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Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV review

John Archer



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Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
  • Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
  • Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
  • Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
  • Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
  • Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
  • Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
  • Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
  • Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
  • Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV


Our Score:



  • It supports native quad HD pictures!
  • It lets you watch 3D without any glasses!
  • Normal HD pictures look great too


  • Focus and viewing position issues with 3D
  • Not currently clear how normal folk will get native 4k material to play on the TV
  • It costs £7k

Key Features

  • 55in LCD with edge LED lighting
  • glasses-free 3D playback
  • Quad HD resolution
  • Cevo Engine processing
  • Toshiba places online service
  • Manufacturer: Toshiba
  • Review Price: £6,999.00

If you need proof that a year is a long, long time in AV, look no further than the Toshiba 55ZL2 55in TV. For in the past 12-18 months this in many ways remarkable set has managed to deliver a phenomenal improvement to what Toshiba clearly initially thought was going to be its headline feature, while simultaneously finding the world's interest unexpectedly shifting to what was clearly considered to be a distinctly secondary feature. To explain...

At its inception, the Toshiba 55ZL2 was all about one thing: glasses-free 3D. Back in the heady days of 2010 and early 2011, 3D was pretty much all anyone in the AV world was talking about. Despite the fact that consumers remained stubbornly, um, 'non-committal' about the addition of an extra dimension to their TV viewing.

Toshiba 55ZL2

Almost every bit of consumer research undertaken around this time suggested that the main thing stopping Joe Public from sharing the AV industry's love of 3D was the need to wear glasses. So it was no surprise to see various brands suddenly rolling out demonstration TVs capable of producing 3D without the need for glasses.

Toshiba names the day

Only one brand, though, actually committed to a launch date for its first glasses-free 3D. That brand was Toshiba, which claimed it would have a glasses-free 3D TV available to buy before the end of April 2012. And true to its word, arriving in the UK just before May struck is the 55ZL2.

Given the amount of technical issues involved in getting around using glasses for 3D viewing, Toshiba's speed in getting the technology to market is startling. Yet it's still arguably not happened quite fast enough. For 3D is apparently already plummeting down the list of reasons to buy a new TV. Which brings us to the 55ZL2's rather handy plan B.

Toshiba realised early on that if you wanted to deliver a really satisfactory glasses-free 3D experience, you couldn't get away with just using a normal Full HD-resolution panel. There wouldn't be enough pixels to go round. So the brand took the expensive decision to build its glasses-free 3D debutante with a native 'quad HD' (or near 4k) resolution of 3840x2160 pixels. And ironically it’s this ultra-high resolution that's suddenly catching people's eye more than the glasses-free 3D.

Toshiba 55ZL2

It’s a royal shame, then, that at the time of writing, the 55ZL2's focus on 3D, and the inclusion of 4K merely as a way of delivering that 3D, appears to have meant that Toshiba hasn't thought seriously enough about how to enable consumers to actually make the most of the 55ZL2's 4k capabilities.

4K how?

During our tests we just couldn't see any way for the 55ZL2 to take in native 4k video sources via any of its standard inputs. Photos are fine; these played back - and looked downright, mind-blowingly spectacular - straight through the set’s USB ports. But when it comes to video, even hooking up via HDMI, the 4k-outputting PC we received with Sony's VW1000 failed to get us any 4K action on the 55ZL2. The PC would only register that a 1920x1080 devices was attached to it, not a 4K one. So it wouldn't give us the option to set its output resolution to 4k.

Toshiba 55ZL2

It's possible, we guess, that should some new 4K disc delivery standard be created the Toshiba 55ZL2 might be compatible with that. But all the advice we’ve received from Toshiba is that the HDMIs will never be able to take 4K video, no matter what the source.

All of which probably has you wondering how the heck we managed to test the 55ZL2's 4K video capabilities for this review. The answer is that Toshiba sent us one of the specially designed 4K server boxes it has developed for dealers who want to show consumers in-store 4K demos. These servers connect to the TV using a chunky digital serial port rather than any standard commercial connection, and seemingly do nothing other than just play the few minutes of 4k showreel they contain. There doesn't seem any way for consumers to get one of these servers for themselves and put other 4K content on it.


September 4, 2011, 11:18 am

"..we just didn't believe it would really happen. Partly because no other brand was sounding as if they thought their glasses-free 3D technologies would be ready for at least another five years,.."

I have noted in my TR comments that at last year's Farnborough Air Show I had seen large Phillips glasses-free 3D tvs being used to show off the wares of aerospace companies. They certainly were not pants.

So no big deal but great to see Toshiba kicking the ball rolling. Hopefully the rivals will be bringing theirs out by Christmas 2011.


September 4, 2011, 11:11 pm

Sounds promising - I might even get interested in 3D tv if this works and is available at a reasonable price....


September 5, 2011, 12:21 pm

Now if only all television manufacturers had waited and released glasses-free sets instead than perhaps 3D may have had somewhat of a chance to succeed. I can see a lot of upset early adopters sitting at home with their goofy looking glasses staring in envy at this.


September 5, 2011, 9:00 pm

Try this: Philips Demos Autostereoscopic (Glasses-Free) 3D Display with 150-Degree 3D Viewing Angle @


Was TR at IFA2010?

"Pleasing news for all you 3D sceptics out there - Philips is set to launch the world's first glasses-free 3D TV as early as 2013.

"That's according to Maarte Tobias of Dutch company Dimenco, which is developing the lenticular glasses-free technology on Philips' behalf.

A working prototype of this TV is on display in the Philips hall at IFA, and it really is truly impressive." - By James Rivington of techradar.com, September 2nd 2010.

See more just type "Phillips glasses-free 3D" in the Google search bar.


September 5, 2011, 9:06 pm

Philips glasses-free 3D hits the UK, 15 July 2011

"Philips glasses free displays are available in the UK after a distribution agreement between MMD, marketer and reseller of Philips-branded LCD monitors, and 3D media organisation, Wonderworks Media.

"The Philips display will be one of the main attractions at the Wonderworks 'Visual Theatre' in London."

@ http://www.inavateonthenet.net/article/43515/Philips-glasses-free-3D-hits-the-UK.aspx

Autostereoscopy explained @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autostereoscopy


September 6, 2011, 5:28 am

It's completely the wrong approach. Forget TV's, we need lasers projecting images directly into our eyes!

Until we can get the picture piped directly into our brains at least.

The kind of people who might buy a set like this are unlikely to want to compromise on image quality, or neck rigidity.


May 16, 2012, 3:01 pm

The displays Philips produce are for public signage - so ideal for trade shows like the Farnborough Air Show, but entirely rubbish in the home. What Toshiba is doing is very different to that, especially with their viewer tracking. In fact, Philips started producing autostereoscopic trade show displays in about 2007/8.


May 16, 2012, 3:11 pm

Really, truly, this Toshiba is trying to do something totally different to the displays you're talking about. None of the previous auto-3D displays have seriously been meant for anything other than signage/marketing, and are extremely clunky, think and heavy, not to mention incapable of producing 2D images of any quality.
More information about 3D screens for signage/promotion here: http://www.inition.co.uk/3D...

Martin Daler

May 16, 2012, 11:27 pm

I love how so called 3D TVs always, always, always use that hackneyed "image bursting outside of the bounds of the frame" idea to tout their 3D abilities, when sadly the bounds of the frame is one very obvious hard limit that they are unable to breach - becasue of course they are not 3D but merely stereoscopic.

If one day they do invent true 3D TVs what, I wonder, will they call them, since they have already 'used up' the 3D moniker? 4D?


May 17, 2012, 11:54 am

I agree with Bugblatter. The Simplest Solution is the Best Solution.


July 30, 2012, 10:40 am

It is little bit expensive. I know it is the first glasses-free TV in industry, but the 3D feature is not the most important feature of a TV. TVs should be bought for high resolution, big screen, smart functions, design as these features are used every day. 3D feature is used only sometimes and I'm not going to pay £7,000 for it. I would rather add little bit more and pay for LG's OLED TVs. They have slim design, gorgeous look and easy passive 3D glasses too.

Claude Lamontagne

September 24, 2013, 11:40 pm

glass-free 3D is not for tomorrow. Too bad because I own one (with glasses) and it's very good. I don't understand why sports especially tennis don't go in that direction...

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