LED backlighting is the way of the future for LCD televisions. Most of the top-selling LCD manufacturers now offer at least one line that uses LED backlighting. Some of these models only place the LEDs around the edges of the panel, while others use a full array of LEDs behind the LCD panel, with local-dimming technology that allows the individual LEDs to respond dynamically to the content onscreen--i.e., they can shut themselves off to create deeper blacks in areas of the picture that require it. These two LED approaches have different performance characteristics: While edge-lit LED-based LCDs have some advantages in power consumption and form factor (they usually have a super-slim profile
), they don't offer the same performance benefits you get from a full-array LED backlighting system. If top-tier performance is what you crave, the latter design is where you'll find it.
Toshiba's new REGZA SV670U Series, which includes screen sizes of 46 and 55 inches, uses full-array LED backlighting, with a local-dimming system called FocaLight. The SV670U Series also features Toshiba's ClearScan 240 technology to reduce motion blur, Film Stabilization to reduce film judder, Resolution+ to improve the appearance of standard-definition sources, 14-bit PixelPure processing, and a 10-bit LCD panel. A healthy connection panel and attractive design round out the package. We reviewed the 46-inch, 1080p 46SV670U, which has an MSRP of $2299.99.
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Toshiba uses some fancy terminology to describe this TV's appearance. "Infinity Flush Front" describes the seamless front panel with no raised bezel, while "Deep Lagoon" describes how the front panel's glossy black fades to clear at the edges, like a lagoon meeting up with the sand (ahhhh). I'll just say that the design is distinctive and elegant, but also subtle enough not to draw unwanted attention to itself. The down-firing speakers are invisible from the front, and the TV comes with a matching, rounded base that has a swiveling mechanism. A prototypical Toshiba design, the remote has a clean, intuitive layout but is a little bulky and lacks dedicated input buttons. Even though all of the buttons look like they should light up, only the four Mode Select buttons actually illuminate.
On the back panel, you'll find three HDMI, two component video, and one PC input, plus a single RF input to access the internal ATSC/Clear-QAM tuners. The HDMI inputs accept both 1080p/60 and 1080p/24 sources. The TV lacks picture-in-picture functionality. The back panel sports an IR port that allows for IR pass-through, but there's no RS-232 connection. The TV also lacks an Ethernet port for network connectivity, so you can't enjoy Web widgets or streamed video-on-demand content. Over on the right side panel, you get a fourth HDMI input, plus an SD card slot for photo viewing and a USB port that supports Divx, music, and photo playback. Many TVs include either an SD card slot or a USB port; Toshiba gives you the convenience of both.
As you'd hope for in a top-shelf model, the 46SV670U has an excellent array of picture controls, starting with six picture modes--including a game mode designed to improve response time with gaming sources, as well as an AutoView mode that automatically adjusts the image based on the content being displayed and the room's ambient light. As usual, I went with the Movie mode, which looks the most natural out of the box, and made general picture adjustments using my Video Essentials discs (DVD International). In addition to standard setup options like color, tint, sharpness, and an adjustable backlight, the TV's advanced setup menu includes a number of worthwhile selections. Instead of providing a few color-temperature presets like cool, neutral, and warm, this TV has a sliding-scale color-temp adjustment, from 0 (warmest) to 10 (coolest). This allows you to more precisely designate the color palette you want without having to access the advanced RGB offset and gain controls--which, thankfully, are also available if you wish to perform a more precise calibration. The ColorMaster function lets you adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness of all six color points, while the Auto Brightness Sensor enables automatic backlight adjustment, based on the room's ambient light. Static Gamma provides a +/-15-degree scale to fine-tune black detail, and both MPEG and digital noise reduction are available. Toshiba's Resolution+ technology is designed to make SD sources look more detailed; in the setup menu, you have the option to turn this feature off or on and adjust the level of improvement (we'll talk performance in the next section).
Within in the setup menu, a couple of items merit special attention. First is the DynaLight function: On other Toshiba TVs, DynaLight provides automatic backlight adjustment based on image content; however, on the SV670U series, it controls the local-dimming function. When I first turned on this TV and switched to the Movie picture mode, I noticed that the local-dimming function wasn't working. The LEDs were not shutting themselves off with black content; instead, the TV behaved like it had a traditional always-on backlight. In scanning the setup menu, I discovered that the DynaLight control is turned off by default in the Movie mode. Cycling through the different picture modes revealed that DynaLight is on in some modes, off in others. I can't fathom why Toshiba would turn this function off by default in the Movie mode of all places, but it's an easy fix--just make sure to enable DynaLight during setup.
As for the 46SV670U's anti-blur and de-judder technologies, Toshiba wisely separate these two features into different menu items: ClearScan 240 and Film Stabilization. ClearScan 240 specifically addresses motion blur, and the setup menu offers on and off options. Like the LG 55LH90 I just reviewed, the 46SV670U doesn't have a true 240Hz refresh rate: It has a 120Hz refresh rate and scans the backlight to create a "240Hz effect." In fact, Toshiba is careful to omit the "hertz" in naming the function (the name is just ClearScan 240), unlike LG, which calls its technology TruMotion 240Hz. The second menu item, Film Stabilization, deals with film-based sources and includes three settings: off, standard, and smooth. With sources output at 60Hz (like TV and DVD), the Standard mode performs basic 3:2 pulldown detection to minimize jaggies, moiré, and other digital artifacts in film sources. With 24p Blu-ray content, the Standard mode performs 5:5 pulldown, displaying each frame five times to equal 120Hz--an effect that's a bit smoother and less juddery than traditional 3:2. The Smooth mode, meanwhile, uses motion interpolation to more effectively eliminate the juddery look in film sources and create very smooth motion. We'll discuss how these modes performed in the next section.
The 46SV670U has six aspect-ratio options, including a Native mode for viewing content at its exact resolution, eliminating overscan. The TV also offers automatic aspect-ratio detection, but this menu setting is oddly located in the Preferences menu, not the Picture menu. The 46SV670U is Energy Star 3.0-certified, but the only specific power-saving feature in the setup menu is the Power-On Mode, which involves standby power consumption: You can go with the fast power on setting or with power-saving, which increases the time it takes to power up the TV.
I know we video reviewers tend to gloss over audio features in TVs, but the 46SV670U deserves some recognition for being the first TV I've tested that uses Dolby Volume to minimize level discrepancies between sources--for example, between commercials and Dolby Digital 5.1 HDTV shows. Many TVs have a feature that claims to accomplish this, but I've yet to see one that actually works. The Dolby Volume setup menu has off, low, and high settings, and I found that the technology worked as advertised, providing a more even output level across the board. The 46SV670U also includes Audyssey EQ technology, with a Surround menu that allows you to choose between off, spatial, and cinema surround settings; you also get voice enhancement and dynamic bass boost.
PerformanceRead more about the REGZA 46SV670U's performance on Page 2.
I had two other local-dimming LED-based LCDs on hand to compare with the Toshiba: the new LG 55LH90 and my reference display, the Samsung LN-T4681F (the first local-dimming model, now two years old). The two constants I saw with all three of these models are great blacks and excellent overall contrast. The beauty of local-dimming technology is that it can dim or turn off the individual LEDs around the screen to create true blacks while still allowing bright areas to remain bright. You don't have to turn the adjustable backlight all the way down to attain darker-looking blacks; rather, you can set the TV's light output to suit your viewing environment and not sacrifice deep blacks in the process. In comparing the three TVs, the newer LG and Toshiba models had comparable contrast, and both models showed improvement over the first-gen Samsung. The 46SV670U's image looked wonderfully rich and dimensional, regardless of whether the room was bright or dark.