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Smart TV may still be in its infancy as far as the mass market is concerned but there's no doubt that (unlike 3D) its popularity will continue to grow steadily. Toshiba has invested in honing its Toshiba Places portal, which is now attractive, more user-friendly, and not short of useful features.
Elsewhere, the Toshiba 40RL953 is well served in the looks department, appearing modern and understated. It has a clean-looking 1cm-wide black bezel, dark LCD screen and unusual mirrored lip along the bottom frame that subtly sets the TV off from the base.
The connections roster happily has plenty of legacy analogue support, an Ethernet LAN port, CI slot and reasonably includes three HDMIs, but the provision of just one USB could be problematic.
Mounting the Toshiba 40RL953 could also be tricky, given that most sockets are rear-facing rather than side-facing. With no built-in Wi-Fi, the sole USB has to be used to house the Toshiba WLM-20U2 WLAN Adaptor in order to access a wireless network, making access to USB flash drives an issue.
The least appealing aspect of the Toshiba 40RL953's hardware, though, is its throwback of a remote control. Neither its looks nor feel are commensurate with the cutting-edge model it serves.
The remote is tapered uncomfortably to one end and the rubbery buttons are generally small, flat and poorly labelled. You may well wish to explore the Toshiba remote control app for Android and Apple devices, or invest in a magnifying glass.
The Freeview HD-equipped Toshiba 40RL953 consists of a Full HD Edge LED-lit panel with 50Hz processing and 178-degree viewing angle.
Picture optimisation comes courtesy of AMR 100 processing, a Blu-ray-friendly 1080p/24fps cinema mode, Toshiba's acclaimed resolution+ mode that sharpens details of standard definition sources and a well-stuffed toolbox of image adjustment tweaks that pleasingly includes colour management.
When you fire up the screen for the first time, it asks you to choose between Broadcast and Media for the guide type, by which it means Freeview's EPG or the online Rovi Guide.
Rovi provides a much richer visual experience, including channel logos and still images relating to highlighted selections. You also get a live AV feed of the current broadcast as opposed to the audio-only continuity provided by the dour-looking Freeview EPG, something which enables the latter to cram in 13 channels at a time.
The revamped Toshiba Places portal comprises a fairly decent selection of video on demand providers, including Acetrax, Box Office 365, Cartoon Network, Viewster and the de rigeur BBC iPlayer and YouTube.
Other places fall under music, social, news and game categories, but fall short of an app store or web browser.
Multimedia format compatibility is exceptionally good with DLNA certification (subject to the fickle nature of DLNA connections), and the screen is happy to play ball with AVCHD, AVI, DIVX, XVID, M4V, MKV, MOV and WMV video files.
It can also show JPEG stills and M4A, AAC, MP3 and even WAV audio files.