Toshiba 46VL758 £1500
7th Dec 2010 | 12:20
Beautifully made, but average performing edge LED set with Resolution+
Toshiba 46VL758: Overview
Engaging celebrated designers to style high-end TVs has become quite the thing. B&O, for example, has a long relationship with David Lewis, while Sharp called upon Toshiyuki Kita for its ground-breaking XS1 RGB LED series. Now it's Toshiba's turn, with renowned Danish studio, Jacob Jensen Design, adding its aesthetic expertise to the VL758 series.
Toshiba's recent moves in the TV market have been more about ultra-aggressive pricing than high feature counts and striking designs, so this 42-inch set could represent a real turnaround in the manufacturer's thinking.
This apparent shift in perspective is underlined by a strong features list. While the 46VL758 doesn't have 3D playback, it does support Wi-Fi via an optional dongle, and, impressively, includes BBC iPlayer among its online features.
The only obvious potential catch is the rather high (£1,500) asking price, but if you are after something more affordable, the brand caters abundantly to that end of the market elsewhere.
Try the CCFL-lit, HD ready AV series, for example, or the step-up full HD LV range, available in 32-inch and 40-inch flavours. The RV-prefixed sets add Freeview HD tuners to proceedings, while the SL Series throws in edge LED backlighting.
Toshiba 46VL758: Features
That all-important design is not especially impressive at first glance. The set certainly isn't ugly, with its one-layer fascia and glassy black bezel offset by a neat silver metallic trim, but it isn't as distinctive as might have been expected.
Look closer, though and Jacob Jensen's industrial influences become more apparent. For a start, the set is exceptionally thin; just 2.89cm from front to back. The wall-mount for the TV has been designed to be as thin as possible too. Then there's a tasteful backlit touch panel set of controls integrated into the fascia that's invisible when not in use, while the desktop stand is made from high-quality brushed metal and the chassis is, as a whole, fairly plastic-free. The build quality exudes class, even if the set's overall look is less interesting than it might have been.
Turning to the set's skinny rear, it's good to find that Toshiba has realised that many people will probably want to hang such a thin TV on the wall, and so has positioned all the connections so that they're accessible from the side rather than just sticking straight out from the rear. As with some of Samsung's thinnest TVs, this has required Toshiba to provided 'shrinking' adaptors for some connections, including the component, composite and Scart inputs.
Elsewhere, you get four HDMIs, an Ethernet port and a couple of USB inputs – a pretty presentable collection, though probably no more than should be expected of a £1,500 46in TV these days.
The Ethernet port provides mandatory support for the set's built-in Freeview HD tuner, access to files stored on a DLNA PC as well as access to YouTube and the BBC iPlayer. Support for the latter is always a boon and it is also pleasing to discover that the platform on the 46VL758 supports HD, as well as standard-def video streaming.
The 46VL758's online functions are a little unusual in that they don't appear to fall under any branded online umbrella service, like Panasonic's VieraCast or Samsung's Internet@TV: they just appear on the TV's multimedia onscreen menus. It's also quite odd to find the excellent iPlayer here while some more advanced TVs in online feature terms still haven't got it.
Overall, however, Toshiba is a few steps behind most of its big-brand rivals when it comes to online goodies.
Its DLNA function is rather awkward, thanks to an unwillingness to handle video codecs. Instead you have to hook it up to a PC with media rendering capabilities, which complicates matters no end for novice users and effectively means you'll need a computer equipped with the Windows 7 operating system if you want to enjoy a full set of DLNA features.
With this in mind, it's a relief to find that the USB ports support playback of DivX HD video files as well as JPEG photos and MP3 audio files.
You can also attach an optional dongle to one of the USBs to make the TV Wi-Fi ready if you want to jack it into your network wirelessly.
Turning our attention to the technology driving the 46VL758's pictures, it's no surprise – given the screen's slimness – to find it using edge LED backlighting. The native resolution is, inevitably, full HD, and the screen claims a high contrast ratio of 7,000,000:1, while its motion handling should benefit from 100Hz processing.
This 100Hz system is part of Toshiba's wider Active Vision LCD picture processing system, which works on almost all picture elements in a bid to make images better.
It's also nice to see Resolution+ making a comeback. This proprietary rescaling system for adding sharpness and detail to standard-definition sources has impressed in the past, but has sadly disappeared from the feature lists of many of Toshiba's 2010 lower-end sets.
Delving deeper into the 46VL758's menus additionally reveals Toshiba's most overt attempt yet to appeal to the hardcore AV enthusiasts. For tucked away in a couple of Advanced and Expert onscreen menus are some impressive colour and gamma management tools.
You can adjust the basic colour temperature, or hue, saturation and gain of all six of the main video colours. You can even elect to have just the red, green or blue image content on screen at any point, to help you fine tune colours more precisely. For gamma, there are simple static presets, a surprisingly useful black and white balance sliding bar and the facility to manually tinker with the set's gamma 'curve' via two- or 10-point methods.
Toshiba has even gone so far as to provide a test screen, with elements included on it that can help you adjust sharpness, contrast and colour settings.
Wrapping up the set's features is an interesting sound trick, called Sound Navi. This apparently increases the set's sound projection capabilities for people who've elected to hang the TV on the wall rather than use the provided desktop stand.
Toshiba 46VL758: Picture quality
Pictures look terrific whenever fed the right sort of content, but at other times they're let down by a single, but hugely irritating, flaw: inconsistent backlighting.
