- Review Price: £783.99
Unfortunately the defining feature of last year’s LCD TV range from Toshiba was its inconsistency. And we’re not just saying that different series of TVs across the range were more successful than others; it even seemed to us that different sizes from the same series could deliver wildly different performance standards. Weird.
Not surprisingly both we and Toshiba are hoping that the same phenomenon does not characterise the brand’s new LCD range – a range which kicks off today with the 42in 42XV505DB.
The first thing to say about this mid-level TV is that it looks really, really nice. Following the success of its ‘Picture Frame’ XF series design, with its ultra-thin bezel, Toshiba has given the 42XV505DB a trimmer screen frame than the previous X range models. Yet even though the bezel is barely an inch wide, Toshiba has still managed to give it a real sense of style thanks to an extremely high-gloss finish, a gently convex curve, and the application of a sliver of contrasting silver trim running all the way around the TV’s outer edge.
Turning our attentions to the TV’s back end, connection highlights include three of our favourite v1.3 HDMI sockets, the inevitable component video input, a digital audio output for shipping out digital soundtracks received on the digital tuner, and a subwoofer line-out so you can add your own bass speaker in the event that the bass from the TV’s own speakers isn’t enough for you.
It’s perhaps a little disappointing on a step-up TV these days that there’s no USB or SD card slot for the direct viewing of digital photos. But then I guess we can’t ignore the fact that at under £800 the 42XV505DB is very affordable indeed for a mid-range 42in LCD TV.
Especially a 42in LCD TV with a full HD resolution, and a (surely optimistic) claimed contrast ratio of 25,000:1. As we always feel we need to make clear with LCD contrast ratios, this 25,000:1 quote isn’t a ‘native’ figure, but one only achieved by dimming the backlight output when dark scenes are detected.
But even with this in mind 25,000:1 is higher than the contrast ratio figures claimed by the majority of its LCD rivals, so we feel justified in hoping for a little more black level profundity than usual.
Probably the next most significant feature of the 42XV505DB is its Active Vision LCD processing system. This proprietary Toshiba engine has inevitably undergone a tweak or two since its appearance on Tosh’s previous LCD generation, so hopefully we should enjoy even more improvements in its four key focus areas of colour, motion handling, contrast and detail.
While we’re on the subject of image processing, though, I think it’s worthwhile pointing out a couple of things the 42XV505DB does NOT have, namely 100Hz for making LCD motion look clearer and Toshiba’s 5:5 pulldown system for enhanced playback of Blu-ray 1080p/24 sources. For these potentially very handy features you’ll have to get one of Toshiba’s current Z series models or imminent ZF models.
In keeping with pretty much every TV now, in these ‘green’ times, the 42XV505DB has a built-in light sensor it can use to dim the backlight’s output and thus save power when it detects your room growing darker.
Personally, I’d rather calibrate the picture myself than have any automatic circuitry doing it for me, but I guess I shouldn’t knock a feature which really might save a tiny bit of electricity for ‘normal’ users not as obsessed with picture tweaking as I am!
Heading into the 42XV505DB’s rather dated-looking onscreen menus, options of interest include the facility to turn the Active Backlight Control system off if its continual brightness adjustments upset you; multi-level MPEG noise reduction; 3D Colour Management enabling you to tweak colours on a micro level to your heart’s content; and a Black/White level adjustment that apparently makes dark areas look richer.
With Toshiba’s past inconsistencies still in my mind, I settled down to test the 42XV505DB with more than a little trepidation. Would this TV be a case of ‘good Toshiba’ or ‘bad Toshiba’?!
Typically the answer probably lies somewhere in between. Which is to say that its pictures are certainly no horror show, nor are they anything truly exciting or outstanding.
Starting with the good points, the 42XV505DB’s black levels certainly hit more convincing depths than those of its predecessor, portraying the night scenes of ”I Am Legend” with relatively little of LCD’s still-common greyness. As a result, really dark scenes, like the one where Will Smith’s character heads for the pier at night to mow down some pesky mutants in his car, enjoy more depth and are require less squinting to make out what’s going on.
Detail levels in HD images are generally high too, and HD pictures are pleasingly free of grain and dot crawl. The 42XV505DB is better at upscaling standard definition than its predecessor too, with less of the old noise and colour tone problems. Colours can be vibrant and motion doesn’t blur too badly for a set that doesn’t boast 100Hz processing (or anything really similar).
However, you’ll note that at no point during my run-through of the picture’s strengths did I really sound particularly excited. And therein lies the problem. For while the 42XV505DB improves on its Toshiba predecessors in numerous areas, it doesn’t really scale any particularly heights versus the best of its rivals.
As a result, while back levels are better, they’re still not truly outstanding – especially since getting the deepest blacks means losing a little more image brightness and background detail than I’d ideally like.
Also, while colours retain more natural tones when watching standard definition than on the old X Series, they still look a little less video-friendly than those of some rival screens, with one or two rough patches and plasticky skin tones. Even with HD I detected a few orangey-looking reds, ‘radioactive’-looking greens and blue-tinged blacks during pretty much any scene of ”I Am Legend”, be it a dark interior or a bright, crisp day out in the sun.
As for the generally high HD sharpness I noted earlier, it again isn’t as pronounced as on some rival screens – especially when the picture contains a lot of movement, at which point there is more blurring to be seen than you get with good 100Hz sets. Also on the motion front, I detected very slight judder in the picture while watching the ”I Am Legend” Blu-ray in its native 1080p/24 form.
As one final picture niggle, I was disappointed to discover that Toshiba doesn’t seem to have put any effort into improving the viewing angle of its screens. By shifting my viewing position to as little as 40-45 degrees from straight on, I noted a considerable reduction in black level response and colour saturation.
Turning to the 42XV505DB’s audio, treble effects sound plentiful and clear, and the soundstage is propelled over a surprisingly wide distance. But the mid-range sounds crowded and muddy under any sort of action scene duress, such as the ”I Am Legend” scene where a horde of mutants attack Will Smith’s house. Plus there’s sometimes a touch of vibrational distortion at loud volumes, especially with deep male voices.
Toshiba’s 42XV505DB is a solid TV: surprisingly affordable, with pictures that can look good and occasionally even great. But for the most part, aside from looking exceptionally cute, it just doesn’t do anything truly outstanding, and as such struggles to stand out from the crowd.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
Sound Quality 7
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