The Toshiba 55UL5A63DB offers decent picture quality, but standard HDR performance is inevitably compromised for a set at this price. The presence of Dolby Vision HDR is a blessing, and along with smart features, the Toshiba Connect Alexa device and affordable price, this is a decent pick for those looking for value. Just feed it as much Dolby Vision content as humanly possible.
- Good number of HDMI inputs
- Dolby Vision HDR
- Decent picture quality
- Weak sound
- Not bright enough to do HDR justice
- So-so upscaling
- Picture quality needs a lot of tweaking
- Review Price: £399
- Freeview Play
- Dolby Vision
- Toshiba Connect Alexa functionality
- TRU Picture Engine
- Four HDMI inputs
- 26ms gaming response
The Toshiba UL5A (55UL5A63DB) is the step down model from the UL7A in the company’s 2019 TV range, offering Dolby Vision HDR and Amazon Alexa functionality.
Having fallen on hard times of late, Toshiba’s TV brand is hoping for a resurgence with its latest set of TVs. The UL5A is one of the more affordable sets in its lineup and, undeterred by its budget leanings, offers Dolby Vision HDR and Alexa integration.
Available in 43in, 49in and 55in models, the Toshiba 55UL5A63DB is aimed squarely at TV buyers looking for a value proposition.
Read More: Best cheap TVs
Toshiba 55UL5A63DB design – A surprisingly decent number of connections, but the stand offers little clearance for soundbars
The UL5A63DB doesn’t look any different from the 55U7763DB tested by Trusted Reviews a few years back.
Still, while there doesn’t appear to have been any overt visual improvements, the UL5A is a steady-looking set. The rear protrudes somewhat, but it can be wall-mounted if you purchase a VESA mount and brackets.
The aluminium plate stand offers very little clearance, which means a soundbar will block off the IR receiver.
The UL5A sports a surprising number of HDMI inputs (four). Other connections include an optical out, LAN, satellite and aerial antenna, two USBs and, interestingly, VGA and component connections. While it makes sense to include the latter for those who wish to connect a PC or other legacy equipment, it does feel antiquated.
Lastly, the remote is a big, old-fashioned hunk of plastic – and it isn’t the most responsive either. There’s a smaller remote, but that comes with the more expensive UL7A model.
The remote has IR learning for control over other devices. To disable this, hold down the “O” button for a few seconds. Controlling other devices isn’t the smoothest; pressing Home on the Sony UBP-X700 kept bringing up a side menu instead of returning to the UBP-X700’s start menu. Pressing Home when in-app also brings up picture settings instead of the Home tile section on the bottom of the screen.
Toshiba 55UL5A63DB features – Dolby Vision HDR and Alexa are welcome features
The UL5A comes with a few interesting features.
For one, it supports Dolby Vision HDR, to compensate for the miserly HDR10 performance of sets at this price. There’s broadcast HLG, which will aid HDR performance in the BBC iPlayer app, but there’s no Wide Colour Gamut (WCG), which is a shame.
Toshiba has pinpointed its picture performance as an area of growth, developing the TRU Picture Engine. It breaks down the TV’s picture performance into three parts: micro dimming, motion control and upscaling.
There’s Freeview Play for access to catch-up TV, on-demand services and live TV. And Toshiba hasn’t scrimped on the smart side either, with the revamped UI home to such apps as Netflix, Prime Video and Rakuten TV. The new UI is part of a tile/row interface – scroll up or down and there’s access to Sources, Settings or Live TV.
READ MORE: What is Freeview Play?
The most intriguing feature is the Alexa integration, which could prove to be the UL5A’s MVP alongside Dolby Vision. Called Toshiba Connect, it allows for interaction with the Alexa interface built into the system’s core.
This isn’t “Works with Alexa”, which requires an external speaker – although it does need an external receiver to work. Hook up the Toshiba Connect to a USB port and it performs like any other Alexa device, with the Alexa logo popping up on the screen when she’s in use.
It works well, but it isn’t without some niggles. The far-field microphone on the device recognised prompts to increase or decrease the volume, but wouldn’t respond to muting the audio. Asking Alexa to change the channel created an awkward period of silence, and trying to open Netflix led to her to telling me facts about Netflix. Perhaps I just didn’t make myself clear, but there do appear to be limitations to how much you can ask of the digital assistant.
However, ask Alexa what the weather is like and she’ll respond quickly. Want to know what’s going on in the world? Alexa can provide a briefing with the option of news from the BBC, Sky or the Telegraph. If you prefer Alexa to not listen in on you, the mute button on the remote turns the microphones off.
The 55UL5A63DB’s Game mode puts in a fine performance, with latency measured at 26ms.
Toshiba 55UL5A63DB setup – Picture settings require a lot of tweaking out of the box
Out of the box, the 55UL5A63DB’s settings need tweaking to achieve a somewhat satisfactory image.