This manifests itself during dark scenes as multiple areas of varying brightness. There's a little pool of extra brightness in each corner, for instance, but also two or three others that appear over central parts of the picture, throwing up a wall between you and any dark scene you're watching.
These areas of extra brightness are completely invisible if you're watching predominantly bright footage, but few TV dramas or films get by without any dark scenes. So it's clear that the backlight issues have the potential to occasionally distract you from almost anything you watch.
Obviously, you can reduce this problem by toning down brightness and decreasing the backlight presence, but while doing so can reduce the issue a little, it doesn't sort it out completely.
Backlight inconsistency is, of course a common issue with edge LED TVs, but there are many sets that suffer from it far less grievously than this one.
Making this single flaw all the more annoying is the amount of stuff the TV gets right in other areas of its picture performance. Colours, for instance, are vibrant, well saturated and natural in tone – at least after a little time spent removing a slight yellow bias from the out-of-the-box settings. There's enough finesse in the way the set renders blends and shifts, too, to stop skin tones from suffering with the slightly patchy, waxy look often noted with flatscreens.
The 46VL758's black level response isn't as bad as you might imagine. Predominantly bright images with a bit of blackness in them are punchy and dynamic and dark scenes would be convincing were it not for the inconsistent backlighting.
The set is a fair handler of motion, with the100Hz engine operating in conjunction with what's presumably a pretty speedy innate panel response time enable it to avoid many of the blurring woes to which so many LCD screens are prone. There's a little residual judder, but this is seldom truly distracting.
The lack of motion blurring makes it easy to appreciate the 46VL758's enjoyably sharp, clear and detailed rendering of high-definition sources and the sterling work done by Resolution+ with standard-definition pictures. Just don't set the latter higher than its two or, at a push, three as doing so introduces unwelcome amounts of noise and grain.
One noteworthy shortcoming sees the screen's contrast reducing dramatically if you have to watch it from an angle of 30º or greater off-axis, while another is that the glass panel that gives the TV its 'one layer' finish tends to reflect ambient light – especially if you've got any wall lights sat directly opposite the screen.
Toshiba 46VL758: Sound, value and ease of use
Sadly the 46VL758 is another ultra-slim TV with a disappointing sound system. Particularly evident is the almost complete lack of bass in the soundstage, which leaves action scenes feeling thin, unbalanced and one-dimensional.
The mid-range is narrower than most, leaving voices (especially male ones) sounding unrealistic and sound mixes in general sounding a bit muddy. Even the treble end of the audio spectrum is a let down, sounding harsh when pushed at all hard.
The 46VL758's high price tag makes it a high-end 46-inch TV, in town but this isn't, sadly, underwritten by suitably top-notch performance.
Ease of use
The 46VL753 scores about average in this section. On the upside, its remote control is glossy and reasonably comfortable to hold, aside from feeling a little lightweight. Its buttons are more responsive and 'clicky' than the rather squishy efforts found on lower-rent Toshiba remotes, too.
The only catch with the remote is that Toshiba has decided to place many of the most frequently used buttons very close together. This makes sense on one level, perhaps, but the result is a section of the remote that feels too cluttered with fiddly little buttons.
The 46VL758's onscreen menus, meanwhile, are severely lacking in presentational skills. There's scarcely an icon or graphic in sight, leaving you facing the sort of white text on dark background appearance that would have looked dated in 2008, never mind 2010.
To be fair, the menu structure built around this text approach is reasonably logical, but it's not unreasonable to expect something higher-tech on a premium TV these days.
Toshiba 46VL758: Verdict
With design such an important part of the TV market now, it makes perfect sense for Toshiba to have paid a professional, well-respected design agency, Jacob Jensen Design, to come up with a look for a new premium TV range. Especially as Toshiba hasn't done a properly premium range for some time.
It's a pity the results of the design assistance haven't resulted in a more dramatic aesthetic result, but the TV certainly exudes high build quality.
The set's feature count is respectable, too, with 100Hz and Active Vision picture processing, and multimedia tools that include DivX HD, MP3 and JPEG playback from USB storage devices plus YouTube and BBC iPlayer access.
The main problem with the TV is that, while the 46VL758's pictures are capable of looking excellent with bright, colourful HD footage, it struggles at other times, chiefly thanks to some backlight consistency issues. Also, its sound is below average even by the traditionally underwhelming standards of skinny TVs.
With these performance shortcomings in mind, the 46VL758 looks rather expensive: not a charge one has been able to level at a Toshiba TV for quite a while.
The set's build quality is terrific, as are some aspects of its design, especially its slimness.
We also like the lengths the TV goes to help you calibrate pictures as well as playback of DivX HD from USB devices.
Its pictures are bright, colour-rich and sharp with good HD sources and it's better than many rivals with standard-def.
The design isn't quite as original as it might have been, considering that it is the work of a respected third-party design studio.
The need for Windows 7 on your PC to enjoy full multimedia PC streaming playback seems unnecessarily finnicky and complicated, too.
But worse is the extent of backlight inconsistency visible in pictures and the feeble audio.
It's good to see Toshiba trying to re-establish itself at the premium end of the market rather than just slugging it out for budget domination.
It's also great to find it announcing a new premium intention with such an uncompromisingly well built and slinky – if hardly earth shattering – TV.
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