Not for the first time in recent times, we’re feeling a little confused by a TV we’ve got in our test room. Today the TV in question is the Toshiba 46UL863B, and the main - but certainly not only - cause of our confusion is this set’s new Toshiba Places system.
Toshiba Places is the cosy name for Toshiba’s first proper stab at a ‘smart TV’ system. We’ve seen some half-hearted online efforts from the brand before, usually comprising nothing more than BBC iPlayer and YouTube support with no proper Toshiba ‘interface’ behind them. But Toshiba Places finally introduces a true ring-fenced content area accessed through a specially designed interface.
Why is this confusing? Because while Toshiba in Japan has had incredibly advanced Cell Regza multimedia TVs for the best part of two years now, here in the UK not only has Toshiba Places arrived late, but it also turns out to be clumsily put together and distinctly light on features. Odd.
We’ll get into this in more detail presently. But first we’ve got some ‘scene setting’ to do. Starting with the 46UL863B’s looks, which are actually rather pleasant. The bezel around the 46in screen is impressively slender, very glossy, and offset prettily by a neat silver trim. Its rear end is pretty slim too - though in another bid to confuse the heck out of us, Toshiba doesn’t seem keen on you wall mounting its new set.
For a start, it arrives already attached to its stand. Also, during the TV’s initial setup routine it asks you if you’re wall-mounting it, but suggests that leaving it on its stand is the best option. Finally, the vast majority of its connections stick straight out of its rear, rather than being accessible from the set’s sides.
While the connections might not be very helpfully oriented, though, they are at least plentiful. Four HDMI sockets get the ball rolling, and there’s a real bounty of multimedia options including two USBs; a LAN port; and best of all, built-in Wi-Fi. There’s no need for one of those annoying - and often costly - Wi-Fi USB dongles here. Setting up the TV with your Wi-Fi router proves unnecessarily complicated, but so long as you stay calm you should get there in the end.
Another pleasant multimedia surprise is the fact that you can use one of the USB ports to record video from the digital tuners.
And yes, that wasn’t a typo: we did mean digital tuners plural. For the 46UL863B carries a digital satellite tuner as well as the much more predictable Freeview HD tuner. Once again, though, what initially looks like a good feature for the many people in the UK who still can’t get decent Freeview HD reception ultimately leaves us scratching our heads, as it turns out that the satellite tuner isn’t compatible with the Freesat ‘wrapping’. It just unhelpfully tunes in all the free to air stuff on the Astra 19.2 satellites, foreign language channels and all.
There are plenty of other features to explore, though. For instance, the set can be controlled by a new Toshiba TV remote control application now available for your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. It’s also got Toshiba’s Active Vision M100HD processing system, which combines general picture boosting algorithms with a genuine 100Hz refresh rate, plus there’s Toshiba’s Resolution system for adding sharpness.