- Review Price: £747.80
A couple of weeks ago, Danny found himself rather impressed by the first of Toshiba’s ‘Resolution+’ TVs – TVs which use powerful processing proprietary to Toshiba to ramp up the sharpness of standard definition sources. But as ever with this sort of technology, it remains to be seen how well it translates down to smaller screen sizes. Will it still deliver enough impact on the 42ZV555D’s smaller, 42in screen to justify shelling out extra for?
It certainly still looks the part. The slenderness of the glossy black bezel is impressive (despite not being as slim as Toshiba’s Picture Frame designs), as is the rather Sony-like way the Toshiba logo illuminates when the TV is turned on.
Connectivity is perhaps not quite as extensive as I’d like it to be on what is, after all, a pretty high end model in Toshiba’s new range. For instance, there are only three HDMIs when most premium sets provide four these days, and although there’s a dedicated D-Sub PC input, there are no multimedia options such as a USB input, SD card slot or Ethernet port. The only unusual discovery, in fact, is a subwoofer line-out for folk wanting to add a bit more bass to their soundstage without going the whole ‘new speaker system’ hog.
The 42ZV555 retains the Full HD resolution of its larger sibling despite having a smaller screen, which is nice. But it’s not all sweetness and light on the specification front, for where the 46ZV555 claims a maximum contrast ratio of 30,000:1, the 42ZV555D tops out at 17,000:1 – barely half the 46ZV555’s figure. Hmm. Let’s hope this discrepancy doesn’t become too obvious in the smaller model’s picture quality.
The 42ZV555D’s slightly drab and long-winded but clear and logical onscreen menus, meanwhile, provide access to a pretty solid level of picture flexibility. Particularly good to find are a colour management system that lets you tweak the settings of six of the base colours that make up a TV picture; x.v.Colour support; black and white level adjustment; a cinema mode and film stabilisation system; MPEG and standard definition noise reduction; and the option to turn off the Active Vision M100 100Hz processing system the TV carries to support its Resolution+ system.
You can also choose between five different levels of Resolution+ effect – a really useful tool, as we’ll discover presently – and even switch the system off completely. Though why you would want to do this having coughed up cash specifically to obtain the feature is beyond me.
As I settle down to the business of assessing the 42ZV555D’s pictures, I can’t help but reflect just how badly Toshiba needed to come up with Resolution+. For without it, the standard definition performances of many previous Toshiba LCD TVs have been less than exemplary, to put it mildly. So here’s hoping its impact is as great here as it was on the 46in XV555 model.
Thankfully, it is. For just like Danny, I found myself very impressed by Resolution+ in general – but with one quite major caveat…
Unquestionably, the most striking benefit of the Resolution+ system is how much extra sharpness it introduces to standard definition fare. Edges seem crisper, faces and surfaces look more textured, and the picture generally looks much more three-dimensional – all of which immediately elevates the 42ZV555D’s standard definition pictures to a whole new level versus those of previous Toshiba models.
It’s also impressive to note that this obvious and very welcome extra sharpness to standard definition images is achieved without the Resolution+ engine throwing up seemingly any nasty processing glitches such as flickering, shimmering edges, weird halos around moving objects or smearing. This freedom from negative processing side effects reveals the potency of the Resolution+ engine, proving it able to deliver vast amounts of processing calculations ‘on the hoof’ without breaking down – even during fast action sequences.
Also impressive about the Resolution+ engine is the way it manages to add sharpness to the picture without introducing grain or jaggedness over curved and diagonal lines. Basically, when all’s said and done, the difference between standard def on this TV and Toshiba’s previous models is like night and day. With the 42ZV555D between ‘day’, of course!
The only problem with the Resolution+ system is that, as Danny noted too, it’s not as able as we’d like it to be when it comes to distinguishing between video noise and ‘proper’ picture information in a standard def source.
