Move the sofa aside because Toshiba's 52-inch DLP monster is the ultimate big screen budget TV. Winning the sheer acreage award for TVs for under the two grand mark, Toshiba's first DLP rear-projection TV is simply behemothic. You get no less than 52-inch of screen driven by a fully HDcompatible 1,024 x 720 DLP chipset packed into a rather fetching cabinet.

Light silver, lacquered aluminium and a gloss black trim line (with touch sensitive controls) set it out from the crowd, if not the Samsung SP-50L7.

The DLP engine creates a relatively short plinth, so the 52WM48 is supplied with a hefty wood and glass stand. In complete contrast to the Samsung, this is a big, bulky affair, but it does give you plenty of room to place home entertainment ancillaries, an embroidered doily and half a dozen out of date copies of FHM. OK, the Toshiba is by no means a moose on the loose, but its cosmetic charm plays second fiddle to the gorgeous Samsung.

Of course, the Toshiba is almost £500 cheaper than the Samsung, so savings must have been made somewhere other than just the design. Sure enough, the Toshiba is very much a DLP 'lite' TV with just a single tuner, no Virtual Dolby or other pseudo surround sound, and no built-in subwoofer.

However, you do get a sub output. The remote is an immediately forgettable grey piece of plastic, but it will at least control a DVD player and VCR too.

Out of the box

The core technology is up to snuff with the very same HD DLP chipset as the rest of the DLP pack, a HDMI input (but sadly not DVI as well) and a suitably long lamp life. There's a Digital Noise Reduction feature ... and that's about it for niceties to sing about.

Fresh from the box, the Toshiba is nothing short of stunning, but not for the right reasons. The sharpness is set way too high as standard, leading to drop shadows and dark edges around characters. The colour is also right out there, romping around the same Day-Glo paint factory as the ThemeScene. Shield face from picture intensity blast, and dive into the menus to achieve an altogether more acceptable image.

And acceptable it certainly is. With broadcast TV, 'talking head' programs ruthlessly reveal a TV's ability to look natural, as faces three feet across mean a whole lot of flesh to render. With make-up artist precision, the Toshiba creates highly realistic flesh tones backed by high contrast and definition that add a great sense of depth. Close to the screen, it's all too easy to see the line structure of broadcast TV, but sit more than 3m away and the Toshiba really impresses.

Surprisingly, the sheer size doesn't overbear the entertainment value, and one associated reviewer (the missus-to-be) settled down to several episodes of EastEnders on the Toshiba. She noted a good sense of getting involved in the plot - even if I thought it represented a big screen horror.

The picture is lively and smooth - a fine combination indeed. The processing is superb, with negligible picture noise and very little digital banding. The Toshiba seems to avoid all the hype and bluster and potential for overkill of DLP and hits an amazingly natural balance that is just right.

Hook up a HD source through the HDMI input, tweak the picture settings, settle down with a large bag of popcorn and revel in the fact that there's no better way to spend 1,800 quid. With a clean HD input, the Toshiba will drop the jaw of anyone who walks into the room. It's rich, colourful, detailed and blessed with a glorious three-dimensional feel that makes even big screen commercial cinemas look flat.

The DVD of The Aviator is one of the ultimate test discs, combining vivid colours, spectacular landscapes, dark scenes and high speed movement - often all at the same time. Having put the film on and not written a single review note until the end credits rolled was the first indication of a class-leading product.

The richness and detail of the film is fully explored on the Toshiba's huge screen, laying bare every nuance, every swish of propeller, every intention of the director. One could happily fall in love with Leonardo DiCaprio's face were it not for the fact that I'm getting married soon.

Animations and CGI films look breathtakingly solid and detailed. The animated cartoon series, Star Wars: Clone Wars, reveals dense grain-free colour blocks on a digital feed, while Shrek 2 shows that, at the other end of the detail scale, this screen can show up the tiniest nuances of detail in the source material. Few TVs perform so well with such a range of video material - live and animated.

Avid aviator

So, yes, the TV itself doesn't look anything special. But the point is, at the end of the day, it's performance that counts. The Toshiba's understated silver frame doesn't detract attention from what's on the screen. With this TV, it's all about the picture. The superb contrast and razor-edged definition combine to make this one of the very best big screen TVs ever produced, whatever the technology.

The film's incredible sound is far less impressively rendered, though. As most people considering a 52-in ch TV will have or will probably purchase a separate surround sound system anyway, it's probably not a big issue.

Toshiba's 52WM48 creates a most natural looking picture and gives away nothing in terms of impact, colour or clarity. It's also the easiest to watch on a day-to-day basis, despite being larger than most roadside billboards, offers absolutely gorgeous HD entertainment and is mind-bogglingly affordable to boot. I may never leave the demonstration room again. Richard Stevenson