Toshiba REGZA 46SV670U LCD HDTV Page 2
The Toshiba can accept a 1080p/24 source. When ClearScan 240 is off, it repeats each real frame of a 1080p/24 input four additional times to match the set’s 120-Hz refresh rate (5:5 pulldown). When ClearScan 240 is on, and the Film Stabilization control is set to Smooth, some of the added frames are interpolated. In either case, the blinking of the scanning backlight creates the effect of two frames for each actual frame, which approximates 240-Hz operation.
With a 1080p/60 source (or any source that the set upconverts to its native 1080p resolution), a single added frame (repeated or interpolated, as determined by the control settings above) is added for each real frame.
The listing of the set’s available aspect ratios provided in the owner’s manual is incorrect and doesn’t match the settings in the Picture Size menu. Nevertheless, unlike many current sets, the Toshiba can properly display any commercial video image at any SD or HD resolution without squeezing or stretching distortion. But it’s still up to the viewer to recognize when the image needs correcting and manually choose the correct aspect ratio.
Toshiba calls its three zoom modes TheaterWide. TheaterWide2 is usually the best choice for 4:3 letterbox images that need to be zoomed to fill the screen from left to right. HD sources or DVDs enhanced for widescreen, however, are nearly always best viewed with the Pic Size control in the Native setting. It doesn’t provide an option for viewing two pictures simultaneously (picture-in-picture or picture-beside-picture).
The programmable, multicomponent remote is a little chunkier than most, but it provides room for comfortably sized controls in a reasonably spacious layout. On the downside, the remote isn’t backlit and doesn’t offer buttons for direct selection of inputs.
The Toshiba produced middling video processing results in our standard tests (see the Video Test Bench chart below—all results taken with an HDMI input). However, on the upside, these shortcomings didn’t prove to be significant with most real-world material. I watched at least 50 hours of programming on the set; most of it was 1080i, but I watched plenty of 480i as well. Were there occasional artifacts? Yes. Did the artifacts jump out at me when I wasn’t specifically looking for them? Never.
Is Toshiba’s pseudo 240 Hz better at reducing motion lag than the 120-Hz feature that most LCDs offer—or even as good? That question was also raised by a different Toshiba pseudo 240-Hz set, the REGZA 42ZV650U, which was reviewed in our recent five-set Face Off (Home Theater, September 2009). Side by side with 120-Hz designs, that model wasn’t noticeably more effective in reducing motion blur. In fact it had more motion blur than some of the 120-Hz sets.
I didn’t have the benefit this time around of a 120-Hz model to compare directly with the 46SV670U, but I doubt that the ClearScan 240 feature is any different than that on the 42ZV650U. But speaking only of ClearScan 240 in the present set, it did produce a relatively subtle improvement in motion smoothness. However, this was an improvement more obvious on special, worst-case test material than on most typical programming.
But there was an upside to this subtlety. The aggressive interpolation that many 120-Hz and 240-Hz designs use often gives film-based material an unnatural (for film), video-like smoothness. Some viewers like this effect, but others (including me) do not. On this Toshiba, the film-like look remained largely intact, even with ClearScan 240 engaged. Nevertheless, I left this feature off for all of my testing and viewing. Even without it, I wasn’t bothered by motion blur. However, gamers and sports fans might choose to turn it on for those applications.
The Toshiba’s image remains watchable—if you’re not too fussy—farther off axis than is the case with most LCD designs. Even at nearly 45 degrees, most viewers won’t complain. Still, as with all LCDs, you will see a better picture when you sit near the center. When you move further to the side than 20 degrees, the image lightens noticeably. But the lightening isn’t nearly as dramatic as it is with most conventional LCD HDTVs. In my opinion, the 46SV670U’s superb black level deserves much of the credit for this.
This brings us to the Toshiba’s not-so-secret weapon: that LED backlighting with local dimming. If I hadn’t already reviewed a few such cutting-edge LCD sets, what I saw here would have floored me. LED local dimming has revolutionized LCD HDTV.
The Toshiba provides black levels and shadow detail that are to die for. It offers a level of performance that was previously reserved for a few other, much more expensive LED local-dimming designs and the best plasmas ever produced (the now discontinued Pioneer KUROs). The dark scenes from Spider-Man that challenge so many LCD sets popped from the Toshiba’s screen in a fully convincing way. It never took me out of the experience by looking glaringly wrong when seen back to back with brighter scenes. There was also believable detail in the dark scenes from Sunshine, particularly on the back side of the Icarus II spacecraft, which is heavily shadowed by the immense heat shield that protects it as it proceeds on its mission to save the sun.
The screen also goes virtually black on fadeouts between scenes. In a darkened room, the black sidebands or top and bottom bars that are unavoidable on 4:3 and 2.35:1 sources were dark enough to completely ignore. When I turned the DynaLight control off with challenging images, I saw the clear benefits of local dimming. Without it, dark scenes lost their punch, fades to black became fades to mid-gray, and black bars were clearly visible.
The main downside of local dimming is that the limited number of backlighting zones can produce a visible halo around bright objects that are set against very dark backgrounds. This is easiest to see in white-lettered titles and end credits superimposed over black. I occasionally saw this effect in the Toshiba, but it was so rare that it didn’t bother me.
The Toshiba’s color was a bit problematic in purely technical terms. Green was oversaturated. There was also a slight excess of green in the gray scale at very low brightness levels (below 20 IRE). But subjectively, the post-calibration color was impressive (this set does need a full calibration to look its best). Greens often looked a bit artificial and cartoonish, but this was only an occasional distraction. Fleshtones, on the other hand, were spot on throughout a wide range of material. Overall, and despite my technical reservations (more about this in HT Labs Measures), the set’s color was always satisfying and sometimes even jaw dropping.
With its crisp detail, superb contrast, and good color, the Toshiba shined not only on HD material but on standard-definition programming as well. Some of my favorite SD digital cable channels, including History International, often veered exceptionally close to HD quality. And when I pulled out my DVD boxed set of season one of Farscape, I ended up watching a half-dozen episodes before I could drag myself back to the word processor to write this report. True, the riveting content of the series, arguably the best sci-fi show ever made for television, helped. But the DVDs also looked astonishingly good and far better than I recall when I last viewed them three or four years ago. The detail was excellent, and the color design was spectacularly rich. Nothing in the performance of the Toshiba kept me from relishing the experience, apart perhaps from the lack of envelopment that a larger screen and widescreen presentation can provide (the first three seasons of this series are in 4:3).
We rarely have much to say about the audio in a flat panel set, largely because most of them sound so dismal. But I was surprised at how listenable the Toshiba was. The little coloration it had soon melted into the background, even on dialogue. And while there’s clearly no real bass or sparkling, clear highs, the system’s balance keeps you from noticing these shortcomings—most of the time. You certainly shouldn’t expect audiophile quality from this (or any) set. For the most satisfying overall experience, we still recommend that you use an external audio system. But without one, you won’t feel as deprived with this Toshiba as you will with most flat panel designs.
If you’re a video purist, you might be put off by the Toshiba’s few technical shortcomings. But if you’re looking for a great LCD set for a price that, while not cheap, is more affordable than most of the competition, this might just be a winner for you. It’s one of the best-looking sets we’ve reviewed, and possibly the best ever from Toshiba. Highly recommended.