Usually when we talk about Smart TVs these days, we’re talking about TVs with some level of online functionality. But with the TV and PC worlds becoming ever more convergent, we’re starting to see more TVs that deserve to be considered ‘smart’ not just because they go online but because they carry prodigiously powerful onboard processors. Maybe we should call such TVs ‘clever’, to avoid confusion.
One such clever TV is Toshiba’s new 55WL863. Which at first seems surprising given how the Japanese brand has been focusing predominantly on the ‘no-frills’ UK TV market for the past couple of years.
In reality, though, the surprise is not that Toshiba has made a processing-heavy TV but rather that it’s taken the brand so long. For we’ve been cooing over Toshiba’s incredibly powerful CEVO TVs in Japan for nearly three years now, counting the days before they arrived in the UK. A count that was starting to look like it was never going to end.
But the 55WL863 finally gives us at least some of Toshiba’s CEVO cleverness. It’s not quite as highly specified and uncompromising as Toshiba’s Japanese CEVO sets. But it’s definitely one of the most powerful TVs launched in the UK to date.
It’s also one of the most robustly built TVs we’ve ever seen. Its body has been hewn from a hunk of high-grade, cold-touch metal that raises hopes of some uncompromising innards, too. Its bezel is unusually slender as well, and its rear is almost unfeasibly skinny.
It has to be said that the design’s quality only shines through when you get up close. From a distance the set doesn’t look particularly stylish. But overall Toshiba’s decision to call on the design assistance of the Jacob Jensen Studio has paid off.
If you’d prefer a silver finish, incidentally, then you should check out the WL863 companion range, the YL863s.
The 55WL863’s connections include four HDMIs, which are all built to the v1.4 standard in keeping with the set’s built-in full HD active 3D capabilities. There are also two USBs capable of both video/photo/music file playback as well as recording from the TV’s built-in Freeview HD or satellite tuners.
A LAN port, meanwhile, allows connection to either a networked, DLNA-enabled PC or Toshiba’s ‘Places’ online service. Or you can use a built-in Wi-Fi system if it’s more convenient.
The satellite tuner mentioned earlier is unfortunately not a Freesat one, meaning you end up with lots of foreign language and minority interest channels that will probably make the satellite tuner a pretty pointless option for most people. This likely explains why Toshiba doesn’t mention it in its promotional material.
The 55WL863’s CEVO Engine functionality permeates many levels of its performance and features. For a start, it supposedly improves the set’s general colour, contrast, detail and motion performance. But it also drives a couple of intriguing new features.
The first is a version of Toshiba’s Resolution system that boosts the perceived sharpness of full HD 3D viewing as well as working on 2D, while the second is a new NetResolution system designed to improve the usually compression-heavy appearance of online sources.
The CEVO system is also integral to the 55WL863’s ‘local dimming’ engine, to supposedly deliver this often flawed edge LED feature with more intelligence and sensitivity than normal. The 55WL863 sports a first for Toshiba’s 3D TVs too: a subtle but impressively accurate 2D to 3D conversion system. And yes, this too is delivered via the CEVO Engine.