Toshiba 32DB833 £550

18th Jul 2011 | 13:50

Toshiba 32DB833

32 inch HD TV with built-in Blu-ray player

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

An affordable HD TV with Blu-ray player for a second room, but not the best for a main living room set

Like:

Very cheap for a TV with a built-in Blu-ray player; Bright and breezy pictures; Easy to use;

Dislike:

Black level response isn't great; Feeble sound; No Freeview HD tuner;

Toshiba 32DB833 review: Overview and Features

The Toshiba 32DB833 is a 32-inch full HD TV with a built-in Blu-ray player. This solves the perennial combi problem of (mis)matching hi-def screens with standard-definition DVD drives and enables both components to perform to their full potential.

The 32DB833 isn't the first TV to carry an integrated Blu-ray player, of course; Sony's EX43B models were the first, and the 32-inch version was still available at the time of writing. The Toshiba 32DB833 has a massive price advantage over its Sony rivals, though, coming in at around £250 cheaper than the equivalent (same size) model.

This makes the Toshiba model more viable as a second room TV, where budgetary concerns tend to be particularly important. But decent performance would make it a good main living room candidate, too.

As well as the 32DB833, Toshiba does a 42-inch version – the 42DB833. Or, if you're not persuaded by the argument that an HD screen should have an HD source built in, Toshiba has the 22-inch 22DB833, 26-inch 26DB833 and 32-inch 32DB833 TVs, all of which feature built-in DVD players instead. Naturally, these are cheaper than the 32DB833.

Toshiba

The Toshiba 32DB833's integrated Blu-ray player is clearly the TV's star attraction, and it has been integrated into the set's chassis surprisingly elegantly. Its side-entry slot sits just behind the screen's left edge, and adds impressively little to its depth.

The design of the Toshiba 32DB833 design is quite pleasing, thanks in part to its slenderness by combi standards, and also to its aggressively angled bottom corners and the addition along the bottom edge of a slim metallic strip.

The relative slenderness of the Toshiba 32DB833's design owes much to its edge LED backlight. Given its focus on affordability and convenience, Toshiba's design to eschew traditional CCFL lighting in favour of this more fashionable system is a real surprise, but the potential gains in picture quality make it a very welcome one.

The 32DB833's connections are solid rather than spectacular. You only get two HDMIs, but then the built-in Blu-ray player takes one potential external HDMI source out of the equation.

Also available are a USB port and a LAN socket. The USB jack serves two purposes: it can provide storage support for the BD-Live online function delivered by the current Blu-ray spec, or it can be used for playing music, photo and video files from USB storage devices. The LAN port, however, has just one purpose: to deliver BD-Live. You can't use it to access the internet or any ring-fenced online content services.

The USB port isn't your only multimedia option, though. The Blu-ray section can play CD-R/RW or DVD-R/R DL/+R/+RW discs carrying DivX, DivX HD, MP3, JPEG and WMA files. The Blu-ray deck will, of course, also play normal DVDs and CDs.

Heading into the Toshiba 32DB833's on-screen menus reveals another surprise in the shape of a colour management toolset, which allows you to adjust the hue, saturation and brightness of the red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan colour elements. There are facilities for tweaking the gamma and black/white balance too, as well as all the more basic options you would expect of any modern TV.

Such extensive picture calibration flexibility might seem a bit over the top for a 32-inch convenience TV, but if you care enough about picture quality to be interested in buying a full HD source/screen combi, it seems logical that you might also want to put some effort into getting pictures to look as good as possible.

The Toshiba 32DB833 additionally gives you the option to turn the dynamic backlight system off, and there are separate standard and MPEG noise reduction circuits that can be set to various levels of power or turned off entirely.

It's slightly disappointing – if not entirely surprising, considering the price – to find that the Toshiba 32DB833 only has a standard-definition Freeview tuner rather than an HD one, and that its refresh rate is limited to 50Hz. On a more promising note, the set's dynamic contrast ratio claim of 3,000,000:1 is promising, to say the least.

Toshiba 32DB833 review: Picture quality

Toshiba

Since it's the Toshiba 32DB833 TV's headline feature, it seems logical to thoroughly investigate how the set performs with a few Blu-rays played through its own, integrated player. Unfortunately, it doesn't take very long to spot a problem here.

It's clear during any dark scenes that the Toshiba 32DB833's contrast performance is average, at best. Parts of the picture that should look black instead look grey and a bit washed out. There's also a gentle sense of there being slightly more light around the edges of the screen than there is at its centre, although this is a relatively small point that you won't likely see unless you're watching the set in a more or less blacked out room.

You can improve the set's black reproduction a little by brutally reducing the backlight setting. But even with this reduced to less than 30 per cent of its maximum light output, dark scenes still looked a little grey – and with this little brightness in play, bright scenes start to look a bit muted and dull, too.

