Toshiba 55ZL2 review

The next generation of TV is here; Ultra HD and glasses-free 3D

Toshiba 55ZL2 review
The 55-inch Toshiba 55ZL2 is the first commercially available TV in the UK with 4K resolution and glasses-free 3D

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Toshiba's 55ZL2 is designed to get any tech obsessive's pulse racing. After all, it breaks new ground in not one but two huge areas. First it can genuinely produce a watchable 3D picture without you having to wear glasses. And second, to help it achieve its first innovation, it employs a native 4K or Quad HD pixel resolution for the first time on a domestic TV.

Toshiba has thrown all of this tech into an attractive body, too, and powers the whole kit and caboodle with its extremely powerful Cevo Engine processor.

The set additionally has Toshiba's well-presented but currently under-nourished Places online system, as well as plenty of multimedia support.

In action, the glasses-free 3D images are better than expected, but still flawed. However, the native 4K pictures - still and video - are nothing short of spectacular, blowing ordinary HD out of the water and providing us with a vision of a dreamy TV future. The television upscales HD well too, even if the results are no match for the real 4K deal.

However, the TV doesn't do nearly so well with standard definition, and tragically there doesn't currently appear to be any standard (HDMI) way for normal consumers to be able to get 4K video sources into the TV, either now or in the future. This fact makes the Toshiba 55ZL2's £6,999 (about $11,215) price tag much harder to swallow.

We liked

The TV looks good and is easy to use. Best of all, though, its picture quality with 4K still photographs and video is so spectacular it has to be seen to be believed. Its upscaling to 4K of ordinary HD sources also makes it a cut above other TVs in picture terms.

We disliked

The set's apparent inability to accept any 4K sources via HDMI is a crushing blow, because it effectively means no normal users will get to play 4K video sources on it either now or, more importantly, in the future. The Toshiba 55ZL2 also struggles with standard definition broadcasts, and its glasses-free 3D images, while better than expected, are still fundamentally flawed. Oh, and lest you've forgotten, the Toshiba 55ZL2 also costs £7,000 (about $11,215).

Final verdict

The Toshiba 55ZL2 is a remarkable achievement for Toshiba, not to mention a genuine landmark in TV technology. Glasses-free 3D and a native 4K resolution for the first time in a single TV? Amazing.

Against all odds, Toshiba has even made its glasses-free 3D system watchable, while native 4K video and photographs look simply mind-blowing. The set's performance with normal HD is hugely impressive, too.

However, watchable 3D images are also fundamentally flawed. And the Toshiba 55ZL2's apparent inability to support 4K video via HDMI is a crushing blow that instantly emasculates what would otherwise have been its most attractive feature.

Also consider

With no other 4K or glasses-free 3D TVs in existence right now, all we can do is look at premium sets from rival brands.

The Samsung UE55ES8000 obviously stands out in this respect, offering Full HD 3D (with glasses) and mostly excellent video standards within a sensationally slim and attractive body. Its online features are far in advance of Toshiba's too. But of course, it doesn't enjoy a Quad HD resolution.

Another notable alternative would be the Panasonic TX-P55VT50. This uses plasma technology, and thus delivers a better black level performance than the Toshiba, as well as outstanding Full HD 3D.

However, its pictures aren't nearly as bright as those of the Toshiba, and again, the P55VT50's maximum resolution is only a quarter that of the Toshiba 55ZL2.

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.