- Written by Chris Eberle
- Published on 24 January 2011
Is this the future of TV?
I should first note that I did all my viewing using the TVs built-in speakers. They did surprise me with their quality. I’m not going to tell you it sounded as good as a separate surround system but Toshiba’s TV audio is some of the best I’ve heard. The speakers are mounted along the bottom edge of the panel and there is a separate woofer for the lower frequencies. While it was far from furniture-rattling, the sound was more than adequate for casual watching. Most TV speakers are little better than an afterthought but Toshiba obviously took some care here.
Obviously the big story here is 3D so to prepare for this review, I purchased the entire catalog of 3D Blu-rays available from Amazon – all four of them. At the time of this writing, these are the only movies for sale with a few others shipping soon. Hopefully by the time I review another 3D-capable display there will be more choices. Fortunately, I got an even mix of CGI cartoons and live-action content. To play the discs, Toshiba provide me their latest 3D Blu-ray player, the BDX3000KU. I’ll be covering this model more in depth in a future review.
First up was Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Since I had set 3D detection to Auto, the TV and player recognized the native content and switched into 3D mode. I fired up the glasses, cleared the warning screen which comes up every time you play a 3D disc and settled back. The first thing I noticed was significant ghosting (also called crosstalk) in background objects. Foreground elements looked sharp and well-defined but more distant elements had soft outlines as if there was a double-exposure. The image was also quite dim, at least half the brightness of a 2D one. The reduced light level was expected but the ghosting was not. I checked all the settings I could and nothing would make things any better. A quick menu gives the option of swapping the left and right shutter sync but this did not help. I finally tried the different picture modes and discovered Sports made a noticeable improvement. This mode raises the Backlight and Contrast settings to maximum. Even after lowering the color temperature and turning off all picture enhancements, it still looked better than the Movie 2 mode I had been using.
Monster House was a better example as most it is devoid of detailed backgrounds and busy imagery. The 3D effect was subtle but apparent. Again, the picture looked better in Sports mode due the increased brightness. It’s interesting that at the dawn of 3D in the home, the industry chose animation as its poster child for this new technology. It seems like the high contrast and sharp detail of these films actually makes the TV look worse.
Next I pulled out the two IMAX discs I had purchased, Grand Canyon Adventure and Wild Ocean. As live-action films, they display far more subtle gradations of light and color than a CGI based movie. Unfortunately I still saw ghosting any time a dark object was shown against a light background. Some very busy scenes like fishermen hauling in a net or a city flyover showed a large drop in perceived resolution thanks to the crosstalk. Undersea shots looked a little better thanks to the essentially monochromatic color palette. I never saw any moiré or any of the more typical video artifacts. Grand Canyon Adventure was the best 3D film I viewed. I did see crosstalk but it was much more minimal. Even detailed backgrounds were reasonably solid. The water effects were especially cool. I enjoyed the slow motion shots of water droplets floating in and out of the picture.
My conclusions regarding 3D mode: use Sports for maximum brightness and minimum ghosting. A carefully calibrated Movie mode is great for 2D content but 3D quality will suffer. Like any new technology, there will be growing pains. I’m sure there will be future improvements in both displays and 3D content production.
The WX800 performed much better with regular Blu-ray discs. As I said earlier, this is my first review of an LED display and I was impressed. While it’s no Pioneer Kuro plasma, contrast is far greater than that of even a premium LCD with a CCFL backlight. I did notice some uniformity issues around the edges of the screen in extremely dark scenes but this was more obvious in test patterns than in actual content.
Star Wars, Clone Wars is a high-quality animated series from Lucasfilm. I’ve used season one as test material in the past so the episodes I watched from season two had a familiar look. The Toshiba did a fantastic job of rendering some very engaging CGI animation. The name of the game here is bright, bold color and detailed texture, and the WX800 delivered beautifully. I didn’t miss 3D one bit as every object, background and alien face popped from the screen thanks to the set’s excellent contrast performance. The only flaw I noticed was below-average screen uniformity in the darkest scenes. I watched these episodes in total darkness which accentuated even the smallest flaw in black areas. I would suggest a low-level room light or even better, a backlight when watching this TV.
Zombieland is a somewhat satirical look at a post-apocalyptic world filled with classic Hollywood zombies that stagger about and eat human flesh. The color palette is somewhat cool and drab. The image never looked flat on the WX800. Flesh tones had a decent vibrancy despite a slightly under-saturated red primary. Dark scenes showed good shadow detail with fairly deep blacks and no signs of murkiness. Film grain was evident in this transfer but it was never distracting even with all noise reduction options turned off. Turning them on softened the picture slightly. Using Resolution+ produced some edge enhancement that I found unnecessary. I left that off as well.
I dropped in two other reference Blu-rays to complete my testing, Seabiscuit and I, Robot. Seabiscuit is loaded with lush warm colors both in indoor and outdoor shots. One scene in particular shows Red Pollard riding through a forest in autumn that is just breathtaking. The bright oranges and yellows of the turning leaves looked great on the Toshiba. I, Robot is my favorite live-action disc with which to test image clarity. Every scene is tack-sharp and fantastically detailed. The WX800 did a great job with this movie. Again I was impressed with how far LCD has progressed since the advent of LED technology.
Another feature that is showing up in pretty much everything from TVs to toasters is Internet apps. In the case of the WX800 that means service from Netflix, Vudu, Pandora, Blockbuster, YouTube and Yahoo Widgets.
For movie and radio services, you obviously need to sign up for an account first. You can do this right from the TV if you wish. I already have Netflix so all that was required was a code generated from my PC (I used my iPhone) and my streaming queue magically appeared on the screen. This is the pilot version of the Netflix app so if you want to add titles to your queue you have to do it on your computer. Hopefully a future update will add queue management and browsing functionality. Using a Cisco wireless adaptor to connect the WX800 to my home network, I was able to see 10 of 13 bars on the Netflix quality scale over my 802.11g router. Even with the high quality stream, video still showed noticeable judder unless I engaged the High setting of the Film Stabilization control. As is always the case with Netflix, content quality varies greatly. Some episodes of Dirty Jobs bordered on unwatchable due to macroblocking and general softness. Still, for an incredibly low monthly fee, you can have a large library of movies and TV shows on demand.
Yahoo widgets are another common feature on current-generation TVs. A default set is installed the first time you press the dedicated button on the remote. After that, you can browse a moderate-sized library for more apps. They’re all represented by icons that scroll across the bottom of the screen so you can quickly call up weather info or stocks or even play a game. It won’t replace a PS3 or an Xbox but I did enjoy a game of Sudoku. I also had a go with the YouTube interface. You can use the app or the classic version which looks like a web browser. I found the interface very clunky as I had to perform all navigation with the direction keys on the remote. When I clicked on a video, it took a long time to load and sometimes I only got audio with no image.
All Internet apps are accessed by pressing either the NetTV or Yahoo Widgets keys on the remote. I discovered once you call up any app or start a movie, you cannot access the TV’s menu if you want to change say the picture mode or aspect ratio. Just be sure to set the picture controls where you want them before starting any ‘Net programs.