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Toshiba 46TL868B review: Toshiba 46TL868B

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The 46-inch 46TL868B sits towards the middle of Toshiba's line-up of LED TVs and includes active shutter 3D technology, as well as Toshiba's Places Internet TV platform.

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6.5

Toshiba 46TL868B

The Good

Sharp HD images; Strong 3D performance; Narrow bezel adds to the design appeal; Deep black levels.

The Bad

Poor Internet features; standard-definition performance could be better; Weedy speakers.

The Bottom Line

We like the 46-inch Toshiba 46TL868B's narrow bezel, bright and sharp HD pictures and strong 3D performance. However, the weedy speakers and lacklustre standard-definition performance let the side down.

You can pick it up for around £730, which is quite cheap for a TV in this class.

If you buy it before Christmas from participating retailers, you can also get a free Toshiba Blu-ray player and one year's subscription to LoveFilm.

User interface and EPG

Rather than using the new, twin-circle design that Toshiba employs for the menu system on its higher-end models, this set sports the older, flatter-style menus. They appear in a black box that's overlaid on the current video source. There are a series of tabs across the top with icons to represent their functions, such as picture, sound, tuning and set-up controls. As you select each of these, the rest of the space in the box is taken up with the various settings associated with each option.

The black and white presentation isn't exactly a feast for the eyes and it's a long way from the user-friendliness of LG's menus. But they're quick to navigate and most of the features that you'd want are included. For example, under the picture menu, you'll find full 3D colour management tools, as well as settings for the Active Vision processing, noise reduction and backlight control.

Toshiba 46TL868B menus
The menus aren't exactly inspiring to look at.

Following Panasonic's lead, Toshiba has kitted this TV out with two tuners -- one for Freeview HD and another that can handle HD satellite feeds. Sadly, the satellite one isn't compatible with Freesat HD. Instead, when you connect it to a dish, it simply tunes all the free-to-air channels that it can find, including all the regional variations of BBC One and Two, as well as a load of foreign language channels.

Worse still, the electronic programme guide (EPG) doesn't actually work for satellite channels. As a result, it's only really the Freeview HD tuner that's of use on this set.

The EPG for the Freeview tuner doesn't have much in the way of visual panache, but it does at least show a lot of channels and programming information on one screen. It's a shame that it's a tad sluggish to navigate around using the remote control though.

Toshiba 46TL868B EPG
The EPG looks dull but it presents lots of information in one go.

Digital media and Internet features

One area where Toshiba has been lagging behind the competition recently is with Internet TV features. Like its other smart TV models, this set uses the Places system. This has recently had a minor update that adds support for Acetrax, which is welcome as the other movie on-demand option, Viewster, has an appallingly bad selection of movies. The Places system is split into different hubs for video, social networking, music, news and games.

The video hub is fairly well populated and now offers apps for Dailymotion, Box Office 365, Woomi and Cartoon Network. There are also links to the BBC iPlayer and YouTube apps, but if you click on them it simply tells you to access them from the TV's main menu rather than the Places system -- so no marks for user-friendliness there.

Toshiba 46TL868B Places
The Places Internet platform needs a lot of work if it's going to catch up with rival services.

The rest of the hubs are so barren that you can practically hear the tumbleweed rolling around. In the music hub, you'll only find the Aupeo radio app, for example, while the social networking hub merely has Facebook and Flickr apps.

All in all, despite the addition of Acextrax, Places still doesn't offer the depth and breath of content that you'll now find on LG and Samsung's Smart TVs.

As you would expect on a mid-range model such as this, there's also built-in media playback features. You can access movies from a PC across your home network. Alternatively you can play them back via hard drives or memory keys plugged into one of the set's USB ports. Local playback via USB worked fine and the set played MKV, DivX and Xvid files without breaking a sweat.

However, when it came to media streaming, it would only play videos fed from a Windows 7 laptop -- it refused to work with our NAS drive or a Windows Vista PC. Even then, it would only stream Xivd and DivX files, as it didn't seem to be able to see our MKV files. This is shoddy, seeing as most other manufacturers now support MKV streaming.

