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Toshiba 52HM84 Review

Highs

  • Plenty of inputs; gorgeous picture; will last for many years

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 5

Lows

  • Expensive; some might prefer an integrated ATSC tuner
In many ways the 52HM84 is superior to its competitors in both design and function.

Summary

In conclusion, Toshiba’s TheaterWideHD 52HM84 combined with the RCA’s DTC-210 DirecTV HD Receiver produced and reproduced the some of the best regular over-the-air HD, Satellite, Satellite HD, and DVD signals possible.  This is a set that has to be seen in all its glory to be fully appreciated.   In many ways the 52HM84 is superior to its competitors in both design and function.  Here is a television with the capability of showing each type of signal in the best possible way.  While it’s somewhat pricey, it produces some of the best images on the planet!  And, as the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”

Since the 52HM84 is a HD capable television with all of the right connectors (including HDMI), you’re set for many years to come.  And, you don’t have to pay extra for an integrated HD tuner.  It gives you the choice of going either to HD satellite or Digital Cable to receive those pristine high-definition signals.  So, get comfortable.  You’ll be receiving and watching the most pristine and compelling HDTV signals on this or any other planet!  Clearly, it’s your new window onto the world, and just the ticket for watching your favorite TV shows in HD and viewing your growing DVD collection.  Pass me the popcorn!

Introduction

Recently, there has been a lot of “buzz” about Plasma and other next-generation flat-panel High Definition televisions.  Some models have been given fairly high marks by several reviewers.  Many of these sets have been excellent in displaying HDTV images in different ways and for the most part, many are relatively affordable.  Some models have used old-fashioned CRTs, and others have employed non-CRT Micro-Display technology like LCD, D-ILA or LCoS to display stunning high-definition visual images.  Well, I have seen the future and for the time being it’s Micro-Display with Texas Instruments DLP (Digital Light and Processing) chip being the apparent leading innovator on the forefront today.

Toshiba, who had originally been part of the LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) camp, encountered severe chip shortages last year and was unable to produce those compelling 3-chip LCoS-designed HDTV’s.  However the company has bounced back from the brink with their own version of DLP in a stunning first offering – their 52HM84 HDTV set, which is one of ten new DLP models in their line.

Consumer DLP presently uses a single-chip design, which means there are no convergence problems (like CRT Televisions) or phosphor burn in problems (like plasma displays).  DLP front and rear projectors have the capability of displaying images up to HD quality of 1,280 x 720 pixels for true 720p (p = progressive) or 1080i native HD resolution. All of Toshiba’s new line of DLP sets uses Texas Instruments new HD2+ featuring the dark video enhancement (DVE) chip (aka DarkChip2) that improves brightness and contrast over previous versions.  TI’s HD-2+ optical semiconductor 16:9 chips use in excess of 1,300,000 digital microscopic mirrors (DMD) that build a digital image by switching on/off more than 50,000 times a second via a digitally controlled light beam source.  Earlier versions of TI’s DLP chips had problems with dark areas and black images, which the HD2+ dark chip addresses quite well.

Toshiba’s TheaterWideHD 52HM84 is a striking example of an HDTV Monitor (called a monitor because it does not have an integrated ATSC HD tuner), which to this reviewer is preferable these days.  The reason that I say preferable is that people primarily receive their TV signals in two ways — via satellite (30-percent) or cable (70-percent).  And depending on your preference, each camp offers HD Receivers that will decode their signals as well as “over-the-air” HD signals.  So there’s really no need to buy redundant hardware.  Plus, both cable and satellite companies also offer HD Receivers with built-in HD recording capability.

Toshiba’s 52HM84 is a 52″ widescreen 16:9 HD-Capable rear projection TV designed to produce exceptional images from all – both standard and high definition — video sources.  It’s part of a family of three models (a 46-in. model – 46HM84 and a 62-in. model – 62HM84) of which it’s the middle sibling.  The 52HM84 is certainly a crowd pleaser!  If ever a TV was designed for watching High Definition programming (standard definition images aren’t too shabby either), enjoying Home Theater or just viewing movies, this is the one!   Happily, it’s not just the size of the screen that impresses but clearly the images displayed on it.

Features and Design

Toshiba is using TI’s new 0.8-in. HD DarkChip2 along with its own proprietarily designed light engine – designated TALEN, which stands for Toshiba Advanced Light Engine along with a six-segment color wheel.  To project these bright images, Toshiba employs a Radiance high-output DC lamp that includes two settings – day (high brightness) and night (low power).  This model also uses a TheaterFine DFP (Digital Fine Pitch) Screen that features super-fine pitch and anti-reflective coating for increased brightness and contrast.  Combined together it helps achieve some of the finest, most detailed images possible on any display products today.  Even though Toshiba does not publish contrast and brightness numbers per se, the set’s contrast ratio was clearly in excess of 1500:1 with brightness levels reaching more than 1000 cd/m2.

Toshiba 52HM84

Toshiba’s 52HM84 with matching stand

Toshiba has also improved its motion-adaptive progressive scan technology greatly over previous models.  Unlike other Toshiba display devices, the 52HM84 employs the IDSC Digital (Intelligent Digital Scan Conversion), which is an advanced de-interlacer and scaler.  It upgrades and converts all incoming signals to 1080i (including non-HD signals of 480i or 480p) to achieve optimum picture quality from both analog and HD sources.  Since high definition video is shot in 1080p, the 52HM84 presents those images as they were intended to be seen giving those images the true look and feel of 35mm and 70mm film.

Audio power is rated at a total of 40-watts.  The set also includes SRS WOW!, which is psycho-acoustic effect technology that is comprised of SRS 3-D, FOCUS, and TruBass for enhanced TV sound.  There are two main 4-inch woofers and two 2-1/2-inch tweeters for better-than-average sound.  Obviously, to receive a complete surround sound effect, it is highly suggested that you include a separate AV Receiver with high-quality speakers.  For this evaluation, I used a Pioneer Elite VSX-49TXi AV Receiver with six 700 Series B&W loudspeakers.  The set includes dual antenna RF inputs, 2 rear A/V /S-Video inputs, 2 HD-level component video inputs, 1 HDMI w/HDCP input , and 1 A/V/S-Video and RF outputs,.  Convenience features include twin-tuner PIP (picture-in-picture).

Toshiba has also included an average 41-button illuminated universal remote that will control the TV, a VCR, Cable/SAT box, and DVD player via a left-hand sided slider wheel.   The remote is now light gray in color instead of dark gray in previous TV models.  A smart idea is that now the illuminated keys feature numbers or symbols right on the key itself for easy recognition in a darkened room.   Cool!  To access video inputs, simply press the TV/VIDEO button, and then press the number on the keypad that corresponds to the appropriate video source.  It’s a two-step process.  Other companies, however, have direct keys to access specific inputs, which make it much easier to access your DVD player or Satellite/Cable Receiver, for example.  It’s a minor inconvenience.

Unlike other direct-view or rear projection televisions with front-mounted controls hidden under a panel, this model features a touchpad key display found in the lower right quadrant of the protective screen that provides for a very clean appearance.  Front A/V/S-Video jacks are located under a hidden flap on the right-hand side of the set.  These inputs are included for the easy attachment of a camcorder or game console.  The set is housed in a silver trim cabinet.  An optional matching (and quite attractive I might add) base is available that features bottom storage on two shelves for all of your gear.  In any case this set, like other Micro-Displays, needs to be placed onto a base, within a cabinet or on a shelf so that it’s at the proper viewing height.

Evaluation

Connection was easy and straight-forward.  Since I currently have one source component using DVI (RCA’s second-generation DTC-210 DirecTV HD Receiver), it was attached directly to the separate HDMI-DTV input.  Since the set-top box uses DVI and the TV HDMI, I used Monster Cable’s new Monster 400 HDMI to DVI Video Cable with a DVI connection on one end and a DVI connector on the other.  It worked flawlessly passing both 720p and 1080i HDTV signals.  Other video signals came into Component Video 1 (from my Pioneer Elite VSX-49TXi A/V Receiver).  In fact, there are two separate component video inputs (HD level) with their own respective analog audio inputs.  There’s also twin A/V/S-Video inputs along with 1 A/V out.

Toshiba 52HM84

The inputs on the back of the Toshiba 52HM84

To calibrate this DLP set for optimal picture playback, I used a special DVD entitled Digital Video Essentials by Joe Kane Productions.  This special disc allows you to correctly set contrast, brightness, black levels, color, sharpness, and gray scale among other video settings.  It also educates about different signals received, and helps set-up your audio system also (if need be).  Set-up was relatively easy, but you have to remember that aspect ratio, and image quality for this DTV is controlled via the DTC-210.  The on-screen menus are clear and concise.  However, you always have to remember that (except for DVD) all video signals are coming from RCA’s DTC-210.

