September 16, 2011
| by Grant Clauser
When I switched to 3D, the TV offered a mix of good and bad. I tend to like passive 3D for the obvious reasons: the glasses are cheap, convenient and there are no emitters or RF syncing issues. But the technology does impact resolution. In order to produce the 3D image, the TV uses a polarizing filter to send half the resolution to each eye, so the right eye only sees the right image and the left eye sees the left image. Your brain puts it together to make 3D, but it’s still just a 540p picture.
The resulting image on this Toshiba was bright and extremely well-done 3D. There was absolutely no flicker or ghosting in the picture. In Despicable Me, everything had shape, texture and depth. In an underwater IMAX feature, one scene with a large grouper was so convincing it appeared that my dog was going to get bitten when he walked in front of the TV.
But while the passive technology makes a good 3D image, it also noticeably softens the overall picture. In some places it makes the TV’s pixel structure more apparent. This is more easily seen in onscreen text. I noticed this issue with an LG passive 3D TV as well, but the impact was slightly stronger on the Toshiba.
Toshiba also included a 2D to 3D conversion feature. It works OK, and may be something interesting to show off to friends, but even my kids didn’t care about it that much.
Gloriously, the TV includes built-in Wi-Fi (wired LAN is also included). While I generally prefer hooking up network devices via a real Ethernet cable for its reliability, wireless makes placement and installation much easier, and if you have a strong wireless network in your home, it will work fine most of the time. The downside here, is that Toshiba’s wireless set up is a bit wonky (yes, this is a technical term). Rather than going the traditional route by scanning for your SSID and asking for your WEP key, it requires the user to skip over several other setup options (comically labeled “easy”) first. OK, to be fair, it’s not difficult, just kinda backwards to me.
Anyway, the TV found my network easily, and I was connected in a few moments.
Toshiba’s smart TV approach includes two routes to get you to online content. Toshiba calls the first layer Net TV. Press the Net TV button on the remote and you’re offered a selection of typical content services including Netflix, Pandora, Flicker, CinemaNow, Skype, Blockbuster and Vudu. That’s a fairly standard lineup and will cover most people’s media needs.
The online services all worked well, but the YouTube interface is awkward and very difficult to navigate.
If you press the Yahoo button on the remote you’ll see the bottom of the TV taken up by a variety of icons such as Yahoo Finance and Yahoo news. These further lead to more content. There’s also a place to add more widgets to that menu. Compared to other smart TVs, this strategy is a bit confusing. You’ll find lots of content available, but remote response is slow and it’s not always clear what you need to click on to get something to work.
On the other hand, if you take the time to figure out the navigation, you’ll find tons of things to look at, including games, news sites, video sites, social media and others. When you add new apps they appear on the bottom navigation bar. Launch the app and a window opens on the left side of your screen while your TV program keeps playing. This is a nice way to watch a program while still browsing things like news or Twitter. It takes some getting used to, but I warmed up to it shortly.
Overall, the Toshiba 47TL515U performs its core functions well and has plenty of attractive features to make it a worthwhile buy. The slow startup time and cramped remote will bother some people more than others. The 3D performance was on par with other passive TVs, and the 2D performance was very good except in one area. At 47 inches, this isn’t likely to be the centerpiece of a home theater, but it would make a nice living room TV for family viewing.
Full specifications can be found here.
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.