Design and connections

To our eyes the 46TL868B doesn't look quite as stylish as the silver clad 40RL858B, even though the latter is a considerably cheaper model. It's not that the 46TL868B is ugly -- far from it. It's just that the black design doesn't really stand out from the crowd. Nevertheless, this model does benefit from a narrow screen bezel and the chassis is slim, measuring around 24mm thick. We also like the graphite finish and the attractive silver flash that runs across the bottom.

Toshiba 46TL868B angled
Not exactly a design that will stand out from the crowd.

The remote control that Toshiba ships with its higher-end models is one of the worst we've seen, but thankfully this TV uses an all-new design that manages to look quite classy, while still being comfortable to hold. Despite being relatively wide, it sits nicely in the hand, with the chunky buttons making it a pleasure to use.

Like most of the 46-inch models that we see today, this one has four HDMI ports. Three of these are mounted on the rear -- including one with support for audio return channel so you can route HDMI audio to an external amp -- while the last port is side-mounted for easy access.

The rear is also home to full-sized Scart and component inputs, as well as a VGA port, Ethernet socket and an optical digital audio output for feeding sound from the onboard tuners to an external amp. As well as housing the side-mounted HDMI port, the left-hand panel has two USB ports, along with the CI slot and headphone jack.

Toshiba 46TL868B ports
The rear of the TV is home to three HDMI ports, but there's also another one mounted on the left-hand side.

Audio quality

As with the 40RL858B that we looked at recently, the chassis on this model tapers outwards slightly at the bottom to accommodate larger than usual speakers. However, when it comes to the quality of the audio, this unfortunately seems to have made very little difference.

On its default setting, the sound quality is quite tinny and brittle. If you go into the audio menu and turn on the bass enhancer and boost bass frequencies using the equaliser, you'll find that the speakers quickly start to distort once you reach about halfway on the volume level.

The result is that you're left with pretty much two options: have tinny sound at higher volume levels, or beefier audio, but only at low volume settings. That's a poor trade-off in our book, especially when you're spending over £700 on a TV.

Toshiba 46TL868B audio
You'll need to keep that bass boost setting turned off if you don't want the speakers to distort.

2D and 3D Picture quality

On the whole, the 46TL868B's images are good, but not quite as much as similarly priced models we've seen recently from Panasonic, LG and Samsung. Pictures are very bright, thanks to the LED backlighting. Sharpness levels are impressive too, especially on high-definition material like movies on Blu-ray discs.

Sadly though, all is not wonderful. Firstly, although the Active Vision processing does a decent job of keeping judder under control, some motion blur does creep in when the TV has to cope with demanding fast-paced scenes, such as camera pans.

Also, while black level performance is generally quite good, the old problem of backlight inconsistencies that has plagued other Toshiba big-screen TVs rears its head here again. In darker scenes, you can not only see misting in the corners of the display, but also patches towards the centre lower-half of the screen.

Toshiba 46TL868B screen
Backlight inconsistencies plague this set, like we've seen on other big-screen Toshiba TVs.

Colours on high-definition movies are rich and vivid, but they're less impressive on standard-definition material -- something we've seen before on Toshiba's TVs. In fact, this model's performance is generally lacking when it comes to standard-definition content as contrast suffers too.

Toshiba describes this set as 3D-ready, as it doesn't actually come with any 3D glasses. Its new 3D glasses are much lighter than the previous ones. As a result, they're a lot more comfortable to wear. Unfortunately though, they're still prone to flicker, especially if there's ambient light in the room. Also, they tend to darken the image more than other manufacturers' specs that we've used.

Nevertheless, this model's 3D performance is still quite strong, as cross-talk only rears its head every now and again, and even then it's not all that noticeable. This helps to add a solidity to its 3D pictures that boosts the sense of depth.

Toshiba 46TL868B 3D glasses
Toshiba's new 3D glasses are lighter and more comfortable to wear.

Conclusion

The Toshiba 46TL868B can deliver HD pictures with strong, vivid colours and crisp levels of sharpness. Its 3D performance is quite good. However, for a TV costing over £700, the speakers are remarkably weak and its standard-definition performance is not as good as similarly priced rivals.