Toshiba 55WL863B review

Toshiba transplants its Japanese 'intelligent' TV tech to the UK

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Toshiba 55wl863b

Perhaps the most striking thing about the 55WL863's pictures is how incredibly different you can make them look.

The panel and the calibration tools both have the flexibility to deliver images that can look radically different in brightness, contrast, colour and sharpness depending on what settings you plump for. This has the potential to be very handy given how much different picture 'looks' can suit different types of content.

It does also, though, place rather a burden on both the TV's presets and end users, who need to spend a little time setting the TV up to its best advantage.

Not all of the presets are particularly successful, sadly, tending to push the picture's brightness and contrast so hard that images look overcooked and noisy. And it is possible to royally mess pictures up if you're not careful with some of the backlight, noise and motion controls.

But crucially, while getting the best results from the 55WL863 isn't always as easy as it should be, you certainly can get it producing some really very nice pictures indeed.

If you're a film fan, the best place to start is the set's Hollywood Pro mode. For even if you don't invest in the auto calibration system which uses this mode to store its settings, it delivers the most accurate (according to the D65 standard) colour tones and the most natural looking detail levels.

Some people might feel the urge to nudge the brightness and colour saturation up a touch from the Hollywood Pro preset levels, as otherwise the image really is startlingly 'duller' than it is with any of the TV's other main modes. But the reasoning behind this setting is that you'll be watching your films in a darkened room, where brightness isn't as important as subtlety and accuracy.

In a marginally tweaked version of the Hollywood Pro mode, a number of picture strengths stand out. First up, colours are mostly really good; natural in tone and exceptionally subtle when it comes to portraying the tiniest of colour shifts. This stops skin tones from looking plasticky and creates a really 'high end', cinematic feel to good quality Blu-ray sources. Rich reds occasionally look a little out of kilter with the rest of the colour template for some reason. But this certainly isn't a deal breaker.

The sharpness of HD images is well-judged in Hollywood Pro mode too, in that while pictures look effortlessly HD - especially given how HD's extra detailing really shines in the TV's gaping 55-inch screen - pictures don't look 'forensically' sharp or over noisy

Motion blur?

It's a huge help to the credibility of the 55WL863's pictures, too, that they suffer scarcely at all with motion blur. This is particularly important when you're watching a screen as large as 55-inch - and what's even better about the 55WL863's motion handling is that it looks good even without calling into play the set's motion processing.

In fact, using the M800 processing on its highest-power 'smooth' setting has a negative impact on HD pictures rather than a positive one, making things look processed and unnatural. The same is true of the TV's noise reduction settings, which should be turned off for HD viewing - and for most standard definition viewing too, actually.

The 55WL863 unexpectedly supports a slightly wider viewing angle than most LCD TVs too, and finally where 2D viewing is concerned, its black level performance is good. Normal scenes containing a mix of light and dark material look punchy but natural thanks to the set's ability to produce a pleasingly deep black colour within the same frame as rich colours and bright whites - so long as you set the LED backlight control feature to 'Weak'.

Turn the backlight control off and dark scenes become rather grey, while setting it to medium or high leads to black crush and some quite distracting instability in the image's brightness level.

In an ideal world it would be possible with the 55WL863 to get a slightly deeper stable black colour. It also has to be said that there's minor evidence of backlight bleed in the set's corners. But so long as you keep the backlight output at a sensible level - no higher than 55% - the brightness inconsistencies are only very seldom visible, and won't distract many people even when they do appear.

If you're the sort of person who tends to get distracted by backlight issues, though, you may just be better off going for a top-notch plasma TV instead.

While the CEVO Engine has doubtless made its presence subtly felt in the HD picture results so far - especially as we spent most of our time watching the mostly good settings arrived at via the exclusive, CEVO-powered auto calibration system - its impact becomes much more overt when watching standard definition.

For standard def sources are upscaled to the screen's full HD resolution exceptionally well, thanks to the way detail and sharpness are added at the same time that noise is suppressed. Colours retain their naturalism and subtlety during their upscaling transition, too.

Toshiba's processing also works very nicely with video streamed from online sources like YouTube, smoothing away with aplomb the worst of the rough edges and MPEG blocking noise.

It should be added that the 55WL863's Resolution+ system needs to be engaged to achieved the best upscaling results. But make sure you only leave this running at a mild strength level, as otherwise it can start to make images look noisy.

The CEVO Engine is also, more surprisingly gloriously apparent when watching 3D. For here engaging the Resolution+ mode delivers a result that's nothing short of revelatory, sharpening and adding more detail to even full HD 3D Blu-ray pictures to a degree that makes them quite simply the most detailed active 3D pictures yet seen on a TV. Seriously.

It's also brilliant to be able to report that the incredible detailing in HD Blu-ray pictures is emphasised and driven out of the screen by the 55WL863's exceptional 3D brightness. Toshiba's glasses seem to knock far less brightness out of pictures than most rival active shutter brands - especially those from Panasonic and Sony. And this fact joins forces with the screen's own inherent brightness and colour vibrancy (if you use the Dynamic preset for 3D viewing) to produce full HD active 3D images pretty much as bright as those you get from LG's top-end passive 3Ds.

All of which makes it all the more tragic that the 55WL863's in many ways class-leading 3D pictures are undermined by crosstalk noise. For the presence of this double ghosting issue, caused by the screen not being able to refresh its content fast enough to keep up with the shuttering mechanism in the 3D glasses, is both consistent on the 55WL863 and often pretty noticeable whenever it's around.

It's not restricted to dark scenes like it is with an increasing number of 3D TVs either; you can clearly see it over especially - but not exclusively - background objects during bright scenes too.

It's particularly bad during the first hour or two you have the TV switched on from cold each day, but even after the set has had plenty of 'warm up' time ghosting is still routinely apparent. It also affects side by side 3D sources like Sky feeds more than it affects sequential 3D.

There's an argument to be made here that the advantages in terms of detailing, colour richness and brightness of the 55WL863's 3D pictures counteract the crosstalk issues. Especially as it's possible that the brightness and dynamism might be down to Toshiba leaving the shutters on its glasses open longer than some other brands do, even though doing this usually increases crosstalk.

It's also true that over time you can 'train' yourself to focus on the foreground objects generally less affected by crosstalk.

But it's still a damn shame that while there are moments when the 55WL863's 3D pictures will have your jaw hanging open in awe, there are as many moments when the crosstalk will attract your attention for all the wrong reasons.