LCD screens may have started life as PC monitors, but with the 17WL46 Toshiba has managed to please both surfers and home cinema fans alike by producing the ultimate convergence product.
In fact, it's tempting to announce the death of separate home cinema and PC equipment. Specially designed multimedia personal computers - sleek, eye-catching products a world away from the old lumpy beige boxes - can now take care of all your DVD, music, TV and recording needs, while some televisions offer internet access from the comfort of your sofa. The 17WL46 is a great example of that convergence.
So it's nice to see that Toshiba has decided to include two Scart sockets for us AV fans, both of which are capable of receiving RGB video feeds. This means you can connect up a DVD player and digital set-top box at the same time. There are also composite and S-video inputs if you need them, as well as basic audio inputs and outputs. The audio input can of course be used in conjunction with a PC's line-out socket, in order to make the TV's speakers output PC audio.
We have come to think of auto-tuning as a basic feature on all new televisions, so the fact that it's missing from the 17WL46 is puzzling and somewhat annoying. You have to tune each and every channel separately (the scanning, at least, is done automatically), then rearrange them in the correct order afterwards - it's clumsy and far from ideal. The remote control is also less than impressive, looking and feeling cheap. It's slightly uncomfortable to use and it sometimes takes two or three button presses to get a response - not the sort of thing we expect from a manufacturer with such a solid reputation for TV remotes.
Devil in the detail?
While not a lot of time seems to have been dedicated to the details, the same cannot be said for the 17WL46's LCD panel itself. Despite our misgivings with setup, the screen's picture reveals very impressive levels of quality. However, the contrast range is not particularly high (even by LCD's pretty low standards) and the television image seems to lack crispness.
On a more positive note, we fed our Dodgeball DVD through one of the RGB Scart inputs and were treated to colours that were just bright enough and images that were detailed and vibrant. 'Ghosting' or blurring is barely noticeable during scenes featuring fast movement - such as in the final showdown between Average Joe's and Globo Gym on the nerds' way to replacing 'midget tossing' on the front cover of Obscure Sports Quarterly magazine. Digital television feeds, meanwhile, also looked pleasingly vibrant and sharp.
The screen's sonic performance isn't anywhere near as impressive as its pictures. The audio quality of the frantic crowd noise around the dodgeball court was decidedly average during our test. The tiny, tinny speakers lack the range to create any kind of low-frequency effect - but then you don't expect great sound from small TVs, so we can't fault Toshiba too much for this. Still, a set of this size is unlikely to be partnered with a surround sound system, so you'll be stuck with its own output - unless you pair it with something like Acoustic Energy's Aego II sub/sat system, to beef up the sound with a relatively small product.
The Toshiba 17WL46 is a great solution for the bedroom, where it can serve the dual purpose of playing movies and acting as a PC screen. It serves both these functions well, although there are other small LCDs that provide a better all-round package. If you're looking for a great value product, other manufacturers' screens offer a better solution.