Toshiba 32HL833B £479
2nd Jun 2011 | 16:09
This back-to-basics edge LED-backlit model redefines the budget LCD TV
Toshiba 32HL833B: Overview
It may lack the latest web, 3D and Freeview HD goodies, but Toshiba's slim new 32HL833B will have more than enough technology for many.
Edge LED backlighting and full HD resolutions, for example, were considered high-end features only a couple of years ago, and to see them on a sub-£500 screen is quite something.
Looks-wise, the 32HL833B is merely OK. The rather thin plastic chassis looks relatively attractive from a distance; heavily rounded corners - trimmed with a thin silver strip - on the undercarriage of the set help create a softer look that's somewhat spoiled by the top's much harsher corners.
The 32HL833B is part of Toshiba's entry-level HL Series, which also includes the 42-inch 42HL833B. Bookending the HL Series is both the DL Series and the EL Series.
The DL Series comprises the 32-inch 32DL833, 26-inch 26DL833, 22-inch 22DL833 and 19-inch 19DL833. All have a built-in DVD player (one of Toshiba's specialties, incidentally, which this year extends to built-in Blu-ray in its DB Series), edge LED-backlit HD ready panels, Freeview and Active Vision 50Hz.
The EL Series, meanwhile, also includes a 32-incher, the 32EL833, which puts a regular Freeview tuner under the hood of this LED-backlit HD ready screen. The EL Series is completed by the 26-inch 26EL833, 22-inch 22EL833 and 19-inch 19EL833.
One thing is for sure, though: if Toshiba, king of the entry-level TV, has turned to LED-backlighting throughout its range, then the old CCFL-lit LCD TVs are officially dead. We only have to look at the low price of the 32HL833B to be sure of that.
Toshiba 32HL833B: Features
The 32HL833B isn't exactly heaving with features, but that's no bad thing, since a huge chunk of consumers are merely after a cheap TV with a good picture.
The first characteristic is firmly in the bag for the 32HL833B, and we'll pass judgement on image standards later, but there's enough about this 32-incher to convince us that it's worth a place in the modern living room.
The use of edge LED backlighting is as contemporary as it gets, and a full HD resolution shouldn't be sniffed at for this kind of money, either.
We won't go on and on about what this TV hasn't got, but it's fair to say that manufacturers are forced to prioritise - and we know other brands, such as Sony, place a higher priority on online content such as BBC iPlayer and Freeview HD, which this set lacks despite it being - in our opinion - a feature firmly in the must-have column.
Its omission will seriously hamper the 32HL833B's success in areas of the UK that have already switched to DVB-T2 broadcasts, although for anyone with a Sky or Virgin subscription it makes no difference whatsoever.
The lack of 100Hz scanning is not an issue for us at this price and size. More alarming is the presence of just one HDMI input on its rear connections panel, although some semblance of hi-def respect is restored to the 32HL833B after a glance at its side-panel. There, beside a second HDMI input is a USB port, a headphones jack and a Common Interface slot.
The panel is heavily recessed, meaning USB sticks won't poke out of the side, nor will curls of HDMI cables snake into view. This is crucial, since a lot of people are going to rely on that second HDMI and possibly be forced into buying a messy HDMI splitter.
Elsewhere on the rear is component video, composite video, a single Scart, a PC input for picture and audio, an electrical (in place of the more common optical) digital audio output and a set of stereo audio inputs, plus an RF aerial connection point.
Toshiba 32HL833B: Picture quality
Edge LED backlighting is no guarantee of quality, but it does help lift this budget set ahead of most of its similarly priced peers.
Avatar on Blu-ray immediately justifies the Full HD resolution. As a huge truck passes Jake in his wheelchair upon his arrival on Pandora there's a noticeable judder amid a rather harsh image. In the briefing that follows, the Colonel's head noticeably blurs every time it moves, while there's judder across the audience as he walks up the aisle.
Elsewhere, camera pans around the control room make the 3D matrix unwatchable. Without a 100Hz feature, there's no easy fix to this problem. Turning the sharpness setting to zero makes this motion blur and judder far less noticeable, but at the cost of extreme detail.
Unsurprisingly, this almost works on DVD and Freeview pictures, too, where the only visible artefact - despite a lack of any notable upscaling technology - is picture noise in backgrounds.
Contrast and colour are good, with decent saturations and fairly profound blacks. It's possible to make out shadows on faces, and the black/white level adjuster isn't required - it just makes black look more forced. Nor is there any issue with light spillage from those edge-mounted LEDs.
A good performance here, but it gets nowhere near a decent plasma. Our major criticism is that the viewing angle is tight; watch from the wings and the balance of colour and contrast is way out.
Pictures from its built-in Freeview tuner were always going to struggle to impress and, without much in the way of upscaling, pictures from BBC1 are stained with noise and jagged edges. Here we see the flipside to the full HD panel, which leaves low-bitrate Freeview broadcasts looking exposed and with too many artefacts.
Overall, the highpoint of detail has to largely be sacrificed, and the problem areas are somewhat glossed over because of the TV's small size. Having said that, it's a good picture for such a cheap TV.
