The picture quality of the Toshiba 52LX177 is among the best we've tested from flat-panel LCD TVs this year, although it still wasn't up to that of the best plasmas. We liked having all of the options for video processing, and the set produced a relatively deep black. Still, we'd like to see improved color accuracy and, frankly, more evidence of the benefits of 120Hz.
During setup, we adjusted the set's light output for optimal performance in our darkened home theater, which meant our standard of around 40 footlambert, which was right around the default for Movie mode--a good sign. The initial color temperature in the Warm preset was quite green, however, and relatively plus blue as well, so we appreciated having the blue and green drive controls. We used them to adjust the grayscale to come much closer to the standard, although with more controls we could have definitely made the grayscale more linear--one of the Toshiba's weaknesses is that it gets a bit too reddish in the mid-dark areas. The Toshiba could not resolve blacker-than-black or whiter-than-white parts of the video signal, which are useful mainly in calibration, although it handled the full range in between well enough. It's also worth noting that setting the sharpness control at 15 or less caused the highest-frequency (most detailed) section of the 1080i test pattern to start flashing, so we set sharpness at 16.
We also used the Color Master Pro controls to attempt to adjust the 52LX177's primary and secondary colors, but despite getting them much closer according to test patterns, when we watched regular program material the results were much worse. We're guessing the CMP values don't map correctly to real-time, full-motion video. In the end, we decided to leave this control off and suffer through the 52LX177's inaccurate green (see the Geek box below) and cyan. For our full user-menu settings, click here, or check out the Tips & Tricks section.
For comparison testing, we set the Toshiba up next to a few other HDTVs we had onhand, including the Pioneer PRO-FHD1and the Pioneer PDP-5080HD (both 50-inch plasmas), as well as the Sharp LC-52D64U, the Vizio GV42L (both 1080p LCDs), and the Panasonic TH-58PZ700U (a big 1080p plasma). We started with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray, courtesy of the Samsung BD-P1200 set to 1080i resolution.
The Toshiba performed well during dark scenes for an LCD, although black levels weren't quite as deep as those of the Sharp. The nighttime scenes aboard the pirate ship looked acceptably dark, and detail in shadows was relatively good with a realistic rise from black into shadow. We still missed some near-black details compared to those of sets such as the Pioneers and the Panasonic, such as the darkest parts of Jack's hair as he rises up from the seaborne coffin, but for an LCD, the Toshiba acquitted itself well in dark scenes.
We mentioned the set's tendency to turn reddish in mid-bright scenes, but after we'd reduced the color control a bit to compensate, delicate skin tones such as those of Keira Knightley's rain-speckled face looked realistic enough. Other colors, such as the blue skies and green jungles during the tribal scenes, were slightly less saturated as a result, but still had plenty of pop. These scenes did bring out the greenish tinge to the sky and the ocean, as well as the yellowish greens of the jungle plants--both result of the inaccurate cyan and green mentioned above. The cyan was so far off during one ocean scene that it looked like Orlando Bloom was swimming in Scope.
Engaging the Toshiba's ClearFrame option switched from 60Hz to 120Hz processing, which, among other things, is designed to address motion blur in fast movement. We frankly find motion blur difficult to detect in general on 60Hz LCDs such as the Vizio and the Sharp, and when comparing them side-by-side with the Toshiba we felt the same way. We watched a quarter of football from Fox HD and glancing between the three, the Toshiba didn't look any less blurry during fast motion. When the camera sweeps over the field to follow a pass, the yardage lines looked just as blurry on the Toshiba as on the others televisions; in other words, the blur was in the source. We watched numerous other fast-motion scenes, from the swinging prisoner-balls in Pirates, to fights and flames in V for Vendetta and Batman Begins, to flying spaceships in Serenity, to news reports on HDNet, to episodes of Law & Order, and any differences we saw between the Toshiba and the 60Hz displays were nearly impossible to confirm. The best evidence came during a ticker on ESPNHD, where the letters looked a bit blurrier on the Vizio than on the other sets. We also noticed a difference on fast-motion test patterns with white objects moving against a black background. Overall, we didn't find the Toshiba's 120Hz processing to be a game-changer, although perhaps viewers more sensitive to motion blur would appreciate it more.
