Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 47-inch 47TL515U, 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 32TL515U||32 inches|
|Toshiba 42TL515U||42 inches|
|Toshiba 47TL515U (reviewed)||47 inches|
|Toshiba 55TL515U||55 inches|
|Panel depth||1.4 inches||Bezel width||1.6 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
The squared-off, angular TL515U is understated yet sleek. The TV has a subtle two-tone finish on its medium-width bezel, with a glossy strip of black that offsets the matte, textured finish of the rest of the frame. The sides of the frame are made of chrome strips angled so they can catch reflections to either side--which might be distracting in some rooms. The stand pedestal has an angle pointing at the viewer, which allows the panel to swivel, and sits above a glass-topped base.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||9.2 x 2.1 inches||QWERTY keyboard||No|
|Illuminated keys||45||IR device control||Yes|
|Menu item explanations||No||Onscreen manual||No|
Toshiba's clicker is not our favorite. Its buttons are too numerous, packed-together and similar, while their angled transparent faces distort the already-small labels beneath, making them even more difficult to read. Worst of all, the keys around the central cursor group emit a loud click at every press--the only thing that could possibly make using an onscreen keyboard more annoying. On the plus side nearly every key is clearly illuminated, making it one of the better in-the-dark wands, and it can control three other pieces of AV gear via infrared, either directly or via pass-through (see below).
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, zero in-menu explanations, and confusing labels. Why do we need a separate Preferences menu, with all of seven setup options, in addition 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 TL515U. At least they won't be looking there for Netflix; a big red logo-infused key takes care of that.
The set also evinced some unusual quirks during normal use. For some reason it takes seemingly forever--about 33 seconds--to turn on from a cold start (other TVs in our experience take about 5 seconds). Browsing the menus and calling up different functions, for example changing picture modes, the screen would often black out for a second or two before coming back up.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit with local dimming|
|3D technology||Passive||3D glasses included||Four pairs|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||240Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: Additional passive glasses cost $60 for a 10-pack (FPT-P100UP); IR pass-through (with optional cable); Optional voice control module|
The TL515U's principal differentiator is passive 3D, enabled by the same Film Pattern Retarder technology used by LG and Vizio in models like the LW5600 series and XVT3D650SV. A polarizing film coating the TV screen allows each eye, gazing through special glasses, to view every other line to create the two images necessary for the 3D illusion.
Toshiba, which sells both active and passive 3D LCDs, calls its passive 3D technology "3D Natural." Both types of 3D TVs can handle any of the new 3D formats used by Blu-ray, TV broadcasts, and video games, and both require viewers to don 3D glasses, but each has its advantages and disadvantages. See our 3D TV FAQ for general information on active vs. passive and 3D in general, and the Performance section of this review for more the TL515U's 3D picture quality.
The biggest market advantage of passive 3D is inexpensive glasses. Toshiba packs four pairs in with the TL515U, and while it doesn't sell extras individually as of press time, you can opt for the ten-strong "party pack" ($60). Compatible circular polarized glasses are also available from online merchants, and if you swipe a pair of passive 3D glasses from your local theater, they should work too.
Aside from 3D the TL515U is well-equipped. It's the only Toshiba LCD to offer an edge-lit LED backlight with local dimming. The LEDs along the edge of the screen can be dimmed or brightened in sections according to program content. Toshiba told us that all sizes, including the 32-inch model, have 16 dimmable zones (if true, it means they all have four more zones than the LG 47LW5600). Contrast that with the 200+ zones on full-array local dimming TVs like the LG LX9500 series, for example, and you'll have some idea why the scheme is far from perfect. That said, it does improve black-level performance despite some trade-offs.
We appreciate that the TL515U 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. In the same vein it recommends purchasing any inexpensive IR blaster/emitter for use with the TV's IR pass-through feature, which allows the TV to pass remote control signals through to other gear--a nice extra if you want to stash your equipment out of sight.
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," etc. Pricing and availability for the device have not been determined.
|Streaming and apps|
|Amazon Instant||No||Hulu Plus||No|
|Other: Blockbuster, CinemaNow, 82 Yahoo widgets as of press time|
Toshiba's selection of video Apps outdoes that of Sharp and Philips, but falls short of the other major TV makers by missing Amazon and Hulu Plus. Audio is represented only by Pandora.
The main interface is called Net TV, and hitting the corresponding remote button shows all seven choices at once via 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 TL515U lacks a dedicated app store, but the presence of umpteen near-useless (and a few nearly useful) Yahoo Widgets should soften the blow. Among the latter class is Facebook, Twitter, and eBay along with the usual weather, sports, and news. Among the former are 12 games and 37 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.
We appreciated that Netflix and Vudu allows adjustment of most picture parameters, although fine color temperature is excluded.
|HDMI inputs||4||Component video inputs||1|
|Composite video input(s)||2||VGA-style PC input(s)||1|
|USB port||#TK back, #TK side||Ethernet (LAN) port||Y/N|
|Other: IR blaster port|
The selection here is perfectly fine, although, as with most thin TVs, you'll need to use the included breakout cables to connect analog video sources.
The Toshiba was a good performer overall, although a couple of flaws prevented it from standing among the best edge-lit LED-based LCDs we've tested. It's capable of deep black levels in dark scenes, but its overly-active backlight spoiled those blacks as scenes changed in brightness. Color fidelity also fell short of the better sets. On the other hand blooming was minimal, uniformity solid and video processing better than average. 3D picture quality was, as we saw on the other passive TVs we've reviewed, inferior to active in key ways, but should still be appealing to less discerning eyes (and people who want to save money on a family's worth of glasses).