Although one of the most respected CRT makers, Toshiba didn't immediately hit its stride with LCD TVs. So the brand doubtless hopes that its latest LCD generation, represented here by the 26in 26WL46B, will get its fortunes back on track. Aesthetically this Tosh is best summed up as 'nice'. Its white-silver finish and subtle curves make it perfectly pleasant - in a shy, retiring kind of way.
The 26WL46B is almost a lesson in connectivity. Even though it's only a 26in screen, it includes two component video inputs, three Scarts and a PC jack. The only disappointment is the absence of digital video inputs (something purportedly addressed on the larger WL46 screens).
This Toshiba is also better equipped with features than most of its similarly-sized rivals, simply by virtue of being able to handle both progressive scan and high definition. Admittedly there's not much else to get excited about, but we'd take progressive scan and HD over more gimmicky bangs and whistles any day.
Throughout the 26WL46B's run-through with Star Wars we found we had a broad smile on our face, and one that had nothing to do with Han Solo's endless wisecracks. To put it simply, the Toshiba's pictures kick ass...
Particularly gratifying is the screen's excellent black level response, which meas that space-bound shots - like the classic opener of the Imperial Cruiser - are almost entirely free of 'greying over'. Dark scenes therefore also have much more depth of field - not to mention visible stars - and Darth Vader's fetching little black number looks snappier than on most LCD rivals.
The 26WL46B's talent with contrast also helps it serve up spectacularly radiant colours - perfect for doing full justice to the colours of our heroes' light sabers. Moreover, skin tones during the movie's muted moments convinced us that the Tosh hasn't sacrificed naturalism on the altar of vibrancy.
Short of breath
Motion-packed scenes, like Luke Skywalker's rushed and ultimately unsuccessful sandcruiser trip to his parents' house, prove that Toshiba has almost completely conquered the smearing problem that afflicted this screen's predecessors. This combined with immaculate fine detail levels and an almost complete lack of picture noise to leave finely textured scenes - like any almost any featuring C-3PO's reflective bodywork - looking magnificently direct.
In fact, the only picture niggle we can muster is that there was occasionally a slightly jerky look to subtle vertical motion. But this really is a minor complaint in the great scheme of things. The 26WL46B's sound is less awe-inspiring. The speakers look a bit puny, and certainly lack the breathing room and frequency response (especially at the bass end) to do Star Wars' numerous space battles justice.
Still, this is merely a small dint in our overwhelming enthusiasm for the 26WL46B. Its pictures mark a quantum leap forward for Toshiba - so much so that we'd actually say that the 26WL46B gives the best 26in LCD image we've ever seen. And you can't ask for much more than that.