Whatever issues you might have with passive 3D technology, the fact that it lets you watch 3D with flicker-free, cheap-as-chips glasses is a family-friendly boon.
So, it's no surprise at all to find other brands buying in LG's passive 3D tech to use in their own 2011 TV ranges, and first up is Toshiba's fairly-priced 47VL863B, which is also passably easy on the eye with its slim bezel, trim rear and minimalist black finish. But it does feel rather flimsy.
It's very well connected for the price; four HDMIs cater for your HD and 3D needs, while a LAN port will access stuff on a DLNA PC or Toshiba's new 'Places' online service. Twin USBs can either play back multimedia files or add Wi-Fi via an optional dongle.
Toshiba's Places smart TV online service shows potential, but content is currently very limited. For video you're restricted to YouTube, the BBC iPlayer, Daily Motion, Viewster, Woomi, plus a trio of subscription services. As for apps, you can access the Flickr photo site and Facebook is coming soon, but that's it. I'm hoping Toshiba will add more content to the Places 'cloud' soon.
The TV boasts a 200Hz system for sharper and more fluid motion; adjustments to the TV's static gamma settings; two-point and 10-point white balance calibration; and even a colour management system for adjusting the RGBCYM colour components. Surprisingly, though, it doesn't include 2D to 3D conversion among its many options.
The 3D picture quality is a chip off the LG passive block, which is no bad thing. Watching with passive glasses certainly feels relaxing with no flickering, practically no crosstalk (unless you're viewing from more than about 15˚ above or below the screen), more brightness and richer colours. And as the 47VL863B ships with four pairs of spex, a whole family can watch 3D right away.
Lines and jaggies
On the downside, 3D Blu-rays don't look quite as detailed as they do on active sets, and curved edges can look rather jagged thanks to the filter on the screen. You can also occasionally make out the horizontal line structure of the 3D filter, if you're sat too close to the TV.
While the 47VL863B's 3D pictures are generally persuasive, its 2D pictures give more cause for concern; dark scenes look grey and lack black-level depth.
Also, the screen's backlight level looks patchy and inconsistent during, for instance, the night-time mermaid sequence in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Reducing the image's backlight and brightness only leaves dark areas without shadow detail.
In many other ways the 47VL863B is pretty good in 2D. Colours are punchy and dynamic without becoming cartoonish. Fine detail from HD sources is good too, and motion largely avoids the blurring and resolution loss that can affect LCD TVs.
Standard-def pictures can look a tad noisy, but they can also be made to look unusually sharp via a built-in 'Resolution+' processing system.
Meanwhile, gamers will appreciate the 47VL863B's lowly 35ms of input lag, which shouldn't negatively impact performance.
The 47VL863B's sonics fall prey to the usual flat TV woes of a lack of bass and some rather harsh trebles during action scenes. But Toshiba's set is hardly unique in this.
The set's contrast issues stop me giving it a whole-hearted recommendation. However, its 3D pictures are fun and friendly, and there are times when its 2D images look very nice, too. And it's cheaper than LG's 47LW550T equivalent...
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