HDTV

Toshiba Regza 46RV53OU 46" 1080p LCD HDTV

ARTICLE INDEX

 

I tested SDTV content through S-Video and component. Hooking up an SDTV STB to the S-Video connection produced problematic results. The image was oversaturated and skin tones were superficial, having a plastic look to them. Turning on black stretch helped reduce this effect, although this feature is supposedly irrelevant to color and should only affect black level detail. The reason for this issue became clearer after playing with various test patterns. The display’s aggressive contrast ratios come at a price: color accuracy. This is particularly bothersome on the darker APL ranges where skin tones noticeably become less and less realistic.

The screen comes with two non linear stretch modes called LIVE, intended to be used to convert 4:3 content into widescreen format. I don’t often encounter such bad performance from this type of option. The algorithm is so aggressive, one can easily become sea sick. I felt a migraine coming on after trying to watch more than 15 minutes using the LIVE aspect ratio modes.

SDTV content seemed to look better coming from S-Video than it did using the HDMI inputs. De-interlacing was not phenomenal, but it gave adequate results, whereas the screen’s scaling algorithm is really subpar. SDTV content was staircasing and edges were constantly shimmering. The screen lacks any parameters or settings that can improve this situation.

Watching some HDTV woke me up a bit from the slump of these results. I watched an old high def recording of a Wimbledon tournament, and you can actually see the expression on each and every viewer behind the players. The screen does suffer from exaggerating some of the MPEG artifacts, but overall the image was quite good.

Hiro’s first trip to times square was very well detailed but very noticeably too blue to be realistic.

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Low light scenes in The Fifth Element required me to turn the black stretch feature back on. Not doing so caused both banding and reddish grain and turning Lilu’s face into a dithered red mess. It was quite a bit better with black stretch on, but still not nearly as nice as some of the other displays I have tested using that very same scene. The black guard uniforms were virtually undetailed, as all the black detail was simply clipped by the contrast enhancement that this display offered.

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The display does offer native rate support when it senses 1080i or 1080p on one of its HDMI inputs. The EXACT SCAN aspect ratio can then be selected and used – quite nice for turning off the internal scaler and switching to 1:1 for Blu-ray or HD STB content.

Bright scenes were both vital and colorful. I really enjoyed watching the animal gladiator scenes in Attack of the Clones.

The importer gave me a Toshiba E1 HD DVD player to play with. These unit now sell for cents on the dollar as upscaling DVDs, but given that I had a few HD DVD titles, I tried them out. Not much difference in quality when comparing with their Blu-ray counterparts (the DTS HD MASTER demo disk really helps in comparing the two).

The 46RV53OU has some simple primary color adjustments. Trouble is, they only affect analog inputs by changing factors on the A/D converters. Toshiba failed to add proper controls to the display, which definitely doesn’t help the image any.

Lack of HDMI 1.3 support includes failure to support 24 fps, CEC, and wide gamut XVYCC color.

The real kicker for me was the lack of 120 Hz support. I would not dare buy an LCD display these days without 120 Hz support. Even with repeated frames, this option can dramatically reduce the amount of compression (MPEG) artifacts, dithering and other issues by significantly improving the gray-to-gray response time. This display uses an 8ms response time (black to white) which tends to smear content but also exaggerates compression artifacts. 120 Hz would have really worked wonders here. This particular model is the least expensive in the 46" LCD line, and the other two models have 120 Hz support.

Not everyone likes to keep 120 Hz on. I know several videophiles who suffer greatly from this algorithm. The image seems way too realistic and gritty. The camera bounces up and down even when it is supposedly stabile. People move too fast and too fluid on the screen. Some content can suffer from this algorithm, because the 120 Hz algorithm mistakes artifacts for real content, often leaving trails of blur and mosquitos during fast motion bit-starved scenes.

I only noticed the aggressive backlight a few times during testing, particularly during fast switches from dark to bright scenes or vice versa. Overall the process is quite harmless and transparent to most users. Sensitive users will definitely notice it though (as they would with most displays, but this one is more aggressive than the rest).

Conclusions

If an HDTV like this had been available three years ago, it would have been spectacular. However, this is mid-2008, and there are lots of excellent 1080p units out there. In short, although the contrast ratio on the Toshiba 46RV53OU was exceptional, the overall performance was disappointing.