Cutting up carrots and slicing potatoes in the kitchen does not have to be dull, mind-numbing work. In fact, these days, you can play Xbox 360 against other chefs, catch up on the latest Rachael Ray broadcast, or even watch a DVD on how to make a tasty Eggplant Raviolini dish while doing so. Thank the Toshiba 15LV506 DVD combo television, which can liven up any extended cooking session, whether you’re a true foodie or not. It’s small, white, and portable enough to move around from one countertop to the next, even with one hand. The device also supports component video and has a built-in digital tuner, a side-loading DVD drive, and works well as a boombox to boot. Alas, while the picture on the box makes it look like you will have the time of your life with the 15LV506, the reality is as follows. We can only recommend it for those who are not that interested in a quality entertainment experience.
Features and Design
First, about that picture we mentioned on the box. It’s interesting because there’s a woman walking from one counter to the next in a spacious kitchen, glancing over her shoulder. The Toshiba HDTV is not even shown, but she has a look of complete amusement – perhaps laughing at one of Oprah’s jokes, no doubt. Yet, from that distance, as we discovered during testing, the Toshiba television would be barely watchable. As such, this picture is a great example of up-selling to the rich and glamorous (the featured kitchen in the photo is something you’d only find at a broadcast studio), but the TV itself is more like a Wal-Mart special: One you’d buy for the price, not the features.
The 15LV506 is an all-in-one television that does work well in the kitchen. It’s a 15-inch LCD (measured diagonally) that weighs about 8 pounds, and the stand is sturdy enough that you can move it around easily. The TV doesn’t actually swivel around or move up and down like you might expect, so you have to adjust the entire unit for a different viewing angle. The DVD is side-loading and works well, though: It grabs the disc from you and doesn’t force you to push it in all the way, as with the PlayStation 3. In everyday use, such as changing channels, adjusting volume, and switching input modes, the 15LV506 performs quite adequately. We can definitely imagine someone preferring the device’s small size, promoting the ability to watch video, rather than raising the bar for actual picture quality and overall enjoyment. Yet, we can’t overlook a few glaring deficiencies that make it difficult to recommend.
For one, color quality on the 15LV506 is about what you’d find on a laptop screen, which is to say that the blacks are not that black, and colors don’t exactly pop off the screen. We compared it side-by-side with the same DVD (Nacho Libre, if you must know) to a Westinghouse TX-42F430S 42-inch LCD television, and the colors on the Toshiba 15LV506 were rather dull and lifeless (with only a 500:1 contract ratio). This explains why the unit does not support Blu-ray: Why bother with a higher-resolution format when even DVD quality video displayed on the LCD screen looks washed-out and muddy? Still, in a house that has decided to invest in all Blu-Ray discs from now on, the 15LV506 is not that compatible. Audio quality on the two-channel TV is also not that great, again similar to the quality you’d expect from a laptop and a far cry from even an older Sanyo 22-inch TV we used. The set’s 1366×768 resolution should be another tip-off about general quality.
It’s important to stress that this set is all about what you can do with it, not how well it performs, however. For example: We also connected it to a Dish VIP-622 DVR and watched HD programming like the recent James Bond series shown on Encore HD. The 15LV506 worked okay with the 1080p HD video, but lacked any true color quality – blues looks darker than they should have, for instance. You can also connect a video game console, but not the PlayStation 3 if you use the HDMI connector: The 15LV506 only supports the older component video connection. You can run digital audio out to a receiver to help with audio quality, though. The unit offers some minimal adjustments terms of acoustics as well, such as a surround sound setting and bass/treble adjust. Sadly, none can hide the fact that the speakers are sub-par.
Fortunately, just about any CD and DVD we loaded into the unit worked as expected. We successfully tested burned CD-RW discs and burned DVD movies in DVD-RW format. The Toshiba 15LV506 remote control worked well in the kitchen too (it has large buttons for fast forward and power, for example), but we would have preferred some sort of latch or snap-in holder on the TV to avoid getting spaghetti sauce all over the remote, safely placing it out of harm’s way. The TV also has a few other features worth mentioning, such as a headphone jack and a way to connect it to RCA audio receiver. There’s even a sleep timer for those late nights of oven-baking bliss, or if you decided to use the unit in your bedroom instead.
Overall, this $300 HDTV is pretty much what you’d expect: Of middling quality, kitted out with a few extra features, lacking HDMI and DVI support, and constructed in a small size that works well on a countertop. We can’t imagine anyone using it for extended movie-watching sessions – we only made it through about half of any given flick. Yet, the 15LV506 is functional and light enough to use in the kitchen, and for that purpose, it’s enough to keep you smiling at least long enough to cook up some lasagna and garlic bread for your hungry brood.
- Built-in tuner
- Supports many disc formats
- Remote is big and easy to use
- Low price
- Compact size for countertop use
Poor 500:1 contrast ratio
No HDMI port
No digital optical output
Poor audio quality
No holder for remote