toshiba 42db833

Sound

The 42DB833B isn't particularly well endowed in the audio department, with two stereo 7W speakers that struggle to produce anything other than distortion-free and relatively clear dialogue from TV.

Switch to a movie and those speakers really struggle, with a Virtual Surround Sound mode not exactly saving the day – in our tests all it did was squeeze audio to the flanks and reduce the clarity of speech.

Value

Compared to its nearest rival in terms of its main feature, the 42DB833B is very good value; Sony's KDL-40EX43B was selling for just shy of £1000 at the time of writing. Granted, that particular set does feature Sony's awesome Bravia Internet Video hub of online TV (such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer and Lovefilm) via a Wi-Fi connection, but the 42DB833B can't help but seem a veritable bargain in the face of that.

It may not have online gubbins, but this 42-incher boasts decent all-round pictures on its Edge LED panel and a space saving design that will suit most living rooms well. In fact, our only reservation is its denial of Freeview HD, though that's hardly a terminal omission.

We always recommend using a dedicated Freeview HD PVR that permits recording, series links and more, or a Sky or Virgin HD box, rather than relying on a built-in Freeview HD tuner. The lack of a DVB-T2 tuner will, nevertheless, make the 42DB833B unsuitable for some households, but it's perfect for any PVR or pay TV environment.

Ease of use

If the main GUI, a line of icons along the bottom, is attractive yet effective and simple, the interface that rules over the USB inputs is incredibly rudimentary.

It's not just that we had to select which media we were searching for as well as the having to choose the correct folder they were stored in, but the four-by-three grid of low-resolution folder icons and thumbnails is ugly indeed.

Select a photo – JPEG and BMP (the latter with no thumbnail in support) in our tests – and it's then visibly resized until the TV works out the correct shape. Various slideshow options and other information can be displayed, too, but it's a cluttered approach that's not intuitive enough.

Accessing music was just as simple, but just as ugly. This time a list of what was on the USB appeared, rather than a grid of thumbnails. Only MP3 files were displayed, and when selected, a screen appeared with a no-frills blocky graphic equaliser so that it appeared to bear no resemblance to what was actually playing.

Playing video from a USB thumb drive is more pleasing, largely because of the comprehensive file support. In our tests we successfully played all kinds of AVI, MP4, MKV and AVC HD files. All loaded quickly and played with stability.

From the Blu-ray disc we managed to play a variety of digital files from a DVD; both MP3 and WMA music files and JPEG photos, though video is restricted to AVC HD (typically from a HD camcorder) and AVI filetypes.

As quiet as any during playback and never a distraction during District 9, the built-in Blu-ray player is so easy to use it screams of a well thought-out design. Not only does the drive spring into life automatically when a disc is inserted – over-riding whatever is playing on the TV at the time – but there are some simple navigation controls on the remote. Playing, pausing, scanning and operating BD Live can all be done direct from the TV remote, and a nicely joined-up experience it is, too.

Freeview, however, is not one of our favourite features. Without a HD dimension, it's also shackled by an unusual electronic programme guide. Containing information for nine channels in a GUI that most closely resembles a 1980s BBC computer, the right-hand side of the screen shows a list of what's on a particular channel.

It's only possible to see what's on a single channel for the next six or seven hours that day; the normal approach that shows what's on at a particular time across multiple channels is surely more useful. Were also not big fans of the low-resolution grey, blue and turquoise colour scheme.