The 47VL863B’s 3D features are very straightforward. Any alternate frame 3D sources are detected automatically, while pressing the remote’s 3D button when wanting to watch a Sky 3D broadcast simply throws up side by side or top and bottom options. That’s it. There’s no tinkering around with image depths or convergence points, and rather more startlingly, there’s no 2D to 3D conversion.
Personally we can’t imagine ever wanting to watch a 2D to 3D conversion. But with Panasonic having decided fairly quickly that this feature was too important commercially to leave off all but its very earliest 3D plasma releases, it’s possible that the lack of 2D-to-3D on the 47VL863B might lose it a few sales.
The 47VL863B is extremely well-equipped with picture adjustments, meanwhile. In fact, it’s got pretty much everything a professional installer would likely need, including 2-point or 10-point white calibration, RGBCMY colour management, static gamma adjustments, and lots more besides.
When it comes to image processing, you can adjust the strength of the ‘400Hz’ system or turn it off entirely, and call in separate MPEG and standard noise reduction systems. You also get Toshiba’s Resolution system for boosting the sharpness of standard definition sources.
Donning one of the four pairs of RealD passive 3D glasses Toshiba ships with the 47VL863B, first impressions of its 3D performance were very good. We certainly appreciated the relatively small amount of brightness and colour saturation removed from the 3D images compared with active 3D sets.
There’s also practically no crosstalk (double ghosting) noise at all provided you’re not watching the set from more than 15 degrees or so above or below the screen.
Add to this the relatively inoffensive nature of the glasses versus most active models, and the fact that there’s not a trace of flicker even if you’re watching in bright light, and the 47VL863B definitely makes a case for passive 3D technology as a great ‘casual’, family alternative to the active 3D approach.
Of course, there are downsides to passive technology too - and unlike the 42in 42LW550T, the 47in screen on the 47VL863B is large enough to expose them. For instance, you can tell that 3D Blu-rays don’t contain as much detail and absolute clarity on the 47VL863B as they do on a similarly proportioned active 3D TV. Also, bright edges can show up clear signs of horizontal black ‘striping’ or jaggedness, and if you sit closer to the screen than you sensibly should (under 2m), then you can also make out the horizontal line structure of the polarising 3D filter on the screen over bright objects like daytime skies or brightly lit skin.
From a typical living room viewing distance, though, the striping/jagging issues aren’t so bad that you find yourself routinely distracted by them, while the reduced resolution doesn’t feel as obvious as it is on the 55in LG 55LW650T. Especially as the enhanced ‘punch’ of the 47VL863B’s 3D pictures versus active ones gives the impression that they’re more detailed than they really are.
Real AV enthusiasts will, of course, shudder at the very thought of any horizontal line structure and reduced Blu-ray resolution. But not everyone is an AV enthusiast - or else they can’t afford to be if they’ve got to find active glasses for a large family. So for a good many ‘normal’ families, the 47VL863B is so far looking like a very good 3D option. Especially given that we’ve found it selling for less than £900.