Perfect for HD-eager bargain hunters, this mid-size LCD is fantastic value
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The Toshiba 32WL48P is all about value. It's the first mid-size LCD to feature an HDMI input and, amazingly, it's on a screen that can be bought for just over a grand.
This means it's fully capable of taking high-definition footage, including Sky's planned HDTV transmissions next year, while the screen resolution of 1,366 x 768 is enough to show 720p HD programming pixel-for-pixel (1080i broadcasts will have to be scaled down to fit the screen). What's more, Toshiba is about to replace it with a new model, so even better prices could be had soon...
The screen's surround is gun-metal, but this is about as distinctive as it gets on the outside. Still, Toshiba's Active Vision technology is on-board, and it's that HDMI that we're really excited about. It means that all the data from your DVD deck is transported to the screen and displayed entirely in the digital domain.
This means no quality-compromising conversion to analogue and then back to digital again before viewing. HDMI (unlike the video-only DVI alternative) also carries multi-channel audio, which is a huge improvement on Scart's analogue stereo capability.
We've often found that broadcast material doesn't look quite right on LCD, and the same is true with this Toshiba. The brightness of the whites looked too garish, and there were some artefacts. Still, at least images looked sharp and involving, although murky.
The bold and the beautiful
A spin of our test disc Dot the I revealed the screen's real potential, however. Pictures via component video were crisp and bold, with the 32WL48P pulling plenty of detail from London's dark back-streets and dank bedsits thanks to a colour palette that copes well with both vibrant and pasty colours.
And while the Tosh's reproduction of blacks certainly isn't up to that of the nearest Sharp rival, for example, this screen is a quarter of the price! Our one criticism is a faintly gauzy sheen on the picture that never really goes away, but it's a small matter.
As you'd expect, watching Dot the I via HDMI brought out even more good stuff, with better defined edges and more gradation across the colour spectrum. Motion was handled almost flawlessly, with barely a flicker to be seen. With pictures this stable and watchable, who needs plasma?
The all-important high-def test is easily passed, with pictures looking lush and packed with detail. HD-ready? You bet!
Broadcast audio is handled well enough, and the speakers are fine for everyday use, but, like many flatscreen speakers, they lack the punch needed to do a high-octane movie soundtrack justice. Having saved a packet by HD-readying yourself with this Toshiba, why not spend some of it on a surround sound speaker setup?
That's the real success story of this Toshiba - price. Sets with HDMI were, until recently, in the luxury category, and priced accordingly. So if you're after a screen that will last well into the age of high-definition television and fit nicely into a medium-sized room (and balk at the prices of the other sets in this group test), this is the screen for you.
It may lack the true star quality of some of its higher-priced competitors (particularly with reproduction of blacks), but thanks to its simple operating system, inputs and performance, the 32WL48P is proudly in a class of its own. We can't wait to see how its replacement fairs - watch this space!
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