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Although the latest 1080p high-definition format is still relatively scarce and restricted to next-generation DVD players and games consoles, its arrival in entry-level LCDs is a sign of changing times.
At this price (listed at around £1,000) there are some compromises to connectivity and less advanced processing, but it's an ideal introduction if you want to explore the full potential of HD DVD and Blu-ray.
It's difficult not to feel slightly overwhelmed by the screen's imposing dimensions, which are exaggerated by a broad, piano-black surround and a substantial boomerang-shaped stand. It's certainly not inconspicuous and you'll need a large room if you don't want to live under an LCD shadow.
The screen is reasonably well assembled with a slim speaker system neatly integrated beneath the clean, glossy front panel. It looks luxurious from the front but the rear panel is cased in cut-price plastic, and the unsteady stand isn't the most supportive.
Primary controls are hidden away at the right side and can be used to adjust channels and volume or access the main menu system -- you can't tune channels without the tall, slender remote, though. There are also easy-access composite video and stereo audio inputs here, but outdated S-Video connections have been entirely ignored.
At first glance, the rear panel connections appear impressive, however the digital video connections, including two HDMI inputs, are awkwardly arranged across the underside, along with a CI Card slot and a PC input that supports WXGA signals. Elsewhere, there are two Scart terminals and progressive scan supporting component connections. Only one of the Scarts is RGB-enabled though, and another HDMI input wouldn't go amiss -- especially for a screen that seems so dedicated to high-definition.
There are several accompanying analogue audio connections and a digital audio output, as well as a rarely found subwoofer output that can be connected to an optional sub to enhance bass performance.
The screen's Full HD resolution (1,920x1,080 pixels) is compatible with all high-definition signals including the latest 1080p format used by next-generation DVD players and games consoles. Blu-ray and HD DVD movies can also be watched as they were intended using 24p scanning, which produces more realistic images without any audio distortion.
Otherwise, it's a relatively ordinary specification that includes integrated analogue and digital TV tuners supported by standard connectivity and entry-level picture processing. You'll have to spend more if you want the latest 100Hz technology and HDMI 1.3 connections featured in Toshiba's Z series models.
Freeview channels are automatically tuned the instant you turn the TV on for the first time. The opening digital menu system and overcrowded EPG are uninspired, with few frills, although they are accompanied by sound. By contrast, the crisp graphics used to present the compact setup menus appear far more attractive and attentive.
There's an extensive range of picture adjustments, which have your typical custom settings along with advanced controls for a variety of systems. These include noise reduction, black level enhancement and elaborate colour management options that even allow you to adjust the intensity of individual base colours. Not everyone is going to explore these in great detail and the differences to image quality are usually only subtle, but serious enthusiasts can fine tune to their heart's content.
Sound adjustments are equally impressive with extra curricular features such as a bass enhancer and a series of SRS WOW sound modes, including a virtual surround system, a dialogue enhancer and another bass mode -- all of which have a noticeable affect on sound performance.
Watching digital TV broadcasts may make you wonder what all the fuss is about -- this screen's standard-definition performance is distinctly average. The large screen exposes several flaws: unnatural colours, soft definition, speckled backgrounds and stuttered movement. None of these constraints are completely debilitating but we expected better.
Fortunately, high-definition performance is outstanding with both upscaled images and true HD content producing exceptional performance for the affordable price. Upgrading to 720p or 1080i upscaled images produces noticeably more detail and depth while colours appear more balanced and realistic. Challenging outdoor scenes, such as the complex landscapes featured in Lord of the Rings, are accurately defined and stable with less background noise -- although slow-moving camera pans still struggle to stay smooth.
Playing true high-definition pictures from Sky's HD service improves image quality even further. Watching Sky Sports HD programmes exposes the slightest (and often unattractive) intricacies in the studio pundits' faces with what seems like surreal detail. Slow movement shots -- such as in a football match when a long ball is launched across the screen -- are also impressively smooth and smear free.
The pinnacle of the screen's performance is reserved for playing 1080p high-definition images from next-generation players like Toshiba's own HD-XE1 HD DVD player. Precise detail and near-3D levels are accompanied by exceptionally cohesive movement and the complete absence of digital artefacts. Fast-moving scenes during Batman Returns, such as the Batmobile car chase, are wonderfully fluid and absorbing, and there's no loss of detail even during the gloomier moments.
Sound quality also deserves a mention for its commendable depth and authority, especially if you crank up the bass levels. Small integrated speakers usually struggle for the sort of impact that blockbusting films deserve but even at high volumes the sound is consistently dense and undaunted.
Toshiba's 42X3030D is really reserved for anyone that has their heart set on exploring high-definition, especially the latest 1080p format used by devices like Blu-ray and HD DVD players, and the PS3 games console.
Its affordable price means the design is slighted by average build quality, connectivity and underlying technology, but high-definition picture performance is really impressive and the sound is surprisingly good, too. If, however, high-definition isn't a priority, you can get better conventional performance elsewhere.
If you're looking for an alternative then Samsung's LE40F71 offers a similar specification for around the same money, while Sharp's LC42XD1E is a little more expensive but offers better all-round performance.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield