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

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MSRP: $529.99

The Good The Toshiba L2300U 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.

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5.6 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 5
  • Performance 5
  • Value 6

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.

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.

Models in series (details)
Toshiba 39L2300U 39 inches
Toshiba 50L2300U (reviewed) 50 inches
Sarah Tew/CNET

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

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

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.

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