In the past, Toshiba's Regza series has been a little hit and miss. While most could easily be described as "good" televisions, they rarely reach the excellence of some of their high-end competitors. The 42AV500A follows suit with image quality which, while decent, has a few problems. That being said, we were surprised at how well the unit supported 1080p content via interpolation and were even more impressed that it was able to display 24p Blu-Ray films.
However, with its handful of flaws, a lack of calibration options and a bulky design, the Regza should be considered a mid-range unit and may lack appeal for those looking for the best of the best.
The Regza has a fairly standard design with a glossy black bezel and stand. However, when compared to the current crop of ultra thin units on the market, it feels a little outdated as it is quite bulky. The placement of the rear inputs is cumbersome in use, and the stand is difficult to install without laying the panel flat on a table.
The AV500A has a native resolution of 1366x768 and can accept video signals up to 1080p resolution. The connections at the rear feature two HDMI, one component, three composite, one S-Video and a 15-pin D-Sub analogue port for PC. We would have liked to see at least two component ports on the unit as not all high definition equipment on the market supports HDMI.
There isn't much by way of features on this unit. The calibration options are extremely limited and offer nothing more than basic functions. There are three preset picture modes and two preset sound modes, with a user mode for each. Outside of colour, brightness and contrast there isn't much you can tweak, although there are a few -- albeit dubious -- Digital Noise Reduction (DNR) settings.
To put the Toshiba through its paces we ran a series of gaming and video tests at 720p resolution, and Blu-Ray film tests at 1080p. In addition, we tested the screens ability to interpolate 576i/p content from DVD playback, and PC connectivity.
At the native 720p resolution, the panel performed well but was hampered by some image noise and slightly overbearing colours. Black levels were acceptable but were a little grey due to overt back lights. These could be turned down but this then resulted in a loss of detail. Motion was handled well with a lack of blurring and so was in keeping with the purported 5ms refresh rate. There was noticeable over-sharpening on images but lowering the sharpness to completely remove the artefacts made them look a little out of focus.
We viewed 720p video files, in addition to downscaled Blu-Ray films, and found that while the image was fairly detailed, edges were a little soft and as such the picture wasn't as crisp as we have come to expect from a 720p panel.
Strangely, Toshiba don't make a big deal of the fact that this unit can view 1080p video, which is a shame because it is one of its strengths. In fact, the interpolated 1080p video was clearer and crisper than its 720p counterpart. Not only that, but the panel can also display 24p video and does so with impressive clarity and silky-smooth motion. The noise we witnessed at 720p was reduced at 1080p which is an excellent result overall.
To test the panel's 576p performance we viewed various DVDs and found that, on the whole, the performance was quite good. There was obvious interpolation noise (jagged edges etc) due to the limitations of the DVD format, but it was definitely watchable and on-par with most LCD televisions we have reviewed.
We tested PC connectivity using DisplayMate Video Edition and Windows Media Center. Desktop icons and text were clear, but colours were a little over the top. The colours could be tweaked to manageable levels, but only by sacrificing brightness and white intensity. At the maximum supported resolution of 1024x768 we found very few problems other than slight horizontal interpolation distortion. This isn't a major problem though, as the only time it would affect image quality is when viewing fine line art or spreadsheets. On the whole, the image quality was quite good and video files, DVD movies and free-to-air digital television looked good on our Media Centre PC.
Finally, we looked at the sound quality of the speakers. In standard mode, the sound was clear without any distortion at high volume but sounded a little flat at times. Switching to "Movie" allowed a richer sound while also successfully blending sound effects, score and dialogue without any loss of detail. Those without a home theatre setup won't be disappointed with the audio quality on the AV500A.