When you're looking around for a new television, it's a little too easy to be think you'll only get good high-definition performance from the latest 1080p screens. Buying a top-of-the-range screen will, of course, offer great performance but it's not the only option for great-looking pictures.
The Toshiba Regza 37WLT68 isn't the highest-specified television on paper, but in practice, it's a superb all-rounder. It also offers a great selection of inputs, and Freeview performance that will please most eyes.
While it hasn't got a 1080p panel, it will downscale video from any high-definition source, including 1080p, and display in its native 720p resolution, with excellent results. The good news is that, as a slightly lower resolution screen, it's much cheaper than the latest 'Full HD' models -- under £900 online -- so you'll have some spare cash to spend on high-definition material to watch on it.
The WLT68 series has a slightly different styling to the WLT66, with the former being mounted on a claw-like rotating pedestal. The TV is finished in a combination of piano black and silver. The speaker is hidden beneath the screen, which keeps the TV looking sleek and stylish.
The connectivity of this set really is second to none at this price. There are three HDMI sockets, two Scart inputs, component video in and an analogue RGB PC input. There are also audio inputs for the component and RGB/HDMI connections. This is useful for hooking up a media centre PC to the TV. Digital audio out via an optical connector is also provided, although this only works while you're watching digital television.
The Toshiba also features a third HDMI input at the right-hand side of the screen, as well as an extra composite and S-Video input. Side HDMI is very useful for hooking up a games console and saves scrabbling around the back of the television.
The remote control is similar to many of the other Toshiba televisions in the WLT66 and WLT68 ranges. It can take a while for the TV to respond when you press a button, which can be annoying, but after a while you stop trying to push the buttons loads of times and wait for the TV to do its thing.
The Toshiba Regza 37WLT68 supports every video resolution up to 1080p via the HDMI sockets. The panel itself is only capable of displaying 1,366x768-pixel resolution though. This means that any 1080p signals you feed it will be downscaled before they're displayed. This is still good, and the better the signal you give this TV, the better it will look.
The 37WLT68 also features a significant improvement in standard-definition pictures. It uses a technology Toshiba calls Active Vision M100. This works by taking TV pictures that are usually displayed at a rate of 50 times per second (50Hz) and resampling them so they're shown at a rate of 100 times per second (100Hz). The result of this is that motion looks much more natural, and the blur that blights some LCD televisions is greatly reduced. There's no arguing this screen has some of the best standard-definition performance we've seen outside of Sony's excellent Bravia range.
If you're intending to use a PC with this television, remember the panel resolution isn't supported by every computer. If your graphics card doesn't support the exact resolution it may be that updating the drivers will help, or you could use a piece of software called PowerStrip, which allows you to manually adjust the output of your computer.
The most striking thing about the Regza 37WLT68 is the Freeview picture quality. We've often been disappointed by the quality of standard-definition material on high-definition screens. This set, however, produces one of the best Freeview pictures we've seen. Most noticeable is the lack of motion blur often found on LCD screens. The picture is also surprisingly sharp and colourful. If you still watch plenty of standard-definition material, this is very likely to be of interest to you.
Watching The Big Lebowski on DVD upscaled by a Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player we were very impressed by the picture quality. There was some grain evident but on the whole, the picture was sharp and easy to watch.
On the downside, the viewing angle isn't the best we've ever seen. Moving to the left or right of the screen washes the picture out slightly and decreases the realism of blacks in the image. Sitting within the 'sweet spot' directly in front will give you the optimum picture and deepest blacks.
We certainly loved the high-definition performance of this set. We used the Toshiba HD-E1 HD DVD player and some of our favourite test movies to get a feel for the performance of this television. Everything looked good. We found Happy Gilmore to be full of colour, and the image was pretty much judder-free. Serenity was, as always, a great overall test of the screen. Black plays a huge part in this film so we were pleased to see that the 37WLT68 showed space in its inky black glory.
The sound performance of the set was slightly better than average. We could hear dialogue with little or no problem, but the bass was weak and so watching movies on this television would probably call for an external sound amplifier if you want to be totally immersed in the experience. Toshiba is clearly aware of this, as it has provide a connection for adding a subwoofer should you want to shake your walls a bit more.
Everything we fed this television looked great on-screen. Freeview performance was very good indeed, DVDs looked sharp and colourful and high-definition material from our HD DVD and Blu-ray players was superb.
While there are some excellent televisions around the £1,000 price point, it's hard to think of many that perform as well on every type of material. And with LCDs it's hard to think of many screens that do such a good job with standard-definition material. Not only is the picture quality excellent, the wide range of inputs this set offers will certainly keep you happy -- unless you have more gear than a branch of Maplins.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide