While we wait with bated breath for the presumably imminent replacement for Toshiba’s top-end WL and YL models, today brings us face to face with the next best thing: the 42VL963. With its Jacob Jensen Studio design, online features and passive 3D playback, it’s the most high-end model from Toshiba’s 2012 range that we’ve seen so far.
Jacob Jensen really has done a good job with its looks. Its black frame is barely a cm wide around three sides, and while this width increases a little along the bottom edge, you don’t mind because it’s offset there by a swanky protruding silver ‘triangle’ that provides some welcome relief from the blackness elsewhere.
It’s not as slim round the rear as some other LCD TVs this year, but this is no big deal in our opinion. Especially as its build quality is good compared with most Toshiba sets, complete with a glass topsheet that neatly brings the screen and bezel onto the same plane.
The 42VL963’s connections are mostly good but with one major disappointment. That disappointment is the absence of built-in Wi-fi - an omission that would have been easy to take on an entry-level TV, perhaps, but which certainly rankles on a TV that sits towards the upper end of Toshiba’s 2012 range.
You can make the TV wi-fi capable by adding an optional USB Wi-Fi dongle, and Toshiba claims that they’ve left Wi-Fi out of the 42VL963 to keep it as affordable as possible. But with even Toshiba’s cheap-as-chips Blu-ray players carrying integrated Wi-Fi these days, this excuse is a little hard to take.
Getting back to the good stuff, as well as four v1.4 (3D-Ready) HDMIs, the 42VL963 sports a pair of USBs for playing back photo, video or music files from USB sticks. There is also a LAN to keep you going until you get the Wi-Fi dongle, via which you can either stream multimedia files from connected DLNA PCs (though the system for this is pretty primitive), or else go online with Toshiba’s ‘Places’ service.
If you get hold of the Wi-Fi dongle, you can even connect the TV to a PC equipped with the new WiDi system, offering a more advanced and intuitive way of using your PC on your TV.
It’s worth adding, too, that the 42VL963 carries a satellite port alongside the more expected RF input. But while this does allow you to tune satellite channels into the 42VL963, unfortunately the TV doesn’t support the Freesat HD wrapper, making the satellite option pretty pointless for most UK users.
Not the best for wall mounting
People wanting to wall-hang the 42VL963 should note that unhelpfully most of the 42VL963’s connections stick straight out of its rear, rather than being accessed from the TV’s sides. So you’ll have to dig a hole in your wall to accommodate the connection ‘block’.
The 42VL963’s relatively high position in Toshiba’s range finds it boasting two key features beyond the Smart TV stuff we’ve already mentioned. First, it’s a passive 3D model, complete with four pairs of glasses included for free. This immediately reveals that the panel at the TV’s heart has been sourced from LG - but that still leaves plenty of scope for Toshiba to add its own electronics and processing.
Which brings us to the 42VL963‘s other key feature: ‘AMR400’ processing. This uses a combination of a 100Hz panel with backlight scanning and blinking to deliver a 400Hz-like effect that should, hopefully, work wonders on countering the blurring problems still common to some extent on LCD technology.