Toshiba has carved a comfortable niche for itself as the favoured brand for those who are looking for dependable, affordable audio-visual entertainment. Content to let rivals such as Panasonic and Philips vie for absolute technical supremacy, the Japanese company has been churning out decent, honest tellies that will fulfil the needs of the more discerning buyer on a budget for some years, and now they go and do it again with the 42RV555D.
The 42RV555D is the latest addition to the modestly-priced, but surprisingly well-specified market. But can it punch above its weight or will it conform to its budget origins?
The feature list isn't earth-shattering, but it is more extensive than you might expect for the price. The panel is 42in, for a start, which is something of a coup and it is driven by an HD-optimised version of Toshiba's reliable Active Vision suite.
The electronic roll call also includes 100Hz scanning and a claimed dynamic contrast ratio of 17,000:1. The back panel yields only three HDMI inputs, where four might perhaps have been anticipated, but again, look at that price tag and ask yourself if that really matters.
Ease of use
Toshiba cracked simple, intuitive interfaces a while back. The trouble is, it really was some time ago now and the simple, pastel-shaded menus are starting to look a little tired, especially compared to the snazzier offerings from some other rival manufacturers.
The main controls (picture and sound adjustments, settings and so on) are okay, but the script on the EPG and anything associated with the Freeview tuner, is too spidery to read with any comfort.
Toshiba's remote controls haven't taken any radical leaps forward recently, either, but then when they are as logical, uncomplicated and generally sound as the general-issue one deployed here, there is little point in change for its own sake.
Most importantly, though, it all works together well enough, and you won't find yourself baffled or gripped by blind panic at any point in the setting-up procedure and that has to count for something.
The 42RV555D is a four-star set in just about every sense and this extends to include picture quality. That's to say that it's about as good as you'd expect from a mass-market television from one of the more consistently sound, but rarely inspired, manufacturers.
Colours are probably its strongest suit, with a neutral range and no obvious bias to either end of the spectrum. Hues are accurate and carefully blended and rarely stray towards garish.
Your enjoyment will, of course, depend on the quality of your source material; low-rent daytime television, shot in bright studios and frequently featuring the less pulchritudinous members of the human race, looks dismal, while skin tones in an afternoon Freeview screening of the increasingly ancient Tron are that weird shade of orange you see in TV fare of similar vintage.
DVD or hi-def discs, on the other hand, scrub up well, with a balanced performance pitched correctly between restrained and vibrant.
Blacks are also what we expected. They are decent, but bottom out long before a true, plasma-type depth with an occasionally visible backlight undermining the profundity slightly.
Detail, meanwhile, is a bit underwhelming for a full HD set. There's plenty of information, but the overall effect is rather soft. This is not necessarily disastrous in an everyday telly, but worth bearing in mind if you want to eke out every last drop of resolution from, say, a brand-new Blu-ray deck.
Audio is rather poor. We have learned not to expect stadium-like sonic presence from flatscreens, particularly those with 'invisible' speaker arrays such as this. But the Toshiba is, by any reckoning, a bit feeble. There just isn't much difference between halfway and all the way up on the volume slider and maximum power hardly pins you back in your seat.
Inevitably, there isn't much low-end muscle, either, but the company has thoughtfully provided a dedicated subwoofer output on the rear panel to cater for this eventuality. As ever, use the built-in speakers for everyday telly and switch to a proper surround system, if you can, for movies.
That £690 is one hell of a price for a 42in TV from a major manufacturer. The 42RV555D may not have the technical panache of a mid or upper-range Panasonic or Philips TV, but you won't find many half-decent LCDs, or full HD plasmas, for this sort of price.
If you are looking for something big, uncomplicated and affordable and aren't the sort of person who uses words like 'moiré' or 'artefacting', then this might be just the ticket.
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