Want to discover the latest buzz in LCD HDTVs? Just change one letter to LED, and you’ve got it. In manufacturers’ quest to increase contrast ratios and black levels to more plasma-like performance (which we favor), LCD HDTV manufacturers keep enhancing the basic display technology. In this case, Toshiba and other makers use Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) with local dimming as a light source, instead of traditional and widely used fluorescent tubes. In theory, this change greatly improves picture quality while decreasing energy use, a win-win for all concerned. Toshiba’s new 46-inch 46SV670U HDTV is its first LED model, comes as loaded as a Cadillac, and has a price to match. Let’s see if it’s worth it.
Features and Design
The is a very attractive HDTV. While flat panel makers like Samsung and LG race to make the thinnest LED displays possible (less than 2 inches thick), the depth of Toshiba’s first-gen LED set is pretty close to fluorescent-based LCDs, and comparable to plasmas, which usually measure between 4 and 5 inches. In this case, it’s 4.4 inches deep. What sets the Regza apart in the looks department is its Deep Lagoon Infinity Flush Front. It’s a seamless piece of glass with a tiny eighth-inch silver bezel. Like Samsung’s Touch of Color models, there’s a design accent built into the frame that carries over to the supplied swivel stand. When we saw it earlier this year, Toshiba execs explained their thinking as we viewed the TV: they asked us to envision ourselves at the ocean’s edge and watch the sand fade away as the water got deeper. We don’t know if the designers sipped too many pina coladas shore-side when they thought this up, because we didn’t hear the soothing sounds of the Caribbean checking out the set. No matter; the Deep Lagoon is attractive, and a big step above your basic black HDTV with a thick picture-frame bezel.
Along with the Deep Lagoon motif, there are Regza and Toshiba logos on the front (the Toshiba lights up when you turn the power on, but this can be disabled). There’s also a remote sensor, two LED indicators for power, and the timer along the bottom of the screen. Downward-firing speakers built-into the bottom of the panel push out some fairly decent sound, with a total of 20 watts. Still, we think buyers should at least consider upgrading to a sound bar to pair with the set.
The right side of the TV hosts a series of controls you’ll never use, unless you misplace the remote (channel up and down, and so on). There are also HDMI, USB and A/V inputs, along with an SD card slot. Unfortunately, it cannot playback AVCHD video files, as select Panasonic HDTVs can. The 46SV670U can play DivX and MP3 files only from USB devices, as well as JPEG images.
The rear of the display serves as the repository for the main jack pack, which has an additional three HDMI inputs, for a total of four. There are also two sets of component inputs, one composite, PC/HDMI1 Audio and PC inputs, as well as optical digital audio out. The lack of an Ethernet port makes a surprising omission on a top-of-the-line television.
As noted, the 46-inch TV comes on its own swivel stand, which is very easy to adjust. This is a heavy television, weighing 72.8 pounds with the stand, and it measures 45.6 inches wide, 30.8 high and 4.4 deep.
What’s In the Carton
First, you’ll have to get past all the Styrofoam used to keep the set in position during transit. Beyond that is the 72.8-pound TV, with its swivel stand, an 84-page owner’s manual, a cleaning cloth for the screen and a candy-bar style remote. We consistently complain about the basic remotes supplied with high-end HDTVs, and this one is pretty basic too. Although it handles three components along with the TV, there’s no LCD display, and it’s not a learning remote; You have to punch in codes for the device you want to control. There’s no HDMI cable either, so make sure you have them at the ready. We did, and after connecting a FiOS cable box and a Panasonic BD player, it was time to watch television.
