The rating and/or Editors' Choice designation for this product has been altered since the review's original publication. The reason for this is simply the general improvement of technology over time. In order to keep our ratings fair and accurate, it's sometimes necessary to downgrade the ratings of older products relative to those of newer products.
With a screen that measures only 42 inches diagonally, the Toshiba 42HDX82 would play point guard for the rear-projection HDTV team. That relatively small display can still offer an immersive home-theater experience when space is at a premium. The 42HDX82 produces a bright, 16:9, wide-screen image and converts non-HDTV sources to 540p for a clear, engaging picture. Toshiba's little projector is not perfect, but it's still a fine value. The 42HDX82 looks swanky for a rear-projection model, with a streamlined cabinet finished in matte-silver and gray touches. At less than 19 inches deep, this set is shallower than many 36-inch tube TVs, so it won't eat up your room. The 42HDX82 sports a high-contrast, nonremovable screen shield that's designed to reject ambient light and deepen blacks.
The sound system hides under the gray, cloth cover in the pedestal base. Front controls and inputs--including those for S-Video--are behind a flip-open door below the screen. We liked the well-laid-out remote control; it's backlit, so you can keep the lights down low and still find the right buttons. The most interesting aspect of this set is its scan conversion, which Toshiba calls IDSC Pro. Basically, the processor up-converts any video signal to 540p, whether it be from satellite, cable, or DVD--all 480-line interlaced signals--or even from progressive-scan DVD (480p). The 540p conversion creates more scan lines (a.k.a. picture information) than 480p, but it doesn't match the native resolution of 480p DVD.
When connected to a separate HDTV receiver, the 42HDX82 can display high-definition TV in the common 1080i format. ABC's preferred HDTV format, 720p, gets converted to 1080i by the IDSC Pro converter.
Thankfully, the 42HDX82 has individual input memories, so the changes that you make to contrast, brightness, and so on remain associated with each input separately. The IDSC can be set to either Film or Video mode. Video mode handles input signals normally, but Film mode adds 3:2 pull-down circuitry, which eliminates artifacts in film-based material such as DVDs. Thankfully, users can now defeat the TV's edge-enhancing scan-velocity-modulation circuit completely.
Other video performance features include three color temperatures (warm, medium, and high); a 3D-YC comb filter for cleaning up composite signals; and ALS, a setting that reads the amount of light in the room--whether day or night, brightly lit or overcast--and makes automatic adjustments to the contrast level. The downside: You can't adjust contrast yourself in ALS mode.
Toshiba paid a lot of attention to the audio system and included separate tweeters and woofers, a Sub Bass system, more than 30 watts of power, and SRS WOW sound enhancements. A dual-window, two-tuner, picture-in-picture feature is on hand, offering side-by-side window viewing or the standard smaller inset with nine different window positions.
The host of inputs includes three for composite video, two for S-Video (one front), two for component video, and two for RF. Toshiba also adds its DVI with HDCP input, a multipin connection that delivers encrypted, uncompressed HD video to the set from a compatible set-top HD receiver. While watching this Toshiba, you'll notice that the bars that fill the screen to the left and the right of a 4:3 image are gray rather than black. Although it takes some getting used to, gray is better in the long run because it helps to keep lines from burning into the CRTs.
We set the color temperature to warm and found the factory settings relatively uniform, although for best performance, a professional calibration is still advisable. Light output was excellent for a rear-projection set, an advantage gained by using the large CRT guns on a smaller screen size.
The color decoder oversaturated the reds, and Toshiba does not provide for decoder tweaks. As a result, we had to reduce the saturation control to achieve accurate color, and the picture lost some impact. Maintaining convergence can be a real problem when shipping big, rear-projection sets, but a test pattern showed that the automatic TouchFocus digital convergence worked very well.
With rear-projection sets, it is best to sit with your eye level at the center of the screen. We found the 42HDX82 to be particularly susceptible to loss of image brightness at all off-center viewing angles--high, low, left, and right.
This set definitely benefits from the strong light output of its CRTs and the high-contrast screen. In The Scorpion King, the image was bright and clear, which added to the intensity of the sun-baked desert scenes. The blacks of weapons and hair also stood out dramatically.
Unfortunately, there was a touch of softness to the picture, which we noted while viewing the stellar disc Monsters, Inc. The 42HDX82's anamorphic image was rock-solid, but there was a hint of lost detail in the monsters' fur. Some of this detail could be regained by a professional service tweak of the CRT focus.