In this Toshiba 50UK3163DB review, we're looking at a cheap 4K TV that manages to squeeze a lot of premium features in for its price. It's also available in 43-inch, 58-inch and 65-inch sizes.
While the Toshiba TV brand might no longer be the truly Japanese powerhouse it once was, its latest owners are still slowly but surely making it a significant player in the European TV marketplace again.
The 50UK3163DB is a perfect example of Toshiba’s mostly positive direction of travel. Despite being one of the best TVs under £500, this 50-inch, native 4K TV boasts such eye-catching features as Dolby Atmos sound, high dynamic range (HDR) support that includes the premium Dolby Vision format, a far-field mic so you can speak instructions straight to the TV via Amazon Alexa (the set also works with Google Assistant, but not via the built-in mic), and a direct (rather than edge) LED lighting system.
Even better, Toshiba has managed to back up the 50UK3163DB’s surprisingly rich feature count with an impressively aggressive performance that leaves many budget rivals looking boring by comparison, even if it's not going to trouble the most premium sets in our list of the best TVs.
Toshiba 50UK3163DB review: Price & features
With official prices of £379 for the 43-inch model, £449 for the 50-inch, £499 for the 58-inch, and £548 for 65-inch, the UK3163DB sits firmly at the budget end of the 4K TV market. Yet in many ways, its feature count belongs more to a mid-range set.
The fact that its HDR support stretches to Dolby Vision is particularly welcome, as it shows a genuine interest in trying to give consumers a premium picture experience. In fact, Dolby Vision tends to have more beneficial impact on relatively affordable TVs like this Toshiba than it does on really high-end sets.
The Dolby Vision playback is backed up, too, by support for both the HLG and industry standard HDR10 HDR formats. The only major absentee is the HDR10+ format designed as a premium rival for Dolby Vision. But this appears on far less content than Dolby Vision does.
Going the whole Dolby hog by also bringing Atmos sound on board merely underlines the feeling that Toshiba is willing to go the extra mile even with a TV as affordable as the 50UK3163DB to give customers an experience it likely couldn’t muster without ‘third party’ help.
Of course, Dolby Atmos decoding by itself isn’t an absolute guarantee of awesome sound quality. It needs to be backed up by half-decent speakers. So we’ll be paying careful attention later on to whether the 50UK3163DB’s 2 x 20W speaker array is enough to get at least some value out of Dolby’s object-based audio approach.
The use of direct LED lighting, where the LEDs sit right behind the screen rather than around the edges, joins the extensive HDR support in boding well for the 50UK3163DB’s picture quality, as this approach typically yields better contrast than lighting systems that use LEDs ranged around the picture’s edges.
The panel is also a VA type rather than an IPS type, which again usually results in better contrast (albeit at the expense of comparatively limited viewing angles).
The 50UK3163DB’s claimed contrast ratio of 5,000:1 is reasonably promising by affordable LED TV standards, though the set’s measured peak brightness (taken on a white HDR window covering 10% of the screen) of 336 nits doesn’t promise a particularly exciting HDR performance.
Toshiba has found space in its budget to throw a little image processing at the 50UK3163DB. Its proprietary ‘TRU’ system includes elements aimed at improving the playback of motion, reducing the jagged look curved edges can exhibit (especially when they’re not native 4K), and enhancing contrast.
The 50UK3163DB optimistically claims that its connections include three HDMI 2.1 ports. Don’t imagine from this, though, that you’ll be able to use it to play Xbox Series X and PS5 games in 4K 120Hz. Or that you’ll be able to enjoy variable refresh rate gaming, or the eARC HDMI loopthrough system that might have let you pass Dolby Atmos soundtracks losslessly through to a compatible soundbar or AV receiver.
In fact, the only HDMI 2.1-related feature the 50UK3163DB’s HDMIs do support is automatic low latency mode switching, so that the TV can activate its low input lag game mode when a game source is detected. This results in a seriously good input lag figure of just 10.1ms. Die playing in Call Of Duty on the Toshiba 50UK3163DB and you’ve only got yourself to blame.
Rather than just ‘buying in’ a third-party smart system from the likes of Google, Roku or LG, the 50UK3163DB unexpectedly deploys a smart system of Toshiba’s own design. Even more surprisingly, this system really isn’t bad. Its presentation is compact but effective, for the most part tidily fitting its content links and apps into a couple of ‘shelves’ superimposed over the bottom few inches of the picture.
There’s voice control via either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant too, and a longer list of key video streaming apps than might have been expected on a home-grown smart system from a brand that presumably does not have the same negotiating power as the biggest TV brands. That said, neither Disney+ nor Apple TV were available at the time of writing, with the former being a significant miss.
Toshiba 50UK3163DB review: Picture Quality
For a TV that only achieves 336 nits of peak brightness, the Toshiba 50UK3163DB delivers surprisingly aggressive HDR pictures. Highlights are delivered with much more intensity and HDR gleam than is typical with a sub-£500 50-inch TV, while full-screen bright HDR content, such as punchy daytime scenes, looks both significantly lighter and more vibrant than expected.
In fact, the 50UK3163DB HDR image management provides it with so much brightness/light control headroom that it’s able to still make peak highlights of full-screen bright images stand proud of their already punchy surroundings, rather than the brightness just ‘flattening off’ as we might expect with a TV that has less than 500 nits to play with. So, for instance, you become impressively aware of the light gleaming off individual drops of rain during HDR footage of torrential rainfall, or of sunlight catching the corners and curves of car bodywork.
The 50UK3163DB isn’t just unexpectedly bold with HDR, either. It also gets impressive value from its native 4K resolution. Good-quality native 4K sources, especially 4K Blu-rays, look much richer in texture, clarity and depth than HD images do, despite the 50-inch screen being fairly small by today’s 4K standards.
Between them, the intense sharpness and surprisingly potent handling of HDR leave almost all of the 50UK3163DB’s similarly priced rivals looking staid and dull by comparison. If you really want to get an impression of HDR’s strengths without having to spend big on a much higher end TV, the 50UK3163DB won’t let you down.
The 50UK3163DB isn’t as strong relative to its rivals when it comes to colour – but it’s not bad either. There are more vibrant-looking TVs out there for sure (though you’ll typically need to dig much deeper in your pocket to secure one of these), but the set’s colour saturation is usually fulsome enough not to actually look unnaturally washed out even with the brightest HDR sequences. Even better, Toshiba’s set manages to resolve subtle colour tone information during very dark scenes better than some TVs costing significantly more.
The 50UK3163DB does a better job than many sets in its class of upscaling HD sources. The results look sharper than HD, yet not so processed that they end up looking unnatural. Provided, anyway, that you keep the set’s motion processing and noise reduction systems set to low or turned off entirely.
One final strength of the 50UK3163DB’s pictures is that dark scenes aren’t impacted by any really distracting backlight blooming or general clouding inconsistencies.
Dark scenes also, though, reveal the 50UK3163DB’s biggest weakness: pretty average black levels. In fact, the TV can’t really do black colours at all, or even anything close to it. Dark sequences instead appear through a pronounced grey mist that robs them of the impressive naturalism the screen achieves with bright scenes.
As noted before, dark scenes are at least free of backlight inconsistency. Also, thankfully, the 50UK3163DB manages to portray plenty of shadow detail through the greyness. As a result, dark scenes don’t look flat or hollow. Nonetheless, we’re still a million miles away with the 50UK3163DB from the sort of deep, rich black colours we’ve come to associate with premium LCD or, especially, the best OLED TVs.
The 50UK3163DB handles motion slightly awkwardly, too. Toshiba’s TruFlow motion processing is too heavy handed for comfort, generating too many unwanted side effects even in if you stick to its lowest power setting. Yet without the motion processing in play, judder with 24p film sources can – especially during slow camera pans – look a little exaggerated.
Viewing angles, finally, are pretty limited before colour saturations start to reduce. Though actually, the 50UK3163DB’s uninspiring black levels mean that the reduction in contrast often seen when viewing LCD TVs from an angle is not as noticeable as it might normally be.
Toshiba 50UK3163DB review: Sound quality
The 50UK3163DB’s sound, like its pictures, is pretty good for such an affordable TV. Its speakers are powerful and dynamic enough, for instance, to deliver an expansive sound capable of shifting up and down a few gears quite convincingly during the ebb and flow of a powerful action scene.
The sound also projects forward and sideways from the screen quite effectively, avoiding that feeling so often heard with built-in TV audio systems that sound only seems to exist behind the screen.
This ability to throw the sound forward and out – without the sound stage losing cohesion – helps the 50UK3163DB get at least a little benefit from its Dolby Atmos decoding. Dolby Atmos soundtracks appear bigger, more detailed and cleaner, with dialogue locked more effectively to the screen.
There are inevitably limits to the 50UK3163DB’s audio talents. Bass is only middling in terms of both the depth and impact it achieves, and the sound can start to collapse in on itself, becoming muddy and harsh, if you push the volume too high. So long as you respect its limitations, though, it sounds good enough to let you put plans to pick up one of the best soundbars on the back burner for a while.
Toshiba 50UK3163DB review: Design and usability
The 50UK3163DB pulls off the tricky feat of managing to look both stylish and a little cheap.
Its elegant black stand doesn’t draw undue attention to itself, and sits under the screen’s central section so that it’s easy to fit the TV onto even quite narrow pieces of furniture.
The gleaming Toshiba badge is attached to an eye-catching elongated ‘block’ that hangs from the TV’s bottom edge, creating at least the illusion that the 50UK3163DB is so darned clever that it’s had to fit in a dedicated box for all of its processing horsepower to sit in.
These rather attractive, premium design features are undermined, though, by a pretty plasticky glossy black finish to the main screen frame. This is exaggerated, too, by the frame being wider than usual by modern TV standards.
The 50UK3163DB is impressively easy to use. Its onscreen interface is compact and logical, and does a better job of combining access to content sources and the TV’s set up options than many supposedly much more sophisticated systems.
Initial installation is a no-brainer, too, sticking to the basics rather than trying to sign you up to services you likely don’t want. The remote control is for the most part sensibly laid out and its buttons are well-spaced, and the support via far-field mic for voice recognition is a boon at this price point.
The 50UK3163DB’s home screen is a bit sluggish to appear, you can’t change the running order of the apps on the homescreen, and there’s currently no support for the Apple TV or Disney+ apps. You can always add the latter with an inexpensive streaming stick, though.
Toshiba 50UK3163DB review: Verdict
The Toshiba 50UK3163DB is a pleasant surprise. It takes an unusually aggressive approach for its price point to the latest 4K and high dynamic picture quality features – and for the most part looks all the better for it. Its smart system is slick (albeit lacking a couple of key apps), and it sounds decent too. Dark scenes are too grey for serious film fans, perhaps, but for its money, or as a second room TV, it’s a really good bet – and the best TV to wear a Toshiba badge we’ve seen for years.
Toshiba 50UK3163DB review: Also consider
The Samsung AU7100 can be found at very similar prices to this Toshiba at the same sizes, and it scored the full five stars in our Samsung AU7100 review… however, it doesn't include Dolby Vision and Atmos support, and the Toshiba's audio is a little strong, so if these are boxes you're especially keen to tick, then the Toshiba may be the better buy.
Toshiba's own UL21 is also a strong alternative. Our full Toshiba UL21 review praised its Dolby Vision support and strong 4K image quality, and also features a direct back light for punchier HDR, just like this model.