Review Price £6,999.00
Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
Well, we of little faith. Despite Toshiba declaring confidently at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) way back in January that it would launch a large, glasses-free 3D TV into Europe by the end of its business year (which actually gave it up to April 2012), 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, and partly because the demo models Toshiba had on show back then were, not to put too fine a point on it, pants.
Here we are at IFA 2011 though, and Toshiba is not only sticking to its plans to launch a glasses-free 3D TV, but it’s even announcing a December launch date and giving its first big-screen glasses-free 3D set a name: the 55ZL2.
As its name suggests, the 55ZL2 sports a 55in screen. This has to count as a confident move by Toshiba, as clearly it means any serious picture problems will have nowhere to hide.
Rather less confidence-inspiring, though, was the nice lady who showed us into our tiny little three-seater 55ZL2 viewing booth. For her final words before drawing the curtain were: ‘The TV is due to launch in December, and will definitely be improved by then’. Er, OK.
Expecting the worst, the 55ZL2’s 3D efforts manage to deliver at least a glimmer of hope at the same time that they singularly failed to impress.
The problems with the 55ZL2’s 3D images are numerous and serious. The first thing that struck us was the sort of honeycomb structure visible over 3D pictures – particularly in very bright areas. This really quite distracting artifact is, we presume, a result of the filters applied to the screen in order to deliver a glasses-free 3D effect to multiple viewing angles.
There was also some fairly consistent ghosting noise around the edges of bright objects, and motion sometimes looks a bit ‘shimmery’, for want of a better word. The sense of depth also seems very limited compared with ‘normal’, glasses-using 3D TVs.
It’s still pretty easy, too, to cause the picture to distort quite nastily if you happen to move your head far enough to shift from one of the screen’s 3D viewing ‘zones’ to another.
However, it has to be said that during our demo there seemed a bit more movement leeway than was the case with the models on show at the CES. And things could well improve further, since unlike our preview model, finished 55ZL2’s will feature face tracking technology able to spot where viewers are in a room and adjust the 3D output according.
It was also clear that the set’s motion handling, while still flawed, is much better than was the case a few months ago. Partly because of this, the 55ZL2’s glasses-free 3D pictures look more detailed and ‘HD’ than those we saw back in January.
It’s these clear signs of improvement in a number of areas that give rise to the glimmer of hope mentioned earlier. For while we remain deeply unconvinced that Toshiba will get things turned round enough by December to convert us to the 55ZL2’s cause, it does make us vaguely consider for the first time the possibility that glasses-free 3D might actually be technically viable at some point down the line.
While the 55ZL2 continues to have serious work to do with its 3D, though, it does have another potent attraction – one which might well prove more popular than its 3D talents, at least where enthusiasts are concerned.
The thing is, to preserve a half-decent resolution with its glasses-free 3D TVs, Toshiba has had to stuff more pixels into the 55ZL2’s screen than usual. 3840x2160 of them, to be precise. Which means the 55ZL2 is going to be the first 4k2k screen to be launched into the consumer marketplace.
Obviously the full potential of this resolution can’t be realized right now due to the lack of any 4k video sources. But as we could see from a demo on Toshiba’s stand, a new, powerful version of Toshiba’s Resolution technology does a really solid job of upscaling HD to the 4k2k level, while the huge resolution of the screen can certainly play a part in making high resolution digital photographs look markedly better than they do on normal HD TVs.
If you get up very close to the 55ZL2 running in 2D mode you can still just about make out the honeycomb effect in very bright parts of the picture. But the issue pretty much disappears from any sort of ‘typical’ viewing distance, leaving you free to admire what looks like a promising 2D situation.
It’s just as well the 55ZL2 has its potential resolution-based saving grace, though. For with the set’s as-yet-unconfirmed price likely to be intimidating, on current evidence, if it had to depend on its 3D alone, it would likely struggle to find a fanbase.