Toshiba produces some stylish high-end TVs and the 55WL863 is a case in point, offering active 3D and online media streaming features.
The 55-inch model we reviewed -- there are also 42-inch and 46-inch versions -- packs in Toshiba's clever Cevo picture processing system. With a hefty price tag of around £1,800, does it warrant the money?
User interface and EPG
Toshiba's user interface is very different to those you'll find on other brands such as Samsung, Sony and Panasonic. It has adopted a twin, rotating circle design; you select the type of action you want to perform from the lower semi-circle, which then shifts you to the upper circle where you select a sub-option (see image below).
We can't say we're big fans of it. The menus were awkward to navigate using the remote. The change between this circular approach and the more traditional flat menus that you end up in makes it all feel disjointed.
The black and grey colour scheme doesn't help matters. It looks drab in comparison to the colourful approach used on LG's and Samsung's latest TVs.
The electronic programme guide (EPG) isn't exactly easy on the eye either. Again, it uses a drab mix of murky-looking colours. It lacks the video thumbnail windows that you now get on most other manufacturers' TVs.
The EPG has a more traditional horizontal layout. Because 13 channels' worth of programming data is displayed at one time, you can easily compare what's on at different times across loads of channels. Moving around the EPG is speedy; you can jump through pages of channels using the programme up and down buttons on the remote.
One interesting aspect of this TV is its face recognition feature. The set has a small camera built in; with this you can create picture and sound presets for different people. Once done, it'll recognise you when you sit down to watch it and will automatically switch to your pre-programmed preset. This actually worked well for us and it certainly adds an extra wow factor to this model.
Digital media and Internet features
For a high-end TV, this set's Internet and media streaming features are a mess. The problems begin with the Internet TV. It's accessed via Toshiba's Connected menu, which calls up a secondary interface that has entries for YouTube, BBC iPlayer and the Connected Places hub.
Enter the latter and you'll find YouTube and iPlayer listed again, alongside a range of other video services. However, if you select either YouTube or iPlayer in this menu, you're told to return to the previous menu and access them from there. This seems like very lazy programming to us and it's something that Toshiba needs to sort out.
Secondly, the list of services and apps available is weak in comparison to all the other big name TV brands. You do get Dailymotion and the dire Cine365 rental service but it's missing good movie rental options like LoveFilm and Acetrax.
The list of available apps is tiny and there's no app store to allow you to download additional apps. At least the iPlayer and YouTube apps work well and are easy to navigate. They let you playback programmes or video clips in high-definition as well as standard-definition.
On the whole, Toshiba's Internet TV platform feels poorly thought out and can be buggy. We certainly experienced some odd behaviour from it during our test period.
The 55WL863 also supports media streaming via its Ethernet port, but we failed to get this to work properly with our Windows Vista PC or with the DLNA server built into our Iomega NAS drive. We've experienced few issues getting these to work with other sets so we're mystified as to why they didn't work with this Toshiba model.
The TV would stream pictures and music tracks but it failed to play any of our video files. However, it had no problem playing DivX, Xvid and MKV files from a memory key plugged into the USB port.
Design and connections
Perhaps mindful of its less-than-desirable recent designs, Toshiba called on the talents of the Jacob Jensen's Studio for this high-end model. The Danish designer is best known for his work with Bang & Olufsen. Like many of those products, this set has a masculine aesthetic in large part due to the amount of brushed metal used on the narrow bezel.
The chassis is very slim and the stand is interesting because there's a large circle cut out of it beneath the stem. All in all, it's a classy look, if not quite as universally appealing as the designs of Samsung and LG's latest high-end sets.
The slim remote control isn't so appealing. Toshiba has added a sliding aluminium section to it, which serves very little purpose other than to get in the way of the buttons. When it's slid fully down it adds extra length to what is already a very long remote, making it feel unbalanced.