- Review Price: £887.80
The last Toshiba TV that I reviewed was the Regza 42WLT66, which offered a great feature set and truly stunning value for money at the time. Where the 42WLT66 did stumble slightly though, was the overall design – you were getting a huge amount for your money, but it wasn’t the best looking TV out there. Now Toshiba is trying to set things straight with its new WLT68 flagship range.
I’m looking at the somewhat modest 32WLT68, which as its name suggests is a 32in model. You can also get 37in and 42in examples, if you’re after a bit more screen size and have a room big enough to accommodate. Before I cover the undeniably stylish design of the WLT68 range, I need to mention one important fact. Despite the fact that the WLT68 series sits at the top of Toshiba’s TV range, none of the models sport a 1,920 x 1,080 full HD panel. Considering that both the 42in and 47in WLT66 sets are full HD compliant, I’m somewhat surprised that the 42in WLT68 can’t boast the same resolution.
Of course I wouldn’t have expected this 32in model to have a full HD panel, so there’s no black mark against its 1,366 x 768 resolution. And besides, as I always say, good picture processing can be more important than native screen resolution anyway. Of course this set can still accept both 720p and 1080i inputs, but no native 1080p input. That said, since the panel isn’t full HD, the lack of 1080p input isn’t really an issue . The 3500:1 dynamic contrast ratio is commendable, while the brightness of 500cd/m2 is pretty much what you’d expect.
Back to the design, and there’s no denying that Toshiba has done a very good job with the 32WLT68. In fact it’s difficult to believe that this TV has come from the same factory as the disappointingly dull looking 42WLT66. The screen is surrounded by a glossy black (or piano black as it’s so often referred to) bezel, which gives the set a sleek and stylish look, even when turned off. The speakers are located below the screen behind a slim black grille that’s angled downwards – the result being that you can’t even see that they’re there unless you’re looking for them. The fascia below the speakers is finished in brushed aluminium and is suitably minimalist, helping create very clean and uninterrupted lines.
The crescent shaped stand is one of the best I’ve seen, giving the TV a very stable base without taking up too much space. The screen will also pan left and right very smoothly on the stand, making it easy to reposition the viewing angle with little effort. All the controls are hidden on the right hand side – here you’ll find the power switch, programme up and down, volume controls, a menu button and an AV select button. Yes, it means you have to stick your head around the side to see them, but let’s be honest, how many times do you ever touch the controls on a TV? That’s what the remote control is for!
But the 32WLT68’s beauty isn’t just skin deep. When you take a look at the connection options, you realise that this little 32in set is punching far above its weight. The highlight of the connection complement is a total of three HDMI ports! That’s right, while far larger and more expensive sets force you to make do with one measly HDMI, the 32WLT68 pushes the boat out and gives you three. Toshiba has also been clever with the placement of the ports with two at the rear and the third at the side. The latter is very handy if you happen to have an HD camcorder like the Sony HDR-HC3, which sports an HDMI output. But even if you haven’t joined the HD home movie set just yet, when you factor in a Sky HD box, a Blu-ray player and the (eventual) European release of the PS3, it’s clear that you’ll have no trouble filling up three HDMI inputs.
But the good news doesn’t end with a triplet of HDMIs, this little TV has so much more than that. Obviously there’s a component video input to round off the HD Ready certification, but you also get two Scarts, a D-SUB PC input, S-Video and composite. There’s also both analogue and optical digital audio outputs and a dedicated subwoofer output, if you want to add a bit of extra low frequency punch to the proceedings. Toshiba even produces its own slim-line subwoofer, but the standard output means that you have the option of hooking up any external sub.
The final connection option is a CI slot for adding subscription services to the integrated digital tuner. Talking of tuners, the 32WLT68 comes equipped with both digital and analogue versions. You can also pull up the seven day Freeview EPG at the touch of a button, and unlike some TVs we’ve looked at, the 32WLT68 lets you browse through all the channels, not just the one that you’re watching. It’s also worth noting that EPG is very responsive when you’re browsing, unlike the 42WLT66 which felt annoyingly sluggish.
