There’s a new Toshiba 4K TV in town, and it marks a shift in how Toshiba TVs are integrating some of their smartest features, compared to last year’s range.
The UL20 is the latest 2020 Toshiba TV, one with a 4K HDR display as well as support for the premium Dolby Vision HDR format and HLG. At the lower end of Toshiba’s TV range, it starts at just £299 for a compact 43-inch size, going up to £329, £379, £399 and £549 for its larger 50-inch, 55-inch, 58-inch, and 65-inch models respectively.
What’s most notable, though, is the lack of any Toshiba Connect accessory – a key component of last year’s UL5A and UL7A 4K TVs.
The Toshiba Connect is essentially a plug-in Alexa microphone that connects to a Toshiba TV via USB. An integrated Alexa voice platform in the TV itself would let viewers speak to the plug-in mic and use the television as a makeshift Alexa speaker, albeit with more limited functionality than a standard Amazon Echo.
We’re told, however, that the Connect accessory won’t be as integral to this year’s TV range.
“As for the Toshiba Connect, the focus is being shifted to integrate connected solutions into the TV’s themselves where possible,” said a Toshiba rep.
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The main letdown with the accessory last year was its cheap materials, meaning that the Connect would continually unmute itself by accident – something that would horrify any privacy-conscious user of smart home devices. It's currently out of stock as a standalone item, and we don't expect to see it restocked anytime soon.
The UL20 will support both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice functionality, but you’ll have to go the normal route of connecting it to a separate smart speaker with one of those voice assistants installed.
It’s probably for the best that Toshiba’s imperfect hardware accessory wasn’t pushed hard for 2020, but it is a shame to see such an innovative solution left by the wayside in favor of general orthodoxy.
As a smart shortcut to the integrated voice assistants of more premium TVs, Toshiba may have been onto a winner – but if fixing the Toshiba Connect was going to be more costly than discontinuing it, it’s not overly surprising to see this outcome.