- Review Price: £1029.99
Toshiba isn’t a brand we particularly associate with the ugly stick. Its sets might not set new aesthetic standards or establish new trends, but they’re certainly not ugly. Especially for TVs usually found at the budget end of the TV market.
However, it would seem that Toshiba has been feeling a little insecure about its looks. Either that, or it’s been feeling a little insecure about becoming increasingly identified with cheap and cheerful telly fare, and has decided to try and get back into the (usually more profitable) premium end of the TV market.
For before us today, in the shape of the 46VL758, sits a true designer TV. A set for which Toshiba coughed up likely large amounts of cash in order to secure the talents of the internationally renowned Jacob Jensen Design studio.
This is a studio known and admired throughout the world for its work in multiple product design areas, from home appliances through to furniture and other TVs and audio products. And it’s really come up trumps in terms of the 46VL758’s build quality, which features practically no plastic and sits atop a gorgeous brushed metal stand. It’s also good to find the main screen coming in at well under 30mm in depth, and sporting a bank of touch-sensitive control buttons that you can’t even see until you activate them.
Yet somehow, despite all this, the 46VL758 still doesn’t really look special. The problem is that its design qualities are all matters of detail – stuff you can only fully appreciate once you’re up close and personal. From a normal viewing distance, the set doesn’t really look all that different to plenty of other 46in TVs. Not ugly, by any means, but not truly original in the way other brands have managed to be when using the services of external design specialists.
With this in mind, it’s perhaps fortunate that despite showing a flicker of premium intent from Toshiba, the 46VL758 isn’t actually spectacularly expensive by 46in TV standards. So if it can serve up some cracking picture and sound quality to go with its sleek and well-constructed bodywork, it can certainly still end up being a highly successful TV.
Another sign of the sort of attention to detail that’s the strongest suit of the 46VL758’s design comes from the way many of its most widely used connections can be accessed from the TV’s side. This is a much better option for people wanting to wall-hang their TV than the common approach of having all sockets facing directly out of a TV’s back.
The connections impress, too, by virtue of their sheer number. There are four HDMIs for starters, joined by, among other things, two USB ports and an Ethernet jack.
The USBs support playback of photo, music and video formats, including DivX HD, while the LAN port is there in the first instance as mandatory support for an integrated Freeview HD tuner.
But the LAN also enables you to pipe in files from a DLNA PC, and even access online features. However, before you get too excited about all this, in fact the DLNA support requires you to have a Windows 7 PC if you want to get the best out of it (at least where video playback is concerned). And as for the online features, they’re restricted to just YouTube and the BBC iPlayer.
Admittedly, these represent two of the most widely useful and popular online features currently being sported by ‘connected’ TVs. And it’s good to see the iPlayer incarnation supporting HD streaming as well as standard def for people whose connections can take the strain.
But it’s also impossible to ignore the fact that while the likes of Philips, Panasonic, Samsung and especially Sony are busy presenting vast worlds of online TV content already, the 46VL758’s provision of just two services feels pretty second division to say the least. Hopefully it’s more a trial run for something much more substantial on the online content front to come next year – probably on Toshiba’s intriguing-looking CEVO TV.
Toshiba has shown more willingness than many brands this year to offer serious calibration tools on its TVs – even the low-rent ones. So it’s no surprise to find the relatively high-level 46VL758 letting you adjust the hue, saturation and gain of all six of the six main colour components with pretty good finesse. And it’s also possible to leave only the red, green or blue colour content onscreen at any time for tighter calibration of the individual primary colours.
You’re also given the tools for adjusting the set’s gamma using either the 2-point or 10-point schemes, and can select the set’s best balance between light and dark content via a strikingly simple black and white sliding bar interface.
The 46VL758’s apparent keenness to prove that it’s much more than just a pretty face extends to its video processing. For it has 100Hz; Toshiba’s long-running Active Vision LCD system (which affects a multitude of picture elements); and Toshiba’s respected Resolution+ system for boosting the resolution of standard definition sources.
Well, it’s respected here anyway. Some quarters seem to find the engine prone to introducing noise. Which it can, but only if you don’t keep it reined in by not setting it any higher than its three level. Maybe even its two level if you’re particularly sensitive to grain. Follow this advice, though, and you should be impressed with the improvements it can wreak on all but the very poorest-quality standard definition sources.
So far, we’ve been mildly impressed by the 46VL758, despite not finding its design quite as aggressively different as we’d hoped it would be. But nothing the 46VL758 has going for it fully compensates for some pretty glaring picture quality issues.
People who read our recent review of Toshiba’s 40WL753 edge-LED TV might be able to guess that these picture quality issues centre around the 46VL758’s black level response. Or more specifically, its inability to deliver an equal level of brightness/darkness across every part of the screen. Even a fairly cursory examination of the screen when showing dark movie or game sequences reveals as many as seven different-sized patches where the picture looks brighter than it does across the rest of the screen – a situation that makes you feel like you’re watching your film through a pair of glasses with spots of dust on them.
Well, maybe that’s exaggerating things a bit – especially since the backlight inconsistency problem is not visible when watching bright scenes. But if you’re anything like us (and we like to think we’re at least partially normal!), once you’ve spotted the inconsistencies, you can’t stop yourself looking out for them.
All of which makes for a strangely tense viewing experience – and certainly not one that leaves you feeling totally engaged with what you’re watching.
This is doubly true, moreover, if you find yourself having to watch the screen from much of an angle, for once you get beyond around 30 degrees from directly opposite it, the backlight inconsistencies begin to look even worse.
The black level response around the extra-bright areas is actually surprisingly good by edge-LED standards, though, suggesting that Toshiba at least knows how to control its edge-LED light system on a general luminance level.
The picture also does its best to distract you from the backlight flaws with a pretty intense colour response; bright scenes therefore look very dynamic and rich. But crucially, unlike some edge-LED screens that push colours hard, the 46VL758’s colours can be made to look surprisingly credible in terms of both tonal naturalism and blend subtlety – at least once you’ve put a little time into calibrating them properly to remove some marginal red and yellow ‘push’ visible with the initial presets.
Yet more good news concerns the way the 46VL758 reproduces the sense of detail and crispness that’s so key to high definition viewing – especially as it does a solid job of suppressing motion blur. The motion processing on the set isn’t immaculate; you do occasionally see a twitch here and there during rapid camera pans. But the processing side effects occur rarely enough, in our opinion, to leave the pros outweighing the cons.
There isn’t much to redeem the 46VL758’s audio performance, though. Even by the generally underwhelming standards of very skinny TVs, this Toshiba sounds unusually fragile, flimsy and underpowered. There’s practically no bass at all, trebles quickly turn harsh at high volumes or during dense audio scenes, and the mid-range appears cramped and is quickly overwhelmed when asked to handle anything more than the most basic of daytime TV fodder.
It’s good to see with the design-led 46VL758 that Toshiba still has a few high-end ambitions. The set is very elegantly put together too, despite not being quite as aggressively stylish as it perhaps could have been. But while its pictures certainly have their moments, its backlight inconsistency and sound flaws make watching the 46VL758 for any extended amount of time a disappointingly uneven experience.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
Sound Quality 5
|Digital Tuner||DVB-T (MPEG4), DVB-C (MPEG4)|
|Refresh Rate (Hertz)||100Hz|
|Height (Millimeter)||59.6mm, 730mm|
|Width (Millimeter)||103mm, 1092mm|
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