Toshiba 32HL833B: Sound, value and ease of use
The 32HL833B's speakers are useful only for watching news and chat shows, with only a whiff of bass amid a treble-heavy soundscape. Stable Sound is designed to dampen volume in annoying advert breaks, but it's to the detriment of the audio and is therefore of questionable value.
We're not completely convinced that Toshiba has made the right decision on features for the 32HL833B; we're pretty sure most punters would prefer a Freeview HD tuner, even if it meant losing that full HD resolution.
We won't argue with the penchant for edge LED backlighting at this price, though, as it helps create a reasonably cinematic picture for such a cheap telly.
Ease of use
Freeview tunes in quickly and is easy to use. It's a different story with the seven-day programme guide, which - like on Toshiba's 2010 crop of TVs - has a peculiar design.
Visually, it's a fairly neutral mix of grey, blue, black and white graphics that float over a live TV channel. So far so good, but instead of showing what's currently on, it displays the next nine programmes showing on whatever channel the cursor rests on, which is great for an in-depth rundown on whatever is on for the rest of the day on that particular station, but means that you can't see what's up next across multiple channels.
Worse is to come, since moving the cursor down a channel instructs the TV to re-tune to that channel, making it impossible to see what's on another channel without physically paying it a visit. Baffling.
Elsewhere, the TV's main GUI is much better. It's themed in black and 3D-like blue bars with white lettering and looks reasonably stylish, though the clean design and easy-to-read wording is interrupted occasionally by instructional buttons in a garish, old fashioned serif font that looks hideous.
A nicely laid out - but annoyingly unresponsive and incredibly lightweight - remote control is the major weak point of the user interface. For starters, it's outdated, with commands and buttons that are not needed. For instance, why is there a large ATV/DTV button for toggling between the digital and analogue TV tuners, when the latter has all but been switched off across the UK? Surely a shortcut to HDMI 1 or the USB stick would be more useful?
There is a tiny 'quick' button in the centre of the remote, but aside from adjusting the picture mode it contains nothing of any daily use. Featherlight and flimsy, no thought has been given to its balance of weight and so it sits awkwardly in the hand.
Insert a USB stick into the side of the 32HL833B, choose Photos from the onscreen GUI, and a pleasant 4x3 grid of thumbnails appear - although only JPEG files are read.
Switch to Music and a drop-down menu of available MP3 files is presented. Select one and a 1980s-style graphic equaliser is displayed fullscreen. Nice idea, but it's so blocky (literally about 50 blue blocks) and slow-moving that it appears to have no relation to the sound coming out of its tiny speakers.
Volume duration, filename and full in-movie controls are all displayed along the bottom of an impressive GUI for music, but we really wouldn't recommend playing anything apart from dialogue-based podcasts on the 32HL833B, unless you've a decent audio system hooked-up.
Go back a step and hit Video and the 32HL833B delivers a surprise. Although it's not supposed to play video files, it actually recognised a whole bunch of them on our USB stick-cum-multimedia treasure chest - and proceeded to play MKV (DivX HD), AVI (DivX), AVCHD, MPEG and MP4. We managed to watch DivX HD and MP4 trailers of 2012 and Shutter Island without any problems.
Picture calibration is impressive for a budget TV. It's fitted with the usual Dynamic/Standard/Movie/Games/Mild presets, and your own preferences can be stored, too.
There's no 100Hz, Active Vision, or the Resolution+ (upscaling technology that Toshiba has so successfully employed in the past) settings to tweak, but it's possible to tinker with the backlight, colour temperature (warm, medium or cool) and static gamma level as well as the usual colour, brightness, contrast and sharpness. Switch-on Colour Management and it produces a Base Colour Adjustment menu comprising hue, saturation and brightness tweaks across the whole spectrum.
Audio controls are pretty basic, with only three 'features' as such; stable sound and surround sound can be toggled on or off, while bass boost uses a sliding scale. All have an uphill struggle to make any kind of impression with the 32HL833's weedy speakers.
Toshiba 32HL833B: Verdict
Its provision of just two HDMI inputs will leave the majority of households struggling, at least occasionally, to find a home for a DVD or Blu-ray player, games console or Sky/Virgin box. Nor is there an Ethernet port, which means that DLNA networking and Freeview HD are off the menu.
Poor speakers and a worse remote don't endear us to the 32HL833B, but there are enough good points to recommend this for living rooms - including a decent picture from Blu-ray and its ability with digital media via USB.
Great colour saturations, decent sharpness and contrast do enough to deliver a sense of cinema, and though it's not the reference-level picture that home cinemas deserve, it's as natural as it gets at this size and price.
DivX playback is handy and the detail in Blu-ray is superb, while DVD and Freeview are watchable.
Just two HDMI inputs and no Freeview HD are major concerns, while an unresponsive remote and plain odd Freeview EPG don't make the 32HL833B a TV that's always easy to use.
Blur and judder can be cured to some extent, but only at the cost of sharpness, while the viewing angle is surprisingly tight.
The 32HL833B is a basic TV that brings edge LED backlit cinematic pictures to living rooms. Its restricted picture just about achieves all-round respectability, but it badly misses a DVB-T2 tuner and a soundbar/home cinema upgrade is imperative, though multimedia skills are surprisingly good.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview