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Toshiba SL417U review: Toshiba SL417U

Toshiba SL417U

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
10 min read

The ability to stream Netflix and other Internet sources, as well as the thin profile imparted by its edge-lit LED backlight, mark the Toshiba SL417U as a midrange HDTV these days. In its favor this set demands relatively little cash for those extras, and built-in Wi-Fi gives it a leg up on some of the competition. It does sacrifice picture quality in many categories, however, with variable black levels and less impressive color. That said, for less critical viewers who want the convenience of online extras built in, the SL417U is a solid bargain.


Toshiba SL417U

The Good

The <b>Toshiba SL417U</b> evinced relatively deep black levels in dark scenes and very good video processing. Its matte screen works well in bright rooms. Its Internet suite includes built-in Wi-Fi.

The Bad

The SL471U's backlight fluctuated more than usual, causing black levels to vary depending on scene content. Colors were less accurate and lacked saturation. Its screen is brighter on the edges and the picture loses fidelity from off-angle worse than other LCDs. The Net TV Internet portal is light on content.

The Bottom Line

Albeit one of the least expensive Internet-capable LED TVs available, the Toshiba SL417U lags behind most of its competitors in terms of performance.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 46-inch Toshiba 46SL417U, 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 42SL417U 42 inches
Toshiba 46SL417U (reviewed) 46 inches
Toshiba 55SL417U 55 inches


Glossy black is the order of the day.

Design highlights
Panel depth 1.17 inches Bezel width 1 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes

Severe, angular minimalism is the name of the SL417U's game. Its inch-thin panel is complemented by an inch-narrow bezel around the screen colored the standard glossy black. The only front-facing nods to flair are the subtle gray fade along the thicker bottom edge of the panel, the three-sided stand stalk, and the glass-topped base. The sides of the frame are composed of chrome strips angled so that they can catch reflections to either side--happily they're invisible from the front. The TV does little else to stand out in a room, but many people (including us) consider that a good thing.

A look at the glass-topped stand.

Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 9.2x2.1 inches QWERTY keyboardNo
Illuminated keys 0 IR device control Yes
Menu item explanations No Onscreen manual No

Although we like it better than the clicker included with the TL515U, this remote is still among our least favorite of 2011. The buttons are too numerous and similar, and the lack of backlighting is a hindrance in dark rooms. On the plus side, there are dedicated different-colored buttons for Netflix and Yahoo widgets, and the remote can control three other pieces of AV gear via infrared.

A dedicated Netflix button calls up the streaming service directly.

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, confusing labels, and zero in-menu explanations. Why do we need a separate Preferences menu, with all of seven setup options, in addition to 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 SL417U.

Like the TL515U, our SL417U review sample also took seemingly forever--about 22 seconds--to turn on from a cold start (other TVs in our experience take about 5 seconds; the TL515U actually took even longer at 33).


Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
3D technology N/A 3D glasses included N/A
Screen finish Matte Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
Refresh rate(s) 120Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: Optional voice control module

This set lacks the 3D compatibility, local dimming backlight, 240Hz refresh rate, and IR pass-through of the step-up TL515U, making it a fairly standard midrange LED TV. We appreciate that the SL471U 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.

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,'" and so on. 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, 93 Yahoo widgets as of press time

Toshiba's selection of video Apps outdoes those of Sharp and Philips, but falls short of the other major TV makers' offerings by skipping Amazon Instant and Hulu Plus. Audio is represented only by Pandora. Check out our comparison for more details.

The main interface is called Net TV, and hitting the corresponding remote button shows seven choices at once in 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 SL471U lacks a dedicated app store, but the presence of umpteen near-useless (and a few nearly useful) Yahoo Widgets should soften the blow. In the latter class are Yahoo Fantasy Football, Facebook, Twitter, and eBay along with the usual weather, sports and news. Among the former are 12 games and 32 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 allow 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 2 Ethernet (LAN) port Yes

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.

Nothing is missing from the input bay, and we appreciate the large icons.

Compared with most edge-lit LEDs we've tested, the SL417U's performance falls in the lower end of the field. While decent in dark areas, its black levels in bright scenes get washed out, thanks, we assume, to the variable DynaLight backlight. Colors also appeared less saturated due to improper decoding and a bluish grayscale, especially in the brightest and darkest areas. It also lacked the uniformity of its step-up cousin, although it did well enough for video processing and bright rooms.

The most accurate setting before calibration was Movie, but that's not saying much. It was exceedingly blue with light gamma and crushed shadow detail in both Movie 1 and Movie 2 settings. The latter has DynaLight, which controls global dimming of the backlight, engaged by default, while the former does not. DynaLight delivers superior black levels at the expense of many other areas, but in the end we found it best left turned on. Our calibration of Movie 2 removed much of that bluish cast but couldn't help in many other areas. The fact that the TV didn't display blacker-than-black made setting brightness, which affects black level, more subjective than it should be.

