Dark scenes on the Toshiba 46TL963 do, though, betray an aggravating but familiar flaw: backlight inconsistencies. These find patches of the picture looking slightly cloudy, especially - though not exclusively - near the edges of the screen. These clouds can be really quite distracting during really dark moments - and they they were still visible over such footage even if we pushed the backlight right down to its 30-40 level.
Hollywood or bust?
The only good news is that choosing the Hollywood 1 picture preset reduced the inconsistencies to such a low level that they no longer troubled us much. But there’s a downside here too, since we’d say that this preset is so dark that it’s almost certainly not going to appeal to anyone watching the TV in anything other than complete darkness.
One other smaller issue with the 46TL963’s HD pictures highlighted by the recent accomplishments of much more expensive TVs from, especially, Panasonic and Sony, is a slightly unsubtle look to colour blends, which sometimes appear with a slight striping effect rather than as pure, smooth transitions.
Turning to the 46TL963’s standard definition efforts, they’re... OK. As with the recently reviewed Toshiba 40RL953, Toshiba hasn’t included any version of its Resolution detail booster among the TV’s options. But the upscaling appears superior to that found in the RL953 model, leaving pictures looking sharper, more contrast-rich and more richly/believably coloured than they did on the cheaper Toshiba model.
Occasionally and inexplicably, certain HD and standard definition images can suddenly look rather grainy. But thankfully these moments only crop up very rarely.
The last bit of the 46TL963’s performance to check out is 3D. Having secured a pair of Toshiba’s latest 3D glasses (bear in mind that you don’t get any included for free with the TV), we went through a host of our favourite 3D test scenes and came away mostly very happy with what we witnessed.
Particularly surprising for the set’s money was how detailed, sharp and full of depth 3D images look. You’re never left in any doubt that 3D Blu-rays are delivering a full HD picture - especially as the image isn’t spoiled by major motion softness and only judders during tough camera pans, despite the set’s motion processing not being available when the TV is in 3D mode.
The 46TL963 handles contrast extremely confidently in 3D mode too, which greatly enhances the sense of depth in the image. Colours hold up in tone very nicely as well, despite the presence of Toshiba’s (rather thin) 3D glasses.
You can occasionally see evidence of crosstalk, but for the most part this is both gentle in nature and restricted to objects in the pretty far distance. In other words, it’s pretty well within spec for a 46in active 3D TV as affordable as the 46TL963.
Since the 46TL963 has to ramp up its backlight when showing 3D to counter the dimming effect of its active shutter glasses ), you can inevitably sometimes see signs of the backlight consistency problems noted with 2D. And it must be said that these are especially annoying in 3D mode since they’re essentially a 2D phenomenon, and so just sort of lie across the ‘surface’ of the deeper 3D image.
However, we wouldn’t say the backlight flaws are as aggressive on the 46TL963 as they were on the 46TL868, and as such the backlighting issues seldom spoil your enjoyment of what you’re watching.
The 46TL963’s 3D images aren’t the brightest we’ve ever seen, but so long as you can at least dim the lights, they’re arguably the best active 3D pictures we’ve seen on a sub-£800 46in TV.
Audio and input lag
Right, two more things left to cover: audio and input lag. Where audio is concerned, the 46TL963 really isn’t bad at all for such a slim and affordable set. It sounds a little subdued at low volumes, but crank up the volume and you’ll be surprised at how much the soundstage opens up in terms of both volume and dynamic range. There’s a passable attempt at injecting at least a sense of bass into action scenes, and only under the most extreme duress does the soundstage start to sound harsh and crushed.
Input lag, meanwhile, measured only around 36ms using the TV’s Game preset. This is a solid effort that should leave your console gaming skills unscathed.
The 46TL963 feels like only an incremental improvement on its predecessor overall, and its backlight consistency with 2D is arguably slightly worse than that of its predecessor.
However, for most of the time its pictures in 2D and 3D mode look overall slightly better than those of the TL868 series, and it’s also got one or two extra features up its sleeve too. Which means that as with its predecessor, it can be considered a pretty serious bargain.