Using the DTC-210 as my HD DirecTV HD Satellite Receiver in-place, the displayed images on the 52HM84 produced realistic color with unprecedented picture detail and resolution free from any perceived artifacts.  In the end, it all comes down to images and pictures.  Either way picture quality is nothing short of spectacular for this exceptional Toshiba set!   I had thought that I had seen excellent HD images in the past.  Well, I was wrong.  Both broadcast and satellite HDTV images were simply stunning!  They were among the best that this reviewer has seen to date.  I am at a loss to find negative things to say about picture quality.  In prolonged viewings of numerous Prime Time TV shows the HD images that were received (via rooftop antenna and satellite dish) came in perfectly clear and crisp without any signal degradation or loss of detail in both 720p (ABC-HD and FOX-HD) and 1080i (CBS-HD and DirecTV HD).

The colors displayed on the 52HM84 were truly vibrant and very life-life giving you the feeling that “you are there.”  It cannot be understated!   It’s almost like watching the world through a clear pane of glass.   DirecTV’s HD-Net and DiscoveryHD in particular produced some of the most compelling HD images.  Test grids from Digital Video Essentials and Silicon Optix’s HQV Benchmark DVD Ver.1.0 certainly confirmed what my eyes were telling me, that image clarity was right on the mark.  Color bars, for example, were in perfect alignment with no coloring bleeding between colors.  As well, the lines between colors were straight and true with no jagged edges.  Grayscale transformed itself from light to dark seamlessly.  Test patterns clearly re-affirmed image clarity with image resolution!  Also, using THX’s video optimizer as well, you can certainly delineate white balance from the eight different squares.

Evaluation Cont’d

High Definition images seem to produce a truly “life-like” 3-dimentional effect on the viewer as HD adds a considerable amount of depth – not to mention realism – to any image.  The images “pop” right off the screen.  This is especially true for DiscoveryHD Theater, which a friend of mine has dubbed “the bug channel.”  Insects and all of nature never looked more realistic.  Of course, sporting events in HD are the “crème de la crème” of HD images, as they need to be seen to be fully appreciated.  For example, you can easily count the blades of grass in Yankee Stadium (Yankee/Red Sox 2004 playoff games) or discern the rubble on asphalt on NBC-HD’s NASCAR racing.  Unbelievable!  Watching a football game made me feel that I was sitting right on the fifty yard line.   Standard definition NTSC signals looked as good as they could get at 480p from DirecTV

Using this set as a video monitor for a DVD player (with the Pioneer Elite DV-47Ai as a reference progressive scan universal DVD player featuring component video out capability), the projected images were just as compelling as if you were watching the movies at your local cinema – only better!  Here, you’re watching movies as they are meant to be seen – in widescreen and with progressive scan!  Watching films like Van Helsing, The Star War Trilogy, Beauty and the Beast-Special Edition, The Day After Tomorrow, Hellboy or even the multi-disc set of Babylon 5: Season Five, for example, portrayed a display device that could easily distinguish subtle color shading and hue reproducing colors as accurately and realistic as possible.  Black levels, which are the Achilles’ heel of all Micro-Display sets, were better than other HD sets previously viewed.  While DVDs never looked better, it’s really the HD images displayed from both DirecTV satellite and the over-the-air antenna that produced the most stunning, startling, and most compelling images ever seen by this reviewer in a production sample display device.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Toshiba’s TheaterWideHD 52HM84 combined with the RCA’s DTC-210 DirecTV HD Receiver produced and reproduced some of the best regular over-the-air HD, Satellite, Satellite HD, and DVD signals possible.  This is a set that has to be seen in all its glory to be fully appreciated.   In many ways, it’s superior to its competitors in both design and function.  Here is a television with the capability of showing each type of signal in the best possible way.  While it’s somewhat pricey, it produces some of the best images on the planet!  And, as the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”

Since the 52HM84 is a HD capable television with all of the right connectors (including HDMI), you’re set for many years to come.  And, you don’t have to pay extra for an integrated HD tuner.  It gives you the choice of going either to HD satellite or Digital Cable to receive those pristine high-definition signals.  So, get comfortable.  You’ll be receiving and watching the most pristine and compelling HDTV signals on this or any other planet!  Clearly, it’s your new window onto the world, and just the ticket for watching your favorite TV shows in HD and viewing your growing DVD collection.  Pass me the popcorn!

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