This isn’t a great problem when a standard def source is of a good quality in the first place – a high-quality DVD, for instance. But the Resolution+ system can definitely exaggerate the MPEG block and mosquito noise found in many digital broadcasts. Because of this, while we happily cranked the Resolution+ level up to four or even the maximum five with DVDs, we had to tweak it down to 2 or even 1 with some digital TV channels. Still, even at its lowest setting it makes a difference for the better, and I never found myself inclined to turn it off completely, even with the most woefully ropey of sources.
It’s worth adding, here, that kicking the set’s MPEG noise reduction option up to medium, from the ‘off’ or ‘low’ setting I’d usually recommend, can reduce the extent to which Resolution+ exaggerates MPEG noise. But there’s a price to pay for this in the shape of much waxier looking skin tones and a generally rather forced look to the picture. Maybe a more satisfying result could be obtained if Tosh tried to integrate the NR functionality into the Resolution+ technology next time, rather than leaving them separate?
I guess I should also take issue with the claims on Toshiba’s website that Resolution+ makes standard definition pictures look ‘near HD’. This simply is not the case at all. For while Resolution+ certainly makes standard definition pictures look higher in definition than they would otherwise, they’re still no match for a true HD source.
All this discussion of the generally very impressive Resolution+ system becomes academic once you turn to HD, since the feature is disabled when an HD source is detected. And actually I’m glad it is, for even without it the 42ZV555D delivers some very likeable HD pictures indeed.
For starters, HD pictures exhibit good (though not world-beating) levels of sharpness and detailing, without being joined by that rather gritty appearance that some sharp HD screens suffer with.
The detailing extends to the amount of subtle picture information you can make out in the shadows during dark scenes too, and also holds up pretty well when there’s a lot of motion within a frame. For this, the picture quality probably owes at least some debt of gratitude to the well-judged efforts of the 42ZV555D’s 100Hz processing, which is potent enough to make motion look sharper and more fluid, but not so overbearing that it causes artefacts or makes pictures look unnatural.
Yet more good HD news finds colours looking intense, subtle, expansive, expressive and for the most part extremely natural. There are, it has to be said, occasional colour slips with standard def – but no more than we see with many of its rivals, and actually rather less than we’ve seen with previous Toshiba TVs.
I also personally found the colour balance a touch too warm when watching Blu-rays using the Movie picture preset, but it only took a little tweaking in the colour management system to get things – especially the white balance – more to my tastes.
While the 42ZV555D and its Resolution+ system get most things right, though, the set does come a bit of a cropper when it comes to its black level response.
For however sharp and rich pictures look, there’s no disguising the fact that dark scenes on the 42ZV555D look a bit grey around the gills, leaving dark shots like those in the jungle hut near the start of ”Casino Royale” looking a bit hollow and flat in places. Danny noticed a similar issue with the 46ZV555, but it seems worse on the 42in model, lending credence to the fears we raised about the smaller TV’s considerably reduced claimed contrast ratio.
It doesn’t help the black level situation, either, that the TV has a very limited viewing angle, meaning that black colours turn pretty grey pretty fast once you start watching from anywhere down the TV’s sides.
Sonically the 42ZV555D is good – so long as you make sure it’s running loud! For while the soundstage seems a bit muffled and indistinct at low volumes, especially if you’ve got the bass booster turned on (something I’d certainly recommend for movie/drama viewing), unusually for a flat TV, the speakers really spring into life when the volume’s cranked up. The soundstage seems wider, more defined, and just generally more credible, though it’s still a touch muddy on occasion, and sporadically a particularly deep male voice can cause the bezel to phut slightly.
The 42ZV555D underlines Danny’s finding that Resolution+ is a hugely worthwhile technology that genuinely boosts Toshiba’s standard definition LCD picture quality to a level up there with the very best of the rest. It’s just a pity that on this 42in ZV555 incarnation, at least, the Resolution+ advances haven’t been accompanied by similarly large strides forward when it comes to black levels.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Sound Quality 8