Toshiba 42SL417U Review

The Toshiba 42SL417U looks great on paper and presents a terrific image, but its drawbacks keep it from truly fulfilling its value proposition.
The Toshiba 42SL417U looks great on paper and presents a terrific image, but its drawbacks keep it from truly fulfilling its value proposition.
The Toshiba 42SL417U looks great on paper and presents a terrific image, but its drawbacks keep it from truly fulfilling its value proposition.

Highs

  • Excellent picture and response time
  • Thin, attractive bezel
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, Ethernet
  • Full suite of Internet apps and widgets

Lows

  • Very poor sound quality
  • Media player slow to load content
  • Slow user interface
  • No backlighting in remote

Toshiba SL417U series information: The review of the 42-inch Toshiba 42SL417U LED TV is based on our experiences with the 46-inch 46SL417U set. Also, the observations made apply to the 55-inch 55SL417U. Toshiba says that the three televisions have the same specifications (save weight and dimensions) and should offer similar performance.

Models in Toshiba’s SL417U series Size
Toshiba 42SL417U 42 inches
Toshiba 46SL417U (reviewed) 46 inches
Toshiba 55SL417U 55 inches

As the prices of LED televisions recede, it seems as if quality, performance, size and features are finally coming into focus. A year ago, the notion of getting a 46-inch, LED-backlit, 1080p, 120hz display with a bevy of Internet apps, widgets and Wi-Fi for around $1,000 seemed like a pipe-dream. Yet, here we sit with the Toshiba 42SL417U, which offers all of the above, perhaps hitting the proverbial bulls-eye of the value proposition target. Unfortunately, this TV, like so many others, is not without its quirks. We spent some quality time with the Toshiba 42SL417U and discovered where it delivers and where it fails.

Out of the box

This particular display’s packaging was about as slim as the TV itself. Since the TV is pretty light and the packaging slim, one person managed to carry the 42SL417U down a flight of stairs and into our testing room. Times have changed, indeed.

Once opened, the box yielded the display, its stand, a remote control and a user manual.

Toshiba 42SL417U Review display Vudu interface

Features and design

The 42SL417U is a reasonably attractive TV. Its bezel is thin enough (as little as 1 inch toward the top), but it isn’t uniform. The left and right edges of the display are trimmed with chrome pieces, and the bottom edge is lined with a thick enough piece to house down-firing speakers, control buttons and an LED indicator light. The 42SL417U’s stand is made of glass with all but a thin strip at the edges blacked out. It is attractive until you touch it, which is to say it is a finger-print magnet.

Behind the display and to the left is the TV’s fairly accessible connection bay. Back there we found four HDMI inputs, two USB inputs, a PC input, single coax antenna input, Ethernet port, digital optical audio output and fixed analog audio output. Conspicuously absent were any component video, S-Video or even composite video inputs. While we’ve come to accept that S-Video has been more or less retired from the A/V marketplace, component and composite video connections are still commonplace and needed by many with slightly older components. We feel excluding them was a mistake on Toshiba’s part.

Toshiba 46SL417U back

The 42SL417U’s LED-backlit LCD display has an 8ms response time, 120Hz refresh rate, and 1080p HD resolution. The TV comes with a bunch of proprietary processors to smooth motion blur, correct for color accuracy and dynamically adjust the backlight to suit that material that is being displayed. After calibration and testing, we ended up turning most of these features off, though.

The 42SL417U offers access to some of the more popular Internet video and audio sources and, since it is DLNA certified, can access content on a local network for playback of video, music and pictures. Netflix, Pandora, YouTube, CinemaNow, Blockbuster Video on Demand and VuduHD are represented, but no HuluPlus or Amazon Video on Demand here. The set also comes with access to Yahoo’s widget gallery.

Toshiba 46SL417U controllerThe remote control for this TV could be scored as above average, were it not for the fact that there is no backlight, rendering it difficult to use in the dark, which is where we spent most of our time testing and calibrating this TV. We do like the provision of some “hot keys” to the Net TV section and Netflix applications, though.

Performance

To test the 42SL417U, we connected a Sony BDP-1700ES Blu-ray player as well as a basic antenna for some terrestrial HD reception. For video content, we chose the 2D version of Avatar (in both Blu-ray and DVD format) and the 2D Blu-ray version of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. We also spent some time streaming YouTube and Netflix videos, as well as some content stored on a networked computer.

Before we got down to watching, we did a basic calibration of the 42SL417U’s video settings using two popular Blu-ray calibration discs. For the most part, this TV’s neutral settings were pretty close to what we settled on during our calibration. We tested the 42SL417U in a dedicated, totally dark media room but we can assure readers this display will have no problem in a brightly lit room.

Toshiba 46SL417U display angleOnce our calibration was completed, we ran a few tests to see how the close the display got to some of the industry standards. The 42SL417U clipped very little of the content below true black, and the display was able to produce very intense whites without an overblown backlight setting and without significant loss of contrast. Dialing in exact color settings was a bit tricky, and even though we ended up happy with our settings, we felt like the TV has a natural tendency towards a warm image with particularly intense oranges and reds — even with the color temperature adjustment set toward the “cooler” side of things.

With all the tech-y stuff out of the way, let us just say that the 42SL417U looked spectacular for a TV in this price range. Color saturation was excellent, the image was sharp, and stayed that way even during scenes with a lot of motion. We really appreciated the contrast this display was able to pull off as well. Let it suffice to say that this TV’s strong point is its picture. To get this kind of image quality at this price point is a pleasure to see.

