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Toshiba rather shoots itself in the foot from the off by promoting its headline acts - BBC iPlayer and YouTube - on the TV's core user interface.
Accessing them without having to fire up Toshiba Places might appear a space-saving idea, and it is, but for some reason iPlayer can't be launched from the actual Toshiba Places platform that it's supposed to be the crowning glory of. The icon is there, but a 'sorry, mate, we've not bothered to link to that' message (or words to that effect) appears when it's selected.
There are other long-winded and annoying oddities here, too: to even exit Toshiba Places - and you likely won't be staying too long - requires pressing Exit, then confirming it. The live BBC iPlayer link lies under the Applications tab on the main menu.
In terms of their future usefulness, the Toshiba Places pages do have one saving grace - armed with a separate login, multiple members of the household can customise what services they see. The big drawback for now is that there actually isn't all that much to decide between, but this could develop into a genuinely useful approach.
Elsewhere, Toshiba Places is nothing special, although some shortcuts have been added up top - we can see why the likes of Acetrax, iConcerts (archived John Denver concerts! Yeah!) and Aupeo can be called up immediately without hunting for the link, but do we really need a one-touch option to change the language?
It adds to the impression that this user interface was created by visual designers only, and not road-tested as much as it should have been. It's slow, and feels entirely separate from the rest of the TV.
Typical of the UI's rudimentary design is the Freeview HD EPG, a seven-day affair that displays all information for 13 channels over two and a half hours, in what looks like a half-written spreadsheet. There's no thumbnail image of the current channel underneath, although audio continues.
It's also slow to navigate - it's not even possible to scan down a page at a time, which is a huge shame, considering that the HD channels are hidden 50 channels in.
At least an inch too long and a touch slow to issue commands to its mother ship, the Toshiba 40RL858's remote control isn't one of our favourites. That's despite it being a winner in all other areas.
It sports a nicely weighted design that uses good quality and well-sized rubber buttons, and stores plenty of shortcut keys, as well as old-fashioned number buttons.
USB and Network Media Player
Dock a USB flash drive into the Toshiba 40RL858's sole USB slot and the TV immediately asks if you'd like to engage the Media Player, although it's just as easy to access via the Quick menu.
Photos are well provided for, with thumbnails displayed in a large 3 x 4 grid. When selected, they load with a variety of fade-in styles, with our test revealing support for both JPEG and BMP files, although not GIF or TIF formats.
Digital music fares well, too, with support for MP3, WMA and Apple Lossless M4A files. Tracks play when selected, but also kick-in after a few seconds if you merely hover over them. A largely blank full-screen is then displayed that lists the song title and artist beside a fairly low-res image of a quaver.
The highlight, though, is digital video - there's simply nothing we had in our locker that the Toshiba 40RL858 didn't play, which is a rare occurrence indeed. Everything from DivX AVI files, WMV and high-definition MKV and WMV HD (complete with audio) to MP4 and MPEG-2, various AVC HD and even a RealPlayer Media video all loaded quickly and played without problems.
The performance is slightly patchier over DLNA, with MKV not recognised.
Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and Space.com. He also edits two of his own websites, TravGear.com and WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),