While passive 3D is still only mass-adopted by the cinema industry it's fast being shipped over TVs as the technology improves. Toshiba's passive 3D TV is a cut above, hitting the sweet spot on price and quality.
Unveiled to T3 on an Italian film set earlier this year, in the shadows of a faux Roman Coliseum, Toshiba's Smart TV debutant clearly intends to make a splash. Thankfully, it lives up to its OTT launch. The 47inch VL863 is an imperious LED TV. Not only does it have designer good looks - we love the tapered panel edges - but it ushers in the brand's online smart hub, dubbed Toshiba Places, and heralds the adoption of Passive Polarisation 3D technology. For those that like the look of this screen but want something smaller, a 42inch version, the 42VL863, is also available.
Toshiba 47VL863: Build
With its textured bezel and heavyweight glass pedestal, the 47VL863 appears pricier than its £899 ticket might suggest. Fashionably thin, adaptors are required for the component video, PC D-Sub and Scart connections. There are four HDMI inputs available on the rear, plus Ethernet, two side-facing USBs, a CI card slot and a digital audio output. Wi-Fi isn't built in, but Toshiba makes a dedicated dongle if you need one. The remote control shipped with this set is equally audacious, a sheath concealing assorted function buttons.
Toshiba 47VL863: Features
This screen boasts two digital TV tuners, one for Freeview HD and the other for DVB-S2 satellite. It would have been nice to have a fully fledged Freesat option, if only for the easy-to-navigate EPG, but if you don't have Freeview HD broadcasts in your area, this is a handy way of getting gratis hi-def. Just connect the set to a spare Sky dish feed and you're away. New this year is Toshiba Places, a cross platform portal offering dedicated areas for social content and video streaming. While there's no Facebook or Twitter integration, you do get a fair amount of IPTV, including DailyMotion, Woomi, Viewster, Box Office 365 and Cartoon Network. All bar one are pay or subscription services. Confusingly, YouTube and BBC iPlayer appear as option within Toshiba Places but they're not accessible. They need to be selected from the main menu instead. The YouTube XL API offers access to hi-def streams, which is cool, but you can't engage the set's 3D functionality on top; a shame as there's plenty of Side-by-Side 3D material available to view. Media streaming is available, but it's not particularly comprehensive. Across a network there's no support for MKV, AVI or MOV files, while music streaming is limited to MP3s. Media playback from USB is better. The aforementioned video files become available and AAC tunes also play. But there is no support for album art either way.
Toshiba 47VL863: Picture Quality
This TV's 2D hi-def performance is knockout for the price. Black levels and colour fidelity are outstanding. Test footage of Tokyo at night confirms enviably low levels of noise. Colours are naturalistic. Brass instruments can typically look a little jaundiced, but here they are rendered with a golden lustre. The set also features an improved version of the brand's proprietary picture enhancer. Resolution+ adds just the right amount of crispy detail, and a welcome lift, to SD images. Toshiba's engineers claim this iteration is four times more powerful than previous versions. We'd rate the result as probably the best image enhancement system offered by any mainstream TV maker. The set's 3D performance is equally enthralling. While there's a lack of detail in 3D Blu-rays (the Passive 3D system eats half the vertical resolution), stereoscopic images are clean and punchy. Admittedly object edges may appear a little jaggy, but when viewed square-on there's no overt double imaging. Four pairs of RealD glasses are included in the box.
Toshiba 47VL863: Audio
The VL863's sound system acquits itself reasonably well. Audyssey signal processing is on hand to add some body, while Dolby Volume processing is provided to equal out discrepancies sound levels between channels and adverts.
Toshiba 47VL863: Verdict
Toshiba has a reputation for pile 'em sell 'em cheap TVs, but this model is a cut above. It combines thoughtful design with price-busting image quality - and its Passive 3D performance is a comfortable revelation. Nice one, Tosh.
Toshiba 47VL863 launch date: Out now
Toshiba 47VL863: £899