During the last year flat-panel HDTV prices seemed to hit a plateau, where the standard bricklike downward trend leveled off somewhat. Now, however, prices are on the decline again, opening up bigger screen sizes to lower price ranges. For example, Toshiba's lowest-priced 1080p 42-inch LCD, the 42RV530U, can be purchased on the Internet for a little more than $1,000. While it won't match quite the price-to-performance ratio of some of cheaper 42-inch plasmas, such as the Panasonic TH-42PX80U and the Vizio VP422, the 42RV530U still delivers one of the best values we've seen among high-resolution LCDs.
The 42RV530U looks like your basic flat-panel display, with a glossy black bezel about two inches wide on the top, left, and right sides, and somewhat larger on the bottom below the screen. A metallic gray finish is more prominent on the bottom edge of the bezel than the top and sides, providing a mild two-tone look. The speakers are located below the screen, which keeps the overall width of the set to a minimum. This compact panel measures 39.8 inches wide by 27.3 inches tall by 12.1 inches deep and weighs 48.4 pounds including the swivel stand. Without the stand, it measures 39.8 inches wide by 25.5 inches tall by 3.7 inches deep.
The remote control and internal menu system are both unchanged from last year's Regza line. The clicker is a bit cluttered with too many like-size keys, and I was disappointed to find that it is not backlit or even illuminated for use in dark environments.
As do most LCD HDTVs available in 2008, the 42RV530U has a native resolution of 1080p. However, at this screen size it's very difficult to tell the difference between 1080p and lower resolutions.
The 42RV530U has a solid selection of picture setup features considering its price. Preset modes include Sports, Standard, Movie, PC, and Preference, but only the last mode is adjustable. Once you choose a mode and then make changes to any of the picture parameters, the mode automatically changes to Preference, which is fortunately independent per input. There are three selectable color temperatures: Warm, Medium, and Cool. Blue Drive and Green Drive are the only color temperature tweaks controls in the user menu, but they do help improve the grayscale beyond the presets. See Performance for more details.
Toshiba labels its Color Management System with the evocative title Color Master. If you turn it on and select Color Palette, you can make adjustments for all six colors, but as with most CMS systems, I found its usefulness quite limited. It really only works to make slight improvements in the color decoding, rather than correcting the inaccurate primary and secondary color points, which is what it should do.
Under the Theater Settings menu, a setting called Cinema Mode should be set to Film for proper 2:3 pull-down detection with film-based formats like standard-definition DVDs, and some cable and satellite programming. Also, a Theater Lock feature lets you lock your settings so that no one can change them.
As I expected from a 1080p HDTV, the 42RV530U offers an aspect ratio mode, dubbed Native, that's designed to show every pixel of 1080i and 1080p sources without scaling or overscan. You should use this mode unless you see interference along the extreme edges of the display. The set lacks a power saver function for use when the picture is turned on, although there is a toggle between Power Save and Fast turn-on that affects standby power consumption. The former uses less than 1 watt in standby, while the latter sucks down 17.8 watts when the TV is turned off, just to save a couple seconds of warmup time. Fortunately, Toshiba made Power Save the default. Check out the Juice Box for more information.