In performance terms, Toshiba has always stood towards the back of the bunch as its technologies have tended to be a little behind the curve. The company is looking to change this with the release of its XL700A series, which includes its first LED system and internet connectivity.
In words that were used to describe Steve Buschemi, the Toshiba XL700A is "kinda funny looking". The bezel is piano black — fairly standard these days — but it also has black, brushed-metal panels stuck on top which don't quite meet at the corners. The effect comes off looking a little like a patchwork quilt made for Batman.
The remote features a similar finish, though instead of metal it's brushed plastic and not quite as luxurious as the Pioneer Kuro remotes of yore that featured actual metal. It's fairly easy to use though.
While its Japanese compatriots are full steam ahead with the interactive features on their televisions, Toshiba has been a little more conservative with its networking capabilities till now. Sure, it's got the Cell TV with ... erm ... the Power of Greyskull, but that may never actually be sold in Australia. Meanwhile, the XL700A dips its toes into networking waters with the inclusion of a media player and YouTube.
This 47-inch TV boasts an LED backlight for better contrast, and the 1080p screen has a host of picture processing technologies including MetaBrain Premium, ClearFrame 100Hz technology and Resolution+.
The TV is also one of the first we've seen to support the HDMI 1.4 Audio Return Channel (ARC), which means you only need to connect one HDMI cable to get two-way sound between your TV and receiver — no need to hook up a separate digital cable to get TV sound. However, at present only a couple of receivers support this feature as it isn't a compulsory part of HDMI 1.4.
The TV includes a number of different connection options including four HDMI ports, two USB slots, Ethernet, a wireless LAN dongle, two components and a VGA input.
By bringing the specs of the XL700A into line with its competitors, Toshiba has come up with an intriguing performer. The LED backlight in particular works quite well to deliver a colourful, contrasting picture. The TV will work in the dark or in a well-lit room and so is quite flexible to your living room arrangements.
Whether it was a DVD or Blu-ray the TV demonstrated excellent levels of black, maybe not as intense as the Sony HX800 or LG LX9500, but at least the equal of most plasmas. Like most LCD TVs though there is a loss of contrast when viewed off-axis.
Colour and detail were strengths of the TV, though the XL700A did show some softness when using the component input for DVDs that wasn't apparent on the HDMI input. The Toshiba soundly dismissed any picture noise with mosquito buzzing and blockiness effectively banished.
Jaggies were a problem for this set, though, with the synthetic tests and real-world discs showing a tendency for moire effects on parallel lines — which can be distracting, and is a problem you won't find from the likes of Sony.
As this is Toshiba's first "connected" TV you've got to expect some teething problems, and the XL700A certainly has them. While YouTube works quite well serving up the familiar "Spotlight", "Most Popular" and "Search" functions and quick playback, the media player is pretty bad. While the TV was able to find our networked media server it refused to play media of any kind. It would either flash up "Media Error" or in the case of music it actually "crashed" our TV — which effectively meant the TV turned itself off and on again. When using the USB port, the player worked fine.
Lastly, as the TV has a dedicated speaker set — unlike most modern TVs that hide them behind the bezel — the sound is quite good. Voices are clear and movie sound effects have bite.
With the XL700A, Toshiba has rejoined the party and offers a compelling television. While it may not always work as it should this is definitely Toshiba's best TV in many, many years.