Dreaming big? If you want a large TV, you're most likely to think plasma, as they're generally cheaper than LCDs for the upper screen sizes. Toshiba would like to burst this bubble, as it doesn't make plasma TVs.
Instead, it has produced this massive Regza 52Z3030D, a 52-inch LCD TV with its high-end Z series LCD panel. What's more, if 52 inches doesn't satisfy your need for largess, it also comes in a 57-inch version. So can this £1,500 Tosh talk you into getting an LCD instead of a plasma?
For something so large, the Toshiba is surprisingly elegant. Finished in the usual reflective black plastic that is ubiquitous on TVs these days, it manages to look really smart. The only forseeable problem is its domination of any room in your humble abode. If you live in a house with high ceilings, you'll probably get away with it; try putting it in a little country cottage and it will take up the whole room.
We'll let you decide if it's too big for your place, but we'll warn you that with the stand included, this TV is 1,278 by 845 by 425mm. Get your tape measure out now, because you're going to want to be sure it will fit.
As you would expect, the Toshiba has all the inputs you're likely to need, including three HDMI sockets, a pair of Scart sockets and component, VGA and composite video in. Although these are ample offerings, we think Toshiba could have included an extra HDMI input, given that this TV is likely to be used by home cinema enthusiasts -- those with plenty of equipment to hook up.
The remote control is the same as the one that comes with all of Toshiba's recent TVs. It's slender, easy to hold and does a great job of commanding the TV. The buttons are reasonably easy to press and are located in a logical places. We would like to see Toshiba adding a backlight to its remotes, as it makes using them in darkened rooms easier.
Like so many LCD TVs, the 52Z3030D has to employ some fairly clever technologies to get blacks looking deep and rich. The Toshiba has a dynamic backlight system that is supposed to reduce the brightness of the light when the TV is displaying a picture with lots of dark areas. Generally, we turn this feature off. It can be distracting, mainly because during some scenes, the TV will suddenly decide to reduce the backlight, which means the picture will suddenly get noticeably dimmer. If you're trying to get better black levels, you'll have more luck just turning the backlight level down.
Because this TV is part of Toshiba's Z series, it has all the high-end picture processing, including 120Hz mode and 5:5 pulldown, a method of making motion appear less jerky, but without ruining the cinematic effect of a movie. With 5:5 pulldown, each frame of film -- there are 24 a second -- is shown five times.
HDMI CEC -- the system that allows you to control a DVD or Blu-ray player from the TV remote over the HDMI link -- is present and correct. We tried it out with two players -- a Sony BDP-S500 and a Toshiba HD-EP35 -- and discovered that while the TV was able to see the Sony player, controlling it from the remote wasn't possible. The HD DVD player, on the other hand, presented no such problems and controlling all of its main functions worked brilliantly. Looks like some work needs to be done improving compatibility with other brands here.
We'll be honest: when this TV arrived, we were certain it would be terrible at handling standard-definition pictures from Freeview. When we tuned it on, we were shocked to find SD was actually pretty good. We'd go so far as to say it was excellent. We have certainly seen much smaller TVs make much more of a mess of Freeview than this one did.
We plonked our much-cherished DVD copy of Blade in our Sony Blu-ray player to see how standard-definition discs looked. We were very impressed by the results. Although the quality was quite a long way off from HD, there was still plenty of detail, even in the dark opening scenes.
The next item on the menu was glorious 1080p video from a Blu-ray. We gave the Tosh a taste of Casino Royale; we like this film because the opening black and white scenes are full of grain, which contrasts brilliantly with the baby's bum-smooth titles. The 52Z3030D did a great job on both sections. The assassination of Dryden looked as gritty as it should, with lots of film noise, and the opening titles burst with colour, smooth motion and a total absence of grain or noise.
Games also looked great and we thoroughly enjoyed a session of Burnout Paradise. We'd urge caution, however: if you sit too close to the screen when playing this game, it's entirely possible you'll get motion sickness, because it can totally fill your field of vision.
Like all LCD TVs, the backlight washes out the black in dark scenes and turns it to a grey. We counter this by turning the backlight down to its minimum practical level. We did this with the 52Z3030D, and were satisfied with the results. The TV does wash out significantly more when you move to the left or right, so the ideal position to watch this TV is at 90 degrees
We really like the 52Z3030D: the picture quality is very good, sound is decent enough for casual viewing and even Freeview pictures look good. That said, for a TV that costs around £1,500, we think there are some better deals.
Take a look at the LG 50PG6000. While only being a 720p TV, it still offered brilliant picture quality for less that £1,000 and it will suit people who want a big screen. Of course, the LG doesn't have the sharpness and definition of the Tosh, but it's not far away. You could also look at the Pioneer PDP-508XD, which is also only 720p and costs around the same, but offers picture quality that is quite simply out of this world.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday