Toshiba's last range of LCD TVs lost out to those of Panasonic, Sony and Samsung in the mid-range market, thanks to dull styling, poor connectivity and no digital tuner. The last two criticisms have been addressed in the WLT58 range, but the fact still remains that the WLT58 is a dull-looking TV.
Appearances aside, Toshiba's latest LCD is a decent flat screen that has a number of things going for it. It's the first range we've seen to include dual HDMI inputs, meaning you can connect two high-definition sources up simultaneously and enjoy them in all their digital glory. In fact, connectivity is the biggest selling point on the 32WLT58, with a massive selection spanning standard and high definition.
The TV boasts Toshiba's Active Vision picture-processing technology, and if you can pardon a reviewer's cliché, the better the source you feed in, the better the results. Toshiba's images certainly aren't at the top of the league, and if you're a purist you'll need to look to Panasonic or Philips for your fix, but if you plan on forking out on high definition later this year and want to save money on your display, the Toshiba 32WLT58 is a fine candidate for your shortlist.
Although companies like Samsung, Sony and Panasonic have been marketing their TVs solely on how cool they look, Toshiba's last LCD range was boring. The WLT58 range is a small improvement, but the plastic grey finish and lack of design flourishes mean that it will struggle to command attention in your living room.
The last Toshiba range struggled on connectivity, but this new model makes amends, and then some. If you have the electrical equipment necessary to fill every hole on this television, you're probably spending too much. The clear highlight is the dual-HDMI input allocation, which is ahead of anything else in the 32-inch flat-screen market. We'll see other manufacturers catching up in the coming months, but it's great that Toshiba is pushing next-generation connectivity, because soon people will want to connect aand a simultaneously.
But it's not like Toshiba has peaked early in a high-definition frenzy. One of the other most noteworthy design choices was to include three Scart inputs, two of which are RGB. This allocation means that you can connect a standard Sky receiver and a current-gen games console for a good-quality picture. The VGA socket on the rear is useful for connecting a media centre PC, and there are component video inputs for an Xbox 360 or DVD player. They accept high-definition and progressive-scan pictures, making them the best quality analogue connections available. The downside is that they're located on the side, which makes them easier to access but means the cables sprout out of the side. However, there are two panels to cover up all the cables once they are in place.
The Toshiba remote control seems unnecessarily large, but at least it's able to accommodate large buttons, which are spaced out but slightly unresponsive. They're well organised, however, and combined with the logical and unobtrusive menu system, the television is a cinch to set up.
While the design of the 32WLT58 still needs fixing, everything else that was wrong with the last range has been overhauled or tweaked. There's now an integrated digital tuner for the first time, meaning you can access the electronic programme guide and all of the Freeview digital programming from one remote. There's even a Common Interface slot, which will take a TopUp TV subscription card for more channels through digital terrestrial.
Along with Samsung, Toshiba was one of the first companies to bring LCD TVs to the masses, making 32-inch models under that all-important £1,000 mark. The 32WLT58 is currently just over that, but as you get so many features and connections, it's still a high-value package. The television also offers Toshiba's Active Vision picture-processing technology, which aims to rectify the relatively poor quality of MPEG-2 sources.
If you like to tinker with settings on your new TV to get the best performance, you'll have a field day with the Toshiba. There are the usual contrast and brightness settings, but you can also change individual colour tones. The 'Black Stretch' is much like Samsung's 'Dynamic Contrast' mode, which recognises the black areas of the picture and makes them even darker. It does this on the fly and there's a slight pause before the television darkens the dark areas of the pictures, which can be distracting. If you can look past the lag, the results are actually very good. Hardcore AV enthusiasts and videogamers will find the effects offputting, though.
There usually has to be a catch with a TV at such a good price, and with the Toshiba 32WLT58 it's picture quality. We really weren't that impressed with the stability of pictures at the lower end, with analogue and digital television throwing up background fizz and juddered movement. We've never seen a flat screen produce the same quality of Freeview pictures as a CRT, but Panasonic and Philips' current LCDs seem far more accustomed to dealing with its inherent artefacts.
If you're more of a movie lover, or spend time on Xbox Live instead of watching TV, then this is the TV for you. Through component or HDMI inputs, the picture gains a far more natural appearance, with fine detail reaching through to the background and a depth of colour that's as good as anything else out there.
Watching a dark film such as Ronin though, we noticed a lack of shadow detail that impacted on the believability of the image. If you're the sort of person that obsesses over imperfections such as these, you'll have to splash out on a Panasonic or Philips screen, but for most people, the small improvement probably doesn't warrant the extra money.
The thin speaker strip underneath the screen looks distinctly underpowered, but audio is both punchy and well rounded from the Toshiba LCD. The television has SRS sound effects to recreate various different environments from the two stereo speakers. If you want more power, you can output directly to a subwoofer thanks to the dedicated output on the side panel.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide