Toshiba 37RV753 £500
21st Jan 2011 | 09:00
Cut-price 37in LCD with a Freview HD tuner, but bargain-bin performance
Toshiba 37RV753: Overview
The 37RV753 is the kind of screen most people now know Toshiba for. It's aggressively priced (at the time of writing you can pick it up for £399 at Tesco Direct with a Blu-ray player thrown in free of charge) and has the design aesthetic of a dressing table mirror. It's a quantum leap away from what the brand is now trying to achieve with its WL Jacob Jensen Design studio lineup.
It is a commodity product through and through, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Viewed from the front, this RV series set doesn't disgrace itself in polite company, although some might think the glossy bezel is rather too chunky to be a la mode.
So what do you get on a 37RV753? Well, not LED backlighting for a start. This model uses a traditional CCFL backlight (hence its 290mm deep cabinet), it also lacks motion resolution improvers (Active Vision M100 and Film Stabilization). In short, it's a bare bones box that offers barely any groovy gubbins.
Toshiba 37RV753: Features
If you were to make a virtue out the 37RV753's Wispa-light features list it would be that it includes nothing to frighten even the terminally technophobic. The remote control is a rudimentary affair, with diddy buttons and a lightweight, throwaway feel. Naturally, it doubles up as a disc deck controller if you flip the toggle switch on the top.
The set does at least have a Freeview HD tuner, which sets it apart from the screens in the really cheap seats, though.
Backside connection options on the set will be adequate for most. There are three HDMI inputs (the third of which can work with a feed from a DVI source, via an adaptor), component video, a PC input with minijack audio, an Ethernet LAN port, and stereo phono and optical digital audio outputs.
There are also two Scarts for older standard-def kit and, interestingly, a phono output designed to feed a small active subwoofer. The two-channel stereo audio is filtered in the set with mid to low bass routed out to the sub, so you'll not get the same type of LFE feed as a .1 channel in a surround mix. Still, it will help the screen make a more rambunctious noise.
On the right hand side of the set are some addition ports. There's a fourth HDMI, a CI (Common Interface) slot for pay TV services, analogue AV inputs and two USB sockets. One of these is designated for media playback from a USB device while the other is for a Wi-Fi dongle.
Eco warriors will be pleased to see the manual power switch on the left side. There are also some basic hands-on controls.
Naturally, the player is compatible with the CEC interoperability standard, called RegzaLink. Rather infuriatingly for consumers, different companies have different interpretations of CEC, so you can never be clear if one will work with the other. For this audition, the 37RV753 enjoyed only partial interoperability with a Sony Blu-ray player.
The set is DLNA certified, which might lead you to believe it offers some meaningful level of multimedia file support. However, this is not the case; the 37RV753 fails miserably when it came to video streaming. While it can see NAS storage devices and PCs, it steadfastly refuses to play video test files including AVIs, MKVs, AVCHs... Apparently it works with MPEG files, but what would be the point of that?
Music however, seems more agreeable to this set; it will sing along to some MP3s without issue, although it can't display any cover art.
Toshiba 37RV753: Ease of use
The start-up menu is pretty straightforward. There's an uneventful walk-through of country and location menus before it starts scanning for channels. It only takes a few minutes to populate the EPG.
Despite the provision of an Ethernet port on the rear of the set, there is no online content portal to explore. Toshiba has yet to announce a start date for its Toshiba Places IPTV offering and on this set you don't even get YouTube to pass the time with.
Toshiba has opted for a conservative user interface. Compared to the screaming graphics favoured by many of its competitors, the presentation is understated but intuitive. To save mucking about through numerous boxes, there's a Quick menu that groups everything you actually might need in a single box (Picture Mode and Size, Media Player etc).
Picture controls are versatile. There's a full range of parameter calibration on offer, along with Backlight Adjustment Pro and base colour management. It's unlikely that the target audience of this type of TV will want to get their hands dirty at this level, but it's a nice option to have.
The Native mode, which prevents overscanning, seems to be the best option for watching HD broadcasts and content.
It goes without saying that the best way to hook up any TV screen to a home network is with a wired connection. This may not always be possible, of course, and so you might feel a need to opt for a Wi-Fi dongle.
Alternatively, consider looking into Power Line, which uses the mains ring to carry network traffic to anywhere there's a power socket – it's often much more reliable than Wi-Fi and a two-pack Powerline system sells for around the same as a dedicated branded dongle.
Powering up the screen immediately brings one problem to light: a buzzing backlight. It oscillates depending on how the screen is set up. Bizarrely, when you select the retina-frying Dynamic setting the noise disappears; choose one of the other viewing modes and the screen begins to hum.
