Toshiba’s increasingly uncanny knack for understanding what the mainstream consumer wants from an affordable telly has seen it notch up some impressive sales volumes in recent years. But even by its usual standards Toshiba’s TL868 series was an exceptional hit. And it was easy to see why. For it managed to deliver an a la mode skinny-edged design with full HD 3D, Smart TV functionality and biggish screen sizes at prices so low they made most rival brands’ eyes water.
Having hit upon such a winning formula it was inevitable Toshiba would continue with it. So it is that we find ourselves faced today with the 46TL963: the official sequel to the TL868 series.
Given that the 46TL963 has emerged only a few months after the TL868 series, we can’t help but wonder if Toshiba has really had the chance to make any significant changes. So let’s start by playing a game of ‘spot the difference’.
Aesthetically there’s not much between the sets. Both feature similarly slender grey bezels that stretch less than a couple of cm out from the screen, and both sport an unusual (though we’ve also seen it on some recent Finlux sets!) ‘grain’ effect to try and disguise the fact that essentially the bezel is made out of a fairly inexpensive plastic.
The main aesthetic difference is that the 46TL963’s bezel is a slightly lighter grey - which seems a sensible move to us, as it allows the TV to blend more subtly with a modern room environment and draws your attention to the frame less while you’re watching TV - something that’s particularly important when viewing 3D.
Connections on the 46TL963 are broadly in line with those of its predecessor too, and are thus for the most part more than acceptable for a 46in 3D-capable TV costing just £716.
The increasingly inevitable four HDMIs get the ball rolling, while the increasingly essential multimedia support comes courtesy of a LAN port (for streaming from the Internet or DLNA PCs), a D-Sub PC port and a pair of USBs capable of playing back a pretty wide variety of music, photo and video file formats. Unlike the TL868s, moreover, you can also record from the built-in Freeview HD tuner to USB hard drives.
Another difference in the 46TL963’s favour is its support for WiDi (Wireless Display). This Intel technology allows you to connect compatible PCs to the TV wirelessly, as an alternative and more user-friendly way of sharing the content on your PC with the TV.
The one disappointment with the 46TL963’s connectivity is that it doesn’t include built-in Wi-Fi. So if you want to network the TV wirelessly you’ll have to stump up extra money for an optional USB Wi-Fi dongle. Given how difficult it can be in many people’s homes to hardwire a TV to a network, the lack of Wi-Fi out of the box is a shame and could very well prevent a lot of people from experiencing all the features the TV has to offer.
New 2D to 3D upscaling
The 46TL963’s panel is driven by Toshiba’s AMR200 technology, which is essentially a combination of a 100Hz panel with a blinking backlight. The processing inside the set has allegedly been ‘tweaked’ in a few unspecified ways versus that of the 46TL868, with perhaps the biggest feature change being the inclusion on the 46TL963 of 2D to 3D conversion - a feature surprisingly absent from the TL868s.
The 46TL963 also gets a new remote control design - but unfortunately, this new remote isn’t very pleasant at all, managing to look and feel cluttered despite the fact that it’s one of the biggest remotes we’ve seen. Some of the buttons are far too small for comfort too, and the top-heavy wedge shape feels like it’s being deliberately designed to ensure that you drop it more often!