Unfortunately, that’s where our love affair with the 42SL417U ended. The more we used the set, the more we discovered some of its limitations. First, we must discuss the sound…or lack of it. We can’t recall having tested a flat-panel television with speakers that sounded this poor before. Granted, speakers that are aimed downward are at a certain disadvantage to begin with, but it just feels like Toshiba slapped the speakers in at the last minute with no real engineering considerations. Perhaps it comes down to bad parts, or maybe a simple DSP chip would help. Regardless, we found this TVs sound unlistenable. We highly recommend the use of a sound bar or home theater system in most cases, but this TV downright requires it.

Viewing angles for the 42SL417U also left us disappointed. Sitting off to the side or standing up seriously diminished both brightness and clarity. Users who plan an elevated mounting position (like above a fireplace) will need a flexible mount that pivots down for the best picture.

We were also not huge fans of how slow the user interface seemed to run, and it turns out that sluggishness translated into many of the TVs applications as well. Entering text for usernames and passwords was a slow-going process, and navigating folders on our networked computer was extremely slow, even with an Ethernet cable providing hard-wire Internet access.

Our impression of the Net TV apps varied from app to app. The YouTube app was really stripped down and not likely to get used very often. The Netflix app, however, was a pleasant surprise. We’ve found that most built-in Netflix apps tend restrict access to the user’s instant-streaming queue, but the app Toshiba has installed here exposes almost everything that the Xbox 360’s version does. Well played, Toshiba.

Conclusion

The Toshiba 42SL417U looks outstanding. In fact, we’d rate it as excellent, but the set’s terrible sound quality will be a deal breaker for anyone not planning on connecting some sort of external audio source. We also find it odd that the only input connections are to be found on the rear of the set, and that those connections do not include either component or composite video connections. It is nice to see so many Internet content apps, but the fact that most of them were slow takes away from their inclusion and, therefore, the built-in Wi-Fi adapter. So, while the Toshiba looks great on paper and presents a terrific image, its drawbacks keep it from truly fulfilling its value proposition.

Highs:

  • Excellent picture and response time
  • Thin, attractive bezel
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, Ethernet
  • Full suite of Internet apps and widgets

Lows:

  • Very poor sound quality
  • Media player slow to load content
  • Slow user interface
  • No backlighting in remote
Home Theater

There isn’t a single good reason to buy Apple’s new AirPods

After nearly a three-year wait, Apple has finally announced a new version of its popular true wireless headphones, the AirPods. We had high hopes for vast improvements, but that's not what we got.
Home Theater

March Madness deal alert: Get a 43-inch LG 4K HDR TV for just $270

March is a great time to find a deal on a new TV, and this one is worth every penny: Walmart is selling LG's 43-inch 43UK6300PUE, a very capable 4K HDR Smart TV, for almost 50 percent off the regular price, at $270.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in several genres for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Computing

Calibrate your display to get it looking just the way you like it

Want to see images the way they're intended to be seen? Here is our quick guide on how to calibrate your monitor using your operating system or another tool, to make what's on the screen look as good as it can.
Gaming

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on UE Boom and MegaBoom 3 Bluetooth speakers

With just the right combination of great sound, a rugged design, and an overall sleek aesthetic, the UE MegaBoom 3 is our favorite Bluetooth speaker. And Amazon is offering a rare discount on it right now.
Home Theater

Tipping point? Streaming subscribers outnumbered cable in 2018 for first time

2018 was a very good year for the entertainment business as a whole, but it was especially good for streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon, says a new report by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Movies & TV

Stranger Things season 3 is coming! Here’s everything we know so far

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season, premiering in July 2019.
Home Theater

Here’s what’s new on HBO and what’s leaving in April 2019

Whether you're a cable lifer or a staunch cord cutter, there's never been a better time to get down with premium TV. April 2019 brings Game of Thrones season 8, BlacKkKlansman, and Crazy Rich Asians to HBO.
Home Theater

TCL drops the price of its 75-inch 6-Series 4K Roku TV to $1,500

March is a great time for TV deals, and we've got a whopper: TCL has taken $300 off the price of its superb 75-inch 6-Series 4K HDR Roku TV, making it $1,500. That's the lowest price ever on this affordable TV.
Movies & TV

Comcast launches Xfinity Flex, a $5-a-month service aimed at cord cutters

For $5 a month, Xfinity Flex gives existing Xfinity internet subscribers a 4K- and HDR-ready set-top box that can stream video from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, as well as free TV from apps like Cheddar and ESPN3.
Home Theater

Here’s how to watch Apple’s March 25 product reveal event live

It's almost here: Apple's much anticipated March 25 event, where it is widely expected to announce several streaming services, including on-demand and live TV with original programming. Here's how to watch it live.
Movies & TV

HBO’s Deadwood movie rustles up a trailer and a release date

This spring, HBO's long-awaited Deadwood movie will explore what happened 10 years after the events of HBO's award-winning drama, giving the series a finale 13 years after the show was canceled.
Movies & TV

Apple’s next big event is set for March 25: Here’s what you can expect

Apple's next big event takes place on March 25 in Cupertino, California. The company is expected to make several announcements related to its services, including Apple TV, so follow our guide to get ready for the big event.