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Toshiba TL515 review: Toshiba TL515

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MSRP: $1,899.99

The Good The Toshiba TL515U evinced good picture quality for an edge-lit LED-based LCD, with relatively deep black levels in dark scenes, even screen uniformity and very good video processing. Its matte screen works well in bright rooms. Its Internet suite includes built-in Wi-Fi. Passive 3D on this TV has minimal crosstalk, is brighter than active, and Toshiba includes four pairs of lightweight, nonpowered glasses.

The Bad The TL515U's backlight fluctuated more than usual, causing contrast and color to vary depending on scene content. Its picture loses fidelity from off-angle in dark scenes worse than other LCDs. The Net TV internet portal is light on content compared to competitors. Passive 3D shows a softer image with more artifacts and worse overall quality than active.

The Bottom Line Although its attractive features, design, and passive 3D have merit, the picture quality issues of the Toshiba TL515U LED-based LCD TV lessen its appeal in the face of the stiff competition.

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6.9 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6

Along with Vizio and LG, Toshiba is the only other TV maker selling a passive 3D TV in 2011. That model, the TL515U series reviewed here, performs basically the same with 3D material as its LG doppelganger, and in short we like the image produced by active 3D TVs better. Meanwhile the Toshiba's 2D picture quality, which is much more important in our book, didn't quite match that of the LG or the better LED-based LCDs in our tests, due mainly to its overactive backlight. Given that the two are very similar in price--the LG is even a bit less expensive at press time--it's tough to recommend the Toshiba TL515U series to people who want passive 3D or the best 2D performance from an edge-lit LED TV.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 47-inch 47TL515U, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Models in series (details)
Toshiba 32TL515U 32 inches
Toshiba 42TL515U 42 inches
Toshiba 47TL515U (reviewed) 47 inches
Toshiba 55TL515U 55 inches


Toshiba's design favors matte and eschews rounded corners.

Design highlights
Panel depth 1.4 inches Bezel width 1.6 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes

The squared-off, angular TL515U is understated yet sleek. The TV has a subtle two-tone finish on its medium-width bezel, with a glossy strip of black that offsets the matte, textured finish of the rest of the frame. The sides of the frame are made of chrome strips angled so they can catch reflections to either side--which might be distracting in some rooms. The stand pedestal has an angle pointing at the viewer, which allows the panel to swivel, and sits above a glass-topped base.

Even the stand pedestal is angled.

Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 9.2 x 2.1 inches QWERTY keyboardNo
Illuminated keys 45 IR device control Yes
Menu item explanations No Onscreen manual No

Toshiba's clicker is not our favorite. Its buttons are too numerous, packed-together and similar, while their angled transparent faces distort the already-small labels beneath, making them even more difficult to read. Worst of all, the keys around the central cursor group emit a loud click at every press--the only thing that could possibly make using an onscreen keyboard more annoying. On the plus side nearly every key is clearly illuminated, making it one of the better in-the-dark wands, and it can control three other pieces of AV gear via infrared, either directly or via pass-through (see below).

Hitting the menu button brings up an attractive two-tiered arch of icons, but the many settings choices quickly become confusing. Submenus are plagued by too much nesting, zero in-menu explanations, and confusing labels. Why do we need a separate Preferences menu, with all of seven setup options, in addition a Settings menu? The Quick menu with direct links to picture, sound and 3D settings helps a bit, but lack of an onscreen manual does not--we predict many users will have to resort to the online PDF manual to get a handle on the TL515U. At least they won't be looking there for Netflix; a big red logo-infused key takes care of that.

A dedicated Netflix button calls up the streaming service directly.

The set also evinced some unusual quirks during normal use. For some reason it takes seemingly forever--about 33 seconds--to turn on from a cold start (other TVs in our experience take about 5 seconds). Browsing the menus and calling up different functions, for example changing picture modes, the screen would often black out for a second or two before coming back up.


Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit with local dimming
3D technology Passive 3D glasses included Four pairs
Screen finish Matte Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
Refresh rate(s) 240Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: Additional passive glasses cost $60 for a 10-pack (FPT-P100UP); IR pass-through (with optional cable); Optional voice control module

The TL515U's principal differentiator is passive 3D, enabled by the same Film Pattern Retarder technology used by LG and Vizio in models like the LW5600 series and XVT3D650SV. A polarizing film coating the TV screen allows each eye, gazing through special glasses, to view every other line to create the two images necessary for the 3D illusion.

