Toshiba 46TL963 review

The very definition of cheap and cheerful

Toshiba 46TL963 review
Great Value
The Toshiba 46TL963 boasts 3G and smart TV features for a good price

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Although they're certainly not perfect, the Toshiba 46TL963's pictures are better - much better, for much of the time - than its cheap price would lead you to expect.

A selection of HD feeds quickly reveals, for instance, much more detail and crispness in the Toshiba 46TL963's pictures than you commonly get at the set's price level.

Playing a crucial part in this is the lack of blurring over motion, even if you don't bother with the Active Vision 200 motion processing system. In fact, this processing can actually make pictures look worse, at least on its highest power setting.

Also contributing to the image's sense of clarity is the Toshiba 46TL963's surprisingly astute colour rendering.

Toshiba 46TL963 review

There's both a wider colour range and more subtlety in the reproduction of colour blends than you get with the vast majority of similarly affordable TVs. This proves particularly helpful when it comes to skin tones, which look much more nuanced and thus less mannequin-like than they usually do on affordable TVs.

The Toshiba 46TL963's colours impress, too, with their vibrancy. Relatively artificial, colour-rich HD material such as the animated Rio film on Blu-ray, a Sky News HD studio feed or the brilliant Borderlands 2 game positively explode off the screen.

They capture and hold your attention far more successfully than the rather muted, low-contrast colour schemes deployed by many budget TVs.

Colours as potent as those of the Toshiba 46TL963 are seldom seen unless a screen can also deliver a strong black level response. And so it proves here, where images with a mix of bright and dark material contain strikingly deep black colours, miles away from the washed-out blacks commonly witnessed at the cheaper end of the TV market.

Toshiba 46TL963 review

Even better, the Toshiba 46TL963 seems able to produce its good black levels without compromising the intensity of bright parts of mixed images nearly as much as might have been expected.

The only source content that can seriously catch the Toshiba 46TL963 out is extremely dark footage, such as night-time movie scenes. While the set's general black levels remain quite strong, having darkness dominating the screen can reveal some unevenness in the TV's backlighting.

In other words, parts of the screen show unnatural pools of light that are caused by the edge LED lighting system rather than being any part of the source image content.

These patches lose some of their intensity if you slam down the set's backlight setting, but the only way to get rid of them so much that they cease to be a distraction is to use the TV's Hollywood 1 picture preset.

Toshiba 46TL963 review

However, it's likely that most users won't feel comfortable with this mode, since it leaves images looking far less rich and punchy than they do with most of the other presets.

It's also worth throwing in here that while the colours look subtle versus most budget televisions, there is a touch more striping over colour blends than you get with more expensive TVs from the likes of Sony, Samsung and Panasonic.

Another less than brilliant performance area for the Toshiba 46TL963 is standard definition playback.

While it manages to remap non-HD Freeview broadcasts to its Full HD pixel count with good levels of sharpness and colour punch, the resulting images look a bit noisy at times, with MPEG noise and quite a lot of grain.

Toshiba 46TL963 review

Toshiba's noise reduction systems can soften away some of this noise, but they tend to leave pictures looking softer as well.

The Toshiba 46TL963 gets back to impressing us, though, with its handling of 3D.

Some previous Toshiba active 3D TVs have suffered quite heavily with crosstalk ghosting interference, but while this is still occasionally visible over background objects on the Toshiba 46TL963, it's neither common nor aggressive enough to be considered a serious problem.

Also striking is how bright and punchy 3D images look, despite the dimming impact of the active shutter glasses. Detail levels are decent too (though not quite as high definition as those of some higher spec active 3D TVs), and 3D pictures don't suffer at all badly with motion judder.

Toshiba 46TL963 review

There are a couple of problems to be aware of, though, beside the slight crosstalk already mentioned.

First, because the Toshiba 46TL963 has to run very bright with 3D to combat the dimming of the glasses, you can sometimes be aware of the backlight inconsistency problems noted earlier.

Second, Toshiba's 3D glasses are a little too narrow for comfort, letting in more light around the lenses than we'd like.

The final picture performance point to cover is input lag. And, thankfully, the Toshiba 46TL963 does well here, producing a figure of just 36ms - low enough not to severely affect your gaming performance.

John Archer
AV Technology Contributor

John has been writing about home entertainment technology for more than two decades - an especially impressive feat considering he still claims to only be 35 years old (yeah, right). In that time he’s reviewed hundreds if not thousands of TVs, projectors and speakers, and spent frankly far too long sitting by himself in a dark room.