Toshiba 55ZL2 review

Toshiba 55ZL2 review

T3 4
  • The Toshiba 55ZL2 is the brand's first glasses-free 3D and also packs a whopping 4K resolution. We took a closer look...

    Toshiba 55ZL2 review

    Love

    • Stunning 3840 x 2160 panel
    • 4K digital still images
    • Upscaled Full HD performance

    Hate

    • Glasses-free 3D not flawless
    • Unable to accept a 4K via HDMI
    • Limited online portal

    Offering four times the clarity of current Full HD TVs, 4K resolution is the next big step in the evolution of TV and promises images of astounding detail. But until the Sony PS4 turns up offering 4K gaming, is there any reason to invest in a quad HD television? Toshiba believes there is: glasses-free 3D.

    The 55-inch Toshiba 55ZL2 may look much like any other 3D flatscreen, but with an ultra high resolution 3840 x 2160 panel, it leaves rivals looking like relics from the 405 line era. In terms of screen size it has no direct competitors, although the upcoming 84-inch 4K Sony KD-84X9005 at least promises to keep it company.

    Toshiba 55ZL2: Features

    With headline grabbing glasses-free 3D on offer, there’s no doubting this set’s main party trick. But it has other attractions, including USB time-shifting and streaming IPTV. Toshiba’s online portal offers BBC iPlayer and YouTube, alongside a variety of subscription streaming services (but not LoveFilm or Netflix). 

    Toshiba 55ZL2: Design

    Toshiba’s up-market LED TVs rarely get the praise they deserve when it comes to design and build quality. The 55ZL2 is a characteristically splendid piece of work, but all the slick glass and metal comes at a price. At 30.5kg this is a heavy beast.

    Toshiba 55ZL2: Specs

    Connectivity is generous. The set features four HDMI inputs, plus component, phono AV, Scart (via an adaptor), PC input, Ethernet and two USB ports. Wi-Fi is integrated.

    Toshiba 55ZL2: Performance

    2D image quality is excellent. Toshiba’s Resolution+ processing upscales every input, including SD TV channels, to Quad HD. It does a remarkable job delivering smooth, nuanced, hi-rez pictures. The set’s glasses-free 3D performance is harder to judge.

    The 55ZL2 uses the brand’s proprietary CEVO Engine multi-core processing platform to manage the autostereoscopic process. The system works by offsetting the right eye image and filtering it through lenticular lenslets to create a sense of depth.

    But you need to be in an approved zone, denoted by a green 3D position arrow, for the system to work. To help line you up, facing tracking technology adjusts the zones by moving the lenslets.

    The catch is you can’t really move your head that much once you’re tuned in, for fear of phasing out of the 3D sweet spot. The sense of 3D depth isn’t that pronounced either, creating quite a shallow illusion. The result is very much like looking at a static lenticular print.

    The set’s audio performance is perfectly serviceable. A 10w woofer adds weight to the screens main stereo spread.

    Toshiba 55ZL2: Verdict

    The 55ZL2 is a groundbreaking LED TV that offers a tantalising taste of 4K resolution in the home. Upscaled 2D images look beautiful and Toshiba deserves plaudits for the technical ingenuity that’s gone into its creation.

    However to use 4K primarily as a delivery system for glass-free 3D seems a missed opportunity. The fact that you can’t input a 4K signal into the ZL2 via HDMI is a killer flaw, making the screen of little use when next generation 4K video sources come to market. Anyone buying a TV of this calibre needs the reassurance of future- proofing, and this Toshiba can’t offer that.

    Toshiba 55ZL2 release date: Available now

    Toshiba 55ZL2 price: £6,974

  • The hotly anticipated Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses free 3D TV is finally here and we has the chance for a preview before it goes on sale

    Toshiba 55ZL2 review

    Love

    • Stunning 3840 x 2160 panel
    • 4K digital still images
    • Upscaled Full HD performance

    Hate

    • Glasses-free 3D not flawless
    • Unable to accept a 4K via HDMI
    • Limited online portal

    Announced in 2011, the Toshiba 55ZL2 is finally a reality and is the first large glasses free 3D panel to go on sale in the UK, so you won't be needing any of those pesky specs.

    Toshiba 55ZL2: Build

    The panel design itself bears all the hallmarks of a premium TV, with a silver-trimmed black bezel surrounding the screen. The chrome-look silver stand sports a distinctive squared shape that should make it stand out from the crowd.

    Toshiba 55ZL2: Screen

    Naturally, the main feature here is the glasses free 3D Quad Full HD panel which has an impressive resolution of 3840x2160. Packing a quoted 9 million:1 dynamic contrast ratio, the panel has been designed to produce deep black levels.

    The black reproduction that we saw during our demo was good although not quite as inky as we might have hoped. However, we'll reserve judgement for when we can get our hands on a full review model.

    The 55ZL2 also offers super HD upscaling beyond full HD 1080p, powered by the brand's CEVO Engine processor.

    Overall, the HD picture performance was incredible, which is no surprise given that the screen resolution is four times that of normal 1080p HD. It's a compelling selling point on its own (although the price would seem rather steep, without the fancy 3D wizardry thrown in).

    Toshiba 55ZL2: 3D

    The glasses free 3D technology has improved in leaps and bounds since we first saw it previewed a few years ago.

    While viewing from the dead centre of the screen offers a near-perfect 3D picture, there are also several other 'sweet spots' on the panel so that's it's possible for more than oneperson to watch the TV at a time, solving the 'viewing angle' problem that's usually associated with glasses free 3D.

    The lenticular screen tech works in tandem with the built-on camera to automatically place these sweet spots and direct different images for the left and right eye in real time. These can also be adjusted manually using 3D position markers.

    As you'd expect, the panel can also convert 2D images to 3D, with the option to adjust the depth control to find the best viewing setup for you.

    The 3D picture we saw was good, with clarity and depth perception looking much better than on previous demos.

    Toshiba 55ZL2: Features

     

    The TV will also feature smartphone and tablet control, although we didn't get to see that in action, so hopefully it'll be up and running in time for our full review.

    The 55ZL2 also sports a built-in Freeview HD tuner, the Toshiba Places inline portal including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and iPlayer support, and you'll also get integreated Wi-Fi and DLNA.

    Toshiba 55ZL2: Verdict

    As with all 3D technology, it's largely down to personal preference whether the effect works for you and if you're able to watch it comfortably for long periods of time. This is definitely the best glasses free 3D that we've seen so far, and as a 2D HD panel, the 55ZL2 offers superb picture performance.

    The price tag of nearly 7 grand will be a major stumbling for most of us mere mortals with normal jobs - we suspect that this TV will have a relatively limited audience made up of minted early adoptors and premiership footballers with money to burn. However, it's an exciting look into the future of 3D and we look forward to testing it out in more depth.

    Toshiba ZL2 availability: On order from 12 March 2012 from John Lewis Oxford Street and later through Harrods via Dixons Retail

    Toshiba ZL2 price: £6999

    Hands-on review by Libby Plummer

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