At around £1,500, this Toshiba is one of the cheapest 'big name' 42-inch LCD televisions around. Not only that, it has a 1,920x1,080-pixel display resolution, which means that it can show the 1080i high-definition format (the one used by Sky HD) in full line-by-line glory. All screens marked HD Ready can display 1080i, but most have fewer than 1,080 lines on their panels and so have to downscale the source to fit the screen. Not so with this TV.
In addition to showing hi-def video and games, the 42WLT66 comes with a digital tuner providing access to standard-definition Freeview channels, so even if you're not planning on going hi-def just yet, you can at least watch digital terrestrial TV without the need for a separate box.
Thanks to its narrow screen surround, the television seems small and compact for a 42-incher -- something worth bearing in mind if you're looking for a television that won't completely dominate your living room. The desktop stand is also tiny, so you'll be able to perch the TV on a small table rather than a huge Ikea-style bench.
The styling is similarly understated. That classic consumer electronics colour combination of black and silver is very much in evidence here, and the result is a rather run-of-the-mill aesthetic that should fit in pretty much anywhere. It's not blow-your-socks-off beautiful, but it'll do.
Build quality is solid enough too, although the set has an extremely plasticky feel and look upon close inspection -- especially round the back. We suppose this is the price you have to pay for affordability and, as you won't spend too much time gazing at the back of a telly (unless you have some rather odd interests) we can't grumble.
Something at the back that you will have to look at from time to time is the array of connections. There are two digital HDMI sockets, which most people will find very handy (if not immediately, then at least in the near future), a component video input, PC input and two Scarts. Annoyingly, only one of the Scarts is RGB-capable, so if you want to get the best picture quality out of two RGB-outputting devices (such as a PlayStation 2 and a Sky+ box) then you're going to be faffing around at the back of the telly more often than you'd like.
As with almost all new digital TVs, there's also a Common Interface slot at the back, enabling you to upgrade to Top Up TV should you wish. Toshiba has also provided a small cable-management loop at the top of the stand to help keep things tidy round the back.
Once the television is plugged in, setting it up is a doddle. There's auto-tuning to make sure all the channels are stored straight away and the menu system is laid out in a logical, thoughtful manner, with tabbed sections for tweaking the audio and the picture and making adjustments to the main settings. The one slight problem was the remote control -- while the design and button layout is fine, it was noticeably unresponsive when being used to move through the menu system. Oddly, it worked perfectly well at all other times, so we're at a loss to explain why.
As mentioned above, the TV has a high-resolution panel, but there's more to its picture processing than simply the capacity to show loads of detail. Working alongside this is Active Vision (Toshiba's own image-processing technology), digital noise reduction, a comb filter and automatic progressive scan -- all working together with the intention of improving the quality of whatever signal you feed the screen. Additionally, there is a selection of picture formats (4:3, 16:9 etc) and pre-set modes, the latter meaning you don't have to adjust each separate picture parameter every time you feel like changing the picture.
Even so, we got the best results from the TV when we adjusted the settings individually -- you can even make tiny adjustments to the brightness of the light behind the screen. Like most LCDs, it does benefit from some tweaking depending on the room conditions. For example, in a dimly lit room, the rather low contrast ratio occasionally makes dark scenes look slightly murky and indistinct, even if they looked fine during the day -- a little tinkering with the settings helps to sort this out.
Audio-wise, you get a basic stereo speaker set-up (with the option of adding a £150 active subwoofer for extra bass performance) with Bass Boost and SRS WOW enhancement. The latter is designed to give a 3D effect from two speakers. These functions can be turned on or off in the menu system as you see fit.
The 1,920x1,080-pixel screen does a fantastic job with hi-def content. We fed it an upscaled version of Kingdom of Heaven from a Denon DVD player and, while a little dark and dingy at times, the image was nicely detailed and sharp. True 1080i sources were also excellent: unsurprisingly, Call of Duty 2 from an Xbox 360 looked superb (and the screen's quick response time meant ghosting and motion blur was not an issue) and 1080i high-definition clips from our testing box looked smooth, sharp and vibrant.
Standard definition doesn't fare quite so well. We watched a good portion of the World Cup on this television (via Sky) and the picture was almost always plagued by masses of speckly MPEG compression artefacts, particularly around the players and ball. This is partly due to the quality of the source, but the (admittedly much pricier) Philips 42PF9831D eliminated the ugliness far more effectively.
Sound quality is reasonably good. There's more bass than you'd expect from the tiny hidden speakers, and the SRS WOW is an interesting change from normal audio output -- don't expect miracles in terms of its pseudo surround sound, though.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide