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Toshiba L7200U review: Toshiba L7200U

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Picture settings: Toshiba delivers good adjustability on this TV, including a two-point grayscale system, a few gamma presets, and a full color management system. Control of local dimming is handled by the DynaLight setting, and three dejudder presets are provided. I also appreciated that, unlike on previous Toshibas, the various picture modes (Movie, Game, Standard, etc) are individually adjustable.

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Connectivity: No complaints are warranted here, with four HDMI, one PC, one component-/composite video, and one dedicated composite video input on tap (the last two via included breakout cables). The pair of USB ports is ample, although one will likely be occupied by the keyboard's dongle.

Picture quality

The L7200U series shares a few characteristics with its predecessor the TL515U, and most are not good. Its black levels were somewhat deep at times, but lack of shadow detail and contrast, caused by overactive and imprecise dimming, was a major flaw. That, combined with less accurate color and a less uniform screen, actually made the L7200U perform worse than the L5200U we reviewed earlier. Video processing and 3D were relative bright spots (no pun intended) but all told the L7200U can't compete with the better LED TVs in its price range.

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.

Comparison models (details)
Sony KDL-55HX850 55-inch edge-lit LED
Samsung UN55ES8000 55-inch edge-lit LED
Vizio M3D550KD 55-inch edge-lit LED
Panasonic TC-L47WT50 47-inch edge-lit LED
Toshiba 50L5200U 50-inch edge-lit LED
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference) 65-inch plasma

Black level: Although not quite as bad in this department as the Panasonic LED we compared it with, the Toshiba was still second-worst in the room at conveying dark scenes. Sometimes its actual depth of black was deeper than the Samsung, and it was usually deeper than the L5200, but in dark scenes it still looked worse than either. As with the Vizio, the L7200 suffered from an extremely variable backlight but unlike that set it had serious trouble maintaining ample shadow detail and contrast.

In "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" the nighttime scavenger hunt from chapter 1 showed the L7200's difficulty with dark scenes. The shots of Oskar scanning Central Park with his metal detector (5:47) conveyed a ground bereft of detail and swallowed by too-deep shadows, while the clothing and trees (5:54) were similarly obscured. Meanwhile highlights like Oskar's face and the lights in the streetlamps (5:58) looked too dim, robbing the scene of contrast and pop.

The Vizio balanced these scenes better than the Toshiba, which in its own way looked just as poor as the more washed-out Panasonic. The darker the scene, the more detail and punch the L7200 lost, and in extremely dark scenes, like the assault on Hogwarts from "Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, Part 2" (45:52), there was very little contrast at all, just a dim mess of shadows. Again, the L5200 looked better than its more expensive brother in these scenes despite its lighter black levels.

It's worth mentioning that shadow detail improved significantly when I disabled the L7200's DynaLight feature, which controls local dimming. I chose not to keep it off, however, because with DynaLight off the L7200U's black levels became simply terrible -- even lighter than the Panasonic's and significantly worse than any of the others, including the L5200.

Color accuracy: While not nearly as bad as its black-level performance, the L7200's color accuracy was still among the worst in the room. Bright scenes again looked much better than dark ones. Skin tones, like Oskar's face as he speaks to the locksmith (18:14), appeared neutral enough, although saturated colors like the orange of his jacket and the swatch on the wall behind him looked too saturated.

In slightly darker scenes, like Oskar's father explaining the hunt (5:35), skin tones and other areas reddened further. As usual with LED, near-black and black areas, like the shadows and letterbox bars, took on a bluish tinge, an issue that was especially apparent on the L7200U because of its lighter black levels.

Video processing: The L7200U performed very well in this category. In the Standard setting of ClearScan it handled 1080p/24 cadence properly and, unlike most TVs, did so while maintaining its full motion resolution. It's the only non-Samsung LED/LCD I've tested this year to do so.

The other ClearScan settings, namely Smooth and Cinema, also delivered full motion resolution but also introduced significant smoothing/dejudder, so I left them turned off for film-based sources. With ClearScan set to Off the Toshiba registered the same motion resolution as a 60Hz set and conveyed film with the halting cadence of 2:3 pull-down, so your best bet is to just leave ClearScan in Standard for every source.

Uniformity: Again the L7200 brought up the rear of our pack in this category, showing light leakage along the top edge (especially visible against the letterbox bars) and the far left side, right in the middle. The latter was also visible in plenty of darker program material, for example the nighttime streen scene in Chapter 10 (1:30:15).

I also noticed vertical bands along the top half of the screen, for example in the wall behind Oskar as the camera pans to follow him into the building (9:51). These were revealed as stationary, regular backlight structure of some kind when I fired up a full-raster test pattern (visible at 20 IRE and lower), and they appeared in numerous other dark and mid-dark scenes that showed panning or movement across the screen. I've never seen their like before, and suspect it has something to do with an errant "light guide," the thing that guides the light from the edge-mounted LEDs across the rest of the screen.

