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Toshiba's first passive 3D TV: A decent set with very bad sound

Consumer Reports News: October 21, 2011 08:08 AM

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Like LG and Vizio, Toshiba is now offering passive 3D LCD TVs, which can be used with inexpensive polarized glasses like the ones you get in movie theaters. The main benefits to this technology are the comfort of the 3D glasses, less ghosting than on many active LCD 3D models, and a generally brighter picture. In our newest TV Ratings (available to subscribers), we thoroughly tested the first passive 3D TV we've seen from Toshiba, the 47-inch 47TL515U. Unfortunately, this TV lagged in the Ratings—it had the lowest overall score of any tested 3D LCD model.

In addition to 3D, this TV has a lot of features, including an energy-efficient edge LED backlight, 240Hz technology to reduce motion blur, and built-in Wi-Fi with access to online content, including streaming movies and/or TV shows from Blockbuster, CinemaNow, Netflix, and Vudu. Like most other 3D models, this set includes a 2D-to-3D conversion feature for adding 3D effects to regular 2D content. It comes with four sets of polarized glasses.

We weren't thrilled about this Toshiba TV's 3D and sound: In the 3D mode, the TV did OK, although its overall performance was a notch below the better current-generation sets. And while this set had effect depth with little ghosting and a pleasingly bright picture, like other passive sets it lost half its vertical resolution. But we found the effects of this loss of resolution—course, limited image detail and significant jaggies and moire on fine detail—were more pronounced on this set than they have been on passive 3D models we've tested from other manufacturers.

Where this set really fell down was in sound quality, which as with some other Toshiba sets, was among the worst of any TVs in the Ratings. Our reviewers likened its sound to an AM radio, with no bass and limited tonal and volume range. As a result, if you're considering this TV, we strongly recommend pairing it with an external sound system, such as a sound bar speaker.

There were also some things we liked about the Toshiba set, including very good overall picture quality, although black levels were only fair. And unlike many LCD TVs, this one has a fairly wide viewing angle, so even those viewing the TV from off to the side of a room get a decent picture. For those who might considering using this TV in a bright room, its matte screen finish did a great job minimizing reflections.

If you're looking for a budget-priced big-screen TV, the latest TV Ratings also include a new 55-inch LCD TV from Sanyo (DP55441), a brand sold at Walmart, and a 55-inch Insignia LCD model (NS-55L780A12), from Best Buy's house brand. There are also new LCD TVs from JVC, Panasonic, Philips, and Samsung.

For those looking for something a bit different, we also tested a uniquely styled 27-inch TV/monitor combo from Samsung (T27A950). In addition to 120Hz technology and the ability to access online content, including streaming movies and TV shows, this model is 3D-capable, making it the smallest set with that feature we've tested.

If you haven't checked out our TV Ratings recently, you'll found that we've greatly expanded the amount of information we provide for each model, including an enhanced Detailed Test Results section that provides greater insight into how well—or badly—each model performed in a number of key categories.

James K. Willcox

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