Toshiba SL417U review: Toshiba SL417U

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MSRP: $1,999.99

The Good The Toshiba SL417U 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.

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6.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5

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.

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.

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