From off-angle the Toshiba behaved about the same as the Vizio and worse than the others at maintaining black-level fidelity -- it got more washed out fairly quickly. On the other hand it avoided off-angle discoloration well.

Bright lighting: The L7200U has a similar semigloss screen finish that behaved much like the Vizio's -- in fact the two seemed identical. Both appear glossy at first glance, but reflections still have the fuzzy edges that are the chief characteristic of a matte screen, instead of the sharp, mirrorlike look of most glossy displays. The screen doesn't dim or disperse reflections as well as the true matte screen of the L5200, but it did a better job of handling them than either the Sony or especially the Panasonic. It also preserved black levels relatively well, making it one of the better screens for bright rooms we've tested.

3D: The Toshiba L7200U was a middling 3D performer. I compared it directly with the Vizio, another 55-inch passive 3D TV, as well as with the other 3D-compatible sets in the lineup, which were all active. With the two passive TVs I was actually able to do a true side-by-side comparison since I didn't have to switch between different pairs of active glasses (for the record, I didn't notice any performance difference between the Vizio and Toshiba glasses, although the Vizio's fit better; see below) and in that comparison I was surprised that the Vizio fared better.

Seated the same distance of about 8 feet from the two same-size passive TVs, I assumed that the artifacts I've typically seen on such sets -- occasional line structure, jagged edges, and moving lines -- would be equally visible. In fact, the Vizio did a better job of hiding these flaws. During "Hugo," the horizontal lines of screen structure on the lit stair in the attic (22:32) as well as the onscreen display of my PS3 were both more obvious on the Toshiba, as was similar structure along the edge of Hugo's face (13:33) and of Isabel's (17:06). The sets appeared similar in rare instances of moving lines, typically when the camera moved over a scene that contained a horizontal edge at a shallow angle, like the bowler hat of Uncle Claude (22:41) and the edge of a low wall outside the station (22:09).

The Toshiba's image appeared a bit too sharp, while the Vizio -- far from what I'd call soft -- was instead smoother and more pleasing. In their default Movie settings (I don't calibrate for 3D testing) the two TVs have very similar light output in 3D, so I don't think that's the differentiating factor. I did disable the L7200's Edge Enhancer function and that helped a bit, but line structure was still more visible on the Toshiba.

Both passive TVs outdid any of the active sets at reducing crosstalk (ghostly double images), and in some areas, like the word "Films" from the GK Films logo before the movie starts, the Toshiba showed less crosstalk than the Vizio. I'm guessing that's because the Toshiba's more aggressive dimming caused that word to be much dimmer than on the Vizio -- crosstalk is most obvious in high-contrast areas. Elsewhere, such as when Hugo's hand reaches for the mouse (5:01) and the camera passes over tuning pegs on the guitar (7:49), both passive sets looked about equal; their 3D images were clean and crosstalk was basically invisible, whereas the active sets all showed some level of ghosting.

In other areas the Toshiba's 3D image was a mixed bag. Its black levels appeared about equal to those of the Vizio, the Sony, and the Samsung, and better than the Panasonic WT50's. That's no small feat since active sets have a large advantage in apparent black level because you're basically wearing sunglasses. The Samsung was markedly brighter, however, which made its 3D image overall punchier and higher-contrast. As usual both plasmas were exceedingly dim in comparison, so while the VT50's 3D black levels were superb (unlike the UT50's), the LEDs had much better contrast overall.

Shadow detail was the worst of the lineup, though, as evinced in Hugo's rush through the steamworks (9:50). The Toshiba's default Movie color was also bad: quite blue and slightly oversaturated in comparison to the others. Again, all of these sets can be calibrated for 3D so color and perhaps other characteristics can be improved. One thing that can't be addressed by calibration though: the brighter edges of the Toshiba's screen in dark scenes, a uniformity error was exacerbated by the extra light output of 3D.

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Vizio's passive glasses fit better than Toshiba's, whether worn over my prescription glasses or not. Toshiba's lack the nose support found on the Vizio specs and their frame is completely flat, whereas the Vizio's frame bends slightly at the nose, which fit my face better. Toshiba's specs were also heavier, and Vizio's gripped the back of my head better.

Geek Box: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.00314 Good
Avg. gamma 2.066 Average
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.2843/0.3071 Average
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3126/0.3293 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3136/0.3312 Good
Before avg. color temp. 7966 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6472 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 20.3155 Poor
Green lum. error (de94_L) 4.8971 Poor
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 21.1839 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.2245/0.3311 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3248/0.1586 Good
Yellow hue x/y 0.425/0.5147 Average
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1000 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1000 Good

Toshiba 55L7200U CNET review calibration results

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