Toshiba has upped its game rather dramatically with its latest range of LED TVs. Produced in collaboration with the jolly Danes from Jacob Jensen Design, they are uniformly slim (this 40 incher is a mere 29mm deep) and well made. They’re also surprisingly heavy (this model tips the scales at a hefty 21.5kg) thanks to the acreage of glass and metal trim used for both the panel and pedestal stand. We love the screen’s subtle sophistication– from the edge-to-edge glass panel to the touch control integrated into the lower bezel.
Connectivity is what we would hope to see from a sub-£1000 screen. There are four HDMI inputs, plus Component, PC, Scart, phono AV, Ethernet and twin USB inputs. The 40VL758 is so thin, adaptors need to be used for the chunkier legacy connections.
It takes a little effort to coax the best picture from this TV. Helpfully though, there’s a raft of controls available in its menus, and image quality is bolstered by some serious picture processing technology.
Toshiba has a surprisingly long heritage in televisual tech. The brand made its first cathode ray tube way back in 1927, back when Laurel and Hardy were making silent movies for Hal Roach. Its boffins went on to develop the Black Stripe Picture tube in 1947, which represented a pioneering step in the right direction for early TV image quality.
More recently Toshiba’s engineers developed Resolution+, an extremely versatile and effective image enhancement suite. Resolution+ is not bog-standard scaling technology. It sets out to restore all the original bulges and dents in the original video signal waveform, restoring nuance and detail. The algorithm analyses an image, identifying the edges of objects, the texture within them and the flat areas that constitute the background around them. Then it pumps and grinds.
Although originally introduced as an aid to improving standard definition material, the process seems to be just as effective with HD. On this set it comes with a sliding scale: grades under three are intended for SD material and above for HD, and incremental changes are visible on all content. Ultimately (given the right horsepower), Toshiba sees Resolution+ as the best way of upconverting HD material for tomorrow’s 4K2K panels, which have four times the pixel density of today’s Full HD screens.
In practice, we found that it did indeed pull more perceived detail from HD source material. A sequence from Disney’s Bolt revealed more image definition using Resolution+, with frames from the CGI ‘toon clearly exhibiting extra texture.
Motion picture resolution is surprisingly good, with the brand’s proprietary Active Vision M100 refresh mode preserving high-def image integrity. Using a motion resolution test pattern developed by the Advanced PDP Development Centre, we measured only a slight drop-off in sharpness at 6.5ppf (pixels per frame) from 1080 lines to just over 900. This modest drop in clarity makes for rather good Blu-ray movie viewing, although we did note some minor image blurring. We advise you combine Active Vision M100 with Smooth Film Stabilization for the best results.
Predictably, the Edge LED backlighting used by the VL758 is a little on the uneven side – a common problem for most LCD screens using this type of illumination. Consequently, you will see pools of light in each corner of the screen when the image is predominantly black.
Although the set sports a Freeview HD tuner, we were never completely sold on its overall performance. There appeared to be edge-enhancements taking place which were not wholly beneficial to the purity of the image (and these do not seem to be related to Resolution+). Obviously the terrestrial HD channels look better than their SD counterparts, but they don’t ping quite as much as we’d like.
Toshiba does not as yet have an online content portal, although this is coming in the shape of Toshiba Places, sometime early 2011. Instead, the utilitarian menu system simply offers fast access to YouTube and BBC iPlayer. There is also a Media Playback option. Although a card carrying member of the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance), this is not a screen well suited to streaming. Across our test network, the TV failed to play the majority of our NAS-based test files. MKV, AVI and MOV file types were all roundly ignored. Better results were enjoyed with playback from USB media. Our AVI, MKV and Xvid video files all played, although there was no support for SRT subtitle files. Hopefully, Toshiba can remedy this with its next round of firmware updates.
Another interesting feature is Auto View. This self calibrating mode optimises the picture depending on ambient light levels by juggling gamma correction, sharpness and Resolution+. While this certainly makes fundamental changes to the image, depending on light levels, we felt comfortable letting the screen decide picture parameters autonomously. We might want a very different viewing experience in a dark room if we’re gaming rather than watching a movie. Still, the mode is there if you want to experiment.
One clear area where the screen seems a little weak is audio; when you power up the set the noise it makes is thin and sibilant. The screen does offer a modest equaliser function, which allows you to try and rescue the audio but there’s not much for it to work with.
A Spatial option does improve the stereo spread by dragging the soundstage back and pushing it wide – without this the set is decidedly monophonic.
Overall, we would rate the 40VL758 as a really rather good telly for the cash. Build quality and design punch above their weight and image quality with HD material is sharp and rewarding. What lets the side down somewhat is the shrill audio and spotty multimedia playback. While there’s only a limited amount of IPTV content, all the basics are present and the overall UI is unfussy and clean.
The Toshiba 40VL758 is a beautifully built and executed flatscreen which delivers big time in terms of general picture quality and design. Its HD images are sharp and black levels sufficiently profound. While there are issues with the Edge LED backlighting, its overall scorecard is largely untarnished. While this is not a screen for those seeking copious online content, or even local media streaming prowess, it does strike a convincing upmarket pose.