Most of Toshiba's latest LCD TVs have shown just how good a handle the company has on picture technology. Unfortunately, the Toshiba 40RL953 isn't one of them.

Like all screens it has its strengths and weaknesses, so we'll start with the bad stuff first and work our way up to a positive crescendo. First of all, pictures from the Freeview tuner are slightly soft, even on HD channels.

Colour fidelity is generally accurate, but skin tones have a slightly waxy patina, so Noel Edmonds on Deal or No Deal looks like an escapee from Madam Tussaud's.

Toshiba 40RL953

You can play around with the sharpness and colour settings to improve matters, but it's a lot simpler (and more expensive) to switch to Sky.

There are two intermittent problems that can't be fixed. Firstly, while objects generally move smoothly across the screen, every now and then the screen betrays its basic 50Hz nature when something on Freeview or Sky will trigger a short jerky movement, be it a sudden head turn or an accelerating car. Frankly, you could live with it, and some people might not even notice it.

But the other issue is a genuine fault that we've never seen before and is hopefully specific to our review sample: when watching HDMI feeds (Sky HD and a Sony Blu-ray deck), every now and then a black line appears fleetingly across the screen.

Toshiba 40RL953 review

Our Blu-ray of No Country For Old Men also throws up the screen's poor motion resolution, as a tracking shot of the pebbly road lacks the strong definition of the static camera.

Our final gripe concerning the picture is the lack of shadow detail, which is a consequence of the Toshiba 40RL953's excellent contrast and punchy black levels.

Further positives include good brightness, smooth Blu-ray playback and one of the most well contained LED backlights around, with very little clouding of the LED clusters on solid black content such as Mad Men's credits.

Toshiba 40RL953 review

Off-axis viewing holds up well, thanks to the IPS panel, which is just as well given that the screen is fixed and can't swivel on its stand.

Usability

The Toshiba 40RL953 is not the screen to satisfy anyone of an impatient nature. It takes an age to come to life when switched on and is tardy at changing channels. It's also inconsistent in terms of its operating system.

The layout is reasonably logical, but aside from the icon-based main menu screen, the sub-menus are functional looking, even those for the USB media player.

Toshiba 40RL953

Things improve a lot when you press the Toshiba Places button, which looks contemporary and has its content divided into manageable folders. The Video places folder looks well stocked, but some of the others are rather meagre. For example, Music only has iConcerts and Aupeo, while the Game folder is home to nothing other than four Funspot titles.

There is, however, no shortage of buyable, rentable and free video content, with thousands of titles at your disposal. Presumably there are some foreign language gems hidden among the likes of Autopsy, A Love Story and Stupid Teenagers Must Die in Viewster's straight to online vault.

Toshiba 40RL953

Acetrax is more mainstream but has around 80 HD titles to rent (for £4.99 a pop) among its plethora of pay as you go selections. One operational problem with Places is that the back button simply doesn't work (faulty review sample maybe?) so we had to exit Places entirely and then drill back in when exploring.

USB media playback proved highly impressive, but we inexplicably lost connection with our Twonky DLNA server a couple of times and found the Toshiba 40RL953 a lot less willing to play ball with our range of video and audio files when taking this route.

Sound

There are 2 x 10W of audio output complemented by perfunctory levels of control including voice enhancement, dynamic bass boost and bass and treble adjustment.

Tinkering with the various options does help yield the best possible results, but the Toshiba 40RL953 is no argument against buying a separate soundbar or home cinema system.

Value

Based on its specification, the Toshiba 40RL953 does not seem like poor value. But once you take into account the performance problems and operational foibles, you do have to say that the price looks a lot less of a good deal.