Toshiba 42ZV635D £1299
28th Sep 2009 | 09:00
Toshiba's flagship 42" LCD TV has superb HD detail, but disappointing black levels
Toshiba is deservedly well regarded for its dependable, mid-priced workhorses, but it's been a while since it had a proper tilt at the higher end of the spectrum. The 42ZV635D looks to put this right with ambitious specifications, a new operating system and super-chic 'Deep Lagoon' styling.
This set packs more gadgetry than anyone can ever conceivably need. The panel, of course, is full HD, but the more exciting stuff is under the hood, with Toshiba's most advanced picture processing (Active Vision M200 HD Pro) working alongside the company's groundbreaking Resolution+ scaling technology, under the all-encompassing MetaBrain umbrella to deliver what should be some pretty sharp and well-ordered pictures.
There is also an outrageously high claimed contrast ratio figure (100,000:1) and Faroudja de-interlacing to crank up those expectations another couple of notches.
Auto View, meanwhile, adjusts the screen's output to suit ambient lighting conditions and, combined with the more efficient 'Eco' panel design and a proper 'off ' button, may help to reduce the impact of your HD movie habit on the Earth.
Ease of use
Toshiba has a sound record in turning out consistently friendly sets, although its pastel-shaded interface had been looking tired. The snazzy new system here certainly looks impressive, with monochrome panels and text and a classy new font. It's also packs every conceivable tweak and a few more besides.
The trouble is, we're not at all sure that it's an unqualified improvement, ergonomically speaking. The smallish text is occasionally a little tricky to read, and navigating the various menus and sub-sections periodically requires a little bit of conscious effort, suggesting a certain conceptual clumsiness.
The remote is a possible culprit; Toshiba, like LG, now offers a 'Quick' menu option on the zapper. Which is fine, except that it is where you might reasonably expect to find the main Menu key, with the latter relegated to the block of fiddly minor buttons towards the bottom.
And bafflingly, the 'Quick' options don't include a means of toggling the audio presets, which is crazy when you consider how casually one tends to tinker with the sonics to suit source material, and infuriating when you need to alter the sound in a darkened room.
The picture is easily divisible into good and bad bits, with colours, detail and dynamism falling into the former category and motion and black levels constituting the latter. There is also a marked preference for hi-def over standard-def, a foible that would pass without mention on most other sets, but comes as a let down in one featuring Resolution+ that is meant to apply a pseudo-HD gloss to SD material.
Generally speaking, however, the picture is largely admirable. The detail with top-spec material is so impressive that you'll find yourself marvelling at the sheer amount of visual information in backgrounds or long shots.
Colours are also bold and punchy, but also rich and textured where needed, while peak whites are positively brilliant.
Motion, on the other hand, is noticeably shaky. The Toshiba copes adequately with fast, kinetic scenes, but jerkiness mars any slow, deliberate movement.
Blacks are also disappointingly feeble, with dark scenes lacking any real profundity and varying shades merging into one another. And, as mentioned earlier, the Resolution+ circuitry is something of a let-down. DVDs look good without obviously transcending the format's innate capabilities, while digital TV broadcasts are as garish as ever.
Flatscreens invariably get a bashing in the sonics department and the audio, for a set of this size, is rather disappointing. There's a fair amount of muscle at your disposal, but bass is in short supply.
On the plus side, though, there is built-in Dolby Digital processing available via an optical digital output for sending sonics to an external amplifier and we recommend you avail yourselves of it in order to do the (hi-def) pictures justice.
The 42ZV635D is at the top of Toshiba's oeuvre and is priced as such. And there is much to admire, here, too, with impressive hi-def performance, a wealth of features and the sort of styling you'd expect from a top-drawer telly. It isn't, however, quite special enough to warrant a full five stars.
Whether it is the occasionally wobbly picture, not-quite-there operating system or faint sense of a manufacturer trying just a little too hard to surpass itself, the set just doesn't reach the more exalted level to which it seems to aspire. It is an intriguing statement of intent, though, and as a result we await the company's next high-end TV with interest.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview