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We generally like Toshiba TVs. They tend to offer decent value for money and rarely disappoint in terms of performance. Consequently, we were excited to see the company's new LED-edge-lit LCD TV, the 46-inch, 1080p Regza 46SL753B, which offers some superb features and a decent screen size for a pretty reasonable sum of money. It's available now for around £1,100.
We usually have a go at Panasonic for its dull designs, but it seems Toshiba needs a tongue-lashing as well. The 46SL753B isn't totally hideous, but it doesn't look especially inspired either. It's got a thick bezel, which makes it look cheaper than it should, and the LED edge lighting doesn't seem to have cut down the set's girth considerably either. It certainly isn't impressively thin.
Take a look at Samsung's TVs and you'll get a much better idea of what's possible when a set's showered with love and affection at the design stage. Does any of this matter, though? Not really, but, if you had the choice between a slim, sexy TV and a hulking great box of black plastic, which would you choose?
It's not just us saying this either. In recent polls, members of the public have indicated that the size and style of a TV is the number-one factor in their purchasing decision, ahead of even picture quality. Outrageous.
Dolby Volume reduces advert trauma
For some time now, advertisers have used the rather unpleasant trick of audio compression to make their messages appear louder than the programme you're watching. While this means their products get more attention, it can result in you jumping out of your seat and waking up everyone in the house with your shrieks. Dolby Volume is intended to help reduce the problems associated with such changes in volume by managing the output levels.
We like this feature. If it's doing its job correctly, you'll never notice it, because all sounds will be at the same level, from your Blu-ray movie to that ghastly shopping channel on Freeview. This feature should be included in every TV ever made, and we're very happy to see it included in the 46SL753B.
Toshiba claims the TV supports media playback from USB sticks and SD cards. But the support seems to be for audio and photos only -- we certainly couldn't get any of our usual test videos to work. With rivals such as Samsung and Sony offering MKV playback via external storage devices, we can't help but feel that Toshiba is lagging behind slightly.
Viewing photos is a pleasure, though. Although the TV doesn't show thumbnails as quickly as we'd like, the quality when they're displayed on-screen is stunning. If you were having a party, this would be a terrific way of inflicting your snaps on guests.
We like the inclusion of an 'autoview' mode that adjusts the TV's picture quality based on what you're watching and the environment the set is in. We used this feature a fair deal, and it gave us a pretty likeable overall image. For people not interested in calibrating their TV, we'd certainly say this is the mode to go for.
On the other hand, the TV's movie mode is less impressive. We usually rely on this option to get our high-definition movies looking like they do in the cinema. In this case, though, they tended to look too muted, spoiling Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It's far better to tweak the settings yourself, and we were happy with the TV's configuration options, which are numerous and comprehensive.
Blu-ray or the highway
This TV can do a great job with Blu-ray movies. Playing our favourite movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the colour was stunning, as was the detail. Things you would usually only notice at the cinema were visible, which is something we love. If HD gaming and Blu-ray playback is what you're after from your TV, this set has plenty to offer.
Like many new TVs, the 46SL753B includes a DVB-T2 tuner, which enables it to receive the HD channels that broadcast via Freeview. Currently there are three of these, namely BBC HD, ITV1 HD and 4HD. This summer, these will be joined by BBC One HD, which will offer a full-time HD version of the BBC's flagship channel.
Unlike most TVs with an integrated DVB-T2 tuner, the 46SL753B really didn't impress us with its Freeview HD picture quality. There didn't appear to be much extra detail in the pictures, and they looked pretty noisy overall. Indeed, Freeview HD channels didn't look much different to standard-definition channels on this TV, with only a modest increase in picture quality.
It's worth pointing out that the broadcasts could have been the problem, and not the TV. Certainly, its performance with Blu-ray content leads us to believe that this TV can do a very good job with HD material.
The 46SL753B also seemed to struggle slightly with standard-definition Freeview pictures. Everything looked fairly soft, which is less than desirable with video that hardly sparkles at the best of times. During The Weakest Link, we found that faces seemed virtually devoid of fine detail, and hair looked quite mushy too.
We wondered if it might be the MPEG noise reduction damaging the fine detail, so we turned it off, but we didn't find the resulting picture to be any more detailed. The sharpness control didn't improve the situation much either. On the plus side, though, images are bright and colourful, which some people will find very pleasing.
The 46SL753B's audio is, like that of most flat-screen TVs, not exactly the biggest treat you can give your ears. It's good enough for watching normal TV programs, although it sounds quite thin, with little bass. For the majority of people, it will be fine, but we beg you to use an external speaker system if you're thinking of watching movies.
Power down to save the planet
As with an increasing number of TVs, the 46SL753B has a proper power switch, which allows you to cut power to the TV each time you leave it alone. We like this feature, and the switch is easy to find -- it's located on the right-hand-side of the body -- so you're actually likely to make the effort to turn off the TV before you go to bed. This will lower your electricity bills, help to save the planet and make sure that you don't set fire to your lounge.
Although the Toshiba Regza 46SL753B does a great job with Blu-ray video, we weren't blown away by its Freeview HD performance. BBC HD looked less than perfect during our tests of some World Cup matches and other material looked much less impressive than it did on our reference TV, a 50-inch Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX5090. We were satisfied but not amazed by this set. We'd strongly urge you to see it in action before you lay down your hard-earned cash.
Edited by Charles Kloet