The best compromise is to have the backlight set to around 50-55 for everyday viewing in normal living room conditions. No matter what level you leave the backlight set to, the picture lacks shadow detail due to either crushing when the backlight is set low, or the influence of the grey mist effect when the backlight is high.

There's quite a bit of judder to be seen during Blu-ray playback, and there's no processing that can help reduce this.

On the upside, motion blur is only relatively minor for such an affordable TV set. Also, fine detail response with HD footage is impressive on the Toshiba 32DB833, helping pictures look sharp and definitively HD despite the relatively small 32-inch dimensions of the picture.

This suggests that there's nothing conspicuously wrong with the Blu-ray player component of this combi, even though it doesn't deliver that lovely sense of solidity and purity that good-quality standalone players can manage.

Preset colours are rather rough and ready, but you can improve them nicely with only a few minutes of tweaking via the colour management system. You never end up with the same sense of blend or tone subtlety and richness that you get with the very best TVs, but within the context of a 32-inch LED TV with a built-in Blu-ray player that costs just £550, there really isn't much, colour-wise, to complain about.

Toshiba

Bright scenes from Blu-rays can look pretty great overall – certainly better than there is any right to expect from such a cheap combi – but dark scenes are consistently problematic, especially if you expect to be using the set regularly in a very dark environment where the contrast shortcomings will be emphasised.

Standard-definition pictures look a little unsophisticated, particularly where colours are concerned. But the TV does manage to upscale standard-definition sources to the Toshiba 32DB833's full HD resolution pretty capably – adding decent sharpness while simultaneously suppressing some of the noise found in most standard-definition digital broadcasts.

It's good to see, too, that there's only marginally more blurring when watching standard-definition than there is with HD.

Toshiba 32DB833 review: Sound and value

Toshiba

Sound

Audio is very average indeed. There's hardly any bass, the mid-range is thin and cramped and trebles tend to sound muffled and indistinct.

As usual, you can argue that the Toshiba 32DB833's audio performance is just about adequate for watching normal TV programmes, but it doesn't do film soundtracks any favours at all, which has to count as a bit of an issue when you're talking about a TV – even a cheap one – with a built-in Blu-ray player.

Value

This is undoubtedly the Toshiba 32DB833's strongest suit. For while this combi TV isn't going to win any awards for its AV standards, its performance isn't quite as unrefined as its price would lead you to expect. Especially when you factor in the multimedia playback options offered by its USB port and disc player.

In other words, it's a compelling proposition for a second room, if not perhaps for a main TV.

Ease of use

Combi products with poorly designed operating systems can be a pain to control, but the Toshiba 32DB833 does a great job of letting you handle both the Blu-ray deck and the screen without confusion.

This process starts with the remote control, which is large, well designed and surprisingly classy considering the aggressive pricing of the TV it accompanies.

The main disc navigation tools are given their own space in the lower half of the remote, below the large, spaciously laid out cursor control keys, while even quite secondary Blu-ray control options such as Pop-Up Menu and Top Menu are given their own buttons and labelled in blue, rather than being forced to share a button with a function related to the screen side of things.

The on-screen menus aren't particularly attractive, but their organisation is straightforward, and the amount of features they contain is manageable. Kudos is due, in particular, to the electronic programme guide. This appears over the programme you were watching rather than hiding the picture entirely, and presents more information, with greater clarity than most guides, and takes up no space with adverts.

One final welcome touch finds the Blu-ray slot accepting discs quite happily, even when you haven't got the relevant input selected. The TV automatically switches to Blu-ray playback once a disc is detected, too.

This might all sound like common sense, but you'd be surprised how many DVD/TV combis turn getting a disc to enter their slots into a wrestling match.

Toshiba 32DB833 review: Verdict

Toshiba

The Toshiba 32DB833 is a rare, all-HD combi that manages to specify edge LED lighting for just £550.

Its performance is better than one might have expected for its money, but not truly outstanding. The picture is bright, sharp and doesn't take much optimising, but black levels are average, there are issues with judder and it's no great shakes sonically.

We liked

The Toshiba 32DB833's price is a definite winner, being low enough to make it a seriously attractive second room option.

It's exceptionally easy to use for a combi, and its picture quality is above average for a budget TV.

Having a Blu-ray player rather than a DVD deck is definitely appreciated, too, as is the USB multimedia support.

We disliked

The Toshiba 32DB833 struggles to produce a convincing black colour during dark scenes, which also leads to loss of shadow detail in dark scenes. There's a bit of judder around too, especially when watching Blu-rays, and the set's sound is average at best.

The lack of a built-in Freeview HD tuner is also a disappointment

Final verdict

If you're in the market for a second-room TV that combines a degree of multimedia support (via USB and recordable discs), TV and Blu-ray in one attractive-looking and impressively affordable package, Toshiba's 32DB833 is well specified for the job and better than you'd expect for the money.

Its shortcomings in the contrast and sound departments make it potentially more problematic as a main living room TV, but it could still be considered if money's tight and you fancy 'going fully HD' in one fell swoop.

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