My fears are realised to some extent by the amount of noise that buzzes around standard definition pictures from the digital tuner. The rescaling system for converting standard def sources to HD ones just doesn’t seem as canny at dealing with source noise as the processing engines of some rival TVs, tending to exaggerate noise during the rescaling process rather than reducing it.
As you’d expect, the TV’s noise reduction options can help a little – especially the MPEG NR system. But this also tends to make the picture look rather softer than I’d like – especially if you’re also using the set’s Mild or Movie presets.
On the upside, provided you don’t use the NR tools, the 52XV555DB’s standard definition pictures actually look a bit sharper and crisper than I’d expected, especially if you use a slightly toned down version of the Standard image preset. This preset also delivers plenty of brightness, avoiding the slightly dull look of some budget TVs, and colours that are vibrant.
However, I’d also say that, as noted with some previous Toshiba TVs, standard definition colours occasionally look rather unnatural in tone, especially where skin is concerned. Skin also exhibits that slightly waxy look that tends to accompany processing engines not particularly adept at interpolating new details during the rescaling process.
Overall, I’d say that the 52XV555DB’s standard definition pictures aren’t as rough and ready as expected, but also aren’t up there with what you might expect to see from the Philips, Sonys or Panasonics of this world.
Turning to HD – an area Toshiba sets are generally much more comfortable with – the news is mostly very good. Starting out in particularly tricky fashion with Dead Space on the Xbox 360, I was pleasantly surprised right away by the picture’s dynamism. In other words, some really crisp and bright peak whites sit side by side with what could be the deepest, most natural black levels I’ve seen from a Toshiba TV to date.
This ability to produce good black levels is absolutely essential to making ”Dead Space” ‘work’. For if the TV suffered so much with LCD’s common greyness issue that you couldn’t see into the game’s darkest corners, then that key feeling of dread as you scour the cramped environment for hostile activity would be hugely diminished.
In fact, with this in mind, it’s not just the 52XV555DB’s lack of grey mist interference that impresses. For it’s also noticeable that dark areas don’t look hollow and empty, thanks to the set’s ability to produce a respectable level of shadow detail.
I was relieved, too, to find my connection with the dark ”Dead Space” pictures not being broken by much in the way of screen reflection from my surroundings. And as a side note to the black level discussion, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the image’s contrast and colour held up while watching the picture from an angle, contrary to my experience with smaller Toshiba sets.