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Toshiba 32D3454DB review

Toshiba targets your second room

Toshiba 32D3454DB
Great Value
The Toshiba 32D3454DB

The 32D3454DB carries some good picture quality features for such an affordable combi TV. Particularly striking is how sharp images look.

The screen may not carry a full HD resolution, but HD sources from Blu-ray or the integrated tuner look definitively HD in terms of their visible textures and detailing in a way that certainly isn't always the case with cheap, small-screen TVs.

It's noticeable, too, that the screen handles motion better than most budget sets, with less blurring/resolution loss and less judder around to reduce the sense of sharpness.

Toshiba 32D3454DB

Colour is rich and well-saturated

Colour

Feed the 32D3454DB something bright and colourful like the recently released Frozen Blu-ray, meanwhile, and it again outperforms most of the budget TV market with the richness of its colour saturations. Such sources exhibit plenty of 'pop' and a more expansive colour range than you'd see on the vast majority of its budget peers.

There's some decent definition too in the reproduction of subtle colour shading differences during bright scenes. This helps create a better sense of depth with bright content than I commonly see on budget small-screen TVs, and also helps video (as opposed to animated) sources avoid that plasticky, cartoonish look you often see with budget TVs.

Contrast

At first glance the 32D3454DB seems to be a pretty strong contrast performer too. This is traditionally one of the weakest areas for budget TVs, so it's pleasing to see dark scenes benefiting from an at least half-decent attempt at reproducing a convincing black colour. Or to put it another way, dark scenes aren't as washed over with low-contrast greyness as usual for this sector of the market.

Probably because of this the 32D3454DB manages to deliver a bit more shadow detail in the darkest areas than most budget TVs, so that they enjoy at least a minor sense of depth rather than just looking like holes ripped out of a flat piece of paper.

Look closer, though, and dark scenes aren't quite as satisfying as they first appear. For starters dark colours tend to look markedly less natural and nuanced than bright ones – more like the sort of tones I'd expect to see on a computer monitor than a TV screen.

Some of this colour problem, it seems, is down to another of the 32D3454DB's weaknesses: a lack of brightness. As well as meaning the image can look a bit muted generally if you're using it in a very bright room – a potential issue for conservatories in particular – the lack of luminance in the reproduction of dark scenes makes accurate colour rendering impossible.

Toshiba 32D3454DB

The range of inputs on the back

Backlight clouding

Another problem with the 32D3454DB's dark scene handling is the appearance at times of areas of backlight inconsistency, where parts of dark pictures look brighter than they should because the set can't illuminate its screen uniformly using its edge LED lighting array. Especially obvious along the 32D3454DB's upper edge, the backlight clouds are sometimes strong enough to be quite distracting – even with the backlight set lower than I'd ideally like.

Small-screen second room TVs like the 32D3454DB often find themselves being watched from wider angles than your typical living room TV.

So it's disappointing to find the set only supporting a very narrow viewing angle before its pictures start to lose substantial amounts of colour and contrast. Even worse, the contrast and colour reproductions tend to affect just one side of the image during off-axis viewing, drawing even more attention to the problem than if the whole image was losing contrast and colour uniformly.

Gaming performance

I'm starting to sound a bit harsher on the 32D3454DB than it perhaps deserves. So I'll finish on a trio of more positive points. First, I measured input lag at just 33ms when using its Game mode – a respectably spritely figure that means the time it takes to reproduce images received at its inputs shouldn't damage your gaming skills.

Next, the TV retains just enough of Toshiba's processing prowess to deliver a decently polished if slightly soft upscaling performance with standard definition sources. And finally, its DVD player is perfectly credible in that it works smoothly and doesn't create pictures as rife with MPEG decoder noise or grain as those sometimes seen in cheap combi units.

Toshiba 32D3454DB

The remote is easy to find your way around

Usability

The 32D3454DB is hit and miss in this department. On the plus side its initial installation routine is well explained and easy to follow, the remote control is pretty spacious and easy to learn your way round, and the DVD section works better than some we've seen in that its mechanism will 'suck in' DVDs presented to its slot even if the TV isn't switched to the DVD source.

The Cloud TV menus are fairly attractive too, albeit noticeably lacking in resolution compared with some of the latest smart TV engines.

However, the relatively low processing speed of the TV's 'brain' can make surfing the smart menus and using the set-up features a frustratingly long-winded experience, as the TV often responds very sluggishly to your menu selections.

Sound quality

As is almost always the case with budget, small-screen TVs, the 32D3454DB is lumbered with some pretty low-spec, under-powered speakers. The most obvious result of this is a painful lack of low-frequency rumble to flesh out/underpin your average blockbuster movie soundtrack. As a result action scenes tend to sound rather thin and lifeless.

Another issue to think about is that its maximum volume output is pretty limited. So you might actually struggle to hear everything if you're operating it in a very large room.

The 32D3454DB does manage at least a couple of decent audio achievements over and above the efforts of many of its small-screen rivals, though. First, despite the absent bass information the soundstage doesn't often sound as uncomfortably harsh as might have been expected. Second, while action scenes aren't convincing, the speakers do at least accept their limitations rather than trying to do more than they're capable of. This means that while thin, action movie soundtracks aren't also rife with distortion.

Value

There's not much to complain about here. The 32D3454DB may not set any new budget performance standards, but its feature count is strong for its money and its pictures are overall no worse than average for this level of the market.