Review Price £1,160.00
Toshiba 55VL963B first look
In the second of our ‘first looks’ this week, we find ourselves tucked away in the Bayswater home of Toshiba’s UK press agency staring at the Toshiba 55VL963B.
This 55in TV has three star attractions. First, it’s the first set from Toshiba’s new range that has been designed by the Jacob Jensen Studio, which did such a nice job with some of Toshiba’s high-end 2011 models.
Second, it’s set to retail for only £1,499 - a very reasonable price for such a large and, as we’ll see, well-specified TV.
Third, it’s a passive 3D TV that sits higher up Toshiba’s range than some of the brand’s active 3D TVs. So far as we can recall, every other brand with both active and passive 3D solutions in its range positions passive technology as the entry level 3D option, with active being the premium ‘step up’ option.
No 3D judgments here
When questioned about this, though, Glenn Zanoni, Toshiba’s UK Product Marketing Manager for TV and Blu-ray, is quick to stress that the range structure isn’t based on any judgments about the different 3D technologies. "We don’t see passive as better than active. It’s just a different option for to suit different types of user. The reason the new VL is more expensive than the [active 3D] TL series is that it gets a design upgrade and faster processing." So now you know.
The design in question is indeed very attractive for a reasonably affordable big-screen TV. The black bezel is barely 1cm across, and a single sheet of glass sits across both the screen and this trim frame. Crucially, as with Jacob Jensen’s 2011 Toshiba designs, the build quality feels substantially greater than that of the cheaper TL9 series.
The faster processing mentioned by Zanoni refers to the 55VL963B’s 400Hz system, versus the TL models’ 200Hz. This should help the VL9s deliver clearer, smoother motion.
Other notable features of the Toshiba 55VL963B are its provision of four pairs of free 3D glasses (you don’t get any free glasses with the TL9 active 3D TVs), and its support for WiDi technology, which gives you a much simpler route than DLNA for wirelessly accessing content on compatible PCs, or even mirroring your PC screen on your TV. It even creates its own connections, so you don’t have to piggy back it on to your own network.
WiDi is go
WiDi is now supported by around 40 per cent of Toshiba’s latest laptop range - everything from the P series upwards - and it was clear from our hands on that it’s a much simpler and more flexible system than normal DLNA.
The Toshiba 55VL963B also carries Toshiba’s Places online service, along with impressive flexibility when it comes to seriously calibrating pictures.
The only major deficiency in the 55VL963B’s spec sheet is its lack of built-in Wi-Fi. If you want to connect it wirelessly to your router, you’ll need to buy an optional USB dongle.
The Toshiba 55VL963B we looked at was a pre-production unit and was presented in a bright room, so you’ll have to wait for our full review for a comprehensive assessment of its abilities. But we can certainly say that what we saw during our hands-on was extremely enjoyable.
Particularly striking was the brightness and colour vibrancy on show, which really helped images ‘cut through’ the ambient light in the room. What’s more, this brightness and colour dynamism remains barely affected at all when you don the passive 3D glasses. This stands in stark contrast, of course, to the hefty vibrancy hit you have to take with active 3D.
The set’s 3D images also enjoy surprisingly fluid, sharp motion considering that most of the TV’s motion processing doesn’t work in 3D mode, and they still look sharp despite the slight loss of resolution you get with the passive format. As usual with passive technology, there’s also minimal crosstalk unless you shift your head position too far above or below the screen.
Don't stand so close to me
The only catch is a familiar one with large passive 3D TVs: subtle horizontal lines across 3D images caused by the polarising filter on the screen’s surface. But we were sat closer to the screen than we normally would be, so it might well be that this issue becomes a non-issue under normal viewing conditions.
With 2D we were additionally struck by what seemed to be a very respectable contrast performance, complete with reasonably deep blacks and minimal obvious evidence of backlight inconsistency. Though we’ll need to use our own dark source material under normal testing conditions to confirm this.
All in all, our first impressions of the 55VL963B are strong. At the very least it looks capable of giving LG’s mid-range 55LM660T a run for its money, and you can’t really ask for much more than that.