Toshiba has been struggling to make an impact with its TVs recently. It could once duke it out with the big boys when it came to high-end tellies, but today focuses on budget sets instead. Even here it's struggling -- it recently announced that it's axing half of its workforce in the TV division.
The 39L4353 nevertheless will make many sit up and pay attention, not least because of its humble price of £400. For that you get a set with a stylishly-slim bezel, smart TV support and a generous helping of four HDMI ports. So is it a cracking budget deal?
Toshiba has given the menu system on its TVs a major overhaul this year. In many ways it's an improvement, but it also has its drawbacks. Navigation is, thankfully, more straightforward. In the main menu, for example, there's a banner of icons for stuff like picture, audio and tuning shown down the left-hand side of the screen. You can jump between these to access their sub menus. Also, despite its low price, Toshiba has added comprehensive picture-controls, including a full colour-management system.
That's the good. The bad is that like the other sets from Toshiba I've seen this year, the menus are horrendously slow to use. As a result, jumping back and forth through various picture options becomes pretty tiresome due to the glacial pace at which the menus plod along.
Following the lead of the likes of Sony, Toshiba has also added a secondary Internet-based programming guide to this model. This Internet guide is able to pull in more information about TV shows, as it includes extra stuff like details of actors and directors. It's sluggish to use though and takes an age to open.
I found it was best to stick with the standard Freeview guide instead. It's not exactly wonderful, as it lacks a video window and has a cluttered interface, but at least it shows you lots of upcoming shows on a single screen and is fairly speedy to navigate around.
Toshiba's old Places smart TV system was pretty woeful. Not only was it slow and buggy, but it was also desperately lacking in apps. The company's new Cloud TV system tries hard to improve matters, but still isn't very convincing.
It's split across a number of screens, and includes 'modern' features, such as a Twitter feed of currently trending TV shows. This isn't currently moderated, so at times you'll see some off-colour language in there, which won't be appreciated by those with younger family members. Toshiba has now realised this is an issue and says it's working on filtering the content.
The screens are populated with grids of icons for various apps, with different screens dedicated to different types of content. The fact that several apps appear across multiple screens, however, highlights that the system is still lacking when it comes to support for streaming services. BBC iPlayer and Netflix are included, but it doesn't have apps for Lovefilm, 4oD, Demand5 and ITV Player. If you want those, look for a Samsung TV instead.
The other big problem is that the system, as with the normal menus on this TV, is very, very slow. Moving between the different screens can feel like wading through sludge, and apps also take longer to start up than on other manufacturer's TVs.
On the plus side, the set does have a decent onboard media player with good file format support -- it works with Xvid, MP4 and MKV files, for example.
Design and connections
Taking the 39L4353 out of the box, it feels like a budget TV. It's very light, as its body is made from plastic, and the chassis creaks as you handle it -- the bezel at the top flexes if you apply pressure to it, for example. The set is also quite chunky compared to most of today's LED models and as a result looks more like older LCD screens when viewed from the side.
Does all this matter? Probably not. If you don't wall mount the TV then the thickness of the chassis isn't going to be particularly noticeable. Also, most of us don't man-handle our TVs once they're in place, so the slightly flimsy chassis isn't that much of a problem.