- Review Price: £747.90
The usual way of the TV world is that a brand’s cheapest, stripped-down TVs will be less attractive than its expensive, high-spec ones. But weirdly Toshiba seems to have turned this rule of thumb on its head this year. For while we’ve been advocates of its budget sets – the XV635 models in particular – its high-end models have left us feeling just a touch cold.
Not because the relatively costly sets are actually worse, per se. But because they haven’t tended to raise Toshiba’s game quite extravagantly enough to justify their extra cost. And this, sadly, is a theme continued by the relatively high-spec 42ZV635DB.
Not that you’d think this from a mere study of the 42ZV635DB’s exterior, mind you. For if there’s one way that this set really ”does” deliver a premium edge over its cheaper siblings, it’s with its design.
Gone is the slightly plasticky feel of the cheaper Tosh ranges, and in its place you get a really sturdy body encased behind a truly swanky bezel that looks like it’s been hewn from a sheet of black glass. Or at least, it would look like that were it not for the elegant way the colour fades away gradually to grey as your eye travels towards the bezel’s outer edges.
Forcing me to suspend further the backing up of my disappointed introduction is some pretty decent connectivity. This includes the increasingly de rigueur four HDMIs, and unusually not one but two different multimedia slots: one for USB storage devices, and one for SD cards. The set features a nicely presented/well organised media player interface for these inputs too, with supported file types being JPEG photos, MP3 music files, and even DivX video files.
The main feature responsible for making the 42ZV635DB such a relatively high-end screen in Toshiba’s range, though, is 200Hz, delivered as part of the set’s uncatchily named Active Vision M200 HD Pro processing engine.
As with many supposedly 200Hz rivals, the 42ZV635DB doesn’t actually refresh its pictures 200 times a second in the way you might expect. Instead, the 200 frames a second claim is achieved by a combination of a scanning backlight and a 100Hz engine. This doesn’t necessarily preclude the system from working very well, mind you, other than meaning it’s likely there will be at least a little flicker in evidence from time to time. If I forget to come back to this point later, please remind me!!
The rest of the Active Vision processing system is one of those scattershot (not meant in derogatory way) systems now find on almost every TV around, which work on everything from colours to contrast, sharpness and, well, everything, like I said.
Actually more interesting than Active Vision is Resolution+, Toshiba’s proprietary and startlingly effective system for upscaling standard definition to the 42ZV635DB’s Full HD resolution.
The more serious-minded of our readers will be pleased, too, by the amount of picture fine-tuning the 42ZV635DB allows – especially the provision of a decently sophisticated colour management tool and a sliding-scale Static Gamma setting. You can even, if you’re really into your calibration, leave just one colour – red, green or blue – onscreen at a time, so that you can check their colour characters precisely using a colour monitor or filter.
The only thing bad about all the 42ZV635DB’s calibration options is that using them makes you rather aware of what a disappointingly plasticky affair the set’s remote control is. It’s just the same flimsy, in some ways poorly laid out effort found with Toshiba’s budget TVs, when surely a relatively premium TV like this deserves better.
Sadly, though, the real disappointment with the 42ZV635DB only kicks in when we let it loose on a little ”Modern Warfare 2” and recent Blu-rays of the latest ”Star Trek” movie and ”Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”.
The two Blu-rays, in particular, both contain quite a lot of dark scenes and picture elements. And these invariably reveal shortcomings in the 42ZV635DB’s black level response, with the all-too-familiar grey mist more evident and more recurring than I felt really comfortable with at the 42ZV635DB’s level.
It’s not quite as overt a problem as with Toshiba’s budget sets, sure. But given the £150 price difference between the 42ZV635DB and Toshiba’s cheaper 42XV635, I would have expected the contrast difference to be considerably more pronounced.
The contrast issue I have with the 42ZV635DB is turned up to 11, meanwhile, by the way contrast and colour collapse any time I try to watch the screen from any significant angle down its sides. This is a very common LCD failing, of course, but it seems to me that the 42ZV635DB suffers with it worse than most.
I should say at this point that you can reduce the greyness over black colours considerably if you’re pretty severe with the set’s backlight and brightness settings. But unfortunately you have to be so severe with them that the picture starts to look rather dull and lifeless at the point where black levels look really credible, making it a far from ideal calibration choice.
Also, naturally, there’s the fact that wherever you have to sacrifice large amounts of brightness to achieve a good black level, you’re going to squeeze out of dark pictures much of the shadow detailing that helps them look three-dimensional and real.
This scenario will sound familiar to anyone who read our reviews of Toshiba’s XV, AV and RV TVs. But obviously those screens – well, some of them at least – are much cheaper, making such limitations far easier to live with than they are on the 42ZV635DB.
The calibration sacrifices that have to be made to achieve a decent black level response on the 42ZV635DB also lead to compromises elsewhere, such as a few unnatural skin tones.
To compound the 42ZV635DB’s troubles, it actually suffers with a couple of flaws that its cheapest siblings do not – both caused by the 200Hz engine. First, as predicted, you can see a rather flickery effect when the picture is showing very fine detailing, particularly from our HD sources. But also the processing causes the picture to twitch fractionally but distractingly when watching 24p Blu-rays.
Thankfully there’s a good side to the 200Hz system too, as it keeps a reasonably – though not class-leadingly – tight rein on judder and, especially, motion blur, while throwing up none of the usual side effects like shimmering edges or picture ‘skips’.
The 42ZV635DB also does a nice job of making you appreciate all the extra detail in HD sources, despite the fact that its standard definition pictures look exceptionally crisp and clean thanks to Resolution+. Furthermore, colours do actually hold up nicely in tone terms provided that what you’re watching is predominantly bright and so hasn’t required you to drop brightness levels too acutely.
The 42ZV635DB’s audio, however, quickly returns us to the distinctly average territory where we seem to have spent much of this review. For the robust bodywork sadly hasn’t been used to introduce any more bass to audio proceedings than we’d expect to hear with even a quite bog-standard LCD TV, leaving a fair if unexpansive mid-range, but trebles sounding high, dry and sometimes harsh.
The 42ZV635DB makes incremental improvements in some areas over Toshiba’s budget ranges, so it’s certainly not a bad TV. However, it’s comfortably outgunned by a number of rival TVs in the same price – the Philips 42PFL7404, the Samsung 40B650, the Sony KDL-40W5500, the Panasonic TX-P42G15 to name but four – and so it doesn’t really get close to turning ‘not bad’ into good.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
Sound Quality 7
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