As LCD and plasma vie for popularity and picture quality bragging rights, one perceived weakness of the LCD camp has provided a reason for TV makers to charge more for step-up models: image blurring. Higher refresh rates, like 120Hz and now 240Hz, aim to clean up blurring with newfangled technology, and Toshiba's ZV650U series is one of the least-expensive sets available with a 240Hz effect. The company does use different technology to fight blurring than true 240Hz HDTV, and Toshiba is careful to call it a "240Hz effect," but antiblurring effects are similar. Mind you, in most normal program material we find it nearly impossible to appreciate the antiblurring effect of higher refresh rates, but some people are really bummed by blurring, and for them the new LCDs--or perhaps the nearly blur-free images produced by plasmas--hold appeal. Unfortunately for this particular Toshiba, high-tech-sounding processing can't overcome lighter black levels and a few other picture quality foibles. On the other hand, for those dead set on LCD who don't mind paying a bit extra for 240Hz, the relatively low price of the Toshiba ZV650U series makes it worth considering.
Toshiba deserves credit for bucking the trend of flat-panel TV frames composed entirely of glossy black. Instead, the frame around the screen of the ZV650U series is edged in silver metal, which borders a silver background that fades tastefully to black. If you look closely, you'll see that the black fade is suspended above the silver background on a transparent sheet, and the silver is composed of tiny squares that curve from the extreme edge of the panel inward. It's a subtly complex design that results in an attractive, unusual look that doesn't detract from the picture.
The black-and-silver theme extends to the remote, and we mostly liked its design. The big clicker has quite a few buttons but makes good use of size and placement differentiation to allow relatively easy operation by feel alone. On the downside, it's not illuminated and small-handed people might have trouble reaching the important picture mode and size keys at the bottom of the remote, which should be moved higher at the expense of the transport keys. The Toshiba remote can control three other pieces of gear.
Picture adjustments are extensive on the ZV650U series. The set offers five adjustable picture modes and a sixth, called "AutoView," that automatically adjusts certain parameters (like Contrast) according to its own logic, based on ambient lighting and picture content. Each of the other modes is independent per input.
You won't find an Ethernet jack, DLNA capability, or any interactive doo-dads on this set, although fans of DivX will appreciate that the USB reader can also handle videos in that format (we didn't test this feature).
Toshiba's system lets you get the benefits of the antiblurring technology, called "ClearScan 240," without having to engage the "Film Stabilization" dejudder processing, which can look unnatural with film-based sources.
Picture quality on the ZV650U was solid, albeit not up to the standards of the best flat-panel LCDs we've tested this year. The TV's main strength was color accuracy, thanks in part to those extensive adjustments, while black level performance was a major weakness. Toshiba's 240Hz effect didn't contribute significantly one way or the other to the TV's overall performance.