For years now, Toshiba has been the undisputed champ of the UK rear-projection world. But with mega-budget brands like Bush muscling in on its patch and slick new technologies like DLP taking on Toshiba's CRT-based approach, Toshiba's new 42WH46 must be feeling the pressure.
The 42WH46 does at least get the basics right, though: at around a thousand quid it comfortably undercuts other DLP sets and doesn't sit too far above the Bush CRT model.
Compared with its DLP rivals, the 42WH46's butt sticks out a mile, eating up acres of living-room. But at least the minimalistic and subtle silvery finish keeps the fascia looking as unobtrusive as a 42in screen ever can.
CRT being an analogue technology, it's hardly surprising that there are no digital video inputs among the 42WH46's connections. There are no component video inputs either, meaning hi-def and progressive scan sources are off limits. At least the normal TV stalwarts are present, including three Scarts and an S-video feed.
Setting up and using the 42WH46 is pretty straightforward, thanks to simplistic onscreen menus, an ergonomic remote and a shortage of features to confuse you with! It's about time, though, that Toshiba followed the rest of the CRT rear-pro universe and provided an autoconvergence system rather than forcing you to align the red, green and blue picture components manually.
Really, the 42WH46's only interesting feature is its 100Hz processing - a pleasing find on a £1,000 42in TV, and one which certainly helps the set conjure up a very decent picture.
For starters, colours are impressively intense, combining vibrancy with a strikingly natural tone - the most natural of all the rear-pro TVs featured in this issue, in fact. Praise is also due to the almost complete absence of any digital nasties - be it smearing or blockiness - from the 100Hz processing.
What's more, compared to the Bush CRT and Thomson DLP sets, the 42WH46 features excellent black levels, suffering practically no grey mistiness and remaining free of the sort of dotty noise common on DLP technology. This black-level talent also works wonders in creating depth of field and background textures.
These plus points alone place the 42WH46 in a different stratosphere to its Bush rival, amply justifying the Toshiba's extra cost. That said, there are areas where the 42WH46's budget nature - arguably its CRT nature - does shine through.
Firstly, the picture isn't especially sharp. Edges look marginally soft and fine detail levels aren't especially acute. Next, while 100Hz certainly delivers a stability improvement over 50Hz, the absence of line flicker reduction can still cause a bit of juddering that you wouldn't find on a DLP or LCD rear-projection model.
Our final niggle concerns the extra picture noise - plus haloing and/or ghosting around hard edges - experienced while watching analogue tuner broadcasts. But we'd never recommend that you drive a screen as large as this with anything less than a Freeview or Sky Digital picture anyway.
The 42WH46's sonics make good use of its chunky body, using the reverb space available to generate impressive amounts of power and bass. Its audio also has more gears than most, effortlessly shifting up to expand the soundstage when a good action scene kicks in. A bit more treble detail would have been the icing on the cake, but it's still good.
When all's said and done, while not perfect, Toshiba's 42WH46 seems perfectly pitched for success. After all, where else could cash-strapped wannabe home cinema junkies get their hands on such accomplished 42in pictures for anything like so little money? John Archer