So, everything looks pretty damn good for the 32WLT68. It’s sleek and stylish, has more connection options than you could shake a stick at, and has both analogue and digital tuners built in. But before I move onto the picture quality I need to have one little moan. Just like the 42WLT66 before it, the 32WLT68 has a truly horrible remote control. Considering how good the TV itself looks, it’s a travesty that the remote looks like something you’d get with a no-brand TV that you bought down your local market. Toshiba really needs to work on this, because its competitors are getting things so right in this department. The Philips 37PF9731D for example, shipped with a remote control that wouldn’t look out of place in the Tate Modern.
The WLT68 range may not sport full HD panels, but it does showcase Toshiba’s new Active Vision M100 image processing engine. Active Vision M100 aims to eliminate that all too common LCD issue, motion smearing. By interleaving composite frames in between each frame of the source video, Toshiba has created a pseudo 100Hz image. So rather than moving from frame A to frame B, the 32WLT68 goes from frame A to frame AB to frame B and so on. With twice as many frames being shown per second, both fast action and slow pans should look smooth and clear.
But the clever stuff doesn’t end there. The 32WLT68 also features dynamic backlight control, so the intensity of the backlight is constantly adjusted to suit the currently displayed content. But my favourite feature has to be Toshiba Stable Sound, which keeps your audio at a constant level, and circumvents the broadcasters’ attempts to audibly shock you into noticing the adverts when they come on.
Of course the big question is whether Active Vision M100 actually works, and thankfully the answer is yes. I paid close attention to the amount of motion blur and smearing, or more accurately, the lack of motion blur and smearing. Watching a Premiership match in HD provided smooth, clear movement, with nothing to distract from the beautiful game. Slow panning movements didn’t seem to phase the 32WLT68 either, even in scenes of high contrast.
In fact, feeding this TV a diet of high quality HD footage produced some stunning pictures. Sky was kind enough to broadcast Serenity in HD while I was reviewing this TV and it looked stunning. The space battle just before the climax was crystal clear, despite there being an incalculable amount of movement, panning and spiralling going on. While River’s hand to hand combat with the reavers never looked so good, despite the very dark and gloomy setting. Talking of dark and gloomy settings, the black levels are very good on the 32WLT68, but I did notice a distinct loss of detail in dark areas when I first setup the screen. However, after a small amount of tinkering in the menus, I managed to bring out the detail in dark areas without turning all the blacks grey.
HD gaming also shone on this TV. Gears of War looked suitably dark, gloomy and desperate, but when the action kicked off, the 32WLT68 didn’t miss a beat. I played Gears all the way through over a weekend while I was reviewing it, and the 32WLT68 performed admirably, showing off the superb lighting effects and making sure that no detail was lost in the shadows – I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any Cog Tags after all!
Standard definition DVD footage didn’t faze this Toshiba either. I fired up Hero, with its characters’ rich and vivid primary colours thrown into a world of washed out greys and browns. The scene where Nameless and Flying Snow are repelling thousands of arrows not only highlighted the 32WLT68’s superb handing of contrasting colours, but also showed that Active Vision M100 could work its magic just as effectively on SD content. The 32WLT68 also gave a good account of itself when watching the integrated tuners – amazingly, even the analogue one.
Despite the very slim and discreet speaker bar below the screen, Toshiba has applied some impressive technology to the audio department, There is an Onkyo speaker system hiding behind that grille, while SRS WoW technology has been employed to create a larger sound stage. I was actually surprised by how loud and full the sound from this TV was, even without using an external subwoofer. However, even though there is admirable bass and both loud and subtle effects are handled well, I did feel that the dialogue was lost in the mix sometimes. It felt almost like running a 5.1-channel system with the centre speaker disconnected.
But even that slightly odd audio issue and the disappointing remote can’t hide the fact that this is a very fine TV. It feels like Toshiba has stepped up a notch with the WLT68 range, clearly differentiating it from the cheaper models below. And with a street price of under £900, you’re getting impressive value for money.
The Toshiba 32WLT68 is a great 32in LCD TV offering features that many larger and more expensive screens can’t match. Yes, you can buy 37in model like the Acer AT3720 for less money, but in this case you really do get what you pay for. The connection options are amazing, while the styling is a cut above any of Toshiba’s other ranges. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a high quality 32in HDTV, the 32WLT68 should definitely be on your short list.
Score in detail
Image Quality 9
Sound Quality 7