The biggest specific picture issues, as with the TL515U, were gamma and gamut luminance, and because of DynaLight's fluctuation we couldn't accurately measure or calibrate either one using standard window patterns (we ended up setting gamma controls by eye). We also noticed blocky artifacts in many areas when we engaged the Color Master CMS, so we left it off. In case you're curious, we also performed a calibration in Movie 1, with DynaLight off, and have included it in the picture settings linked above. Black levels were much worse than with Movie 2, although not as bad as on the TL515U--0 percent measured 0.0112 fL.

Our image quality tests were conducted with the comparison lineup below and "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" on Blu-ray.

Comparison models (details)
Samsung UN46D6400 46-inch edge-lit LED
Sony KDL-46EX720 46-inch edge-lit LED
Sony KDL-55NX720 55-inch edge-lit local-dimming LED
LG 47LW5600 47-inch edge-lit local-dimming LED
Toshiba 47TL515U 47-inch edge-lit local-dimming LED

Black level: The SL417U was mediocre overall in this area. At its best in the very darkest scenes, like the numerous shots of the Imperial fleet against the black of space, the Toshiba SL417U was a bit better than the Sony EX720, visually difficult to distinguish from the TL515U and the LG, but not as deep as either the Samsung or the Sony NX720. In most scenes, however, its dark areas, particularly the letterbox bars, became the worst in our lineup aside from the TL515U. One example came in chapter 31 (1:09:40) when Luke telekinetically raises the X-wing from the swamp--both Toshibas' letterbox bars, especially along the edges of the screen, were brighter than those on the other sets.

On the other hand we were happy to see that, unlike on the TL515U, the S417U doesn't overly brighten brighter areas, like the snowfields on Hoth. The white mountainside at 15:19, for example, did measure a bit brighter than on the other sets, but it wasn't nearly as egregious as on the TL515U.

The SL417U often showed too-light shadows, however, leading to a washed-out, flatter look in many scenes. The gear in the tauntaun stable (7:50) and Han's jacket (18:42) appeared quite a bit lighter than on any of the other TVs, for example. Setting the gamma control lower could make these areas look somewhat punchier, but we found it ended up obscuring shadow detail too much.

Color accuracy: While the SL417U wasn't terrible in this area it definitely fell short of the other TVs in our lineup. In bright white areas, like the snow of Hoth, it was the bluest of the bunch. That blue cast seemed to seep into skin tones, like Leia's face after Luke's return (17:09), which looked a bit cooler and paler on the other sets in our lineup. Colors also lacked some richness, mainly because we had to back down (desaturate) the color control to avoid red push--a slightly ruddy cast to skintones.

Finally the SL417U showed a bluer cast to deep shadows than any of the other sets in our lineup. The issue was mostly visible in the deepest shadows, such as the backs of the snowspeeders and the inside of the turret inside the hangar at 4:21. The Samsung and Sony EX720 also showed this issue, albeit not as badly as the SL417U.

Video processing: We had few complaints in this department. Along with Samsung's models, the Toshibas are among the few TVs we've tested with the ability to preserve maximum motion resolution and proper 1080p/24 film cadence. When we set its ClearFrame to On and Film Stabilization to Standard (the default settings for Movie mode), we measured 600 lines of resolution and saw no trace of smoothing or hitching in our 1080p/24 test clip.

The TV can also engage smoothing (dejudder) from the Film Stabilization menu, although there's just one level of smoothness available. Choosing Off in the same menu causes the set to engage 3:2 pull-down.

Uniformity: The edges of the SL417U appeared significantly brighter than the middle, especially to either side--an difference easily visible in dark areas, especially letterbox bars. The blotches we noticed on the Sony and Sharp were absent, however.

When seen from off-angle to either side in darker scenes, the Toshibas and LG were the worst in our lineup. They lost black-level fidelity worse than the others and also became significantly dimmer--the latter difference was extreme enough that it might be a side effect (no pun intended) of the passive 3D screen. They kept fidelity relatively well in bright scenes, however.

Bright lighting: The matte screen of the Toshiba was a boon under the lights, muting reflections better than the glossy Samsung or the Sony NX720 and preserving black levels quite well.

Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Toshiba SL417U series, but we did test the 46-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Toshiba 46SL417U.

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0034 Good
Avg. gamma 2.5626 Poor
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.2904/0.2963 Average
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3127/0.3293 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3123/0.3277 Good
Before avg. color temp. 8083 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6633 Average
Red lum. error (de94_L) 16.2222 Poor
Green lum. error (de94_L) 6.8031 Poor
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 8.6381 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.2205/0.3181 Average
Magenta hue x/y 0.3122/0.1404 Poor
Yellow hue x/y 0.4376/0.5032 Poor
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 600 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 600 Average
PC input resolution (VGA) 1,920x1,080 Good

Toshiba 46SL417U CNET review calibration results

(Read more about how we test TVs.)


Toshiba SL417U

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 5