Toshiba 40L6353 £599
19th Aug 2013 | 10:05
Half-price 40-inch TV with half-power smart TV
Put Wi-Fi, smart TV, Freeview HD and a 40-inch screen on your shopping list and you're unlikely to find anything under £600 from a brand you've heard of. The exception - as ever - is Toshiba, whose commitment to producing the ultimate everyman TV at a digestible price continues apace with the 40L6353, a 40-inch edge LED-backlit LCD TV that's going for £599 (around US$935 / AU$1,020).
It's 82mm (3.2 inches) in depth - not exactly slim - but those with existing AV tables won't care a jot about that. Even the 15mm (0.59-inch)-wide bezel is pretty easy to live with, while the gloss black styling with a fake metallic strip is 'a bit 2012' at worst.
It uses a 100Hz panel with Full HD resolution, too, while its smart TV antics - called Cloud TV by Toshiba and new for 2013 - cover all the basics. BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube and all here. Heck, the Freeview HD tuner even has a basic one channel-record function if you've got a spare USB flash drive on top of digital file playback.
Our only concern is picture quality, which has surely dropped down the priority list for Toshiba to reach such a low price. Or has Toshiba - which has fitted the 40L6353 with its regularly impressive Resolution+ circuitry - achieved the impossible?
The only other TV in the Toshiba L6 Series is the 32-inch Toshiba 32L6353 (£485).
But if you're after the company's most advanced sets, head for the step-up Toshiba L7 Series. As well as Cloud TV and all the other features found on the L6, you'll find active shutter 3D, two pairs of 3D specs and a slimmer design across bigger screens; the 40-inch Toshiba 40L7355 (£650) and 50-inch Toshiba 50L7355 (£750).
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Further down below the L6 Series is the almost ludicrously low-priced Toshiba L4 Series, which comprises the 32-inch Toshiba 32L4353 (£400), 39-inch Toshiba 39L4353 and 50-inch Toshiba 50L4353.
Outside of the Toshiba range, the TV's closest competitor is the Finlux 40F8030-T, which sits at a similar price point and has a similar spec.
Buy a TV as big as this for such small bean and there are bound to be a couple of annoyances. So it proves with the Toshiba 40L6353, which surprises us with an impressive four HDMI inputs, but then puts three of them on a messy side panel. The trio is alongside two USB slots. There is a fourth HDMI input on the rear panel, but unfortunately it points out rather than downwards.
A similar fate awaits the other ins and outs around it; a set of component video inputs and associated phonos, a full RGB Scart, a D-sub for connecting a laptop the old analogue way, a wired LAN port, optical digital audio, and a feed for its Freeview HD tuner.
We love the idea of a TV being the home hub, interacting with other devices but always staying in charge. It's a great idea - but Cloud TV isn't the answer. To be fair, no smart TV platform totally succeeds, but we fear that Cloud TV's grand ambitions are rather wasted.
Its central Zeebox-style Twitter feed that creates 'social TV' is going to annoy many users, while the chance to use an on-screen Cloud Calendar widget - and create separate accounts for Cloud TV itself - is similarly unlikely to have mass appeal, despite the presence of some basic recommendation software.
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Who is seriously going to input appointments into a TV app using long-hand text entry on a remote control?
Owners of Toshiba's apps, that's who. A basic, free Toshiba Remote app for Android or iOS failed to link to the Toshiba 40L6353 in our test, but there's a further app called Toshiba TV Media Guide - again for Android or iOS - that effectively relieves the Toshiba 40L6353 of TV scheduling duties, despite the TV's own EPG being one of its high points.
As if that wasn't enough, iOS users also get Toshiba Cloud TV, which ports the fiddly functions such as Cloud Calendar, though confusingly there's no iPad version, just iPhone.
Without that, or any kind of Android version, it's a half-baked idea, and the reward for time-consumingly creating an account online, entering email addresses using on-screen keyboards, and linking the various devices by 8-digit codes is a less than intuitive experience with a looming central question: what's it all for? We're convinced that almost nobody will get as far as we did with Cloud TV.
The choice of apps is also an issue. During our review we were presented with Featured apps from BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix, BBC News, Blinkbox, BBC Sport and Facebook.
