If you want to buy a large-screen television at the moment you may find yourself in something of a quandary. With all the talk of 'Full HD' you could be forgiven for thinking that you should wait and stump up the extra cash for a 1080p screen.
The problem is that not all screens are created equal. It's all well and good to point to a resolution and automatically assume that 1,920x1,080 pixels is better than 1,280x720 pixels, but it won't necessarily improve your viewing experience.
In fact, if you watch loads of Freeview and normal DVDs, that 'extra' resolution won't help you at all. On the face if it, the Toshiba Regza 42WLT68 looks as though it might not offer the best possible picture quality. It 'only' has a resolution of 1,280x720 pixels, which means you won't get the best out of Blu-ray, HD DVD or your PlayStation 3. The question is, can anyone actually tell the difference?
Generally the styling of the WLT68 is very impressive. It's finished in piano black, which is attractively shiny but not so reflective it's distracting. The plastic that surrounds the screen is around 3cm thick, so it doesn't feel overly plastic.
Like the other screens in the WLT68 range, the televisions sits on a claw-like stand, which is a silver colour. We aren't crazy about the styling of this pedestal -- a smaller, understated stand would be far more in-keeping with the rest of the set.
To the rear of the set are two HDMI connectors, two Scart inputs -- one of which is RGB enabled -- and component video in. There's also a sub-woofer output and inputs for audio -- including analogue HDMI inputs, should you need them.
The 42WLT68 also features Toshiba's 100Hz technology, known as Active Vision M100. This system is designed to reduce the judder and ghosting often found on LCD screens. What it does is interpolate between images sent over the air, and effectively guesses what picture might happen between two frames. This enables it to smooth out the motion and although it's a bit of a cheat it does seem to make everything look more natural and fluid.
We're pleased to see Toshiba has included three HDMI sockets again. This is standard on the WLT68 range, and we really think it's the future. With consoles, next-generation DVD players and media centres becoming more popular the number of sockets needed to connect stuff will increase.
If you own a media centre, or are looking to plug your PC or Xbox 360 into this screen with a VGA connector, the good news is the TV can support WXGA, which will give you a 1,280x768-pixel picture. Hooking up a laptop to the screen, we were impressed with the clarity of the PC input.
For picture adjustment, the usual range of colour and backlight options are on offer. There is also an MPEG NR mode, which is designed to remove compression artefacts from DVD and Freeview pictures. Backlight control also claims to offer better contrast in general. We found that pictures had great colour range and did look very decent from all sources, even Freeview.
The menus on the 42WLT68 are as simple and easy to navigate as we've come to expect from Toshiba. The menus are clear and pleasant to look at and adjusting the settings is done in a way that doesn't obscure the picture, very handy if you want to fiddle about with picture settings while watching some test footage.
We hooked up the office PlayStation 3 to the 42WLT68 and had a very good time indeed. There was no motion blur on any of the games we played -- everything looked sharp and fluid.
Hi-def material was excellent too: we watched some Blu-ray material including the ever popular Black Hawk Down, which looked every bit as gritty as it should. We opted to let the TV down-covert from 1080p, and the results were excellent. A quick viewing of the Click trailer on our copy of Talladega Nights confirmed that the picture quality can be very impressive indeed.
Our Blu-ray copy of Casino Royale was also a stunner. The picture quality on this AVC-encoded disc was a brilliant showcase of what high definition can be. The black and white scenes at the start of the movie are very grainy, but this is a mood-creating device from the filmmakers rather than a failure of the television. The rest of the film is clear and exceptionally good quality, and had us on the edge of our swivel chairs.
Standard definition was decent enough. We're big fans of the 100Hz technology that Toshiba uses to improve standard-definition TV, but at 42 inches this televisions is pushing Freeview well beyond its optimal screen size. What this means is you'll see lots of picture problems when watching terrestrial channels.
Sound quality was actually very good, although the speakers are relatively small, there was enough bass during the action scenes of Casino Royale to make us sit up. With the optional subwoofer, this would sound even more impressive. The only criticism of the sound is that by default the bass setting is quite high, and this tends to drown out speech quite badly at times. This is easily adjusted through the menu system though.
We've seen good 720p screens and some bad 1080p ones. Despite its comparatively low resolution, the Toshiba Regza 42WLT68 is a good, solid HD Ready screen. Unless you want to boast the pixel resolution among friends, you'll probably never notice it doesn't do 1080p.
The 42-inch screen size means that Freeview pictures can look pretty ropey, but that said, upscaled DVD looks great. This means you'll be able to enjoy your existing film collection for some considerable time to come while still getting the benefit of an HD Ready TV.
If your main source of entertainment is Freeview, you might want to consider a smaller television. That said, the Toshiba does its level best to make the pictures from Freeview as good as they can possibly be, and viewed at a sensible distance away, the quality is decent enough for all but the most fussy viewer.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide