- Review Price: £546.80
I don’t mind admitting that I’m more excited by the arrival of Toshiba’s strikingly cheap 37AV635D than I am by most ‘entry-level’ TVs. Why? Because it has the potential to be the best entry-level TV in town.
My reasoning behind these bold words is simply that despite resting towards the bottom of Toshiba’s new flat TV range and costing absolute peanuts (under £550) by 37in LCD standards, the 37AV635D carries a little feature called Resolution+.
Resolution+, as regular readers may recall, hugely impressed both myself and fellow reviewer Danny Philips for the cracking job it did of improving standard definition pictures. So finding such a powerful video processing engine on such a strikingly cheap TV is an unexpected treat, and one that has the potential to single-handedly make the 37AV635D a massive hit with today’s cash-strapped punters.
Provided, of course, that other aspects of the 37AV635D’s pictures don’t let Resolution+ down. After all, no TV can get by on one picture talent alone.
As usual, though, we’ve got lots more scene-setting to go through before getting up close and personal with the 37AV635D’s pictures. And this scene-setting gets off to a surprisingly up-beat start with the 37AV635D’s design. We’re used to Toshiba’s entry-level TVs being a touch on the bland, flimsy side. But not the 37AV635D. Its high-gloss finish does a sterling job of hiding any plastickiness in its construction, and the slenderness of its bezel makes it look suitably high-tec. The jauntily angular speaker section running along the TV’s bottom edge gives it an extra dash of panache too, especially since the Toshiba name emblazoned across this bottom section groovily illuminates when the TV is switched on.
The air of new-found confidence exuded by the 37AV635D’s fascia extends to its connections roster, too. For I was startled to find no less than four HDMIs – at least one more than you’ve any right to expect for so little money. Plus the TV has a D-Sub PC input and even a USB port for the direct playback of JPEG pictures on to the TV’s screen – the first time such an input has been included on an entry-level Toshiba TV.
Turning my attentions to stuff going on inside the 37AV635D, Resolution+ turns out to be just a part of a larger processing system rather splendidly dubbed MetaBrain by the Toshiba marketing gurus. Making up the other main part of the MetaBrain is Toshiba’s latest Active Vision 2 processing, one of those ‘general purpose’ processing systems now found on practically all TVs for improving everything from colours and detail to motion handling and video noise levels.
Actually, while I might have sounded a bit blasé about Active Vision 2 back there, it’s another quite surprising find given the 37AV635D’s puny price tag.
So proud is Toshiba of the MetaBrain that it allows you to call up a couple of real-time graphs showing what the processing is doing at any given moment. Tucked away under a ‘Control Visualization’ menu option, one busy graph entitled ‘distribution’ shows via fast-changing peaks and troughs the ‘number of pixels’ on one axis against ‘brightness’ on the other, while a separate Control Curve graph shows Output along one axis and Input along the other.
To be honest, with the over-brief instruction manual giving no explanation at all of what these graphs are really showing, they’re more an in-store marketing tool than anything a normal user will get much use from. But at least you can look at them and be reassured that the MetaBrain is always keeping busy on your behalf!
Turning to features you can adjust yourself, the 37AV635D helpfully allows you to turn on or off an automatic 3D colour management system, or adjust the hue, saturation and brightness levels of the red, green, blue, cyan, yellow and magenta colour elements. Such fine tuning is pretty remarkable on such a cheap TV.
Just as surprising is the 37AV635D’s system for adjusting its backlight settings in response to the image content and amount of light in your room. For while these features are common to most TVs these days, the 37AV635D has an innovative AutoView image option that actually looks at ambient light levels and picture content in tandem. What’s more, Toshiba even provides you with a graph-based tool for shifting the base point for the automatic backlight level adjustment to suit your own image tastes.
Yet more flexibility allows you to turn on or off the whole active backlight system, tweak the black/white level, adjust the static gamma level (which can affect the amount of shadow detail the picture shows), adjust the level of Resolution+ processing, and have the picture show just its blue, green or red colours to help you set colours with more precision.
With all this going on, we could easily be talking about a premium TV costing north of a grand rather than one costing well under £600. But the set does have a couple of specs that hint at its budget nature. One is a claimed dynamic contrast ratio of ‘just’ 23,000:1 that’s slightly low compared with many rivals. The other – a real kicker for some people, I suspect – is that the screen’s native resolution is an ‘HD Ready’ 1,366 x 768 pixels rather than the Full HD resolution found on most 37in TVs these days.
And so, after much more feature-related delay than expected, we come to the moment of truth. Does its MetaBrain, more specifically Resolution+ processing, make the 37AV635 the bargain dream machine I’d been hoping for?
With day-to-day standard definition TV fare, the answer is a qualified yes. For as I’d hoped, Resolution+ works its magic in producing standard definition pictures that look remarkably sharper than they normally would. What makes Resolution+ ”really” clever, though, is how it manages to add so much extra sharpness and detail to standard definition pictures without adding or emphasising video noise aside from some very slight over-stressing of one or two high-contrast edges.
Thanks to the noiselessness of its detail-boosting efforts, the 37AV635 can justifiably claim to deliver the most HD-like standard definition pictures ever seen from a mass market TV. Honestly.
Happily it’s not just the extra Resolution+-inspired sharpness that helps standard definition pictures shine, either. Provided you stick with the Standard image preset for the most part – or even better, image settings you’ve calibrated yourself, if you can be bothered – the 37AV635 delivers colours that combine vibrancy with natural tones and surprisingly subtle colour blends for a TV that lacks the pixel density of Full HD screens.
I was also pretty impressed by the 37AV635D’s handling of motion considering there’s no 100Hz engine in play, as even the flying fists and feet of a lightweight boxing match didn’t succumb to any distracting levels of either blur or judder.
Finally, I felt that the set’s black levels looked more than adequate for most standard definition needs, giving pictures dynamism and punch.
Unfortunately, though, the set’s black level response doesn’t hold together when I shift my attention to the more extreme contrast demands of a Blu-ray movie or two. Even with the Backlight setting cranked down as low as 20 – a level which inevitably removes quite a bit of brightness from the image, and should probably only be used in a darkened room – black parts of the picture look slightly bleached by the appearance of the LCD clouding issue still so common with LCD technology. This drastically reduces the dynamism of dark scenes, as well as making them feel a bit one-dimensional thanks to the way the greyness – and the lack of brightness in the picture with black levels optimised – obscures subtle shadow detailing.
Making the set’s black level response problems worse is the fact that its viewing angle is very limited, even by LCD’s usual unimpressive standards. Watch from even as little as a 30-degree angle and both contrast and colour start to drop out of the picture quite markedly.
Now that I’m focussing on the HD world, it has to be said that, ironically, the superb sharpness noted with standard definition fare on the 37AV635D doesn’t extend to high definition pictures, which actually look rather soft. You can still clearly tell that you’re watching high definition, but you’re not getting the fullest impression of what HD can do. This is probably down in part to the screen not having a Full HD resolution, but it has to be said that I’ve also seen other 1,366 x 768 pixel screens deliver HD that looks crisper than it does on the 37AV635D.
At least the slightly soft HD impression isn’t worsened by much motion blur, though. And colours retain a likeable combination of vibrancy and naturalism, except for where the contrast shortcomings come into play during extremely dark scenes.
Turning to the 37AV635D’s audio, I was slightly amused to note among the TV’s specifications the proud claim that the TV includes Dolby Digital Plus processing for maintaining audio bit-rates and reducing audio compression when watching something with a digital soundtrack. As expected, though, any benefits of such processing are largely negated by the fact that the set’s speakers lack the raw power and dynamic range to do a good movie audio mix justice. Loud action scenes thus tend to sound rather compressed and muddy.
The speakers don’t, at least, phut or distort, showing that Toshiba appreciates the limitations of the 37AV635D’s audio, plus voices are always well presented. But let’s not get too happy-clappy here; the 37AV635D’s audio is certainly no better than average.
The 37AV635D is a frustrating ‘game of two halves’. As I’d hoped, its MetaBrain helps it do a great job with standard definition fodder – indeed, it produces for my money the best standard definition pictures I’ve seen at the sub-£600 price point. This alone could be enough to win it many fans among price-conscious consumers not really interested in the whole HD phenomenon.
But the 37AV635D doesn’t fare nearly so well as an HD movie – or gaming – screen thanks to its black level problems, and slightly soft HD presentation.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
Sound Quality 6
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