Toshiba 32HL833B review

Typical Toshiba. For years this enormous Japanese company has been taunting us with tales of its “Cell” or “Cevo” TV, with its exceptional high-end features and up to 10 TV tuners, then it hit us at January‘s CES with giant glasses-free 3DTV versions. Now it heads for the other end of the spectrum and delivers the back-to-basics 32HL833B - and changes the definition of the “everyman” (or woman) TV.

It may have slipped down the ranges of most brands, but here super-slim Edge LED technology meets a Full HD panel on Toshiba's steadfastly budget-friendly HL Series of LCD TVs.

An impressive combo for such small bean, though aside from that there’s few extra features to get excited about on this decidedly standard-looking gloss black telly, though kudos to Tosh for creating a depth of just 45mm depth. That’s thanks to its Edge LED backlighting, and in practice it’s more than slim enough to mount impressively on a wall, while industry standard 200 x 200mm VESA fixings for such a purpose are also onboard.

Not that the 32HL833B will be a completely clean installation for some; with just two HDMI inputs, upgrading other home entertainment will be difficult and could mean buying a messy HDMI splitter.

Two other standout omissions to think about are Freeview HD and Net TV. The latter, which Toshiba does dress its higher-end TVs with, and which includes BBC iPlayer, won’t be on everybody’s shopping list. The no-show of a DVB-T2 tuner for high-def TV broadcasts, however, is a real shame - we thought it had become a standard feature - and it helps us reach a conclusion that the 32HL833B is for two specific types of consumers; those haven't heard of, or who couldn't care less about, high definition (if so, why buy a TV with a Full HD panel?) and customers of Sky or Virgin. Even the latter will struggle to make use of all those pixels unless a Blu-ray player is hooked-up, which leaves us struggling to decide whom the 32HL833B is primarily aimed at.

From our test disc Avatar (in good old 2D) we could see immediately that colour is extremely vibrant, though in a controlled way. Jake’s human skin looks suntanned, while his avatar’s blue face looks simply stunning. Saturations are good elsewhere, and colours are given a boost throughout by the 32HL833B’s native contrast. Black levels are decent - thanks to that edge lighting - though there is an impenetrable look to dark areas of the image, and contrast quickly fades if you watch the 32HL833B from the wings. No matter because it’s still enough to create a powerful picture … until it moves. Even slight shakes of the head cause some motion blur on this LCD screen, while we also spotted a great deal of judder during camera pans and action scenes.

Still images do, we have to admit, look stunning; as well as that dollop of contrast plumping-up the colours, the detail is incredible. So much so, in fact, that it contributes to the visibility of the motion blur. Take down the panel’s sharpness (using Toshiba’s extraordinarily generous suite of picture tweaks) and the blur is far less of a problem, though that does make the Full HD panel rather pointless.

A lot of LED-lit screens at this price are stained by light leakage around the sides of the screen, but that’s not the case here. It could be the TV’s small size that dulls the effect of such problem, a characteristic that allows DVDs and Freeview programmes, though they're not exactly upscaled to high-def quality, to look fairly easy on the eye.

What we did love about the 32HL833B was its Cinema Mode, as well as its ability with digital files. Almost everything we threw at it, including the likes of MKV, AVI and MP3, were supported by the USB software. 

Verdict

Although its picture performance is marred by blur and a tight viewing angle, there’s enough in the way of detail, contrast and colour accuracy to recommend this Toshiba to those on a budget. The lack of Freeview HD is a shame, though a multitalented USB slot and a reasonably good-looking, slim design make this small Edge LED-backlit set ripe for undemanding living rooms.