Toshiba 46WM48P £2000
1st Feb 2005 | 00:00
DLP rear-pro hits the mainstream
Once the exclusive domain of high-end brands like Sim 2 and Loewe, DLP rear-pro sets are now hitting the mainstream, with a range of different brands suddenly launching a glut of them, the latest of which is long-time CRT rear-projection king, Toshiba.
Although the 46WM48 certainly has visual impact, it's not especially lovely. With 'wing-like' silver speakers protruding from either side of a dark grey screen frame, which is itself set above a burnished metallic strip, the overall look is a little higgledy-piggledy.
Connectivity is very impressive, however. The ace in the pack is an HDMI jack, able to handle pure digital pictures from any suitably-equipped DVD player or (via adaptors) DVI outputs. The input on this set can also take all manner of picture formats, right up to 1080i, as well as handling digital sound.
We were also happy to discover component video sockets able to take high definition or progressive scan sources, a standard 15-pin PC jack, three Scarts, plus, on the TV's front, the usual S-video, composite video and stereo audio inputs.
Although the 46WM48P is clearly a cuttingedge TV, it's not particularly over-burdened with features. The cleverest by far is Active Vision. This proprietary Toshiba processing system generates over 90 per cent more pixels in the picture than you'd get with a standard 100Hz system, while using 360° motion estimation to ensure that movement looks smoother and more life like.
Elsewhere, the only things worth troubling you with are a black-level booster, 'SRS Wow' pseudo surround processing, five levels of noise reduction, and the facility to run the lamp in High (for daylight viewing) or Low (lamp saving) brightness modes.
Feeling in a kind mood, we started off with a high-definition feed of Alien. Even iffy TVs can look good with HD sources, but the 46WM48P's picture looks better than good: it's absolutely blinking excellent.
The first thing to strike us is the exceptional contrast range. With the Black Stretch option switched on, deep blacks suffer practically zero greying over, making pictures look stunningly solid, engagingly layered and utterly compelling.
The lack of any poor contrast 'grey mist' also ensures that colours shine forth with maximum intensity. Even more pleasingly, the vibrancy has not been achieved at the expense of naturalism, with even low-lit skin tones - a stiff test for any non-CRT technology - looking entirely authentic.
Fine detail levels are acute, too. Every pixel of information in a high-definition signal is picked out with pinpoint accuracy, adding texture and directness to the already impressive list of picture attributes.
We obtained the stunning results detailed above using only the component high-definition inputs. Skipping over to the HDMI jack simply took our breath away. Fed a combination of hi-def tape and prog scan DVD sources, the extra clarity and noiselessness from the all-digital input took pictures to a whole new level.
So far, so very good. But how will the 46WM48P shape up with the problems posed by analogue tuner and RGB Sky Digital feeds? With a strong Sky Digital channel like Sky News, we were phenomenally impressed with the set's clarity, sharpness, vibrancy and, above all, lack of noise. Even bright analogue tuner shows avoid the sort of murkiness and softening that DLP sets usually suffer with such a low-rent source.
We're not talking absolute perfection, though. There are a couple of old DLP problems the 46WM48P doesn't completely crack. The most noticeable of these is a sort of dotty fizzing over fast moving objects, especially where the movement is caused by a camera pan.
The second problem is the 'rainbow effect', where moving your eye around the picture can throw up bands of pure, rainbow-like colour in your peripheral vision. To be fair, though, this problem only appeared on the 46WM48P under very particular circumstances - namely when a really bright section of picture exists alongside a really dark one.
Both of these problems are visible on all source standards, including high definition, but they're more common, especially the fizzing noise, the lower down the picture quality scale you go.
We also felt that the 46WM48P slightly exaggerated the MPEG noise in a lower quality DVD or digital source, but then it's hardly fair to blame this TV for source failings.
One final niggle concerns an operating glitch - common to many Toshiba TVs - whereby the screen sometimes defaults to its 'Super Live' zoom mode when it receives an anamorphic source, forcing you to manually select the correct 'Wide' ratio.
The set's sonics do the generally superb pictures proud. The soundstage is huge in terms of width and depth, trebles sound rounded rather than harsh, dialogue remains strong and believable even during a potent action sequence and best of all, there's a truly prodigious amount of bass on hand to give movies that crucial rumble factor.
In the 46WM48P, Toshiba has delivered yet another example of just why DLP rear-projection technology matters. As far as we're concerned, its pictures not only better those of the vast majority of plasma or LCD TVs out there, but they do so for a fraction of the cost of your average 46in plasma or LCD TV. Sure, the presence of one or two DLP picture artefacts means there's still room for improvement, and, of course, you can't hang the 46WM48P on the wall, but then really, when it comes down to it, how many people buying plasma or LCD TVs are doing that anyway? John Archer