At its recent 2012 product launch, Toshiba had plenty of new TVs to show off. But these imminent new sets did not include any replacements for Toshiba’s current flagship TVs, the WL863 and YL863 models.
Driven by Toshiba’s proprietary, high-powered CEVO Engine processing, the 2011-launched YL853 and WL853 models represent the brand’s most concerted attempt to bring some of the huge processing power used in its Japanese Cell Regza TVs to the UK. So presumably Toshiba believes that for now, at least, these flagship TVs are still able to hold their own against the newer sets starting to arrive on UK shores from rival brands.
Naturally we decided to put this Toshiba theory to the test by putting one of these flagship sets, the Toshiba 46YL863, through its paces.
The first thing that strikes you about this 46in LCD TV is how good looking it is. Toshiba has employed the design talents of the Jacob Jensen Design Studio for these top tier TVs, and the results are genuinely lovely. Its silver, metallic finish, elegant lines and extremely trim bezel and rear both shout ‘flagship TV’ at the top of their lungs. What’s more, the brushed aluminium chassis is remarkably well built.
The 46YL863 continues to live up to its flagship status with its connections. Its got four HDMIs for digital, HD and 3D video feeds, which should be enough to cope with even the most extreme user demands. Multimedia playback, meanwhile, is supported by two USBs, a LAN port and, best of all, built-in Wi-Fi.
The USBs can be used for playing back a healthy though not exhaustive selection of music, video and photo file types from USB storage devices, while the Wi-Fi/LAN options are there to access files stored on networked DLNA-enabled PCs or for going online with Toshiba’s Places ‘smart TV’ system (which we’ll come back to later).
The inclusion of Wi-Fi as standard is significant, since all the research we’ve seen shows clearly that consumers are hugely more likely to use a smart TV’s online functionality if they can do so without having to hardwire their TV into their network.
There is one further significance to the LAN connectivity too, in that it’s there as required support for the set’s inevitable Freeview HD tuner. The 46YL863 also, intriguingly, has a satellite tuner on board. But since this isn’t compatible with the ‘Freesat’ packaging exclusive to the UK, it’s of very limited interest on these shores, so we won’t dwell on it.
The CEVO Engine inside the 46YL863 should on paper be able to deliver much more powerful and, crucially, speedy picture processing than you get with other Toshiba sets, hopefully leading to boosts in everything from colour and detail to contrast and motion response. Particularly eye-catching is the way the CEVO Engine can control an impressively sophisticated ‘local dimming’ system for the edge LED lighting.
Obviously local dimming with edge LED lights is not quite as accurate when it comes to localised levels of brightness as it tends to be with local dimming on direct LED TVs. But we’ve certainly seen edge LED TVs with local dimming start to deliver much more sophisticated results in recent months than the first locally dimmed models tended too, so hopefully the CEVO Engine’s power will continue this positive trend. Certainly the set’s 7,000,000:1 contrast ratio claim is mighty impressive.
The 46YL863’s powerful processors further enable it to offer a very unusual set up feature: an auto calibration system. Cough up around £250 on an optional TPA-1 package, and you can bag yourself a colour meter that plugs into one of the TV’s USB ports and then hangs over the screen so that it can take readings from a series of built-in test signals and automatically calibrate your TV’s settings.