Experience tells us, though, that on a TV as small and cheap as the 26AV615DB, subtle features like some of those we’ve just noted make little or no difference to the final picture quality. And I have to say that personally I didn’t see much benefit at all from the Cinema mode or CTI features. But the Active Backlight options and Adaptive Luma Control systems are worth tinkering with, for the way they boost black level response and contrast range respectively.
In some crucial ways, the 26AV615DB’s pictures are considerably better than I would have expected given its size and price. Particularly startling are its black levels, which are profound enough to show nearly pitch black scenes with little of LCD’s customary grey misting interference. As a simple example of what I mean, the black bars above and below a 2.35:1-ratio film transfer look almost as black on the 26AV615DB’s screen as the rich black of its bezel. Impressive!
Even better, the deep black levels don’t come at the expense of as much brightness as I would have anticipated, allowing the deep blacks to sit alongside surprisingly eye-catching bright whites and peak colours. This proves particularly helpful when watching films, which generally contain markedly more extreme contrasts than normal TV fare.
Watching films on Blu-ray also made me appreciate how respectably sharp the 26AV615DB’s HD pictures are. Clearly a 26in TV is hardly the ideal way of watching HD in action, but the 26AV615DB’s HD images are at least sharp enough to easily tell that you’re not watching standard definition.
I was also very pleased to note that the sharpness of HD fair isn’t spoiled badly by LCD’s motion blur problem. As well as suggesting that the screen’s native response time is better than that of most budget 26in TVs, the decent motion handling likely owes at least a little to the fact that Toshiba has managed to sneak its Active Vision II video processing – complete with its motion-improving component – onto the 26AV615DB.
Active Vision may well be contributing too – along with the good black level response – to another strength of the 26AV615DB’s pictures: surprisingly rich colours. The rich colourscapes of Viva Pinata on the Xbox 360 or a stylishly lit film like Blade Runner radiate forth with startling intensity, helping to give the picture solidity, as well as helping the TV hold your attention more than most 26in TVs that pass our way.