The feature set of the 32RL853 serves up a handful of surprises, as well as a few disappointments.
The main shortfall is with online access, which is limited to YouTube, BBC iPlayer and Flickr from this new breed. Shoppers who want to get VOD content on a budget may well be seduced by Sony's KDL-32CX523 with its Lovefilm and Qriocity features.
At least the BBC iPlayer interface is simple to use and offers HD content - picture quality is subjectively as good as the original broadcasts. The YouTube platform, on the other hand, suffers from a bland interface and text so small it will make you squint. Compare it with, say, the integration of YouTube on Virgin Media's new TiVo-powered set-top box and it falls short.
Making up for this rather rudimentary set of net TV offerings is the 32RL853's media player prowess. The set can slot into your network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi (the latter requires an optional dongle, though), and suck down music, video and photo content from DLNA-certified servers. This worked smoothly with a networked PC but, as usual, some test video files refused to play.
Those who don't want to set up the 32RL853 on their home network can also play media files stored on a USB device.
Connectivity is excellent, considering the set's budget nature. There are four HDMI v1.4 inputs (one side-mounted and one offering support for the Audio Return Channel, enabling you to plumb in an all-in-one system with minimum fuss), plus jacks for Ethernet, USB, Scart, component and composite.
There's also a 15-pin PC input and a digital audio output. The only gripe is that if you do use the USB input for a Wi-Fi adaptor, you don't have anywhere else to hook up your external memory for playing media files not on your network. Also, you can't use the USB port to timeshift, which is an option some other manufacturers are offering, and which has appeal if you were to use this TV as a second-room set.
It's when you delve into the 32RL853's picture menu that it throws up some surprises. Toshiba has endowed this TV with a range of picture adjustments beyond what you'd expect to find on a £450 32-incher.
Firstly, there are seven picture presets - Standard, Dynamic, Game, PC, Autoview, Hollywood 1 and Hollywood 2. The Hollywood modes are Toshiba's own pro-level presets, which should, theoretically, offer the most accurate picture quality. Autoview automatically adjusts the picture depending on ambient light conditions, but this sort of thing often looks better on the spec sheet than it does in practice.
Adjustments in the picture quality menu include backlight, colour, brightness, tint and sharpness, but step into the Advanced menu and there are more. It's here you'll find a 10-step colour temperature slider, and 'pro' backlight adjustment, plus black/white level, static gamma and more.
It goes further. Below the Advanced menu is an Expert sub-menu that contains an RGB filter for better adjusting individual colour levels, white balance tweaks and Toshiba's own test pattern, which offers various contrast and colour samples to help you maximise the image. Finally, there's a Control Visualisation graph that can be laid over the image you are watching. Toshiba says this displays the 'brightness histogram and control curve of the current video signal'. Exactly what you're supposed to get out of it anyone's guess.
Other standout specs of the 32RL853 are its full HD 1,920 x 1,080-pixel panel, Resolution+ upscaling and built-in Freeview HD tuner.