Toshiba TheaterWide 62HM196 1080p Rear Projection DLP HDTV Page 2
Marginal, standard definition cable broadcasts, and analog cable in particular, often looked quite noisy on the Toshiba. The set's noise reduction features helped some, but didn't entirely eliminate the problem. Those same sources looked noticeably cleaner on the 46" Sony XBR2 LCD display. But there is the little matter of the Sony's 16 fewer diagonal inches. The more you blow up an image, the more obvious the problems inherent in the signal become.
Moving on to DVD, things picked up dramatically. Long-time Ultimate AV readers are probably tired of hearing me ramble on about Charlotte Gray and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. But the fact is I could run through these movies in my sleep. I have a solid feel for how their superb DVD transfers can look (and sound) at their best. And how they looked on the Toshiba was not far from their best. Both produced punchy images with solid color, a convincing sense of three-dimensionality, and better blacks and shadow details than you'll see on most digital sets, including virtually all currently available flat panel displays of any type. The dark, below deck scenes at the beginning of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World had plenty of contrast, and the gray fog that afflicts too many digital displays in dark, low contrast scenes was almost entirely absent. Both DVDs also exhibited fine detail. My feeling is that the Sony KDL-46XBR2, which was still on hand, and the Mitsubishi WD-57731, which is no longer in house, look a little sharper, though both of these sets are smaller than the Toshiba (the Sony significantly so). But only a videophile with an expensive front projector is likely to be disappointed in the detail, contrast, dimensionality, or color available from a good DVD on a properly calibrated Toshiba 62HM196.
Watching high-definition material from my cable box/DVR, a clip from Beverly Hills Cop III popped. Edward Zwick's Glory was superbly film-like. A few minutes of The Young and the Pointless (a few minutes were all I could take of one of the few daytime HD programs) were smooth, clean, and, though not startlingly crisp and detailed, at least looked like genuine high-definition in every scene.
I did notice a little softness in some HD cable and over-the-air HD material, but it varied. Most of it appeared to be due to limitations in the source, though some of it may have been the result of the set's slightly compromised component bandwidth above 18.5 MHz. The latter will affect only component HD connections (see "Tests and Calibrations" for more on this).
The slight softness I sometimes saw on broadcast HD could also be merely in contrast to the four months I've been living with HD DVD, which at its best can look better than anything I've yet seen from film-based HD broadcasts. I've been spoiled. But by any reasonable standard most of the broadcast HD programming I watched on the Toshiba looked beautiful, and clearly better than any standard definition material. It's unlikely to disappoint anyone looking for a set in this price range—or higher.
On HD DVD…And Blu-ray
Toshiba is, of course, also one of the main companies behind HD DVD. It would be unfortunate, therefore, if HD DVD looked anything but outstanding on this set.
Spectacular is a word I can't quite apply to HD DVD on the Toshiba with the memory of HD DVD on the 1080p Marantz VP-11S1 DLP front projector fresh in my memory. But I will say that the best HD DVDs came very close to this level of quality on the Toshiba, after accounting for its much smaller screen (62" diagonal vs. my projection screen's 90"). The ball scene from Phantom of the Opera is still the unchallenged champ for showing off detail and resolution, and the Toshiba looked stunning with this source. U-571 may not be as tightly packed with fine details, but was impossible to fault not only for its sharp, crisp image, spot-on colors, and striking sense of depth, but also for how well the set handled the many dark, cramped submarine interiors in this film. And The Chronicles of Riddick matched or exceeded these other great HD DVD transfers step for step.
Not every HD DVD was a winner, but that can't be blamed on the Toshiba display. The recent release of Caddyshack looked so pale, flat, and washed out that I gave up on it after five minutes. The Dukes of Hazzard, while somewhat better visually, was even more pale, flat, and washed out—in the script department.
When I reviewed the Sony Bravia KDL-46XBR2 flat panel display, I also used HD DVDs as a source. So it's perhaps only fair that I also watched Blu-ray on the Toshiba. The only currently available Blu-ray player, the Samsung BD-P1000, is unfortunately still limping a bit, and will be until an announced firmware update is released to fix an overactive noise reduction circuit that softens the picture. But some Blu-ray discs looked fine as played on my pre-update Samsung player, even though I suspect they can look even better. 50 First Dates is bright, colorful, and sharp enough that there's no confusing it with any standard definition source. A Knight's Tale would be a fun two hours (certainly the best film in decades about jousting!) if it weren't for a ridiculous rock score that drags down the first half of the film (the filmmakers largely abandon this gimmick in the second half). But like 50 First Dates, the video on A Knight's Tale is sharp, dimensional, and clearly good high-definition. Both of these discs looked excellent on the Toshiba and can stand up to all but the best HD DVDs on this display.
Overall, as good as HD cable looked on this set, the best releases on high-definition discs looked even better.
I'm sensitive to rainbows generated by the color wheel in single-chip DLP sets, and they were occasionally visible on the Toshiba, but they were so rare they never bothered me.
If you look really critically at material that pans slowly across sharply defined, small details, you might see some interlace artifacts—particularly on horizontal lines (line twitter) in video-originated programming. I rarely found them distracting, but they weren't that hard to spot, either. They were fairly obvious in an otherwise superb-looking HDNet documentary about New York City, which as you might expect was loaded with shots panned across sharp horizontal and vertical lines.
There was very little noise in the Toshiba's picture apart from that originating in the source, and while I could see the texture of the set's high gain screen (though not its pixel structure) if I looked very hard at large, bright areas of solid color, it was easy for me to ignore. Beyond 45-degrees off axis the image did began to dim noticeably, a limitation common to rear projection sets with high gain screens.
While I rarely used the set's built-in sound, when I did use it as delivered via HDMI from the Toshiba HD DVD player there was a sync problem between the video and the set's audio. This varied from source to source. With such a direct HDMI connection to the set for both picture and sound, there is no way to compensate for this. It shouldn't be a problem with a separate audio connection to a receiver or pre-pro equipped with a sync delay compensation feature.
The Toshiba 62HM196 provides a well-balanced set of strengths and excellent all around performance. Its few quirks keep it from making more upscale displays pointless, but the set is a prime example of just how good the picture quality is getting in modern sets, even as their prices continue to drop. The high standard it sets in overall picture quality should make more than a few buyers think twice about paying a lot more for a smaller, flat panel television. It may lack the flat panel's up-to-the-minute ability to impress your friends with 21st century, hang-on-the-wall coolness, but turn it on and all of a sudden that handicap will be quickly forgotten.
Highs and Lows
Superb all around performance after calibration
Sensible peak light output for real-world viewing
Excellent value in a big big-screen set
Poor factory color temperature setup
Limited component HD bandwidth
User video preference settings too easy to erase
Color temperature calibration adjustments are global (inputs cannot be individually calibrated)