Toshiba Regza 47VL863 passive 3D TV
Telly that works with 3D glasses from the cinema
Review Although ostensibly an aperitif to Toshiba’s incoming flagship LED TV models, this modestly priced 47-incher is a headline maker in its own right. Not only is it the first flatscreen from the brand to offer access to the newly-opened Toshiba Places portal, it’s also Toshiba's first passive 3D panel.
The 47VL863 sells for around £899, but doesn’t look cheap. Riffing on Toshiba’s high-end Jacob Jensen designed sets from last year, it sports a textured bezel and has a stylish tapered edge. Connectivity is good, although the super-thin nature of the set dictates that input-adaptors (supplied) are required for component video, PC and Scart connections. There are four HDMIs available, plus two side-mounted USBs.
The 47VL863 has two digital tuners, one for Freeview HD and the other for DVB-S2 satellite. While lacking the cosy set-dressing of the Freesat brand, this will still deliver plenty of SD and HD channels if you hook the F-connector up to an unused Sky dish feed.
Plenty of ports, but some need adaptors - fortunately bundled
Naturally, the 47VL863 streams media from connected USB devices or across the network, but it flounders when it comes to file support. MKV, AVI and MOV are unplayable on a LAN, while audio file support is limited to MP3s. Album art is not displayed.
But the TV is more accommodating when it comes to USB. I managed to unspool MKV, AVI and MPEG files from a stick. Music compatibility on USB extends to AAC, but there’s still no cover art.
Pumps out a decent sound in spite of its skinny speakers
The TV’s audio quality is reasonable, given the physical constraints on its speakers. The set incorporates an Audssey equaliser to thicken the stereo spread, while Dolby Volume is on hand to even out volume differences between programmes and adverts.
Toshiba has high hopes for its new online portal, and I can see why. Rather than just throw open the doors to yet another app store, the brand has created a social hub (of sorts) that links devices. The presentation is slick, although predictably there’s a fair degree of roughness beneath the gloss.
Toshiba Places shows promise but needs more work
For example, within the Video area you’ll find both free - You Tube, BBC iPlayer, Daily Motion - and pay/subscribe - Woomi, Viewster, Box Office 365, Cartoon Network, Hit Entertainment - IPTV services. However, select either YouTube or BBC iPlayer you’re effectively told to sling your hook and go look for them elsewhere in the menus.
The user experience clearly needs some work.
The TV's own UI is smart
The cross-platform execution of Toshiba Places is equally clunky. Visit Toshiba Places on a computer and you’ll end up in an e-shop. Not quite the integration I was expecting. Hopefully it will improve; the premise of Places has bags of potential.
Ultimately, where this set really shines is high definition picture quality. The 47RL863 offers deep blacks and enticing shadow detail, plus colours that pop like space dust. Admittedly reds veer toward orange but they can be tamed if you delve into the Expert settings, where you can manually calibrate colour and gamma. The sheer depth of picture parameter control offered by this screen is nothing short of astonishing.
The set scores equally high marks for motion resolution and panning smoothness, thanks to its 200Hz frame interpolation technology, here branded Active Motion. This comes in two flavours: Standard and Smooth. The former improves horizontal panning, while the latter also aids vertical smoothness.
With Active Motion off, the resolution of the 47VL863 panel is around 800-850 lines (measured at 6.5ppf). This doesn’t actually change when you power up AM processing, unless you also alter the Motion Detection range (a separate control) to Wide. At this point, motion picture resolution snaps to 1080 lines. Motion artefacts are negligible, which is good news for sports enthusiasts.
The Toshiba comes with four pairs of low, low-cost RealD 3D glasses - get more from local cinema
The set’s 3D performance is surprisingly effective. Despite passive’s resolution limitations - you only get half the vertical res of whatever you put in, and there’s a very evident CRT-like line structure to 3D images - the end result is undeniably effective.
Positive depth is pronounced and images are bright. Unlike active shutter specs, polarising glasses don’t fritter away luminance and aren’t subject to flickering. Four pairs of RealD glasses are included in the box.
Perhaps the most significant difference between active shutter and passive technology is viewing angle. While the 47VL863’s images are largely crosstalk free when viewed head-on, the stereo image separates like two-ply when you move vertically out of the sweet spot. Think about this carefully when it comes to placement.
The 47VL863 may not hit every ball out of the park - its media streaming capabilities are basic, and Toshiba Places needs work - but its HD picture quality and family friendly 3D tech make this a genuine mid-range contender. Well worth auditioning. ®
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