Toshiba, which sells both active and passive 3D LCDs, calls its passive 3D technology "3D Natural." Both types of 3D TVs can handle any of the new 3D formats used by Blu-ray, TV broadcasts, and video games, and both require viewers to don 3D glasses, but each has its advantages and disadvantages. See our 3D TV FAQ for general information on active vs. passive and 3D in general, and the Performance section of this review for more the TL515U's 3D picture quality.

The biggest market advantage of passive 3D is inexpensive glasses. Toshiba packs four pairs in with the TL515U, and while it doesn't sell extras individually as of press time, you can opt for the ten-strong "party pack" ($60). Compatible circular polarized glasses are also available from online merchants, and if you swipe a pair of passive 3D glasses from your local theater, they should work too.

Toshiba packs in four pairs of passive 3D glasses.

Aside from 3D the TL515U is well-equipped. It's the only Toshiba LCD to offer an edge-lit LED backlight with local dimming. The LEDs along the edge of the screen can be dimmed or brightened in sections according to program content. Toshiba told us that all sizes, including the 32-inch model, have 16 dimmable zones (if true, it means they all have four more zones than the LG 47LW5600). Contrast that with the 200+ zones on full-array local dimming TVs like the LG LX9500 series, for example, and you'll have some idea why the scheme is far from perfect. That said, it does improve black-level performance despite some trade-offs.

We appreciate that the TL515U includes built-in Wi-Fi, which saves the cost of buying a dongle or using an alternative. Instead of selling a proprietary Skype camera for use with the TV, Toshiba simply recommends getting any Skype certified camera. In the same vein it recommends purchasing any inexpensive IR blaster/emitter for use with the TV's IR pass-through feature, which allows the TV to pass remote control signals through to other gear--a nice extra if you want to stash your equipment out of sight.

Toshiba will sell a "voice control peripheral" that consists of a USB receiver that plugs into one of the USB ports, as well as a voice recorder--a little black box that sits on your coffee table. According to the company, "the user claps to enable voice control and then speaks various commands like "volume up," "channel 55," "channel down," etc. Pricing and availability for the device have not been determined.

Streaming and apps
Netflix Yes YouTube Yes
Amazon Instant No Hulu Plus No
Vudu Yes Pandora Yes
Web browser No Skype Optional
Facebook Yes Twitter Yes
Other: Blockbuster, CinemaNow, 82 Yahoo widgets as of press time

Toshiba's selection of video Apps outdoes that of Sharp and Philips, but falls short of the other major TV makers by missing Amazon and Hulu Plus. Audio is represented only by Pandora.

The main interface is called Net TV, and hitting the corresponding remote button shows all seven choices at once via an easy-to-grok semicircle with nice big icons--although we didn't appreciate the somewhat sluggish progression from one to the next. Netflix gets the new interface, with search, YouTube uses the "lean back" GUI Google developed, and navigating the services was snappy enough.

Unlike some other TVs the TL515U lacks a dedicated app store, but the presence of umpteen near-useless (and a few nearly useful) Yahoo Widgets should soften the blow. Among the latter class is Facebook, Twitter, and eBay along with the usual weather, sports, and news. Among the former are 12 games and 37 local TV stations' widgets--with no easy way to sort through them to find one that might represent your locality.

Big, simple icons lead to the major streaming services.

Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 6 Fine dejudder control No
Color temperature presets 10 Fine color temperature control 2 points
Gamma presets 30 Color management system Yes

Nothing major goes missing here, although the Toshiba lacks the 10-point grayscale and fine dejudder adjustments of LG and Samsung. While there is a CMS, it caused more problems than it fixed, so we didn't use it. Toshiba provides two Movie presets, which is great for tweakers who want to set up for two different lighting conditions for example.

We appreciated that Netflix and Vudu allows adjustment of most picture parameters, although fine color temperature is excluded.

Toshiba's array of controls is solid, although its Color Master color management system needs work.

HDMI inputs 4 Component video inputs 1
Composite video input(s) 2 VGA-style PC input(s) 1
USB port #TK back, #TK side Ethernet (LAN) port Y/N
Other: IR blaster port

The selection here is perfectly fine, although, as with most thin TVs, you'll need to use the included breakout cables to connect analog video sources.

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