Hidden behind a More tab is a page of apps that adds the likes of Viewster, KnowHow Movies, Live Sport TV, Vimeo, iConcerts, Funspot, Woomi, Euronews, Aupeo and Daily Motion, though a few other apps - notably France 24, CineTrailer and eBay - appear only on the TV & Movies tab.
Separately presented are links to a web browser, Skype, Intel's Wi-Fi screen mirroring, and links to the Toshiba 40L6353's digital media player.
Hardware-wise, the Toshiba 40L6353 has the basics it needs - besides a dual-core processor, sadly - to perform reasonably well with pictures. The most important feature in this regard is a panel with a 100Hz refresh rate.
It's accompanied by a decent colour management system for tweakers, though the TV is well served by some well-judged picture presets for a decent out-of-box set-up.
Picture, sound and value
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From a pretty low base several years ago, almost all big-screen TVs are by now clever enough and powerful enough to upscale standard definition images to HD-like resolutions. One of the more successful slabs of circuitry has been Toshiba's Resolution+, but its outing on the Toshiba 40L6353 is one of the least successful we've seen.
During coverage of the World Championships from Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on BBC One, we noticed quite a few picture artefacts that remained on this low bit rate broadcast. We're talking jagged edges, some digital blocking and not a little bit of picture noise around Usain Bolt and company, though the image did get cleaned up a tad.
Freeview HD pictures, on the other hand, are more consistently impressive. Colourful and detailed, we were really pleased with how The Secret Life of the Sun on the BBC 2 HD channel looked, though quick camera pans immediately showed up the Toshiba 40L6353's main structural issue of motion blur.
We have seen a lot, lot worse, but it's really hard to ignore the immediate softening of an HD broadcast when things get frenetic.
It's a problem that becomes even more of a threat to the Toshiba 40L6353's likability when we turn to our Blu-ray test disc Life of Pi, with the sullen tiger's sudden movements lacking ultimate clarity, though close-ups impress.
However, it's judder that's the real issue on panoramic shots, and sadly there's little to be done about it.
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Bravo to Toshiba for its provision of the Hollywood Day, Hollywood Night and Hollywood Pro picture presets, the latter of which is well judged for movies, though it can't help with blacks, which consistently looked forced.
What problems the Toshiba 40L6353 does have are to do with the use of a less advanced LCD panel, and are par for the course on a TV this low priced. Nonetheless, we're sure that the richly coloured, natural-looking and contrast-heavy images will please a lot of viewers.
Yes, the Toshiba 40L6353 does lack convincing black levels - as demonstrated by the rather greyed-over, shadow detail-less night sequences of the cargo ship sinking amid a rather uniform look to any black areas - but they're good enough for most purposes.
We did notice a little LED light leakage in the top and bottom corners on the right-hand side, but it's not in any way a serious issue. The worst we can say about this TV's picture quality is that it's a bit 2012, though considering its low price that's not unexpected.
There's not much in the way of bass coming from the Toshiba 40L6353's speakers, with music interpreted very basically.
However, there's enough middle range and the treble detail is excellent - and distortion-free at high volumes - which makes the Toshiba 40L6353 perfectly acceptable for daily digital TV duties in a living room.
On the surface the Toshiba 40L6353 seems a bargain, but the Cloud TV system it comes with is just so pitifully under-powered that many users will avoid it.
Cloud TV is also stained by loud adverts for some of its apps, and Twitter messages, both of which will be pretty off-putting to some - probably most - users.
Live TV cuts in and out during operation of the Toshiba 40L6353, even during Cloud TV navigation, to the extent that the TV appears slightly disjointed and unpredictable.
There is no single place where links to all of Cloud TV apps are stored, while the various smartphone/tablet apps - all three of them - are either not available for all platforms, merely add another layer of pointless admin, or just don't work.
All of this adds little value to the Toshiba 40L6353 proposition in our eyes, though at £599 (around US$935 / AU$1,020) this 40-inch TV remains a nicely priced option.
Our main issue with the Toshiba 40L6353 is speed - or lack of. Navigating the on-screen menus can be slow, with commands issued from the remote control taking too long - more than a few seconds - to be received and acted upon. It regularly borders on being upsetting.
Press the Cloud TV button and wait nine seconds - yup, nine - and Toshiba's smart TV platform loads up.
We do like how Cloud TV is presented, at least in terms of structure. The temperature reading at the base of the Home screen is frivolous, but useful.
