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Toshiba 55YL863B review: Toshiba 55YL863B

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The Good Bright pictures; Deep black levels; Powerful CEVO processing engine.

The Bad Poor 3D performance; Contrast and colours suffer with SD material; Below-par Internet features.

The Bottom Line Toshiba has tried hard with the 55YL863B to produce a TV that can take on the high-end models from rival manufacturers. However, despite the promise of the powerful CEVO processing, this set is a mixed performer and its Internet features and 3D performance are in need of serious improvement.

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7.5 Overall

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The 55YL863B is a high-end TV from Toshiba that comes with the company's powerful CEVO picture processing engine, active 3D support and built-in Smart TV features.

The chassis has also been styled by Jacob Jensen's studio, the people behind many of Bang & Olufsen's iconic 1990s product designs.

The asking price is quite high at £1,500, but as a sweetener, Toshiba is currently running a promotion: if you buy this TV before Christmas from participating retailers, you'll get a free Blu-ray player and one year's subscription to the LoveFilm movie rental service.

User interface and EPG

This model takes the same twin-circle approach to its menu system as the 55WL863 that we looked at recently. You select an option, such as set-up, from the semi-circle at the bottom of the screen and this then shunts you to an upper circle where you choose other entries like picture, sound and preferences.

Due to its use of darker colours, the presentation looks a touch dull, especially next to the bright and cheerful menus found on LG and Samsung's latest models.

The navigation is also fussy -- especially as there's a jarring switch between this circular system and the flat menus that you eventually end up in. On the plus side, you do soon get used to it and it's arguably faster to use than Sony's Xross Media Bar system.

Unfortunately, Toshiba has carried the dark and dingy colour schemes across to the Freeview electronic programme guide (EPG). The EPG also lacks the video thumbnail windows that most other manufacturers now use on their programming guides. Instead, it takes over the whole screen and displays 13 channels' worth of data.

Of course, the plus side to this is that it lets you compare what's on and what's coming up across lots of channels. The downside is that it's overly busy to look at. Nevertheless, the EPG is quick to respond when you're jumping around the programming data using the remote.

Along with the Freeview HD tuner, this model also has a high-definition satellite tuner onboard. Sadly, this isn't a Freesat HD-compatible tuner. Instead, it just tunes all the free-to-air channels that it can find. As a result, you end up with lots of regional variations of BBC One and Two, as well as loads of foreign channels. Worse still, the EPG doesn't populate with programming data for any of the channels.

Toshiba 55YL863B EPG
The EPG lacks a video thumbnail window and looks overly busy.

To add some wow-factor, this model has a camera and face recognition technology built in. This allows you to program it to recognise up to four people who use the set. Once their face is stored, it can automatically switch to their picture and audio presets when they sit down in front of it.

It works reasonably well, although its accuracy does depend quite a lot on lighting conditions in the room. It does feel gimmicky and after a while we just turned it off as we didn't find it that useful.

Digital media and Internet features

As with all of Toshiba's latest mid and high-end TV's, this one comes with the Places smart TV platform. Unfortunately, despite a recent minor update, it's still a disappointing offering. It's sluggish to load and navigating around the different sections isn't exactly speedy either.

Places is split into various hubs for video, social networking, news, music and games. The video menu has been updated with the addition of the Acetrax movie rental service. This is a big plus -- before, the only movie rental option was Viewster, which has an appallingly bad selection of movies.

The rest of the video hub is reasonably well stocked, with entries for the likes of Dailymotion, Woomi, Box Office 365 and Cartoon Network. There are also links to YouTube and BBC iPlayer apps. However, if you select these you're simply told to exit the Places system and access them from the TV's main menu, which is pretty shoddy interface design.

Toshiba 55YL863B Places
The Places system now includes the Acetrax movie rental service.

The other big problem is that the rest of the hubs are seriously under-populated. The music menu only has a single entry for Aupeo; the social hub merely has Flickr and Facebook apps; while the News menu only offers up a single weather forecasting service. It's a long way off the wealth of content offered on LG and Samsung's smart TV platforms.

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