- Review Price: £477.70
According to TV makers, the big ‘craze’ right now is for TVs with Full HD resolutions. As a result, even sets as small as 32in increasingly feel the need to squeeze the required 1,920 x 1,080 pixels into their relatively small bodies. So if we’re all as obsessed with Full HDness as the TV industry thinks we are, then Toshiba’s new 32CV505DB with its ‘mere’ 1,366 x 768 HD Ready resolution probably isn’t going to garner much interest.
However, we at TrustedReviews don’t think this will actually be the case. For we suspect that another fine British tradition is still the truly dominant force in the TV world: bargain hunting. And in this respect, the 32CV505DB could be very popular indeed, for it offers you 32in of what promises on paper, at least, to be very credible LCD picture quality for less than £500.
Not surprisingly this sort of money doesn’t get you anything very original on the design front; the 32CV505DB is essentially just another member of the ‘glossy black rectangle’ brigade. Yet somehow – possibly thanks to a slight convex curve in the bezel and/or the textural differentiation presented by the small speaker panel running along the bottom edge – the 32CV505DB does manage to look genuinely attractive.
The 32CV505DB’s good first impressions continue with its provision of three HDMI inputs where I would have only expected two on a TV at its price level. Plus there are the de rigueur component video inputs, a D-Sub PC port, a digital audio output, and even a subwoofer line out for adding your own powered bass speaker if the TV’s built-in rumbles don’t do it for you.
Obviously given its price the 32CV505DB isn’t the world’s most feature-heavy TV. There’s no sign of any 100Hz processing to help reduce LCD’s traditional motion blur problem, for starters. Yet actually I’d say that overall the 32CV505DB has rather more to offer feature-wise than you might think.
Particularly gratifying is the discovery that despite being part of Toshiba’s new entry-level range, the 32CV505DB still carries the latest version of Toshiba’s Active Vision LCD processing engine.
To be honest, on Toshiba’s previous LCD range this once admired system didn’t seem to keep up with the similar systems of some rival brands – or at least its effects seemed strangely inconsistent from model to model. But you never know; the tweaks made to this latest version might get the system back up to speed.
A new development for Toshiba’s entry-level sets, meanwhile, is a Game Mode. This provides a dedicated channel between a game console and the screen that delivers an improved response time, so that your gaming skills aren’t messed up by any time delay between what the console is putting out and what the screen is showing.
The Game Mode also automatically defaults to a 1:1 pixel mapping mode, for more precise picture rendition. Though obviously, given that the 32CV505DB only has a 1,366 x 768 resolution, you’ll only get the benefit of the 1:1 system if you set your Xbox 360 or PS3 to output 720p HD, not 1080i or 1080p.
Another new feature is Luma Sens, a system that measures ambient light levels in your room at the same time that it studies the content of the picture being shown, in order to automatically deduce the best settings for contrast, detail and colour. This system can also potentially reduce energy consumption.
The 32CV505DB’s onscreen menus, meanwhile, play host to one or two more handy features. For instance, there’s black/white level balance adjustment; 3D colour management via which you can adjust the hue, saturation and brightness elements of the image’s red, green, blue, cyan, yellow and magenta colours; MPEG and standard noise reduction; and finally Active Backlight Control.
This latter feature adjusts the output level of the screen’s backlight depending on how bright or dark an incoming image is. Such features are, of course, extremely common on LCD TVs, but it’s worth saying that the one boasted by the 32CV505DB does claim a notably higher contrast ratio result than most: 30,000:1. In fact, this figure is so far ahead of the figures quoted by the majority of its LCD rivals that we’re inclined to treat it with scepticism.
However, while the 30,000:1 claim certainly does prove ‘optimistic’, I must admit that the 32CV505DB’s black level response is nonetheless very good indeed – especially by the standards of the affordable 32in LCD market.
Feeling particularly mean, I tested the TV for the most part with the recent Blu-ray of ”Master And Commander: The Far Side of the World”, a film packed with notably dark, gloomy scenes – particularly those which take place at night on the high seas. But the 32CV505DB rose to the considerable black level challenges posed by the film much, much better than I’d expected it to.
For instance, as the ship’s ‘Jonah’ throws himself overboard with a heavy cannonball for company, the night sky behind him looks very dark indeed, with precious little of the grey cloudiness we expect to see on relatively cheap LCDs. What makes this especially surprising is the fact that probably our biggest single gripe about Toshiba’s small LCD TVs in recent times has been their inability to render a really deep, convincing black. So hats off to the Toshiba boys for bringing this key picture element so far forward in a single generation.
As we would expect, the 32CV505DB’s much-improved black levels also help the set deliver much-improved colours. The same extreme vibrancy and fullness of saturation found on the majority of Tosh’s last-generation LCDs is still there, but now there appears to be a greater tonal range that helps the often tricky skin tones in ”Master and Commander” all look engagingly believable.
The HD image looks pleasingly sharp, too, for a set without a Full HD resolution, suggesting that the scaling undertaken by the Active Vision LCD system is of a pretty high quality.
It doesn’t do any harm to the image’s sharpness, either, that the picture is less troubled by LCD’s smearing problem than I’d have anticipated for under £500. Sure, action scenes like the climactic boarding of the French war vessel Acheron towards ”Master and Commander’s” conclusion do exhibit some resolution loss as the actors charge about. But it really isn’t at all severe.
It’s a relief, too, to find the picture looking crisp and relatively noise-free when watching standard definition – an achievement that seemed beyond many of Toshiba’s previous LCD generation, even the high-end models.
The 32CV505DB’s pictures do betray one or two signs of its budget nature. I’ve already mentioned that there’s a trace of motion blur – more, at any rate, than you’d get with a good 100Hz LCD TV. But also, while dark scenes enjoy superbly deep black levels, sometimes the darkest bits look a touch hollow, thanks to an inability of the screen to resolve the subtlest bits of shadow detailing.
The set’s 24p playback isn’t quite as smooth as it might be either, and finally the screen occasionally makes exceptionally bright picture segments look a little drained of colour. But even added together these relatively minor flaws only place a pretty small dent in my otherwise overwhelmingly positive impressions.
When it comes to audio, the 32CV505DB is not as accomplished as it is with its pictures. It tries quite hard, with SRS WOW processing and a bass booster on hand to give the sound more ‘poke’, and it produces quite a wide soundstage. But the bottom line is that the speakers themselves just don’t have enough raw power – or, more specifically, dynamic range – to really deliver a decent film soundtrack with much conviction. Too much audio information is crammed into the mid-range, leading to slightly soupy bass and moments of actual distortion and cabinet vibration, especially when handling some low-pitched male voices.
Despite being a touch disappointing on the audio front, I really like the 32CV505DB. After all, it also delivers great connectivity, plenty of features and, best of all, cracking picture quality for a knock-down price. Here’s hoping it’s just the first of many new Toshiba TVs that will help put the once reliable brand’s slightly tarnished reputation well and truly back on track.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Sound Quality 6
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