The live TV (or live source) screen at the centre of the Home page is welcome - it's just big enough to be useful, and gives you the TV channel name, programme name and even the broadcast's scheduled timings.
An Events section shows Twitter feeds relating to the top three most popular programmes currently being broadcast on TV. If you have no interest in celebrities and mainly watch BBC 4, then Cloud TV is really not for you.
The Premium Apps page is dogged by very loud video promos for Viewster, Netflix and Deezer. Why should buyers of a TV ever be subjected to adverts within the TV's user interface? They shouldn't.
On the Home screen's left-hand side is a grid of Featured apps, while on the right is the Tools section. Here are links to the Toshiba 40L6353's web browser, Skype and Intel WiDi, as well as to My Music, My Pictures and My Videos, which can be accessed either from a USB flash drive or via a networked computer.
The web browser shortcut defaults to Toshiba's TV home page, and is slow, long-winded and reliant on text entry from the remote control. You'll never use it.
Despite several characteristics that make Cloud TV an acquired taste, we're still impressed that Toshiba has not crammed so much into Cloud TV without it looking too cluttered, but it's just too slow to appreciate in full.
The Toshiba 40L6353's search facility is similarly slow, but effective; laboriously punch in a search term using the remote and the Toshiba 40L6353 quickly produces a list of found items separated by source, though it's not always clear where it's finding its TV programmes and movies. There's also the small fact that neither ITV Player, 4OD or Five apps are included in Cloud TV, so any search of TV isn't exactly comprehensive.
It can conduct a search of your attached USB flash drives and networked computers, too, though that entails firing up more (basic) software that takes well over 10 seconds to load before a search is even conducted.
The straightforward electronic programme guide (EPG) for Freeview HD is surprisingly rather excellent; schedules are provided for 13 channels over four hours across eight days. Within Cloud TV there's also an unfinished portal that shows programme details, such as cast and VOD options.
The Toshiba 40L6353's handling of digital media is surprisingly good for a budget TV. Engaging My Music, My Photos or My Videos cuts Cloud TV dead to show a show a file system that looks more like a BBC computer from the 1980s than a smart TV from 2013, but file support is good.
We managed to get MKV, AVI, AVC HD and MP4 video files stored on a USB stick to play without issue, as well as MP3, WAV and OGG music. Swap to streaming from a networked PC or Mac and the MKV format isn't supported, however.
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The Toshiba 40L6353 is a stripped-down effort to reproduce what most of the other major TV brands are offering for a higher price. However, without the processing power it needs there's nothing smart about many aspects of Cloud TV.
A great selection of ins and outs is welcome, and four HDMI ports at this price is an industry first. The price is hard to argue with for such as big TV, and if all you ever use are the apps for BBC iPlayer, Blinkbox and Netflix, then Cloud TV has arguably done its job.
HD pictures look sharp and colourful, while audio is good enough for living rooms. Digital media support is good, too, as is the built-in EPG.
Aside from the lack of a dual-core processor, the Toshiba 40L6353 lacks the UK-centric catch-up TV apps and Lovefilm, while the various free smartphone and tablet apps need some streamlining.
Standard definition lacks sparkle and there is some noticeable blur and judder. MKV files can't be streamed over a network.
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Why offer smart TV apps but not the power to navigate them? The Toshiba 40L6353 has bitten off more than it can process, though Cloud TV's niggles go deeper than a mere lack of power. Some forgivable image flaws aside, the Toshiba 40L6353 puts in an impressive though unremarkable picture performance, ditto sound.
£599 (around US$935 / AU$1,020) is a decent price for a 40-inch TV with access to apps, but the Toshiba 40L6353 badly needs a dual-core processor to bring it up to speed.
Without that, Cloud TV can be a painfully slow experience. So slow, in fact, that those looking for a smart TV will be disappointed; it's best thought of as an occasional feature at best.
Is this the best value big brand 40-inch TV around? Judged purely on size, possibly, but it's not without a large number of flaws.
Toshiba doesn't have too many rivals at this low price-point, but a notable competitor is the Finlux 40F8030-T, with which it shares core characteristics - both positive and negative.
Or, stay in Toshiba's range and step up to the L7 Series and the Toshiba 40L7355 (£650), which gives you Cloud TV, active shutter 3D, two pairs of 3D specs and a slimmer design.
First reviewed 19 August