Overall, despite its issues we’d say that the 42VL963’s black level response is solid for its price point, especially when watching relatively undemanding fare. But it also causes enough distractions to potentially upset serious film fans.
Another little issue with dark scenes is that with the backlight and contrast settings optimised to deliver the most uniform and richest black colour, there is a shortage of shadow detail in very dark parts of the picture.
Blu-rays reveal another slight weakness of the 42VL963 too. For without any motion processing in play there’s evidence of resolution being lost as objects pass across the screen. Yet the motion processing you can call in to counter this doesn’t work particularly well, leaving images looking slightly juddery or ‘pulsy’ during camera pans if you use the processing’s lowest power setting. The highest motion processing mode reduces the judder, but leaves images looking unnatural and prone to artefacts around large moving objects.
In the end we decided we generally preferred to leave the motion processing off, at least when watching films. Which is actually a bit of a shame when some other motion processing systems have improved rather nicely this year.
While we appear to be in a bit of a negative rut here, we might as well bring up one more issue we noted with Blu-rays - namely that using its default settings the 42VL963 can leave pictures looking a touch grainy. Happily this is easily remedied by slightly reducing the sharpness setting.
Wrapping up our picture tests with 3D, it’s here that the 42VL963 really comes into its own. It delivers all the customary advantages of the passive 3D format in spades, including: really bright, direct, colourful pictures versus active 3D models; a cheap, family-friendly 3D experience courtesy of the four pairs of glasses included with the TV; a more relaxing 3D experience you can watch for longer without feeling tired than the active 3D system; and general freedom from crosstalk noise unless you watch from more than 13 degrees above or below the screen.
The 42VL963 does also inevitably show the downsides of the passive 3D system, namely visible horizontal line structure over very bright parts of the image and some occasionally striking jaggedness to contoured edges. But overall the positives outweigh the negatives, making the 42VL963’s 3D seldom less than a pleasure to watch.
The 42VL963’s bright, colourful, no-nonsense pictures together with its 3D talents make it a screen of great potential for gamers. So we were a little disturbed to record a few ‘rogue’ input lag measurements of around 70ms - easily enough to compromise your performance in reaction based games. Thankfully these 70ms moments are the exception to a much more regular and acceptable measurement of around 35ms, but it’s a shame to find such input lag ‘peaks’ happening at all.
Accompanying the 42VL963’s mostly very enjoyable pictures is a surprisingly robust audio system. There’s a nice open tone to the mid-range, along with a passable amount of bass as well as trebles which sound clear without descending into harshness.
Toshiba’s 42VL963 certainly isn’t perfect. Not building in Wi-Fi seems a bit off on a TV that sits towards the top end of Toshiba’s range this year, and there are a few issues surrounding black level and motion performance that might deter die-hard movie fans. Toshiba’s online service needs more content, too.
However, overall we still rather like the 42VL963. For much of the time its 2D pictures are bright, colourful, crisp and clean, in both HD and standard def mode, and its 3D pictures are relaxing and family friendly. All of which seems pretty fair for a 42in 3D TV that costs less than £850.