The set also offers a mode called Film Stabilization. Its general effect was to reduce the amount of visible "judder," which looks like rapid-fire, full-frame stuttering and is visible primarily in pans and other camera movement. Judder is one of the main reasons film looks, well, filmlike, and since it's been a part of our movie-watching experience for a long time, removing it can seem a bit disconcerting. There's a lot of camera movement in Flags of our Fathers, for example, and the effects of the Film Stabilization mode were easily visible everywhere. During a slow pan over a battlefield, for example, the camera almost seems as if it's on rails--perfectly smooth and, to our eyes, somewhat unnatural looking. A variable-speed pan, which follows the takeoff of an airplane, did preserve some stuttering or nonsmoothness during the quickest part, but then assumed that same sort of eerie stability as the camera movement slowed. One CNET reviewer really liked the effect of the smoothness, but the majority still preferred to preserve that filmlike judder, at the very least because that's the effect the director intended. The stabilized image just looked too video-game-like and somehow unnatural in a lot of scenes, although as always, your personal preference may differ.
We also noticed that in certain pans, the stabilized image still preserved some judder-like effects. In Pirates, for example, the camera pulls relatively quickly away from a large map on the wall to find Orlando Bloom, and the grid lines on the map still jumped slightly even while a ladder looked smooth--a weird effect indeed. In this case, we again preferred the full-frame judder of the nonstabilized image. We watched this pan with the Samsung set to 1080i, 1080p/60, and 1080p/24, and the differences were difficult to detect between them, regardless of which processing mode we used for the 52LX177, leading us to believe that Toshiba's processing trumps any benefit 1080p/24 might provide.
That belief was borne out when we looked at test patterns from the HQV Blu-ray disc played back at 1080p/24 from the Samsung BD-P1200. Engaging ClearFrame caused interference in the most detailed sections of the "film resolution loss" pattern as well as sporadic interference in the stands and the pan over Raymond James Stadium. Turning on Film Stabilization had no effect on the interference, although it did, as expected, smooth out the pan considerably. With both standard 1080p/60 and 1080i sources, the results were the same: the test pattern and stadium looked best with ClearFrame off. In terms of 1080i deinterlacing, the 52LX177 passed the HQV tests for both video and film resolution loss as long as ClearFrame was off, although we did see some strobing in the pattern and the stadium during the film test. For people keeping track, the panel also resolved every detail of 1080-resolution still images.
Screen uniformity on the big 52-incher was above average for a flat-panel LCD. Looking at full-screen gray fields generated by our Sencore VP-403, we did detect brighter edges compared to the middle in mid-dark and darker fields, and in the darkest field we saw that the upper-right corner and the very top edge of the screen appeared brighter still. Off-angle viewing was about average for an LCD; there was no discoloration when we saw the image from either side, although we did detect irregularities in the backlight (vertical variations in brightness) that we couldn't see from more or less straight-on. As always with LCD, seeing the image from an angle causes it to wash out more the further you view from dead center.
We tested standard-def sources using the HQV DVD at 480i, and the results were disappointing. The 52LX177 resolved every line of resolution from the DVD according to the test pattern, but the shot of the bridge and passing cars looked a good deal softer than we'd like to see, not to mention softer than on the other sets in the room. It also did a poor job of smoothing out jagged edges from moving lines in test patterns and the stripes of a waving American flag. On the plus side, the various noise reduction controls went along way toward cleaning up the shots of skies and sunsets, although the Auto setting didn't work as well as choosing one of the three manual settings. The set engaged 2:3 pull-down processing relatively slowly, but it was effective.
The Toshiba 52LX177 handled PC sources via HDMI extremely well when we set our DVI-equipped video card to 1,920x1,080 resolution. The display resolved every line of the signal, and text looked as clear as we've seen on any LCD TV when we engaged the well-designed Document picture preset. The VGA input is much less useful however, since its resolution maxes out at just 1,024x768. That resolution looked understandably soft and, since it's non-wide-screen, showed up with sidebars on the Toshiba's screen. Naturally, we recommend devoting one of the HDMI jacks to a DVI-equipped PC (via the appropriate adapter) if you want to display computer source on the big screen.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,343/7,052K||Average|
|After color temp||6,889/6,472K||Average|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 550K||Average|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 194K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.648/0.323||Average|
|Color of green||0.192/0.683||Poor|
|Color of blue||0.148/0.064||Good|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down||Yes||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
|Toshiba 52LX177||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||322.09||215.47||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.28||0.19||N/A|
|Cost per year||$98.33||$65.95||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Poor|