Those "relatively" deep blacks are the main story, which contribute to slightly better contrast, especially in dark scenes, but they don't do anything to ameliorate the Toshiba's inaccurate grayscale.
In the Movie setting and its default Warm color temperature, which was the most accurate preset combo available, the Toshiba was quite dim and plagued by an uneven grayscale; it became green in dark areas and blue as it brightened. Our calibration was able to improve the light output, achieving our nominal 40ftl with no problem, but none of the adjustments could do much with the grayscale. We were also disappointed that the gamma slider didn't have enough range to approach the target of 2.2; the TV achieved a best of 2.01 by our measurement. We definitely would have liked more range in the Toshiba's picture controls, but at least they're there. We also disabled DynaLight and dynamic contrast since both modified picture parameters on the fly.
We compared the AV502E with a few other entry-level LCDs we had onhand, including the Panasonic TC-32LX1, the Sharp LC-32D47U, the Sony KDL-32L5000, the Vizio VO302E, and the Westinghouse SK-32H640G. We also employed our trusty Pioneer PRO-111FD as a reference--obviously, it shouldn't be compared with any of these LCDs. Our Blu-ray of choice for most of the image quality tests in this comparison was the superb-looking "Baraka" played at 1080i (to ensure full compatibility) from our Sony PlayStation 3.
Black level: Among the LCDs in our comparison, the Toshiba delivered the deepest shade of black overall, beating the Sony and Vizio by a hair and outclassing the others by a bit more. The differences were slight, but definitely visible in dark scenes, such as the sky around the eclipse at the beginning of Chapter 20 or the dark silhouettes of the temples in Chapter 22. In brighter scenes, the apparent black level differences in dark areas like shadows and the letterbox bars evened out significantly, as usual.
The Toshiba's shadow detail wasn't as natural as we saw on the Vizio or some of the other sets, however. Details in the shadowy temple areas appeared a bit too bright, but at least they weren't obscured.
Color accuracy: Here's where the Toshiba fell a bit short of many of the others in our test. The distinct, at times severe, greenish cast to its grayscale showed up in mid-dark and darker areas, such as the temple pillars in Chapter 18 and the face and hands of the soldier in Chapter 17--the latter looked pretty sickly. In well-lit areas, like the faces of the subway riders in Chapter 12, on the other hand, colors looked a lot better, and the Toshiba's saturation in these areas, owing to its accurate color decoding, was among the best in our comparison.
Primary and secondary colors came quite close to the standard, which helped lend realism to the lush green jungle plants and the pale blue sky in Chapter 4, and we also appreciated that dark areas showed less of a bluish cast than any of the other LCDs in our comparison.
Video processing: The Toshiba tripped up a bit in this area. We noticed jagged edges along some lines, and a moire pattern of crossed lines in the stairs of Tiananmen Square in Chapter 18. The Westinghouse and Sharp showed similar artifacts, but none of the other sets did. The problem only occurred in 1080i and 1080p mode, so we recommend that Toshiba AV502U users set their HD output devices to 720p mode instead.
The Toshiba doesn't perform much overt processing, such as such as the dejudder seen on higher-end LCDs, and since it has 720p resolution our motion resolution test isn't valid. We expect that the Toshiba would perform about the same as other 60Hz displays, and as usual we didn't notice any motion blur in our viewing.
Uniformity: We don't have any major complaints in this area. The Toshiba's screen remained relatively even across its surface, with no obvious brighter areas, and off-angle performance surpassed that of the Panasonic, Sharp, and Westinghouse, remaining about the same as the Sony and Vizio.
Bright lighting: Like most matte-screened LCDs, the Toshiba performed relatively well under bright lights, attenuating ambient light admirably. It was no better or worse than any of the other sets in our lineup, which all have similar screens.
Standard-definition: With standard-def sources, the Toshiba performed slightly below average. It couldn't quite resolve every detail of the DVD format, although details in the grass and stone bridge looked better than many of the sets in our comparison. It eliminated fewer jaggies from moving diagonal lines and a waving American flag better than most of its competitors, however, including the Sony and the Vizio. Its DNR noise reduction performed quite well, removing nearly all of the video noise in lower-quality shots without softening the image too much; the MPEG noise reduction setting, on the other hand, had little effect we could discern. The AV502U also engaged 2:3 pull-down detection quickly and effectively.
PC: The Toshiba made an excellent PC monitor, albeit a relatively low-resolution one. It fully resolved 1,360x768 sources via both HDI and VGA, showing crisp text in both cases. The one drawback was some edge enhancement via VGA, which the controls didn't allow us to address.
|Before color temp (20/80)||4985/6983||Poor|
|After color temp||5418/7183||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||607||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||626||Poor|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.633/0.342||Average|
|Color of green||0.278/0.598||Good|
|Color of blue||0.147/0.062||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Toshiba AV502U series series, but we did test the 32-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Toshiba 32AV502U.