Product reviews, especially those of TV displays, seem to take a luxury for granted that most of us don't have: the ability to view a display without any of the distractions of real life. Does that help or hinder a review? I decided to find out.
Because I'm traveling and will be spending time with my mother in Florida, I asked Toshiba to send their 32-inch HD LCD TV directly to her - freaking out the FedEx delivery guy who's never taken more than a one-pound package to her doorstep before. But when I arrived later in the week, I found the Toshiba sitting there, as the FedEx guy had helped my mother take it out and move it onto her TV table. That's testament to the LCD technology that has reduced the weight overall, part of the whole "flat panel" appeal. Add that the foam inserts protecting the display were labeled for easy re-insertion, and I could see that sensibility hadn't taken a backseat.
The first thing I noticed was that the swivel base made it really simple to position the display and "aim" it wherever it was wanted. This made it simple for watching from the couch or swiveling toward the breakfast nook, where my mother was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to try it out with her favorite daily soap operas. A quick turn of the "On" switch after I had attached outputs from her cable box took all of about five minutes, with some setup screens taken care of as well. Had there been a terrestrial antenna, this would have been attached as well, going into the included HD tuner and with the combined information integrated into the program guide automatically (more on that later). And if she had bought this for herself, I would have suggested going with the CableCard option so as to remove the need for the cable box altogether.
The longest wait now was for TV Guide On Screen® to kick in. This program guide works for free and comes along with the broadcast signal (for the ride, as it were), showing programs both past as well as eight days forward. It includes the ability to record out to a VCR or any device controllable by infrared (called G-Link here). An accessory "blaster" to do this is included with two outputs so that more than one device can be accessed. This made it easy to control a cable box, and later just as simple to take the display into her bedroom and attach it so that she could watch in bed. She was delighted to see HD programs in widescreen that before were just the same as any channel, and commented on how vibrant and distinct the picture now looked. I should point out that while the display is not very heavy at 40 pounds, the lack of a carrying handle makes a single person moving it around a bit risky.
My mom is big on movies, and she requested I put in The Phantom of the Opera, one of her favorite DVDs. The first thing she found remarkable (well, why not? All she's been watching previously is a 20-inch standard television) was how there was no cut-off or loss of image even from extreme angles of the display as I swiveled it back and forth. She didn't use those terms, but it sounds more impressive than just saying "I can see it fine from here." She especially enjoyed the widescreen view now presented and how the top/bottom bars cutting off the "dead space" could have their grey tones muted so that it didn't impinge on her viewing. I also showed her how the image area could be changed from that of a standard TV (4:3) to stretching a standard image as well as using true widescreen. After bemoaning all this tech, I gave in to her demands and started up the film again. She thought, as did I, that the colors looked quite good and that the details in the images were strong in contrast without being too harsh. There was no smearing in fast-moving scenes, either. She was also very pleased with the simplicity of the remote, whether it was for switching between DVD and broadcast or changing the aspect ratios of the display (admiringly something I was doing and not her). And while the buttons are a bit small, the backlighting is a welcome touch.
Read more on Page 2.