The ability to stream Netflix and other Internet sources, as well as the thin profile imparted by its edge-lit LED backlight, mark the Toshiba SL417U as a midrange HDTV these days. In its favor this set demands relatively little cash for those extras, and built-in Wi-Fi gives it a leg up on some of the competition. It does sacrifice picture quality in many categories, however, with variable black levels and less impressive color. That said, for less critical viewers who want the convenience of online extras built in, the SL417U is a solid bargain.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 46-inch Toshiba 46SL417U, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|Models in series (details)|
|Toshiba 42SL417U||42 inches|
|Toshiba 46SL417U (reviewed)||46 inches|
|Toshiba 55SL417U||55 inches|
|Panel depth||1.17 inches||Bezel width||1 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
Severe, angular minimalism is the name of the SL417U's game. Its inch-thin panel is complemented by an inch-narrow bezel around the screen colored the standard glossy black. The only front-facing nods to flair are the subtle gray fade along the thicker bottom edge of the panel, the three-sided stand stalk, and the glass-topped base. The sides of the frame are composed of chrome strips angled so that they can catch reflections to either side--happily they're invisible from the front. The TV does little else to stand out in a room, but many people (including us) consider that a good thing.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||9.2x2.1 inches||QWERTY keyboard||No|
|Illuminated keys||0||IR device control||Yes|
|Menu item explanations||No||Onscreen manual||No|
Although we like it better than the clicker included with the TL515U, this remote is still among our least favorite of 2011. The buttons are too numerous and similar, and the lack of backlighting is a hindrance in dark rooms. On the plus side, there are dedicated different-colored buttons for Netflix and Yahoo widgets, and the remote can control three other pieces of AV gear via infrared.
Hitting the menu button brings up an attractive two-tiered arch of icons, but the many settings choices quickly become confusing. Submenus are plagued by too much nesting, confusing labels, and zero in-menu explanations. Why do we need a separate Preferences menu, with all of seven setup options, in addition to a Settings menu? The Quick menu with direct links to picture, sound, and 3D settings helps a bit, but lack of an onscreen manual does not--we predict many users will have to resort to the online PDF manual to get a handle on the SL417U.
Like the TL515U, our SL417U review sample also took seemingly forever--about 22 seconds--to turn on from a cold start (other TVs in our experience take about 5 seconds; the TL515U actually took even longer at 33).
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: Optional voice control module|
This set lacks the 3D compatibility, local dimming backlight, 240Hz refresh rate, and IR pass-through of the step-up TL515U, making it a fairly standard midrange LED TV. We appreciate that the SL471U includes built-in Wi-Fi, which saves the cost of buying a dongle or using an alternative. Instead of selling a proprietary Skype camera for use with the TV, Toshiba simply recommends getting any Skype-certified camera.
Toshiba will sell a "voice control peripheral" that consists of a USB receiver that plugs into one of the USB ports, as well as a voice recorder--a little black box that sits on your coffee table. According to the company, "the user claps to enable voice control and then speaks various commands like 'volume up,' 'channel 55,' 'channel down,'" and so on. Pricing and availability for the device have not been determined.
|Streaming and apps|
|Amazon Instant||No||Hulu Plus||No|
|Other: Blockbuster, CinemaNow, 93 Yahoo widgets as of press time|
Toshiba's selection of video Apps outdoes those of Sharp and Philips, but falls short of the other major TV makers' offerings by skipping Amazon Instant and Hulu Plus. Audio is represented only by Pandora. Check out our comparison for more details.
The main interface is called Net TV, and hitting the corresponding remote button shows seven choices at once in an easy-to-grok semicircle with nice big icons--although we didn't appreciate the somewhat sluggish progression from one to the next. Netflix gets the new interface, with search, YouTube uses the "lean back" GUI Google developed, and navigating the services was snappy enough.
Unlike some other TVs the SL471U lacks a dedicated app store, but the presence of umpteen near-useless (and a few nearly useful) Yahoo Widgets should soften the blow. In the latter class are Yahoo Fantasy Football, Facebook, Twitter, and eBay along with the usual weather, sports and news. Among the former are 12 games and 32 local TV stations' widgets--with no easy way to sort through them to find one that might represent your locality.
|Adjustable picture modes||6||Fine dejudder control||No|
|Color temperature presets||10||Fine color temperature control||2 points|
|Gamma presets||30||Color management system||Yes|
Nothing major goes missing here, although the Toshiba lacks the 10-point grayscale and fine dejudder adjustments of LG and Samsung. While there is a CMS, it caused more problems than it fixed, so we didn't use it. Toshiba provides two Movie presets, which is great for tweakers who want to set up for two different lighting conditions, for example.