It’s been a while since we last had to get embroiled in the whole active vs passive 3D spat. But today we have no choice but to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in again, as we have sat before us on our test bench Toshiba’s 47VL863B: the first non-LG TV we’ve seen that uses LG’s ‘passive filter’ 3D technology. Not surprisingly, this tech and the 47VL863B’s core 47in panel have both been ‘bought in’ from LG. But aside from this, the set appears to be all Toshiba’s own work.
The design is very much in keeping with Toshiba’s other 2011 sets to date, which is something of a mixed blessing. On the upside, the TV’s finish looks tough and rigid, and the sculpting is engagingly no-nonsense. However, one or two flourishes might have been nice, and actually the build quality feels less robust than expected once you start lifting it onto its stand.
Connectivity is impressive. There are four v1.4 HDMIs on hand for 3D/HD duties, plus there’s some pretty expansive multimedia functionality in the form of two USBs and a LAN port. The USBs can make the TV wi-fi ready via an optional dongle, or they can play a passable selection of photo, music and video file types. Supported formats comprise MPEG2-PS, MPEG2-TS, MP4, AVI (DivX), MKV (DivX Plus HD), and ASF video files; MP3, MP4, WMA and MKA audio files, and JPEG photos.
The LAN port allows the 47VL863B to function as a rendering device for files stored on a networked DLNA PC (ideally a Windows 7 one if you want to maximise the TV’s compatibility), and it’s also there because it has to be, since the TV carries a Freeview HD tuner.
The most significant attribute of the LAN port, though, is its access to Toshiba Places. This comfortingly untechnical name describes Toshiba’s new smart TV system, as discussed in depth recently in our review of the 46UL863B. We really like the design and personalisation ethos of Toshiba Places, which uses a built-in camera and face detection to figure out who’s using the TV, and adjusts the various favourites lists and log-in details accordingly.
But we don’t currently like how little content Toshiba Places sports versus rival platforms, especially when it comes to free video services. But hey - as with all online services, there’s always the potential for Toshiba to keep improving its smart TV service via firmware updates.
The 47VL863B’s full HD screen - with the polarising 3D filter applied to its front - is illuminated by an edge LED system, and is claimed to deliver a massive and doubtless optimistic contrast ratio of 7,000,000:1. Also potentially key to the TV’s success as a 3D display is Active Vision M400 processing, where the 400 bit comes about as a result of a 200Hz refresh rate mixed with some motion interpolation processing. This should remove pretty much all blur and judder from the image, but as always we’ll have to see how unnatural the picture starts to look when the processing is active.