Six months is a long time in televisions -- especially when you're talking about LCD. We looked at the precursor to this television, the 37WL66A, back in March and found it to be an adequate television for the size and price. Now, the latest model is available for a substantial discount of AU$1,700.
But what -- apart from the price cut -- has changed since the start of the year? Well, quite a lot and nothing much ...
Cosmetically, the new REGZA has had a rethink. But to our eyes it's even more dated looking than the model it replaces. The silver and gun-metal colouring is there, but in place of the stately square stand Toshiba have substituted a plastic boomerang. Even Sharp, which seems to have pioneered this type of stand, gave up on it 12 months ago. But at least Toshiba's stand has brought the added benefit of a swivelling screen.
The TVs controls are located on the right hand side -- though they aren't marked on the front of the bezel. However, the hard-power switch is located on the opposite side, which could be confusing as it also isn't marked.
Toshiba's biggest drawcard for the 37WL68A is the new MetaBrain Pro 100Hz processing. What it does is smooth out juddering motion for more natural movement -- which is most effective on sport and NTSC content. Essentially, when MetaBrain is enabled, the TV adds frames when it detects "jerky" movement occurring and makes it smoother. This shouldn't work because adding frames -- such as with 3:2 pulldown -- is usually what causes judder problems. But it does.
Apart from the new MetaBrain Pro, the features list reads like the older TV: analog tuner, dual HDMI ports, and 8ms LCD panel. It would have been beneficial if a digital tuner was included in this device, but if you like that, there are other TVs in Toshiba's new range which include them.
Upon turning the TV on we were confronted with the setting we fondly know as "Shop Floor Lurid", and the picture was simply dreadful. There was a lack of detail, and everyone was pinker than an English backpacker at Bondi Beach. Accessing the menus to change this was a little confusing, as most options seem to have an OK sign next to them -- similar to an "ON" or "OFF". Looking at an option which says "Picture -> OK" doesn't inspire us to click on it to access the colour and contrast options, for example. However, after turning off all the unnecessary picture processing -- and believe us, there's a LOT of different options -- and calibrating the TV, using the Digital Video Essentials DVD, we finally had something to work with.
Popping the Mission Impossible III HD DVD in theand pressing the "go" button, we were greeted with a detailed and natural image. One of the most impressive things about the 37WL68A was its general lack of judder -- even with MetaBrain Pro turned off. Scenes such as the rooftop flyby in MI3 tend to perplex some of the best TVs -- even the Pioneer 5000EX which supposedly supports HD DVD's 24p natively -- so it was refreshing to see the Toshiba do so well. Where the Toshiba showed some weakness, however, was in that old LCD albatross -- ghosting. Quick movements during the same scene resulted in a ghosted image on leading edges.
Switch to King Kong on HD DVD and our well-worn DVD scenes exhibit so much more detail in a high-def format. It demonstrates that a TV such as this is sufficient to show the differences between the two disk-types -- even if it can't do 1080p.
Given that the Toshiba only has an analog tuner, as we remarked on its predecessor it's quite a capable one. Switch to an external set-top box though, such as the Topfield TF7000HT, and the Toshiba's deft abilities with standard definition are exhibited. Free-to-air looked very good, with very little noise, but seeing as how most daytime television is fairly bright and colourful it would flatter most televisions.
DVD watching was also very good. Blade II's murky scenes were rendered very faithfully, though turning the lights off did highlight the lack of true blacks. Also, the backlight shows its inconsistencies with a black backdrop, with some clouding. Watching in ambient light was fine, however.
The television also comes with a decent set of onboard speakers, and with the right soundtrack dialogue sounds crisp and clear -- particularly through DVDs and HD disks. Where the sound wasn't as pristine was on TV broadcasts where some of the dialogue tended to get muffled, but this may have to do with the quality of the source as well.
In conclusion, Samsung and Pioneer are on the cutting edge of television to our eyes, and unfortunately this leaves companies like Toshiba in a position of catch-up. Despite the price drop, the Toshiba REGZA 37WL68A doesn't add enough features or performance to warrant an essential upgrade. However, as a first TV it's a lot of screen for a relatively small outlay.