The available picture modes include Cinema, Natural, Dynamic, Sports and Game alongside their HDR versions. Cinema, Natural and Dynamic are your best bets, but they come with caveats.
Brightness is compromised with all three options, although Dynamic produces the best black performance at the cost of detail. The yellow tint of the Cinema mode is aggressive and whites are hot. Natural lacks definition and makes areas of the image appear darker than they ought to be, but complexions are better conveyed. Trying to extract a good image out of these choices proves to be a minefield.
And when it comes to Dolby Vision, there are two choices: Dolby Vision Bright and Dolby Vision Dark. Of the two Dark is the preferred option, with Bright producing a processed, glossy image that appears to suffer from raised blacks.
Related: What is Dolby Vision HDR?
Toshiba 55UL5A63DB picture quality – A decent performer, although best results are seen with Dolby Vision content
The 55UL5A63DB’s picture quality could be described as decent for the price – but the HDR performance is compromised in some ways.
The lack of Wide Colour Gamut means colours lack subtlety, and HDR performance is weak, as you’d expect from a HDR TV at this price point.
This model isn’t bright enough to handle most HDR sources, with dim highlights a problem. This issue is further exacerbated by a lack of detail in these areas. Watching Aquaman in HDR10, the clouds in the scene where Jason Momoa’s title character rescues a Russian submarine look shapeless and indistinct.
Another example is Captain America: The Winter Soldier on 4K Blu-ray. The scene where Steve Rogers infiltrates the Lumerian Star is rendered too dim to spot any shadow detail or detail in general. And Cap’s suit, which is navy blue, is closer to black.
The upscaling performance is oftentimes so-so. SD sources can look blurry, with waxy complexions on show. HD is better articulated with bolder colours, but complexions have a tendency to smear at times, with something like Netflix’s Unicorn Store lacking sharpness and clarity.
And when it comes to motion control, it’s tricky to ascertain how effective the Tru Contour is. With Tru Flow on, there remain moments of judder – and even turned off the image retains a processed look. The micro-dimming tech is also curiously applied, with Medium the best choice; nudging it up to High makes it look a tad worse.
Overall though, the UL5A is capable of producing a decent 4K picture performance. Colours can be bold and aggressive in the way they’re depicted, with colours popping off the screen. Whites can look good – such as those in the scene in Blade Runner 2049, where Sylvia Hoeks’ Luv infiltrates a police station. It’s the inclusion of Dolby Vision HDR that’s the 55UL5A63DB’s saving grace.
As long as there’s content to watch in Dolby Vision, that is. Netflix supports it and there are a few shows on Prime Video. If you have a Dolby Vision 4K player, the increase in performance and fidelity is welcome.
A play of Aquaman in 4K HDR highlights the set’s deficiencies; contrast is hot, detail is missing in the brightest areas. However, a switch to the Dolby Vision version helps for a more refined and controlled HDR performance.
HDR10 Dolby Vision HDR
What lacks detail and is now more faithful. The intensity of colours, while fine at times, is more exacting. Colours are more accurate – blues and blacks are better defined – and less prone to oversaturation. Plus, there’s more detail to be wrung out of the picture. If only there was more Dolby Vision content for the 55UL5A63DB to consume.
Toshiba 55UL5A63DB audio – This set could really benefit from a soundbar
The 55UL5A63DB’s speakers are tuned by Onkyo, but the UL5A misses out on the “Enhanced” speakers of the UL7A and the front-firing efforts of the TL7A.
You’ll need an external audio system for this TV; the onboard speakers lack weight and dynamism, with dialogue sounding unintelligible at times.
It lacks bass, which isn’t unexpected – but its lack of bass is exacerbated by turning up the volume. Positioning and placement of sounds is difficult to decipher, even for a flatscreen unit.
As a soundbar’s height would block the IR receiver, it’s worth thinking about a soundbase instead. The Q Acoustics M2 is an affordable option, and it’s large enough for the UL5A to sit on.
Related: Best soundbars
Should you buy the Toshiba 55UL5A63DB?
If you’re after an affordable TV that does 4K and HDR, you could do worse than the Toshiba 55UL5A63DB. The smart apps are good, it comes with Freeview Play, and if you’re interested in voice control then the Alexa Toshiba Connect receiver comes bundled with the TV.
HDR performance is weak, but Dolby Vision support really helps here. The audio performance lacks finesse, so an external audio system would be needed to give it a boost.
Other options at a similar size include the Panasonic TX-50GX700B. It’s more expensive and picks HDR10+ over Dolby Vision, but the picture quality is more composed and the upscaling is better – as is the audio. Factor in Freeview Play and access to smart apps and the Panasonic is a compelling alternative.
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