Build Quality and DesignWe were initially impressed when we first unpacked the VL863. Toshiba has replaced the older glossy black plastic with a matte finish for both the frame and the display itself, and the new design looks great.
On the inside, there's a motion interpolation filter running at 100 Hz, support for the DLNA 1.5 and HbbTV standards and multimedia features available via USB and UPnP. Disappointingly, while the media player software looks like the tool found on the Toshiba Places external media player, the video decoding hardware seems to have been changed. During our tests, it could only handle a very small sample of our video files: we could only play MTS files encoded using AVC, which was very frustrating.
The on screen menu won us over with a wide range of options and the Toshiba Places option, and the interface itself is very responsive. The selection of VOD apps depends on where you buy the TV, but none of the ones we tried offered HD video. The shiny interface leaves users expecting a rich selection of content, but it doesn't take long to flip through everything.
Toshiba has updated the design of its remote control. The new look is eye-catching, but it isn't all that handy given how close the individual buttons are to one another than their small size. None of the buttons have backlighting, either.
Matte finish doesn't suffer from reflections
Ghosting and Input Lag
Let's get on with the tests proper. The VLD863 has an IPS panel that has an average ghosting time similar to the one we found on the LG LW450U or the Philips PFL7606H, meaning you can expect the previous frame to remain visible for around 21 ms, leading to some noticeable ghosting when you're watching a film. As well as having more ghosting than average, there's also an input lag of around 66 ms, the equivalent of four whole frames. We can't recommend it for gamers with a performance like that.
Image QualityWe weren't surprised to find that the default settings produced a very striking, eye-catching picture, which is normal for most televisions. We can only suggest you switch to the 'Hollywood Pro' mode as soon as you can, which has a much more natural picture. It might seem to have a yellow tinge when you first activate it, but that's a result of the excess blue produced by the factory settings; it will your eyes a little while to get used to the more natural results.
Colour handling in Hollywood Pro mode: average deltaE: 2.2
The contrast ratio in Hollywood Pro is too weak at just 635:1
That said, the VL863 has a big problem with contrast. With blacks of 0.31 cd/m² against whites of 200 cd/m², it's easy to spot why the ratio is just 635:1. When you're watching a widescreen movie that's been letterboxed, the black bands above and below the picture will look grey. That's doubly disappointing when you consider that the majority of TVs we test reach an average of over 2000:1.
To top it all off, the gamma curve isn't very well-balanced, with light areas looking a little too pale.
If you give the VL863 SD content, it will handle the upscaling, but a DVD player will do a much better job. Native HD content looks great, but that's hardly an achievement given the display's native resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.
Finally, the Active Vision M400 filter does a good job of improving how fast-moving images are depicted and helps eliminate ghosting in films. Don't attempt to turn it up too far though, as beyond 'Standard' mode, unwanted artefacts can creep in and a flickery 'camcorder-style' effect becomes visible.
CloudingYou might think that with such a mediocre contrast ratio the screen wouldn't suffer from any clouding, but that's unfortunately not true. You can see the LEDs shining through in the corners of the display, which is another irritation when watching a widescreen movie.
Image Quality: 3DLike most manufacturers, Toshiba has decided to include a filter that converts 2D video to 3D on the fly. As much as that sounds like a great idea, it's rarely a particularly enjoyable experience. Once you've tried it a couple of times, we're pretty sure you'll give it up.
If you've got your own native 3D content, like a Blu-ray 3D disc, a game or access to 3D TV broadcasts, then the results are amazing, with a real sense of depth of field and the impression that objects are leaping out of the screen. Better still, passive 3D technology produces comfortable 3D viewing without causing eyestrain. Things aren't quite perfect though, as a small amount of crosstalk, or interference between the signals for the left and right eye, remains visible.
Here's what we saw through the glasses (Toshiba 47VL863 above, Philips 42PFL7606H below):
Audio QualityIt's hard to produce a lot of noise with a case that's just 4 cm thick and the VL863 is no exception to the rule. Overall, the audio it produces lacks detail and clarity, and the bass is particularly absent. If you want to really get involved with your favourite film, then a 5.1 speaker set or a sound bar is a worthwhile investment.
Energy ConsumptionThe audio quality could definitely be improved then, but that's not something we would say about the VL863's energy efficiency. We measured energy consumption of just 110 W on this 47'' version. Things are even more impressive when it's on standby, when it can get by with less than 1 W.
- Top quality 3D display
- Lightweight 3D glasses are comfortable to wear / Accurate colour reproduction (deltaE: 2.2)
- Attractive design with matte finish that doesn't pick up too many reflections
- Low energy consumption: 110 W
- Not much crosstalk and less eyestrain than with active 3D technology
- Low contrast ratio: 635:1
- Media player doesn't support enough video formats
- Lots of input lag: 66 ms or four whole frames
The Toshiba VL863 is a perfectly decent passive 3D TV. The new matte design looks great and it does a good job of reproducing colours. It could have set its sights on a four-star rating if it hadn't been for a disastrous contrast ratio of just 635:1!