them. You don’t have to first quit out of Places like you had to with 2011’s Toshiba Places TVs.
The only problem with the Places approach - aside from the fact that the menus react rather sluggishly to your remote commands on the 40RL953 - is that right now its structure simply emphasises how little content Toshiba has in some of its categories. The Music place, for instance, just contains Aupeo and iConcerts apps; the News place just contains meteonews.tv, France 24, Euronews, and Livesport.TV; and The Game Place just has a single Funspot app.
The Social Place does at least feature Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Daily Motion this year, as well as your own email and bookmark tools. But still, overall, it’s clear we’re not talking about content levels that remotely rival the big hitters of the online TV world.
It’s worth adding too that the Toshiba 40RL953 doesn’t contain a built-in camera, and so can’t deliver on the facial recognition system seen on some previous Toshiba sets, which allowed TVs to automatically adjust their settings based on who they could ‘see’ was using them.
We’re now accustomed to finding Toshiba TVs confidently and comfortably outperforming their budget price points (barring the occasional backlight consistency disaster). But first impressions of the 40RL853 are surprisingly underwhelming, on account of the set’s rather rough and ready looking tuner pictures.
Standard def blues
The processing converting standard definition pictures to the screen’s full HD resolution really seems to be struggling, leaving pictures short of detail, noisy, a bit soft and strikingly short of colour finesse. Skin tones, in particular, look very plasticky thanks to the TV’s inability to deliver either texture or subtle colour shifts.
This is all very strange from a brand that’s previously earned praise for developing some of the best upscaling engines the affordable AV world has had to offer. But there really aren’t any tools on offer among the 40RL953‘s set up systems that make any inroads into resolving the softness problem.