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Toshiba L2300U series review: Basic, inexpensive TV falls short on value

Toshiba's basic, inexpensive L2300U series LED LCD seems appealing to budget shoppers on paper, but better values are available.

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David Katzmaier
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David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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3 min read

The Toshiba L2300U is pretty cheap for a name-brand LED LCD, but that doesn't make it a great value. Its picture quality suffers both in dark rooms and bright, and while it offers a few strengths such as accurate color, they're outweighed by negatives including video processing that behaves nothing like a 120Hz TV should.

Toshiba_50L2300U__35769671_35769830_04.jpg
5.6

Toshiba L2300U series

The Good

The <b>Toshiba L2300U</b> LED-based LCD TV is relatively inexpensive; stylish two-tone exterior design; accurate color; uniform screen, ample connectivity.

The Bad

Produces a light shade of black; so-called 120Hz refresh rate does nothing to improve picture quality; relatively weak bright-room image.

The Bottom Line

Toshiba's basic, inexpensive L2300U series LED LCD TV seems appealing to budget shoppers on paper, but better values are available.

Its main selling point is sleeker looks compared with most other cheap televisions. On the other hand, since you can get a better picture and features -- including Smart TV -- with an LED LCD like the Vizio E0i-A1 series, not to mention a plasma like the Panasonic S60, the L2300 is mainly recommendable to buyers who really like the Toshiba name and silver trim.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch Toshiba 50L2300U, but this review also applies to the 39-inch size in the series. Both have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality. This review does not apply to the 32-inch 32L2300U, which has a native resolution of 720p.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Models in series (details)
Toshiba 39L2300U 39 inches
Toshiba 50L2300U (reviewed) 50 inches

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design
Toshiba takes the bargain-priced LED LCD into more stylish territory than usual, propelled there by the power of two-tone. The silver of the rectangular frame's bottom matches the stand's skinny cylindrical stalk and flat base, while the rest of the frame is clad in solid glossy black. Classy touches include the light-ringed power button, subtle Toshiba logo and rounded bottom corners. I was worried by the thinness of the stalk, but it supports the TV as solidly as necessary -- although it doesn't swivel.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Toshiba's remote is identical to last year's and still mediocre. The buttons tend toward small and indistinguishable, aside from the giant number pad and volume/channel rockers. I did like the direct access to aspect ratio and picture mode, however. The menu is easy to read and navigate, but I'd like to see explanations of menu items since many are quite obscure.

Sarah Tew/CNET

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Direct
Screen finish Matte Remote Standard
Smart TV No Internet connection No
3D technology No 3D glasses included N/A
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA-compliant No USB Photo/Music

Features
By today's standards the L2300U has a bare-bones feature set. Like many other TV makers, Toshiba has moved to a direct LED backlight on its lower-end sets. As usual with LED, it doesn't lead to a better picture, but it does mean the L2300U has a relatively thick cabinet compared with edge-lit LED LCDs. "Direct" refers to the fact that the LEDs are placed behind the screen, as opposed to along the edge. Fewer LEDs are required, which is one reason why direct sets are cheaper than edge-lit ones.

Despite the TV's supposed 120Hz refresh rate, the L2300U behaves just like a 60Hz TV. Like the "120Hz" Vizio E01-A1 series I reviewed earlier, the L2300U also neglects to include smoothing/dejudder processing. You might not like the so-called Soap Opera Effect such smoothing induces, but with most other 120Hz TVs it's an option you can turn on or off. With the L2300U, it's simply not available.

Since the L2300U lacks the smoothing and motion resolution performance I expect from a 120Hz TV, I'm sticking with the "60Hz" specification on the table above, despite what Toshiba says.

The USB port supports music and photos, but not video.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: The L2300U's selection is decent for a TV at this level, and I'm happy to report that Toshiba finally offers more than one adjustable picture mode. Another bonus is a full color management system (above), although the flipside is a grayscale control with only three adjustments instead of the standard six. There's also a few gamma settings, as well as Toshiba's trademark Dynalight setting that globally adjusts the backlight.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: Three HDMI is plenty at this price point, and the overall connection selection -- including one USB, one shared component/composite, one VGA-style PC -- is similarly commendable. For a full list of inputs and outputs, check out the specifications section of this review.

Picture quality
The L2300U produces an acceptable picture for an LED LCD at this price point, but there's more bad than good to see here. Black levels are all too grayish, its image processing doesn't measure up to true 120Hz TVs, and the capper is bright-room image quality that's worse than I'd expect from a typical LCD. Its color accuracy and uniformity save it from complete mediocrity, but for a similar price the Vizio and Panasonic S60 are certainly superior, while for the same amount the larger, similarly performing TCL is a better value.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV’s picture controls worked during calibration.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Comparison models (details)
Vizio E500i-A1 50-inch LED LCD
Toshiba 50L5200U 50-inch LED LCD
Samsung UN46EH6000 46-inch LED LCD
TCL LE58FHDE3010 58-inch LED LCD
Panasonic TC-P50S60 50-inch plasma

Black level: The Toshiba was the worst in my lineup in this area, showing relatively washed-out blacks that didn't hold up well in our dim test room. During the dark opening sequence from "Drive," for example, the shadows in the hotel room, the nightscape out the window and of course the letterbox bars appeared lighter than on any of the other sets. The Samsung and the TCL were not much better, however, while the Toshiba L5200, the Vizio, and of course the Panasonic plasma looked best.

