After much experimentation we settled on a combination of the Standard picture preset (we didn’t like either of the Hollywood presets), keeping the backlight set to around half way, and the Active Backlight Control set to High. We would have expected the Low setting to work better, but the light ‘blocking’ problem was actually more obvious in Low than High.
Turning finally to 3D, it’s here that the 55VL963 is arguably at its best. For instance, we were really struck by just how natural and untiring the passive 3D images look. We were able to watch two 3D films back to back without any fatigue setting in, despite the 55VL963 consistently delivered an eye-catchingly deep 3D space.
The 55VL963 also delivers on passive 3D's promise of practically no crosstalk double ghosting noise, provided you keep your vertical viewing angle less than 13 degrees (not as difficult as it sounds). This freedom from ghosting noise gives 3D pictures a pleasingly crisp, natural look that few active sets can match.
There's zero sense of the flicker you can get with active 3D TVs either, even if you're watching in a bright room, and 3D pictures look only marginally less bright and colour-rich than 2D ones - another positive comparison with active 3D, where the shuttering effect of the glasses can take quite a chunk of brightness and colour punch out of 3D images.
Passive 3D downsides
There are, though, two significant flaws with the 55VL963's 3D images. First, it's really quite easy to see horizontal line structure in 3D images, especially over bright objects. Second, there are markedly more jagged edges in the 55VL963‘s 3D pictures than you get on most active 3D TVs. This is especially obvious over small objects, but can be seen to some extent over almost any edge, especially if it’s curved.
As noted with previous reviews of large passive 3D TVs, the 55VL963's 55in screen size makes these flaws easier to see than they are on smaller screens. However, active 3D has its own distractions too, so if you're a fan of 3D you'll have to decide if you prefer the convenience, naturalism, brightness and affordability (given you get four glasses for nothing) of passive, or the smooth, full HD, more detailed pictures you get with active 3D.
The 55VL963’s size, price and 3D capabilities clearly make it a potential winner as a gaming monitor. So it’s rather disappointing to measure a below average input lag figure for the TV - even using its game picture mode - of 64ms. This is almost twice as high as many rivals, and it did seem to have a small but noticeable impact on our usually pretty solid gaming skills.
Considering what a slender frame it's got, the 55VL963 doesn't sound too bad. There's inevitably a rather 'trapped' tone to the sound, due to the speakers not having enough space to delineate any extreme treble or bass extensions. But vocals remain clear, detail levels are good, and the soundstage seldom sounds painfully harsh. This is hardly a ringing audio endorsement we'll grant you, but by affordable ultra-thin TV standards, it's probably as good as you could reasonably expect.
Toshiba certainly hasn't served up perfection with the 55VL963. Its multimedia features are rather half hearted, its input lag will trouble serious gamers, and really dark scenes reveal some occasionally distracting backlight problems.
However, while these issues could and possibly should deter enthusiasts and people with deep pockets from buying a 55VL963, its price saves the day, enabling cash-strapped AV fans to get their hands on a much bigger hunk of decent telly action than they probably expected they’d be able to for £1200.