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.
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She also found the "Channel Browser" function - which lets you see
what's being broadcast as well as viewing recent channels (History) -
useful for jumping back and forth between two soaps; but she was quickly
bored by such high-tech features as being able to "freeze" the image
onscreen, that a gaming timer could limit video game console use or that
visual settings could be set based on genres like "Sports" or "Cinema."
And the sound quality - from the unobtrusive, integrated 10-watt
stereo speakers that run along the bottom of the display - was more than
adequate in a small room where there's not a lot of ambient noise. Mom
found it delightful to be able to set it so that commercials didn't
blare out at her, but wasn't all that impressed by the simulated
surround sound effect. She did find, though (and I agree), that it
added a bit more ambiance.
Now I didn't say what kind of DVD player had been attached -
certainly there's a multitude of inputs, from an HDMI to two components
to an S-Video (composite isn't worth talking about, but it's there too).
So okay, the reason I left the DVD player out is that it's built in.
That's good because the menus make it easy to select to watch a DVD or
to watch it get sucked in automatically via a side slot and then switch
to it. According to the specs, this DVD player is displaying a
progressive 480p image. Through a straight, head-on look, the DVD's
image seemed fine and there was really no complaint that can be had. My
nephew, Dan, brought over his Oppo OPDV971H DVD player, and we attached
the HDMI output through a DVI adaptor. The image looked significantly
better in the color range and detail. Plus, scaling it up to the 720p
native resolution of the display did make a difference. We then tried
the D-VHS I had bought for him at the same time I got mine (which he
rarely uses since there are so few tapes to run). The Toshiba then
displayed its best image yet. Grain that was barely visible was now
gone as we glommed on Ice Age and the brilliant whites that were smooth,
not overpowering in their contrast. This Toshiba is just as ready for
HD discs as the two of us are.
The general point of view about this Toshiba: nothing to complain
about. It has a nice, clean look, and the solid black front and bezel
helps to make the images stand out. Controls are on top where they can
be easily accessed and on the side for the DVD player; inputs on the
side and back hide out of the way with snap coverings, which also makes
for easy attachment of temporary devices like camcorders or video game
consoles. The swivel base moves easily and then stays still, and
there's no light fall-off affecting the view of those who aren't sitting
dead-on. The display is also wall-mountable, with an optional bracket.
Add the integration of TV Guide On Screen ®, a multitude of simple
controls for personalization of the image which can be saved for
different uses (i.e., for the DVD player, for watching TV, for another
device inputting into the display), and you have a compact unit that's
still big on picture. Me, I wanted to keep using it hooked up to my
laptop 'til it was time to return it, but Mom pretty much monopolized
its use for watching TV and Phantom (again and again...).
Toshiba 32HLX95 Cinema Series
High Definition DVD/LCD TV Combo
32" 16:9 cinema-style widescreen aspect ratio
Display ready (480i, 480p, 720p)
800:1 dynamic contrast ratio
1366 x 768 resolution
12-millisecond response time
Standard definition and HD tuners
HDTV, progressive scan input
170-degree viewing angle
PC input (DB15)