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Toshiba 40E220U review: Medium thrills, small budget

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Back in 2008, Toshiba took a beating when its HD DVD format lost the format wars against Blu-ray. Four years later, the enforced focus on LCD has resulted in solid budget TVs like the Toshiba 32C120U and now the Toshiba 40E220U.

Toshiba 40E220U
7.0

Toshiba 40E220U

The Good

The <b>Toshiba 40E220U</b> features crisp images with a decent amount of contrast. The TV offers a good value and is one of the better units under $500. Colors are well-saturated.

The Bad

The TV shows uniformity problems and some of the colors are inaccurate. Shadow detail is lacking compared with the cheaper TCL P60.

The Bottom Line

The Toshiba 40E220U is a value-for-money television offering decent contrast and bright, vivid colors.

The Toshiba 40E220U is a sub-$500 television with a lot to offer the bargain-minded consumer. It has fairly deep black levels, a better selection of inputs than most competitors, and rich, vibrant colors. Image processing is quite good, with a crisp picture and very good off-axis performance.

On the downside, the Toshiba's shadow detail isn't as good as its competitors', uniformity is lacking, and the design is a little dated.

In short, while there are plenty of options at this price level, the 40E220U is a no-frills television with a fine picture.

Design

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Toshiba 40E220U is a cheap TV and unfortunately it also looks like one. It sports a two-tone finish consisting of a black bezel with silver trim at the bottom -- a look that was popular several years ago but has since fallen out of fashion. The TV sits on an oval stand that doesn't swivel.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The remote is the same one that ships with the 32C120U, with squishy, closely spaced buttons. There are certainly better remotes than this if yours are ergonomic concerns.

Uneven Toshiba 40E220U is good value (pictures)

See all photos

Meanwhile, the TV's menu system is fairly basic with a black-and-green color scheme. Most irritatingly, control of one of the most important functions -- the light sensor -- is hidden inside the menu system, and if you don't disable it your picture will be too dim. Check our picture settings forum post to find out how to find it.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features "="">Other: None
Display technology LCD LED backlight N/A
Screen finish Matte Remote Standard
Smart TV No Internet connection No
3D technology No 3D glasses included No
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video

Features
Unlike the smaller 32C120U, the 40E220U has a full 1080p screen resolution, but there's no further added functionality beyond that TV's fairly basic feature set. If you're interested in multimedia playback, though, the Toshiba can play back JPEG images and MP3 tunes via the USB port.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: The E220 offers a number of possible tweaks, including the option to adjust the grayscale slightly and to choose from among a bunch of different gamma settings. The DynaLight feature adjusts the backlight control based on image content.

Annoyingly, if you try to change any of the presets (such as Movie or Standard) the mode switches to Preference, making it easy to accidentally delete your settings.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: The Toshiba 40E220U's inputs include two HDMI ports, one each component- and composite-video, an RGB-style PC input, and a USB port.

Picture quality
Just as the 32-inch Toshiba 32C120U has the best picture quality in its size, the 40-inch 40E220U similarly stands out among its peers. While you don't get plasmalike depths, the E220's black levels are good for the price, and shadow detail is acceptable.

Despite color reproduction measuring fairly poorly, this area was a plus to my eyes, with a vivid, yet natural color palette. Video processing is average -- good in some areas and not so in others -- but motion performance is noticeably crisper than seen on its peers.

Bright-room performance is fine, but in the dark some spotlight problems in the corners spoil what is otherwise a good picture.

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)
LG 47SL4600 47-inch LCD
LG 42CS560 42-inch LCD
TCL L40FHDP60 40-inch LCD
Samsung LN46D630 46-inch LCD
Samsung LN46E550F 46-inch LCD
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference) 65-inch plasma

Black level: At the top of the list of things Toshiba's budget LCDs can do well is black level. Like the smaller 32C120U, the 40E220U can conjure up believable levels of contrast for the money. When compared with the more expensive Samsung LN46E550F, the two TVs went blow-for-blow depending on the scene, but the Toshiba usually won on the "black bars" test.

The Toshiba was the best of the whole room of seven TVs in our "Romulan flyby" test ("Star Trek," 28:18). The menacing ship had a combination of depth, contrast, and a smidgeon of color as it cruised past the screen. The 40E220U was better at illuminating the intricate details contained in the darkness than last year's budget favorite, the Samsung LN46D630.

Yet, while the TV demonstrated good shadow detail in that scene, its rival Samsung LN46E550F was better in the very next scene (with Nero lying on a table). On occasions such as this, the Toshiba demonstrated a tendency to lightly crush black levels compared with the other TVs in the lineup.

Color accuracy: During my tests I found that the television's color response was superficially similar to that of the Samsung LN46D630 -- a model we praised last year for good color saturation and accuracy. Despite the lack of sophisticated controls, the 40E220U was capable of highly saturated colors with redder tones than you would expect for a higher-than-normal color temperature. The Toshiba's skin tones were a little redder than the others in the test, but not too ruddy and a close match to those on the earlier Samsung.

Only in secondary colors did the TV visibly falter, with an overly blue cyan making the TV look colder than our other models with blue-cast movies like "Avatar."

Video processing: The Toshiba and Samsung sat side by side during our tests, and the Toshiba stood out due to a cleaner, more detailed picture. This wasn't a Sharpness control issue; the Toshiba is simply more detailed than the Samsung, displaying nothing of the softness its competitor has. For example, the fight scene in the opening of "Batman Begins" was crisp, with the Toshiba doing its best to follow the rapid camera movements, while on the Samsung it was hazy and even more confused.

As far as supporting the competitor Blu-ray format, the TV passed the 24p flyby test with a smooth rendering of the U.S.S. Intrepid ("I Am Legend," 24:58). But the TV didn't do as well in our other test, failing to render 1080i film correctly, with significant judder and moire effects.

Uniformity: Another obvious difference between the two best TVs in the lineup -- the Samsung LN46E550F and the Toshiba 40E220U being reviewed here -- was in uniformity. While the Samsung had very good uniformity, the Toshiba's Achilles' heel was the noticeable flashlighting in the top corners.

My CNET colleague David Katzmaier criticized the Toshiba 32C120U for its poor off-angle viewing, and in the absence of that TV for comparison I can only assume the 40E220U is very similar. The thing is that it looks great off-angle compared with the two LG televisions I tested, which have woeful performance in that way.

Bright lighting: The 40E220U has a matte screen finish, which means it is quite suited for watching in a lit room. The dynamic range of the picture does compact a little --as is true for most TVs in this environment -- but the uniformity problems are also less noticeable.

Read more about how we test TVs.

Geek Box: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0099 Average
Avg. gamma 2.1446 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.308/0.3289 Good
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3179/0.3399 Poor
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3047/0.3196 Poor
Before avg. color temp. 7483.5486 Poor
After avg. color temp. 7182.5156 Poor
Red lum. error (de94_L) 3.4737 Poor
Green lum. error (de94_L) 5.0354 Poor
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 5.1968 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.2093/0.291 Poor
Magenta hue x/y 0.335/0.1575 Average
Yellow hue x/y 0.4153/0.5042 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Fail Poor
Motion resolution (max) 330 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 330 Poor

Toshiba 40E220U calibration report

Toshiba 40E220U
7.0

Toshiba 40E220U

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 5Performance 6Value 9