- Review Price: £1194.90
We were impressed by the first TV in Toshiba’s new flagship ‘Z Series’ of LCDs back in November 2007. So we took delivery of the new 47in model expecting more of the good old same, only bigger. Yet for reasons we’ll have a stab at explaining later, we didn’t find ourselves quite so enamoured this time round.
Naturally the 47Z3030 still cuts as fine a design dash as its smaller sibling, thanks to its remarkably slender bezel and high gloss finish. Admittedly the bezel’s skinniness isn’t quite as striking as it once was since we’ve recently witnessed the arrival of Toshiba’s ‘XF’ Picture Frame models, with their 23mm bezels. But the 47Z3030’s frame still makes those of most 47in rivals look like proper fatboys.
The 47Z3030 also sports the same connectivity as the 42Z3030. And so you find three HDMIs, all impressively compatible with the HDMI 1.3a standard for such potential tricks as automatic lip-synch correction and the Deep Colour system. We say potential because as of today commercially available sources that can exploit these HDMI 1.3 features are non-existent, so far as we’re aware.
You also get a component video input, a D-Sub PC option, a subwoofer line-out (lest you find yourself dissatisfied with the bass levels from the TV’s own speakers), and an optical digital audio output for pushing through to an AV receiver any digital audio tracks you might receive via the HDMIs.
Other key specifications making pleasing reading are a native full HD pixel count of 1,920 x 1,080, and a beltingly – some might say ridiculously – high claimed contrast ratio of 15,000:1.
Obviously this latter number is only achieved via a combination of a) a dynamic contrast arrangement that dims the LCD backlight to improve black levels when dark scenes are detected and b) what we suspect are some fairly dubious measuring techniques.
But while we might not approve of the measuring systems, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the dynamic contrast arrangement, provided it works quickly and subtly enough not to make its brightness-adjusting machinations distractingly obvious.
Another specification we’re pleased to spot is playback of the 1080p/24 HD video format now output as the ‘pure’ option from many HD disc players. In fact, the 47Z3030 goes the extra mile with 1080p/24 by including a 5:5 pulldown system that rapidly repeats each frame five times to cut down on the juddering artefacts commonly seen with 1080p/24 sources.
After being starved of 100Hz processing for improving the clarity of motion on the X and C models in Toshiba’s latest LCD range, it’s a relief to find the system is included with this flagship Z series model.
The 100Hz element actually forms part of a wider image processing system dubbed Active Vision M100 HD, with other elements including processing designed to improve colours, contrast levels, brightness levels, noise levels and fine detailing.
As if all this wasn’t enough, the 47Z3030 claims: 10-bit video processing to reduce, we’d hope, colour striping where there should be smooth colour blends; a Dynamic Curve feature that Toshiba claims both reduces unhealthy extremes of black and white while also making colour tones more natural; and MPEG noise reduction for smoothing away some of the blockiness that can arrive in standard def digital broadcasts.
Although the lion’s share of the 47Z3030’s clever bits are targeted at improving picture quality, Toshiba can’t be accused of ignoring the TV’s audio. For the set actually sports a new speaker technology designed by audiophile brand Onkyo that reckons to deliver remarkable frequency response and power from an exceptionally small driver array.
Piping the Blu-ray transfer of ”Casino Royale” into the 47Z3030 (this doesn’t mean we’ve totally written off HD DVD, honest!!), the set initially dazzles every bit as impressively as the 42in version of the set.
Two features of the picture in particular stand out. First up there’s the colour response. During the bright, colour-rich sequences in Venice, for instance, the blues of the canals and the red of Vesper Lynd’s red dress look positively luminous.
Such colour intensity additionally helps the picture look unusually solid and deep, as well, of course, as simply ensuring that your gaze remains attracted to the screen like a moth to a flame.
The 47Z3030’s other stand-out picture quality with our HD source is its sharpness. Rare indeed is it for a set of this size to reproduce all the lovely fine details on a pristine HD source quite so accurately and noiselessly as this Toshiba does. This further boosts the sense of depth to the picture, reinforcing the directness of your connection with it.
Smaller strengths we also spotted over time include extremely subtle colour blends that appear nearly devoid of any ‘striping’ problems, and relatively little interference from motion blurring thanks, no doubt, to the efforts of the 100Hz system.
Despite the formidable strengths, we found ourselves unexpectedly troubled by a couple of problem areas that for some reason didn’t seem quite so pronounced on the 42in Z model.
The first concerns that seemingly eternal LCD issue of black level response. For the very darkest scenes of ”Casino Royale”, such as the opening black and white night time footage, undeniably have some of their impact reduced by a slight greyness over the darkest corners. What’s more, scenes containing particularly stark contrast extremes reveal occasional brightness ‘jumps’ as the dynamic contrast system fails to adjust subtly enough.
This is all particularly strange given that the 47Z3030’s contrast ratio is actually quoted as 50 per cent higher than that of the 42in model. Go figure.
Our other problem with the 47Z3030 is that it’s really no lover of standard definition sources. Possibly because of the extremely aggressive nature of its images in terms of brightness and colour saturations, it tends to rather exaggerate any noise that might be inherent to a standard def source. And such noise is, of course, highly present in more standard def Freeview and Sky channels than we’d like.
Whether the picture flaws we’ve been talking about are more troubling on the 47Z3030 than the 42Z3030 because the screen’s extra size exaggerates them, or whether it’s because the 47Z3030 employs a different panel with potentially different core image characteristics isn’t entirely clear. But the problems are definitely there.
The Onkyo speaker design, meanwhile, helps this TV produce a really quite potent soundstage. A fair amount of bass is on hand to underpin proceedings (we doubt you’ll find yourself rushing to use the subwoofer line-out), the mid-range is only slightly compressed during action scenes, and trebles are clean and help to deliver some sense of width to the soundstage.
Toshiba’s 47Z3030 is a likeable enough big-screen LCD TV, and it’s now being discounted to some pretty attractive prices. But either because of its extra size or its use of a different core panel to its 42in sibling, its picture quality doesn’t impress us quite as much as expected.
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We test every TV we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Sound Quality 8