- Review Price: £348.99
With the TV world teetering on the edge of a huge burst of innovation as we hurtle through 2010, the current crop of ‘vanilla’ TVs are having to work harder and harder to still look appealing – where working harder usually means slashing prices, as has happened with Toshiba’s now phenomenally cheap 32RV635DB.
You can get this 32in LCD TV for just 349 quid – a pretty remarkable feat for a TV with an established and respected brand name attached to it. But that feat becomes even more remarkable when you consider that the 32RV635DB doesn’t even sit at the bottom of Toshiba’s current TV range.
Its step-up status from Toshiba’s entry-level AV635 series means, for instance, that it offers a Full HD resolution – far from a given at the budget end of the 32in market. Also, the 32RV635DB uses an ‘eco panel’ for reduced power consumption while the 32AV635D does not; and the 32RV635DB’s claimed contrast ratio of 50,000:1 looks far healthier than the 18,000:1 quoted for the 32AV635DB.
The 32AV635D actually outscores the 32RV635DB in one area, with a brightness of 500cd/m2 versus its sibling’s 450cd/m2. But this could merely reflect the 32RV635DB’s eco panel and enhanced focus on contrast rather than revealing a relative weakness in its performance.
The 32RV635DB is quite cute to look at (as long as you don’t get close enough to notice the slightly plasticky build quality), even boasting that now trademark Toshiba touch of an illuminated brand logo.
AV purists will, of course, hate this logo with a passion. But as well as having to point out that a £349 TV is hardly being aimed at AV purists, I’m happy to say that you can turn the illumination off if you want to. When I tried to do this, mind you, it simply ended in my three-year-old daughter getting so upset about me ‘hurting the TV’ that I had to put the illumination back on again pronto. Parents, you have been warned!
Getting back into less controversial waters, the 32RV635DB is exceptionally well-connected for such a stupidly cheap TV. My eye was particularly caught by four HDMIs where I would only have expected three for this money, and a USB input through which the TV can play JPEG photos.
Exploring the 32RV635DB’s slightly bland onscreen menus, meanwhile, continues the already-growing sense that this is a TV with far more to offer than you’d ever guess from its lowly price point. For instance, Toshiba has installed a surprisingly effective colour management system, with which you can play about with the settings of not just the red, green and blue primary picture elements, but also the cyan, magenta and yellow ‘secondary’ ones.
Also initially intriguing if ultimately a little pointless is a Control Visualisation option that calls up a couple of graphs showing, in real time, the effects of various parts of the TV’s processing.
For yes, even at £349 the 32RV635DB comes with video processing. And plenty of it, actually, underneath the wonderfully sci-fi heading of Meta Brain.
There are two key elements to the Meta Brain. For me the most interesting of these is Toshiba’s proprietary Resolution+ system for boosting the resolution of standard definition sources. With 10 separate levels of ‘heaviness’, this processing system is streets ahead of any rescaling engine employed by any other budget TV at the moment. In fact, it can be way too powerful if you’re not careful, causing overt noise and all sorts of unpleasantness. But that’s only if you leave it set too high; at around its two or three level, it renders standard definition images with markedly more sharpness than they show without the feature engaged, yet noise levels hardly increase at all.
The other main part of the Meta Brain is Toshiba’s Active Vision II. This processor actually works on a wider selection of picture elements than Resolution+, and delivers marked benefits in all of them, especially contrast. But at the same time I personally find it slightly less interesting than Resolution+, for the simple reason that it doesn’t do anything significantly better than similar ‘utility’ processing engines on other manufacturers’ screens.
The 32RV635DB’s pictures clearly improve on those of Toshiba’s 32AV635D entry-level model – despite the 32AV635D already being good for its lowly point in the market.
Black levels, in particular, are startlingly decent for a £349 32in TV, as dark scenes suffer with little greyness relative to similarly priced rivals. The darkest parts of pictures don’t look as crushed as I would have expected either, leaving at least a bit of shadow detail visible to help dark scenes achieve a sense of depth. The only thing about the 32RV635DB’s black levels, in fact, which is ‘strictly budget’, is the heavy extent to which they’re reduced if you have to watch the screen from any significant angle.
The 32RV635DB also easily outguns your average cheap and cheerful set with its sharpness levels. I’ve already noted how this applies to standard definition thanks to Resolution+, but HD images, too, look startlingly crisp and detailed. And amazingly, this sharpness isn’t completely lost when things start moving around in the picture. In other words, while this television isn’t by any means entirely free from motion blur, its impact is far less distracting than is usually the case at the low end of the TV market.
More mostly good news concerns the 32RV635DB’s colours. Tones are generally credible, even during dark scenes, and there’s less evidence of striping over what should be smooth colour blends than is commonly the case with budget TVs. The 32RV635DB doesn’t manage to deliver the same sort of vibrancy post calibration as a good £500 or more TV might achieve, which can leave images looking a touch muted if viewed in a bright room. But if I had to choose between slightly muted naturalism and unrealistic over-aggression… well, I think you can tell by the way I phrased the question where my sympathies would lie.
Wrapping up the 32RV635DB’s budget-busting performance is its perfectly acceptable audio. I can’t quite persuade myself to get any more enthusiastic than that about a soundstage that doesn’t really have the power or range to open up to accommodate a healthy action sequence. That said, the 32RV635DB’s decent audio clarity with ‘normal’ TV fodder doesn’t go completely AWOL when a few explosions start going off, so it’s still a step up from the tinny, distorted nastiness commonly found below £400.
While the 32RV635DB is fractionally too workmanlike a performer to make it an unreserved recommendation, I can’t for the life of me think where else you could get the same level of performance for anywhere as little cash. So on that basis – its extreme talent relative to the rest of the entry-level 32in LCD world – I really have no choice but to slap a TrustedReviews Recommended badge on it!
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Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Sound Quality 7