Increase the brightness to the mid-90s on the sliding scale provided and the noise abates, however dive into some of the other menus and it comes back immediately. It could well be that this is a sample fault; however the fact it turned up on this test-bench sounding like a demented contestant trying to answer a question on Family Fortunes is enough to earn several demerits.
The programme listing, meanwhile, is a generic Toshiba affair, and is wide and easy to navigate.
Toshiba 37RV753: Picture
A cursory glance might suggest the picture quality from the 37RV753 is adequate, but you don't need too dig deep to uncover problems. The lack of any proprietary refresh modes cripples any ability to maintain high-definition clarity with motion (note that, according to the Toshiba website, the set has Active Vision 11, but the instruction manual says differently and the TV's performance corroborates this).
A horizontal scrolling monoscope test pattern gives a graphic representation of moving picture fidelity. As a still image, this test pattern is as sharp as you might hope, with 1,080 lines of fine detail clearly resolved.
However, as soon as the test pattern begins to scroll horizontally, the perceived onscreen definition sinks like a sumo wrestler in a Koi carp pond. If you can pick out more than 600 lines, you are being generous.
This inability to hold onto detail is why some HD programmes look inexplicably, sporadically soft; it's most noticeable on pictures from the Freeview HD channels; some shows (talking-head, studio based stuff) can look rather nice and crispy, however action sequences and sport have a 'now we're sharp, now we're soft' bleariness about them.
A test pattern with ever-decreasing fine line graticules developed by the Advanced PDP Development Centre confirms this lack of motion picture resolution: any fine detail beyond 600/650 lines evaporates as soon as it begins to move. The loss of fidelity worsens in scenes of low brightness.
A secondary test pattern, comprising of Japanese and English scrolling text, smudges badly when run at 30 per cent luminance.
On the plus side, colour fidelity is rather good. There is a tendency for CCFL-backlit screens to render reds as rather orangey, but that isn't the case here; roses are recognisably red. However, colour gradations are a little steppy, which suggests bit-depth limitations.
As always, you'll need to take care with sharpness when calibrating: anything over -20 on the calibration slider seems to be counter-productive.
Further up Toshiba's range ladder are TVs with Film Stabilization, a processing mode designed to eliminate cinematic judder. Unfortunately, this is absent on the 37RV753 – with predictable results. When Prince Charming canters behind a rocky outcrop on the remastered Blu-ray of Sleeping Beauty, the scrolling image resembles a flick book.
On the plus side, there is none of that ice-skating artificial smoothness so commonly associated with high frame-rate modes.
Like all CCFL-backlit screens, black levels suffer in low ambient lighting. What looks deep black in a hotly lit room, sheepishly becomes grey when the light level in the viewing room dips. Blacks are not ruinously grey, but there is some loss of visual snap.
It's worth noting that the panel itself is not overly kind to off-axis viewing. You only have to manoeuvre some 15° from square-on to see the colour drain from the faces of those onscreen.
Toshiba 37RV753: Sound and value
Audio quality of the set is surprisingly good. The larger cabinet size of the RV enables some air to move around and (even without using the subwoofer output for extra bass) there's sufficient roundness for the 2x10W output to serve general viewing well.
A Dynamic bass Boost option (Off, Low, High) further stuffs the mid-band, causing it to get a little too plumy. To counter this, there's a Voice Enhancement tweak that adds a little more treble.
The set also offers Dolby Volume, a neat example of post processing which equalises discrepancies between channels and sources, so that you don't jump out of your skin when a scary movie you've been watching cuts to a commercial ad break. The screen also supports Audio Description on programming, with variable levels of sound mixing available.
Ultimately, this bargain priced LCD performs much as you would expect it to. If you are looking for a reasonably priced screen, it might well do the job, although spending less on a TV (if it's your main set) may well prove to be a false economy.
While the audio performance is decent, a plethora of picture problems make this screen difficult to recommend. Throw in the buzzing CCFL backlight and an inadequate DLNA implementation and you end up with a screen only its maker could love.
Toshiba 37RV753: Verdict
The Toshiba 37RV753 is a mass-market telly aimed at the supermarket electricals shopper and is not intended to be a high performance purchase, but there are some fundamental flaws that deny it a recommendation. The buzzing backlight on this sample may be an isolated problem, but it might equally be indicative of what's in store for owners of this particular set. Its DLNA credentials are next to worthless and there are no IPTV niceties to compensate. Toshiba's new, immeasurably better WL line will yield greater satisfaction for anyone even slightly picky about pictures.
The surprisingly inoffensive audio performance, the Freeview HD tuner and the shopping-trolley price.
The poor motion picture clarity, the intermittently buzzing CCFL backlight and hopeless video file support
If you need a second set, perhaps for a room you rarely visit, then the 37RV753 might fit the bill, but you could do much better.