September 16, 2011
| by Grant Clauser
In January at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, Toshiba grabbed a lot of headlines with its autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3D TV. The company is still talking about that TV nine months later, but the 3D TVs they’re actually selling fall into the passive glasses category.
This one in particular is a 47-inch unit with a very slim design and a full suite of video and networking features. It’s an edge-lit LED LCD TV with some local dimming, which helps improve black levels. It includes four HDMI ports, plus the standard assortment of analog inputs. There’s also a USB port for connecting thumb drives and such.
As stated previously, it’s a passive 3D TV, which means that it puts most of the 3D technology in the LCD panel rather than in the glasses. The passive glasses are similar to the ones you’ll get in most commercial theaters, and in fact the glasses you snuck out of the theater will work with this TV. This method has some pros and cons which I’ll get into later.
The TV assembles easily enough. In fact, it’s so light, under 50 pounds, that one person can unbox it and assemble the stand. The TV swivels on the stand, so if you put it on a table you can turn it to face viewers on different ends of the room—not important if you’re hanging it on a wall though. It’s also just slightly more than an inch thick, so it will look great on a wall.
The Toshiba remote is a mix. It’s nice-looking, with contrasting shiny black and metallic gray. It includes a backlight button that’s very bright. I found the button layout frustrating though. The buttons are painfully small, with nano-sized type and cramped so close you have to hold it up to your face to see what’s what. You’ll get used to it, but never really like it.
I started engaging the TV by connecting a Verizon FiOS DVR and a Panasonic 3D Blu-ray player. Right away I noticed something interesting. This TV takes forever to turn on and handshake with connected components. In the old days it wasn’t unusual to wait a minute for a tube TV to warm up and show a picture, but today we expect our TVs to snap to attention immediately. For some reason, which probably has to do with HDMI issues, the Toshiba 47TL51U takes a long time—51 seconds. That might not sound like a lot, but it seems like an eternity when your staring at a black TV that should have a picture on it. Switching between sources is faster, and I like that when I turned on my Blu-ray player the TV noticed and switched inputs automatically.
After tweaking the TV’s main video settings with a Datacolor Spyder 3 TV color meter, I got deeper into some of the advanced menus. The TV is not THX or ISF certified but allows for red, blue and green adjustments, gamma fiddling and other fine tuning.
Once all tuned up, I ran through some test patterns and video samples. It did very well on the HQV jaggies tests and other tests on that disc. Colors look good as did black levels and fine details.
While overall the TV looked very good, it did exhibit some light leakage from the edge-mounted LED backlights. I could see light areas on full dark field test patterns as well as on real-world video material when most of the screen was dark (should as a night sky or outer space scene). The leakage was most pronounced in the top right corner. If you weren’t really looking for it you’d probably not notice. This problem doesn’t impact most viewing because full black scenes are rare and usually don’t last long on the screen, but it’s there.
The TV performed well with motion too. This might be due to the 240Hz processing which is designed to smooth out motion images. Often, processing like that can have other effects on a picture, like making film content look like video, but thankfully I didn’t notice any of that on this TV.
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.