Performance and Use
The 46-inch 1080P Regza 46SV670U comes loaded with advanced display technologies, the star being FocaLight LED Backlighting with local dimming. With a full matrix of lights across the entire screen, the LEDs can turn on in brightly lit portion of the screen and off in dark portions, so you’ll see brighter whites and deeper blacks at the same time. This system is far better than edge-lit LED systems used by competitors. If you take away anything from this review, remember to choose full LED backlighting, not edge lighting, if you invest in a new big-screen LCD HDTV. With this system, Toshiba claims a dynamic contrast ratio of 2 million to one. This sounds great on its own, but new Panasonic plasmas claim this figure as well, and the 46-inch Panasonic TC-P46G10 costs $1,499, $800 less MSRP, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Another key spec for LCD HDTVs is the refresh rate, since older sets tended to smear fast action, such as thrown fast balls or football spirals. Companies overcame this issue by adding 120Hz refresh rate technology, and from our past reviews, this worked well. Toshiba now offers ClearScan 240 with backlight scanning to close the gap with plasmas even more (plasmas never had this problem to begin with). Note this is not a true 240Hz frame rate, since it combines a 120Hz frame rate with backlight scanning to create the effect. Marketing people just love those big numbers.
Toshiba clearly used all its tech tricks to improve picture quality, including a PixelPure 5G 14-bit processor, along with the LED backlighting and faster frame rate. Now it was time to see how they performed in the real world.
We connected the FiOS box and BD player via HDMI, then powered on the HDTV. Before doing any picture tweaking, we tuned to ESPN HD using the default settings. It was immediately apparent this was the best LCD HDTV image we’d experienced. The annoying screen-door and blocking effect that appear on of the vast majority of LCD sets was mostly gone. It looked all the world like a plasma, with deep blacks, strong contrast, and good colors. And this was before making any adjustments. (For the record, the Sony Qualia 005 from 2004 was the best LCD we had experienced before the Toshiba; that LED set cost $12,000 compared to $1,800 for the Regza at a legit online dealer.)
Once we got over the initial good impression, it was time to adjust the picture parameters and watch more material. Like every television, the Regza has main picture modes such as sports, movie and so on. Somewhat different is AutoView, which adjusts the image depending on the ambient light. When you’re in this setting, you can also make more in-depth options including brightness, color, tint, backlight, color temp, dynamic contrast, film stabilization and more. We were content leaving it in AutoView for the most part, and we’re sure most viewers will be pleased as well. The sports option was more like vivid on other sets, with sunglasses-required brightness and a too-strong bluish cast. Avoid this one, but movie and standard look fine.
We watched highlights of Yankee home runs versus the Red Sox, and the Buffalo Bills versus Tennessee Titans game. ClearScan 240 did its job and eliminated all the typical LCD motion issues. Picture quality reflected the source from the FiOS box, with the primary colors of game shows reproduced very nicely (Drew Carey really needs a better hair dye job, though). The Regza was a stellar performer with HDTV signals.
Now it was time to view some BD disks and try the ultimate “black” test: examining many of the scenes from The Dark Knight. Folks, the blacks were really deep – plasma levels – with fine detail and accurate colors. Again, you’ll be really happy watching in AutoView or movie mode. We adjusted the ambient light levels from a completely dark room to turning on overhead fluorescents and the picture held, with no reflection whatsoever – something you can’t say for every plasma display.
Audio was decent, but it would be a shame watching movies without a boost from a sound bar or 5.1-system. Engaging Dolby Volume mode worked well, limiting the booming sound of commercials (a feature that will doubtless be welcomed by sleeping spouses across the country).
The Regza 46SV670U is a terrific, albeit expensive HDTV. To our eyes, it dramatically closed the gap with better 1080P plasma models. Pioneer Kuros – bless their discontinued plasma hearts – still remain at the pinnacle of image quality with incredible blacks, but it would be hard justifying the price difference, other than for the wealthiest video esthete. Buy this television, and you’ll be very happy. Now, is it worth $500 more than a similar-size Panasonic TC-P46G10, which also offers excellent color? We’d opt for the Panasonic, then buy a BD player and a bunch of disks with the cash we’d save. That said, Toshiba deserves raves for this HDTV, and we’re sure the price of LED LCD HDTVs will come down to plasma levels in a year or so. Then we’ll really have problem – but they’re the kind of problems you want to have.
- Gorgeous 1080P image
- Best blacks yet from an LCD HDTV
- No screen door effect
- Easy adjusting picture settings
- Dolby Volume ends blasting commercials
- Very expensive
- No Ethernet port
- Remote should be enhanced