Toshiba's L7200U LED TV comes loaded with features, but mediocre picture quality makes its high price tough to stomach.
If you crave having the latest gadgetry built into your television, 2012 is a pretty good year. No, Toshiba's flagship L7200U LED doesn't have the gesture-controlled futurism of Samsung or the voice-activated fun of LG, but it does boast a couple of unique features of its own: a built-in program guide, the ability to control a cable box, and an included nearly-full-size QWERTY keyboard. Of the three only the keyboard proved useful in practice, but when paired with a capable Web browser it ups the L7200U's appeal to gizmo-inclined buyers.
For the rest of us, however, it's just not a very good value. Despite a promising spec sheet that includes local dimming, the L7200U exhibited subpar overall picture quality. Couple that with a flagship price and you end up paying way too much for features of questionable worth on a TV.
The central "OK" key is ringed by a confusing constellation of similarly sized buttons that was difficult to navigate by feel. The remainder of the keys are indifferently organized and there are simply too many of them. Since I was constantly having to look before I pressed, I did appreciate that the buttons were backlit, and as always the dedicated Netflix key is welcome.
Vizio's passive glasses fit better than Toshiba's, whether worn over my prescription glasses or not. Toshiba's lack the nose support found on the Vizio specs and their frame is completely flat, whereas the Vizio glasses' frame bends slightly at the nose, fitting my face better. Toshiba's specs were also heavier, and Vizio's gripped the back of my head better.
No complaints are warranted here, with four HDMI, one PC, one component-/composite video, and one dedicated composite video input on tap (the last two via included breakout cables). The pair of USB ports is ample, although one will likely be occupied by the keyboard's dongle.
The Toshiba is also one of the only TVs to include a built-in electronic program guide (EPG) and cable/satellite box control. Powered by Rovi, the guide downloads and displays a grid of programming just like your cable or satellite box. Selecting a currently airing program from the TV's grid sends a signal to the box to change the channel. Depending on how good your box's guide is, you might find the Rovi guide an improvement.
The trade-offs are significant, though: the TV must change the channels on your cable box via an IR blaster, which delays the process slightly. Worse, it can't schedule or play back a DVR recording or let you watch video on demand -- both common and important functions of today's set-top boxes. That's why the feature is likely to go unused by most people, and incidentally why I believe no other TV maker bothers.
The guide's design, with its black background, favorite channel lists, ability to weed out unwanted channels, and easy categorization, may be better than the one on your box, although I didn't like it as much as DirecTV's guide or especially Verizon Fios'.
The blaster is mainly designed for cable or satellite boxes in conjunction with the EPG, but it can also control devices like Blu-ray/DVD players (not all that useful since most modern disc players can be controlled via HDMI) and VCRs. There's also an Audio option but it seems limited; when I tried to find my Denon receiver the codes were missing. As with most such schemes the idea is better than the execution. Finding and setting up devices takes a while and you don't get nearly the same range of control found on a standard universal remote.
It's missing Amazon Instant and Hulu Plus, as well as any audio apps of note like Pandora or Mog. Miscellaneous apps come courtesy of Vudu Apps, where Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, and Flickr are the standouts. Check out our comparison for more.
The Web browser is better than many such TV browsers, with decent load times and not too many rendering errors. I got a rash of security warnings at first but after I disabled those in the settings menu, it wasn't an issue. The combination of quick response times and the Wi-Fi keyboard made all the difference, allowing me to easily jump around Web pages and type searches and URLs. Some of the interface choices, such as the need to press the Blue key (FN+F4 on the keyboard) instead of "Enter/OK" to confirm an entry, were mystifying, but I generally did not hate using the browser on this TV. Toshiba tells me an upcoming firmware update will allow Flash sites to work on the browser.
Toshiba delivers good adjustability on this TV, including a 2-point grayscale system, a few gamma presets, and a full color management system. Control of local dimming is handled by the DynaLight setting, and three dejudder presets are provided.
The L7200U series shares a few characteristics with its predecessor the TL515U, and most are not good. Its black levels were somewhat deep at times, but lack of shadow detail and contrast, caused by overactive and imprecise dimming, was a major flaw. That, combined with less-accurate color and a less-uniform screen, actually made the L7200U perform worse than the L5200U we reviewed earlier. Video processing and 3D were relative bright spots (no pun intended) but all told the L7200U can't compete with the better LED TVs in its price range.