Toshiba's '555' series got off to an exciting start with an up-scaling 42in model and looks to keep the momentum going with the 37RV555DB.

First things first: the 37RV555 doesn't carry Resolution+, which means it presumably won't produce the same impressive sharpness from SD sources as its 42in sibling. Aside from this, though, the set's spec is pretty good for its price.

For starters, the 37RV555 is a full HD TV. Also unlike its Sony rival, it has 100Hz technology to boost motion handling. Its claimed contrast ratio is slightly down on the Sony's, but the figures are so close that we may not be able to see any difference in black levels when watching.

Also notable in the 37RV555's spec is Active Vision LCD – Toshiba's proprietary video processing engine that's delivered decent – if hardly spectacular – results in the past.

Plenty of features

The 37RV555 scores another plus over the Sony, by being able to handle Blu-ray's 1080p/24fps format using a 5:5 pull-down method and by including among an already decent selection of picture adjustments a sophisticated colour management system.

One last noteworthy discovery among the 37RV555's features is a Game mode. This enables video signals to reach the screen more directly, with less 'interference' from the various processing systems. And so there's less chance that your gaming skills will be damaged by image lag.

The 37RV555's connectivity is solid rather than inspiring, meanwhile. Its three HDMI count matches that carried by the Sony 37V4000, as does its D-Sub PC port. It also joins the latter in having neither a USB nor an SD card slot. But to finish on a high, there is at least one unusual bonus: a subwoofer output for adding your own external bass speaker for some extra low end thump.

Although the 37RV555's onscreen menus are pretty straightforward to follow, they're rather bland and a little long-winded. The remote control, meanwhile, is well organised, but feels plasticky and can react a touch sluggishly.

Picture

Despite the set's impressive spec for its money, image quality really isn't anything special. It has problems delivering a totally convincing black level because, with the picture optimised for colour richness and brightness, dark scenes suffer noticeable grey misting, which also causes them to look somewhat flat and uninvolving.

Yet if you then adjust the pictures to make black parts of the picture look convincing (something you can actually achieve), you have to reduce the image's brightness so much, via the provided backlight adjustment, that brighter areas end up looking dull and lifeless. Disappointingly, we never found a happy balance between the two.

Exacerbating the black level issues is the excessive extent to which the picture loses contrast and colour saturation if viewed from anything other than straight-on.

Another, more surprising issue with the 37RV555's pictures is their susceptibility to that old LCD bugbear of motion blur. For even though the set has 100Hz processing, fast action can look a touch indistinct and smeary. More so, in fact, than on the non-100Hz Sony 37V4000.

SD issues

Our final moan concerns the 37RV555's portrayal of SD sources. Obviously, we wouldn't expect them to look as sharp and as clean as those of Toshiba's Resolution+ TV, but they really do look substantially softer and skin tones look unconvincingly waxy.

The set's image processing seems far more at home with relatively high quality sources, and the full HD resolution delivers even slightly crisper (relatively static) images and colour blend fidelity than on Sony's counterpart set.

The 37RV555's colours are pretty natural and rich, too, provided you don't turn the backlight down too far, and HD images generally look noiseless and stable, without the flickering in dark scenes sometimes seen on LCD TVs with dynamic contrast systems.

Audio bugbears

Audio is rather thin and feeble unless you turn on the set's bass boosting system, yet doing so can cause bass to overwhelm vocals and treble details at low volumes. Only when turned up loud does the soundstage gain the space needed to deliver a convincing mid-range and treble register.

The 37RV555 offers plenty of bang for your buck, but its performance doesn't quite deliver on all that on-paper finery, unless you're able to feed it a mostly hi-def diet.