With most of our comments so far being positive, you’re probably wondering why we were so non-committal about Toshiba’s shift to edge LED lighting for its budget models. The answer - as regular readers might be able to guess - is that the 42HL833’s contrast range isn’t the best.
First of all, the screen falls foul of that still aggravatingly common problem of backlight inconsistency. During very dark scenes there’s around a cm or so of extra brightness along every edge of the screen, but in places this brighter ‘line’ stretches out much further. The sense of patchiness grows, too, if you have to watch the TV from much of an angle. And as you can imagine, whenever the backlight inconsistencies are apparent, they’re invariably distracting.
Just as well, then, that you can’t see the inconsistencies when watching anything except really dark scenes. You can also reduce their impact by making sure you don’t leave the TV’s backlight set too high - but we weren’t able to remove their influence entirely.
The other problem raised by the edge LED backlight is that the 42HL833’s basic black level response isn’t especially profound. Dark scenes thus tend to look a little grey, resulting in some shadow detailing getting lost in the ‘cloud’.
The 42HL833’s sound performance is a mixed bag. In the plus column, it’s able to deliver more raw volume than many budget, slimline TVs, and it handles relatively tame ‘daytime TV’ fare well enough. The problems emerge, as expected, when the set’s asked to handle a big action scene, at which point the soundstage starts to appear rather harsh and incoherent, with brittle trebles and compressed bass.
Toshiba’s entry-level 42in full HD TV is a likeable enough effort, but doesn’t do anything truly special. It’s at its strongest as a basic TV, showing typical TV broadcasts, or when showing bright Blu-rays like an animated movie. Its talent for reproducing HD detail makes its lack of a Freeview HD tuner seem unfortunate, though, and while its edge LED lighting certainly delivers a more punchy picture than you got from last year’s equivalent Toshiba CCFL models, it’s also arguably made the 42HL833’s black level performance feel slightly worse.
It's also impossible to ignore the fact that Sony's CCFL-lit 40CX523 delivers an arguably more consistent all-round performance as well as DLNA networking, a Freeview HD tuner and impressive online capabilities for around the same money as the 42HL833...