While we've found plenty of positive things to say about Toshiba's 2012 TVs, there has been one issue that's consistently cheesed us off: their lack of any built-in Wi-Fi. Even models equipped with Toshiba's 'Places' online system have tended to treat Wi-Fi as an optional extra rather than a fundamental requirement.
The problem with this is that both research and good old common sense shows that if people can't easily attach their TVs to their broadband routers, they're far less likely to use any online features their new TVs might have. And since most people we know don't have their broadband routers sat near their TVs, not enabling a new TV to talk to a router wirelessly really isn't making networking that TV easy.
Toshiba's decision not to put Wi-Fi into the vast majority of its TVs has been made to look all the more stingy by the fact that all the other mainstream brands have now got Wi-Fi in almost all of their 'Smart' TVs, and by the way Toshiba itself has managed to build Wi-Fi into its own sub-£100 Blu-ray players.
To be fair to Toshiba, though, it’s apparently keen to address its Wi-Fi faux pas. For it’s just started to roll out a new range of ‘mid-term’ TVs that fix the Wi-Fi issue - a new range that kicks off with the 40RL958B.
Apparently the 40RL958B is going to be introduced alongside Toshiba's 40RL953B rather than replacing it, and will attract a £50 or so premium over its non-Wi-Fi sibling. It also brings in a couple of new online features for Toshiba: Skype support (handy) and an open Web browser (much less handy given that it's far easier and more convenient to surf on a laptop, tablet PC or smartphone).
The new online features are joined on Toshiba's so-called 'Places' platform by other highlights of BlinkBox, Acetrax, Viewster, the BBC iPlayer. DailyMotion, YouTube, the latest version of Woomi, LiveSport.tv, iConcerts, Aupeo Personal Radio, Facebook, and Twitter. It's good to see Places growing slowly, but at the same time it's still glaringly short of content versus the online services now available via most of the other big-name TV brands. The continuing lack of any Netflix and/or LoveFilm apps is particularly frustrating.
When it comes to the Places interface, in principal we still like its colourful, well-organised menus - though it is also true that the way it divides content up into different sections rather highlights the current lack of content. The menu design should come into its own more as content levels continue to increase, though.
Our only major beef with the Places operating system is the infuriating way weirdly loud video adverts (one or two not even in English!) for some of the services on offer keep cycling through a box in the bottom right. This box could have been put to far better use as a small screen continuing to show the TV programme you were watching when you hit the remote's Places button.