There are, though, still some significant barriers to becoming totally invested in the Toshiba 55ZL2’s glasses-free 3D experience. For starters, backdrops and objects in the far distance almost always look a bit soft and out of focus. Also, the picture generally betrays a few signs of the physical structure of the lenticular lenses used on the screen’s surface to produce the 3D effect - including a couple of areas of really distracting wavy lines on our test sample.
Finally, if you move your head more than around 6in from the point it was at when the TV tracked your position, the image shifts out of focus dramatically. And it has to be said that having to sit stock still rather flies in the face of the ‘free’ sensation of not wearing glasses.
Overall the glasses-free 3D effect feels very clever, but still ultimately more like a work in progress than the sort of high quality finished article a serious cinephile might spend £7k on.
Looking beyond the Toshiba 55ZL2’s Quad HD and glasses-free 3D skills, its picture performance is generally strong. As with Toshiba’s more mainstream Cevo Engine sets, the YL863 and WL863s, colours look exceptionally bold and rich; black levels are impressively deep and only marginally affected by edge LED’s backlight consistency issues, and motion looks clear and reasonably fluid.
The Places to be
Having been unable to resist getting more or less straight into assessing the 55ZL2’s groundbreaking pictures, we ought to quickly cover a few other features of the set before we wrap up. First, it’s equipped with Toshiba’s Places online service, with its familiar attractive menus but lack of content versus rival platforms.
It can also play a wide range of multimedia files via USB sticks or DLNA-enabled PCs, and is well equipped with picture calibration tools, including colour management and gamma controls. The TV can even calibrate itself via Toshiba’s TPA-1 colour meter-equipped auto-calibration package - though you’ll have to add £200 or so to the 55ZL2’s price if you want to bag yourself a TPA-1 pack.
The 55ZL2 is a surprisingly pretty TV considering how much cutting edge tech it has crammed inside, while its revolutionary picture efforts haven’t been used as an excuse to forget about audio. In fact, the 55ZL2’s soundstage is more punchy, dynamic and natural sounding than that of the majority of slim TVs.
Finally we measured the 55ZL2’s input lag to see how it shapes up as a potential gaming screen. And using the game mode we managed to get a figure of just 34ms - entirely acceptable for such an advanced TV.
There’s a part of us - the part that has already fallen in love with 4k/Quad HD - that wants to praise the 55ZL2 to the rafters. For in its full 4K glory it produces pictures the likes of which we’ve never seen before from a TV.
Toshiba also deserves credit for working so hard to make its glasses-free 3D performance better than expected.
However, the glasses-free 3D system is still far from perfect and worse, the 55ZL2‘s lack of support for 4k via its HDMI ports means that hardly anyone will actually ever be able to experience its 4k joys for themselves outside the confines of a shop.
So decent and, indeed, groundbreaking though the 55ZL2’s Quad HD upscaling processing might be, ultimately we can’t help but think that if we owned a 55ZL2, we’d forever be sat there feeling the pain of knowing that, digital still photos aside, we’ll never be able to see it running at its jaw-dropping best. And feeling pain after spending £7,000 is not a feeling we feel able to recommend, however bittersweet that pain might be.