Recently we checked out the first of Toshiba's new generation of digital-tuner LCD TVs, the flagship-level 32WLT58, and loved it. So even though the 56 part of the 27WLT56's name reveals it to be a rung down the Toshiba LCD ladder, we still have high hopes for it.
Aesthetically,the 27WLT56 is fair to middling.The mixture of dark silver inner frame,light silver outer chassis and angled-back sides creates a subtle,soothing impression,but there's no real panache or drama.
Connectivity gets the job done,but could have been better.While all the HD Ready essentials are there,we were disappointed to find a DVI rather than HDMI jack for digital,and no component video inputs.The latter is solved by using a component to VGA adaptor and the TV's provided analogue PC port,but this means you can't connect PC,component HD and digital video sources at the same time.We were also disappointed to discover only two Scarts - though they are at least both RGB capable.
The internal specifications fare better,with a native WXGA resolution rounding out the TV's HD talents,a 900:1 contrast ratio outscores most 26/27in rivals,and a 550cd/m2 brightness keeps up with the Joneses.
The first sign of trouble comes with the rather curtailed features list.Sure, there's HD Readiness and a Freeview tuner - but beyond this all that's worth mentioning are support for the 8-day Freeview electronic programme guide (complete with 8-event timer memory,but no direct selection of upcoming days); picture in picture options; and a black stretch facility. The most worrying omission is Toshiba's Active Vision LCD processing,how will the 27WLT56 fare without it?
Not particularly well, actually. Active Vision's absence is felt immediately. First, the picture looks softer with all sources,including high definition.
Next,black levels are average, leaving dark picture areas looking greyed over and flat,and making that contrast ratio seem optimistic.Black levels appear to be another area where Active Vision works wonders.
Watching an action movie or sports footage reveals another flaw: smearing,presumably caused by an uninspiring LCD response time.The final disappointment comes from the colours,which look rather muted and sometimes unnatural compared with Active Vision LCD sets.
Not matching up to some of Toshiba's own other LCD TVs is one thing,but more troublingly for the 27WLT56,it also looks pretty average against 26/27in sets from many rivals. Pretty much the only area where it excels is its lack of picture noise - grain,dot crawl,etc.
Sound is merely average,too.The set can go loud without cabinet rattle, and dialogue is unusually intelligible, even during louder action sequences. But other aspects of such scenes find bass sounding compressed,and trebles harsh.
We guess there's nothing actually bad about the 27WLT56; it's just fundamentally average.But for a company as assured with LCD as Toshiba,it's hard to escape the feeling that this average performance represents a bad day at the office.