Toshiba 47VL863

Toshiba deserves its reputation as a click-teaser. SED, Cell TV, Full-array LED: all mouth-watering TV technologies that it’s promised that have come to nought. But there is hope. This year the company appears determined to be cutting-edge and not just cutting prices.

The VL series screen reviewed here is one of the first to offer passive polarisation 3D and includes access to Toshiba Places, the brand’s new smart TV portal.

Designed to impress

Thanks to edge-lit LED backlighting, the 47VL863 is predictably thin. There are four HDMIs on offer, plus PC D-sub and (via adaptors) component and Scart. Wi-Fi requires a dongle but you do get Ethernet, two USBs, a CI card slot, plus a digital audio output.

The set features two digital tuners: Freeview HD and DVB-S2 satellite (aka Freesat-lite). Connect a Sky dish to the set’s F-connector and you’ll be able to enjoy a slew of un-curated channels. Satellite enthusiasts can also manually add birds and transponders, and then filter for Free to Air transmissions. There’s even positioner support.

Upmarket design embellishments include a remote control which comes with a stylish sliding cover to hide its function buttons, and touch sensitive volume and channel-changer buttons to the bottom right of the screen; unused they vanish from sight.

A different kind of Smart

We also applaud the fact that Toshiba has taken a different approach to net-connected content. Toshiba Places is more a social club than download store, but there’s IPTV pay-per-view from Viewster, Woomi, Box Office 365 and Cartoon Network, and free streaming video from DailyMotion, You Tube and BBC iPlayer.

File support is good from USB - AVI, MOV and MKV video files all play, as do MP3 and AAC music formats – but across a network, compatibility is much more restrictive. JPEGS are playable either way, up to a maximum file size of 12MB from USB (just 6MB across a network).

2D picture performance

Banish all thoughts of Toshiba’s low-end OEM-made supermarket cheapies, this set is a class act when it comes to image quality. Both detail and colour fidelity are high grade and picture parameter controls go deep.

In-amongst all the tuning tools is the usual Toshiba double whammy of advanced and expert tweakery. You can modify the backlight (variable between Off, Weak, Strong and Middle), alter gamma, toggle auto brightness etc. It doesn’t take long getting this screen looking tip top. The set’s LED backlighting is helpfully benign. There’s some light pooling in corners, but generally it’s not intrusive.

Motion resolution is excellent, making this TV a great choice for sports enthusiasts. The set uses the 200Hz incarnation of Toshiba’s Active Motion framerate technology, allowing you to retain a full 1080 lines of clarity when you engage Active Motion and alter the motion detection range (a separate control) to wide. Even if you turn all the processing on full whack, artefacts around moving objects remain low. There’s some extremely powerful voodoo at work in this set.

3D performance

The 47VL863 is built around an LG-made FPR (Film Pattern Retarder) 3D panel which works with regular, inexpensive RealD passive specs – the kind dispensed with giddy abandon at your local cinema. Four pairs are included in the box, and it wouldn’t cost much to add more.

The resulting Passive 3D experience is fine – with caveats. The catch with Passive 3D is that you sacrifice half the vertical resolution of any incoming signal, resulting in a screen texture that’s reminiscent of an old school cathode ray tube TV.

However, depth and colour are pronounced, and there’s no flicker. Crosstalk is negligible when viewed square on, but it does become much more overt when you view vertically off-axis.

Audio

While set’s thinness precludes volume and bass, the 47VL863’s audio system is decent enough for casual use. Audyssey signal processing adds some spatial depth and Dolby Volume evens out the often annoying disparity between channels and adverts.

Verdict

On balance, this 47-inch Toshiba can be considered a class act. It’s handsome and capable of an extremely refined 2D Full HD performance. While there’s still work to be done to get the Places smart hub fit for habitation, and media streaming struggles beyond local USB playback, we ended up rather liking the set’s eminently practical Passive 3D performance.

There’s still work to be done repairing the brand’s Easy A reputation, but this set is definitely a step in the right direction.