These are increasingly uncomfortable times for the traditional budget TV market. Brands like Goodmans, Bush, Technika and even Finlux have long depended on their ability to churn out no-frills TVs substantially cheaper than the bigger, more established brands can. But sustaining that key pricing gap is getting increasingly tough thanks to the way some big brands are slashing their TV prices this year.
Particularly problematic for the budget brands is Toshiba. For this Japanese giant isn’t just flogging its entry-level TVs on the cheap; it’s also somehow now selling relatively high-end, feature-rich TVs for incredibly low prices.
Cue the Toshiba 40TL963B we’re looking at today. This 40in set ticks all manner of high-end TV boxes. Ultra slim frame and rear? Check. Active 3D playback? Check. Online ‘Smart’ TV functionality? Check. Advanced picture processing engine? Check. DLNA and USB multimedia support? Check. But incredibly it does all this while costing the decidedly un-princely sum of £540.
All that glitters is not here
In finding out if the Toshiba 40TL963B is really the astounding bargain it appears to be on paper, the first thing we did was get up close and personal with that apparently very chic design. And it has to be said that when you get within touching distance, the frame does reveal itself to be markedly more plasticky than the glinting metallic or ‘crystal’ finish you tend to get with other, more upscale slim TV models.
From a sensible distance, though, it looks just fine. Plus, of course, its slender bezel allows it to fit into a much smaller space than your typical 40in TV.
There are other signs of slight budget compromise when it comes to the 40TL963’s connections. For starters, most of them stick straight out of the TV’s rear rather than being accessed from the side, making the TV potentially problematic as a wall-hanging option. The set also doesn’t sport built-in Wi-Fi like most ‘smart’ TVs this year. If you want to connect the set to a DLNA PC or your router wirelessly, you’ll have to cough up £30 to £40 for one of Toshiba’s Wi-Fi USB dongles. Just as well, then, that the set provides two USB ports.
Toshiba might very reasonably argue at this point, though, that being able to get any sort of online functionality and multimedia playback on a 3D-capable 40in TV costing just £540 should be considered a bonus in itself.
There’s also one excellent bit of connections news, namely the provision of four HDMIs - enough to cater for even very ambitious home cinema systems.
Toshiba’s online offering is called Places, thanks to the way it straightforwardly divides all of its available content into different sections. So you get a Social Place, a Video Place, a Music Place and so on. While Toshiba’s menu design and organisation are excellent, though, they can’t hide a rather fundamental problem with Places as it stands today: the service just doesn’t have enough content.
You do get the BBC iPlayer, YouTube and AceTrax, plus a few vaguely useful subscription channels such as The Cartoon Network and HiT Entertainment. But there’s no LoveFilm, no Netflix, and just not as much free video as we like to see from modern online TVs.