Though the "plasma versus LCD" debate still rages on, most TV manufacturers have already made their choice: LCD. It's been a long road, but the technology is finally able to compete with long-time theatre favourite, plasma.
Sony was one of the first companies to forgo plasma completely, and though competitors such as Panasonic are still investing in plasma, LCD does seem the way forward. The reasons for this are many: it's cheaper to manufacture, and therefore to buy; it's silent, whereas some plasma TV's have upwards of four cooling fans, causing noise; and advances in backlighting have meant the images are now on a par with plasma.
While Toshiba is still producing TVs in both formats, the new 37WL66 REGZA is a fairly competent example of what LCD is capable of.
The Toshiba boasts simple yet stylish looks. It's reminiscent of Sony's Bravia range, with a gunmetal/black colour scheme. Unlike some other brands the stand is also attractive -- whereas Sharp's stands in particular look like mutated boomerangs.
The REGZA is also set up for wall mounting, with side mounted ports and hard power button.
The television comes with a particularly pictographic remote -- seemingly festooned with symbols. Unless you're familiar with what the symbol for Aspect Ratio is, for example, it may take a little time to work out what all the buttons do. However, it was comfortable to hold and use.
As its name suggests, the Toshiba is a 37-inch LCD which also includes two HDMI inputs and a 1366x768 resolution. With most sources now coming with HDMI outputs, it makes sense to include as many on a TV as possible, so two is a good start.
The REGZA in the name refers to the Toshiba's own video engine which includes Meta Brain Pro Technology which is designed to enhance fast movement in concert with the low 8ms pixel response time.
All the manufacturers are seemingly still on the "speed" bandwagon, due in part to the olden days when LCD monitors were pretty terrible at reproducing movement. But all that is in the past, and now most LCD monitors are now even more precise than the DVDs that are played on them. This is most noticeable on non-Region 4 DVDs, where judder is a big issue due to format conversion. This results in ghosting and sometimes even smearing of the image. Correspondingly, many of the complaints we receive from CNET readers about image problems with new TVs actually relate to limitations in the source and not the TVs themselves.
The next battleground -- we believe -- is contrast and viewing angle, and this is one area where the Toshiba could improve.
The Toshiba is a very capable screen -- from face on. Grey sets in at a very shallow angle -- so you'll need to be directly in front of the TV to get the most contrast. A lot of TVs perform better in this respect and this is one of the only sour points.
Otherwise, performance was very good. A comparison of an upscaled DVD of ... *cough* ... The Last Samurai versus the Blu-ray version showed very little differences between the two. The Toshiba was able to reproduce both versions with fidelity and good colour. The main reason for the lack of difference here is presumably that the maximum resolution of this monitor is 1366x768 -- which roughly equates to 720p. The Denon DVD-1930 that we used for the DVD playback is a very capable upscaler, which is also to Denon's credit. On a larger monitor capable of 1080p you'd expect to see more of a contrast.
But in any case, images were sharp, with plenty of detail and very little jaggies. But even with non-upscaled content, the video engine appeared to do a very good of reproducing true-to-life images. One other small issue we had, and the Toshiba is not alone here, is with the backlight. With a black background the screen looks vaguely blotchy, as it seems the backlight isn't lighting the screen uniformly. With normal viewing this isn't a problem, though.
There are two versions of this TV -- one with a digital tuner and one without. Though this version misses the digital option, the analog tuner was impressive nonetheless. It was a little grainy but able to pull in decent images where plenty of other TVs have failed.
Lastly, the onboard speakers were OK, and communicated speech well -- if a little thin sounding. They were certainly not up to the standard of the excellent Sharp LC46GD7X (which incidentally is four grand dearer).