Toshiba 55SL417U 55" Edge Lit LED LCD HDTV


Setup of the Toshiba 55SL417U 55" Edge Lit LED LCD HDTV

After attaching the base, I set the panel up on my usual bench and set about exploring the menu system. The first order of business was to connect to my home network and download the latest firmware update. This took only a few minutes. Even without a source connected, you can still access the Internet apps. Besides a large collection of Yahoo widgets, Toshiba includes Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, CinemaNow, Blockbuster and Pandora. The remote even has a dedicated Netflix key and I can’t help but wonder how much Netflix paid for that! The interface is fairly intuitive and I was able to check out the apps easily. There is only an on-screen keyboard which gets old real fast but this is typical of ‘Net-abled TVs.

I like to dive right into the calibration with any new TV so I quickly found what I needed in the Picture menu. In addition to the usual Brightness, Contrast, Color, Tint and Sharpness controls, there is white balance, two noise reduction options, and a color management system. You can also move the gamma curve with a slider and adjust dynamic contrast features. And of course, there is a frame interpolation option called Film Stabilization. I selected the Movie 2 setting which is the brightest of the accurate picture modes. Sports, Game, Standard and AutoView are too far from correct to be of use if accuracy is your goal.

Great color can be achieved with the Toshiba’s two-point white balance controls and color management system. The CMS is not fully functional in that you can’t move the color points enough to get perfect numbers but you can adjust the luminance of each color which is more important to perceived image quality. The default gamut is pretty close to accurate anyway. If you don’t have calibration instruments, the SL417U has a color-gating feature called RGB Filter which lets you turn off individual primaries to adjust the Color and Tint controls. This is something I wish every display would include. You can use just the luminance controls in the CMS with this feature if you want to dial in excellent color.

I also made sure to turn off things like DynaLight and Dynamic Contrast. These settings always play havoc with gamma and push the contrast to the point of crushing detail. Another interesting feature I had to disable was Backlight Adjustment Pro. This setting adjusts the backlight according to the ambient light level using a front-mounted sensor. While I applaud Toshiba for giving the user a lot of control over this option, it still negatively affects image accuracy. It is always better to control the light in your room rather than letting the display adjust itself.

After a no-surprises calibration, I was able to achieve a great result as you’ll see in the benchmark section. You can find all the details of my measurements there. The only real bump I encountered was initially, the TV would not pass above-white or below-black signals. I updated the firmware and even made a trip to the service menu to try and correct this to no avail. Then, literally a day before I planned to pack up the set and return it, a new firmware update fixed the problem. In the user menu, you’ll need to go to Preferences – AV Connection – HDMI Settings and set RGB Range to Full. You’ll also need a source that outputs RGB Video, component formats will still clip. Finally, the Brightness control should be lowered about eight clicks to set the proper black level.

Moving on in the menu system, there are options for Audio and Networking. The SL417U includes Dolby Dynamic Range Compression and Audyssey Dynamic Volume. Unfortunately, the sound is so anemic that none of these options have much effect. You can even turn on a surround sound simulation but I don’t recommend it.

The Networking section is the place to go to connect the TV to a home network. It’s always best to run a cable if you can, but the built-in WiFi works just fine. After keying in the password, I was up and running through my trusty Cisco E3000 802.11n router. You can download firmware updates and access all the included apps without fuss. Performance was quite snappy for me although I have very fast Internet access. I have recorded speeds of over 18mb/s over my wireless network.

It is also possible to pull in content from USB devices through the two included ports. Movie, sound and picture files in various formats are supported through a bundled media player app. You can also access files from any DLNA-compliant devices on your network. One annoyance I discovered; when using any apps or streaming software on the SL417U, you can only access the Quick Menu which lets you change things like the picture mode. If you want to tweak other settings, you’ll have to exit the app first.