During the last year flat-panel HDTV prices seemed to hit a plateau, where the standard bricklike downward trend leveled off somewhat. Now, however, prices are on the decline again, opening up bigger screen sizes to lower price ranges. For example, Toshiba's lowest-priced 1080p 42-inch LCD, the 42RV530U, can be purchased on the Internet for a little more than $1,000. While it won't match quite the price-to-performance ratio of some of cheaper 42-inch plasmas, such as the Panasonic TH-42PX80U and the Vizio VP422, the 42RV530U still delivers one of the best values we've seen among high-resolution LCDs.
The 42RV530U looks like your basic flat-panel display, with a glossy black bezel about two inches wide on the top, left, and right sides, and somewhat larger on the bottom below the screen. A metallic gray finish is more prominent on the bottom edge of the bezel than the top and sides, providing a mild two-tone look. The speakers are located below the screen, which keeps the overall width of the set to a minimum. This compact panel measures 39.8 inches wide by 27.3 inches tall by 12.1 inches deep and weighs 48.4 pounds including the swivel stand. Without the stand, it measures 39.8 inches wide by 25.5 inches tall by 3.7 inches deep.
The remote control and internal menu system are both unchanged from last year's Regza line. The clicker is a bit cluttered with too many like-size keys, and I was disappointed to find that it is not backlit or even illuminated for use in dark environments.
As do most LCD HDTVs available in 2008, the 42RV530U has a native resolution of 1080p. However, at this screen size it's very difficult to tell the difference between 1080p and lower resolutions.
The 42RV530U has a solid selection of picture setup features considering its price. Preset modes include Sports, Standard, Movie, PC, and Preference, but only the last mode is adjustable. Once you choose a mode and then make changes to any of the picture parameters, the mode automatically changes to Preference, which is fortunately independent per input. There are three selectable color temperatures: Warm, Medium, and Cool. Blue Drive and Green Drive are the only color temperature tweaks controls in the user menu, but they do help improve the grayscale beyond the presets. See Performance for more details.
Toshiba labels its Color Management System with the evocative title Color Master. If you turn it on and select Color Palette, you can make adjustments for all six colors, but as with most CMS systems, I found its usefulness quite limited. It really only works to make slight improvements in the color decoding, rather than correcting the inaccurate primary and secondary color points, which is what it should do.
Under the Theater Settings menu, a setting called Cinema Mode should be set to Film for proper 2:3 pull-down detection with film-based formats like standard-definition DVDs, and some cable and satellite programming. Also, a Theater Lock feature lets you lock your settings so that no one can change them.
As I expected from a 1080p HDTV, the 42RV530U offers an aspect ratio mode, dubbed Native, that's designed to show every pixel of 1080i and 1080p sources without scaling or overscan. You should use this mode unless you see interference along the extreme edges of the display. The set lacks a power saver function for use when the picture is turned on, although there is a toggle between Power Save and Fast turn-on that affects standby power consumption. The former uses less than 1 watt in standby, while the latter sucks down 17.8 watts when the TV is turned off, just to save a couple seconds of warmup time. Fortunately, Toshiba made Power Save the default. Check out the Juice Box for more information.
Connection options are quite generous for a set in this price range. Three HDMI inputs are on tap on the back panel, with a fourth available on the side. There are also two component video inputs, one set of AV inputs with S-Video or Composite video, a 15-pin VGA input for PC hookup, an optical digital audio output for routing off-air HD soundtracks to an AV receiver, and a set of fixed analog audio outputs. In addition to the fourth HDMI jack, the side panel has a set of AV inputs with composite video.
The overall picture quality of the Toshiba 42RV530U is commendable for the price. Black level performance and screen uniformity were pleasant surprises a low-cost LCD, but color fidelity and accuracy are another story. Color decoding is not accurate, and the Color Palette adjustments don't quite work it out, although we were able to make improvements to color temperature via the user-menu tweaks. Check out our complete picture settings for details.
Black level: The 42RV530U performed well in this category. Chapters 3 and 4 of I am Legend on Blu-ray both provide some good dark scenes to analyze blacks. The shot zooming in on the bathtub where Will and his dog are sleeping, for example, is a low light shot with a lot of subtle shadow detail, all of which was easily visible on this Toshiba LCD. Chapter 12 of 2001: A Space Odyssey, another dark scene, starts with a small craft coming out of space directly at you, with a barely lit-up surface of a planet beneath the ship. In this scene, blacks were deep and rich, and shadow detail was really good. However, there were some slightly visible false contouring artifacts in the darkest scenes, indicating a processing problem.
Color accuracy: Here's where the Toshiba dropped the ball. On a positive note, I got a reasonably accurate grayscale using only the User controls in the Advanced menu, but skin tones still looked a little on the orange side. While I was able to improve the color decoding with the Color Management System, or what Toshiba calls their Color Master feature, I was not able to make it totally accurate. As is the case with most inexpensive flat panels sets these days, the primary and secondary colors are also both way off the mark. This, combined with poor color decoding makes for somewhat bizarre, unnatural looking color all around. When compared with the Westinghouse VK40F580D LCD and the Vizio VP422 42-inch plasma, skin tones on both Blu-ray movies, and DirecTV satellite channels looked orange on this set.
Video processing: The 42RV530U's processing is pretty good for an inexpensive 42-inch LCD. It passed both the Video and Film Resolution Loss tests on the excellent Silicon Optix Blu-ray test disc. The SMPTE 133 pattern indicated that it deinterlaces 1080i correctly, preserving the all of the resolution in that signal. As noted above, I did encounter some false contouring artifacts in the darkest scenes of the material I watched. These types of artifacts were quite common in earlier years even on expensive flat panels. In fairness to Toshiba, I did not find them to be prominent enough to be overly concerned.
Uniformity: White field uniformity is a definite issue for all LCD-based displays. It is a factor of how the technology works that makes it more of a visible artifact than with plasma. The 42RV530U is actually really impressive in this particular performance parameter. At the very beginning of Chapter 27 of I Am Legend, there is a full white field displayed for about 2 to 3 seconds. This shot looked extremely uniform for an LCD panel. I didn't see any of the characteristic red or blue splotches in the left and right areas of the screen, which is very good for an LCD.
Standard definition: The 42RV530U turned in a below-average performance with lower-quality sources. In its favor, the set passed every line of the DVD format, and details in the grass and the stone bridge appeared as sharp as we expected. When fed video-based jaggies tests, however, the Toshiba didn't remove any of the rough edges from the moving diagonal lines or from the stripes of a waving American flag. Also, the set's noise reduction didn't show as much difference as we expected in low-quality shots of skies and sunsets, although there was a bit of improvement in the highest setting. The Toshiba passed the 2:3 pull-down test.
PC: We first tested the Toshiba's PC prowess via HDMI, and when we selected the PC picture mode and sent it a 1,920x1,080 signal, it performed perfectly, as we expect from every 1080p flat-panel. Via VGA, as the manual states, the maximum resolution is 1,280x1,024 pixels, which as expected looked quite soft when expended to fill the screen. The image became sharper when we selected the "Native' aspect ratio mode, since it called that resolution on a pixel-by-pixel basis, but of course there were black bars on all four sides of the PC desktop. In short, as with most HDTVs, going digital is the best choice.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7550/7150||Poor|
|After color temp||6825/6590||Average|
|Before grayscale variation||725K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||163K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.627/0.323||Average|
|Color of green||0.262/0.577||Average|
|Color of blue||0.146/0.057||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
|Toshiba 42RV530U||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||218.08||114.68||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.29||0.15||N/A|
|Cost per year||$67.86||$35.85||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Average|