Details in the shadows also appeared relatively obscured on the Toshiba, albeit not to the same extent as on the murky TCL. Driver's bag on the hotel room bed, as well as the near-black folds in his jacket, looked dimmer and less distinct than on most of the other sets; again the Samsung was the L2300U's closest match, although it was still a bit better.

It's worth mentioning that deeper black levels are available in the strongest DynaLight setting, High, but I avoided that because it obscured shadow details way too much.

Color accuracy: This category was the Toshiba's strong suit as it outdid the Vizio and TCL in saturation and the L5200U in accuracy, and came closest to the Panasonic and Samsung. Skin tones such as the face of Irene in the kitchen (18:01) were nicely balanced, without as much of the pale, bluish cast that plagued the TCL and Vizio, nor the too-ruddy look of the L5200U. The L2300U did appear a bit too saturated and vibrant compared to the Samsung and Panasonic, but the differences were subtle and the Toshiba's color was by no means garish.

Near-black color was also a strength; the L2300U lacked the bluish tinge to blacks found on so many other LCDs, for example the Samsung and TCL in my lineup.

Video processing: Like the Vizio and some other so-called 120Hz TVs I've tested, the Toshiba behaves like a 60Hz TV in every respect I routinely measure for this category. Most importantly for movie buffs, it's unable to reproduce the correct film cadence of a 1080p/24 source, introducing the characteristic halting stutter I associate with 60Hz sets using 2:3 pull-down.

It's also blurrier, measuring the 300-odd lines of motion resolution I expect from a 60Hz set, not the 600 or so I expect from models that have true 120Hz panels, like the TCL, Samsung, and Toshiba L5200U. The difference between the Vizio/Toshiba L2300U and the others was obvious in test video (from the FPD Benchmark disc) designed to show blur as well, such as a the strings of a hammock swinging back and forth across the frame. As usual, however, blur was much less apparent to me when watching normal shows, including fast action sports.

The Toshiba passed our 1080i de-interlacing test when we engaged the Cinema Mode control, but failed it when that control was set to Off.

Uniformity: The L2300U's screen was quite uniform in dark areas, with none of the splodges or brighter corners I saw on the L5200, nor the slightly brighter edges of the Samsung. The Vizio and TCL generally matched its dark field uniformity, and of course the Panasonic plasma was essentially perfect in this area.

In some shots of bright, flat fields, for example the pan over a dry concrete riverbed in "Drive" (26:56), some backlight structure was visible in the form of slightly varying brightness (the so-called "dirty screen effect"). It wasn't bad, however, and the L5200U and Vizio showed similar effects, although the other LED LCDs were better.

From off-angle, the Toshiba maintained color fidelity well but black levels washed out even more than normal.

Bright lighting: The Toshiba has a sort of semi-matte screen that didn't handle high ambient light situations as well as a true matte finish. Under the lights, the screen helped reduce reflections somewhat, although not as well as any of the other LED LCDs in our lineup. My reflection in the screen during dark scenes, for example, was much easier to discern, and therefore more distracting, than on any of the others save the Panasonic plasma.

Meanwhile the Toshiba's ability to maintain black-level fidelity was also worse than most of the others, aside from the Samsung and, of course, the Panasonic. The TCL and Vizio in particular looked a good deal more punchy when displaying dark scenes in a bright room.

Sound quality The L2300U sounded much like you'd expect from a cheap LED LCD: pretty poor. Trying to reproduce the dynamic explosions from the bridge scene of "Mission Impossible 3," the shattering glass and impacting missiles lacked punch and realism. Then again, they did on the other sets, too. Music sounded even worse, as expected; the percussion from Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" distorted and became scratchy at mid and higher volume. At least it didn't have the "is something broken?" quality of bass from the Vizio and TCL, or the muffled sound of the Samsung; and it sounded a bit less thin and insubstantial then the Panasonic. Still, I wouldn't want to listen to music on it for any length of time.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.023 Poor
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 1.91 Poor
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.210 Good
Near-black error (5%) 0.85 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.593 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.185 Good
Avg. color error 2.039 Good
Red error 0.658 Good
Green error 1.792 Good
Blue error 6.376 Poor
Cyan error 1.026 Good
Magenta error 1.617 Good
Yellow error 0.763 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Fail Poor
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 300 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) n/a n/a
Input lag (Game mode) 33.4 Good

Toshiba 50L2300U CNET reviews calibration report

Toshiba_50L2300U__35769671_35769830_04.jpg
5.6

Toshiba L2300U series

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 5Performance 5Value 6
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