We've been disappointed with Toshiba's latest LCD range so far.
Its entry-level C and even step-up X series models haven't developed Toshiba's previous successful LCD generation quite as much as we'd hoped. The flagship 47Z3030 from Toshiba's Z series aims to redress that balance.
The 47Z3030 is chock-full of upfront impact, as its hefty 47in screen hangs within a surprisingly slender, gloss-black bezel.
It's well connected too: three v1.3 HDMIs are joined by PC connectivity, an optical digital audio output, component video input, and a subwoofer line out, amongst other treats.
Main features are dominated by the Active Vision M100 picture processing engine – especially the M100 bit. This means that the 47Z3030 is the first we've seen from Toshiba's current range to boast 100Hz processing.
This doubles the normal PAL refresh rate and helps moving objects look sharper. It's a relief to finally find 100Hz back in the hood as we really liked 100Hz on Toshiba's previous LCD generations, and have missed it on the current C and X models.
Pleasingly, the 47Z3030 can handle 1080p/24fps feeds from quality HD DVD and Blu-ray decks. In fact, it doesn't just handle them; it goes to town on them with a special '5:5 pulldown' mode that replicates every 24fps frame five times to reduce judder.
Unsurprisingly for a flagship TV, the 47Z3030 boasts a full HD resolution. Rather more startling is the set's claimed contrast ratio of 15,000:1 – a high figure made possible by a dynamic backlight system.
Other tasty morsels include 10-bit video processing for richer colourscapes, and MPEG noise reduction for reducing the blockiness of digital broadcasts.
Intense picture performance
During a run-through of King Kong on HD DVD, the 47Z3030 swiftly reveals itself to be the cream of Toshiba's current LCD crop. It's particularly gratifying to see how crisp and natural Kong looks as he swings through the jungle with Ann in his grasp. That 100Hz system is clearly at work here, along with the 24fps 5:5 pulldown system.
Colours are outstanding, enjoying saturations of rare vibrancy and intensity, but also a natural tone. Colour blends enjoy exceptional finesse and each hair on Kong's body is made visible by outstanding fine detail response, and reasonable shadow detailing in dark areas.
This clarity also owes a debt to the 47Z3030's impressive suppression of video noise during HD viewing, especially if you use the set's Exact Scan mode.
Impressive stuff, but the 47Z3030 doesn't quite reach What Plasma & LCD TV Best Buy standards, for two good reasons. First, while high-definition material looks clean, the picture's aggressive quality can emphasise MPEG noise in digital tuner feeds. MPEG noise reduction only improves this slightly.
A fine LCD
The other glitch is that black levels are merely solid rather than great – Kong's night-time NYC rampage appears behind a slight grey pall. It's especially apparent if you watch from much of an angle.
An Onkyo-designed speaker system accompanies the generally impressive pictures with some powerful sonics, but while the 47Z3030 is easily the finest model in Toshiba's range, it's still not quite the powerhouse we'd been hoping for.