Toshiba 47TL515U 3D LED LCD HDTV

Toshiba 47TL515U 3D LED LCD HDTV

Toshiba continues to offer entries into the 3D HDTV marketplace, using both available technologies. The 47TL515U LED HDTV is a passive 3D HDTV television. Adrienne Maxwell puts it to the test to see how it measures up.

Toshiba_47TL515U_3D_LED_HDTV_review_3D_image.jpgWhile other TVs manufacturers are upping the rhetoric in the debate over which 3D approach is best–active or passive–Toshiba is quietly offering both types of 3DTV without tipping its hand as to which method receives a stronger endorsement. Contrast that with Vizio and LG, which currently offer both active and passive 3D models but have made it pretty clear that the passive approach will be their future focus. Perhaps having learned a valuable lesson during a previous format war, Toshiba has instead decided to offer a choice and let the consumers decide for themselves which method they prefer right now (all while continuing to develop glasses-free 3DTV, which will likely replace the other two anyhow).

Additional Resources
• Read more 3D HDTV reviews written by HomeTheaterReview.com’s staff.
• See more reviews in our LED HDTV Review section.
• Look for a 3D-capable Blu-ray Player to pair with the 47TL515U.
• Explore soundbar options in our Soundbar Review section.

Toshiba’s 2011 LED TV line includes two 3D-capable series: The UL610 Cinema Series uses active 3D technology, in which the TV alternately flashes a full-resolution left-eye and right-eye image and special shutter glasses direct the appropriate image to each eye. The TL515 Series uses passive 3D technology (Toshiba calls it Natural 3D), in which both the left- and right-eye image are embedded in the same frame with a polarizing filter. Polarized glasses direct the proper content to each eye. The drawback to the passive approach is that, since both images are incorporated into the same frame, each eye only receives half the vertical resolution, as opposed to the full-resolution image you get with the active approach. The benefit is that the passive glasses are lightweight and inexpensive, and they don’t require batteries or need to sync with an emitter on the TV. The TL515 Series includes screen sizes of 32, 42, 47, 55, and 65 inches. Toshiba sent us the 47-inch 47TL515U, which comes with four pairs of passive 3D glasses and carries an MSRP of $1,499.99

The 47TL515U uses edge LED lighting, with 16-zone local dimming (as opposed to the “fine” local dimming on the UL610 Series, which reportedly has more zones). Toshiba’s ClearScan 240 and Film Stabilization technologies are available to reduce motion blur and film judder, respectively. The TV features integrated WiFi and includes the NET TV Web platform, with access to Netflix, VUDU, Blockbuster On Demand, CinemaNow, YouTube, Pandora, and Yahoo! Widgets. Skype capability is also available. The 47TL515U also supports DLNA media streaming and 2D-to-3D conversion, and it has EnergyStar certification.

Toshiba_47TL515U_3D_LED_HDTV_review_remote.jpgSetup and Features
The 47TL515U’s edge-lit design allows it to have a slender profile of just 1.14 inches and a weight of 42.11 pounds. The TV sports down-firing speakers and a raised bezel, with a brushed-black frame and chrome accents that lend a hint of elegance to an otherwise traditional design. A swiveling stand with a clear acrylic border is included. The 47TL515U uses a matte screen, as opposed to a reflective one, which can be a plus if you have a very bright room with a lot of potential light reflections. Toshiba offers a new remote this year, and I can’t say it’s really an improvement. The remote is thin at the bottom and grows thicker at the top, which makes it top-heavy and a bit awkward to hold. Most of the buttons are backlit, but there’s a group of eight tiny, round buttons along the bottom that lack backlighting, including the buttons for Picture Size and 3D. I did appreciate the inclusion of dedicated NET TV, Netflix, and Yahoo buttons. This remote doesn’t have a full keyboard, nor does Toshiba currently offer a remote control app with a virtual keyboard for smartphone users. You have to input text the old-fashioned way, via an onscreen keyboard.

The connection panel includes four HDMI inputs (three side-facing), as well as a PC input and one RF input to access the internal ATSC/Clear-QAM tuners. There’s also a single mini-jack input for component video, with a supplied adapter cable. Other connections include an Ethernet port for a wired network connection, an IR in/out port, and dual USB ports that support media playback.

Toshiba has also redesigned the TV’s user interface. The five Main Menu options (Settings, Network, Media Player, Wallpaper, and Timer) run in an arc along the bottom of the screen. The sub-menu options actually sit on top of the Main Menu icons, which doesn’t really reflect how our brains work but is still logical enough to navigate, once you get the hang of it. The Picture setup menu includes the important adjustments we like to see, including: seven preset picture modes (with an AutoView mode that automatically adjusts the image based on content and ambient light, as well as two Movie modes–which would prove beneficial); an adjustable backlight and an automatic brightness sensor; an 11-step color temperature control, as well as RGB offset and gain controls; the ColorMaster color management system to adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness of all six color points; gamma adjustment (-15 to +15); MPEG and digital noise reduction; edge enhancement; and test patterns and filters to assist with setup. The TV has six aspect-ratio options, including a native mode for viewing content without overscan.

As usual, I began by switching the TV to its Movie mode–in this case, the inclusion of two Movie modes allowed me to configure one mode for daytime/bright-room viewing and one for nighttime/dark-room viewing.

DynaLight is the name that Toshiba gives to its local-dimming control, which is by default turned off in Movie 1 and turned on in Movie 2 (it’s adjustable in both modes). Unfortunately, DynaLight is also the name that Toshiba has used in previous TVs to describe its basic “dynamic black” control, which is unnecessarily confusing. In this particular TV, DynaLight does turn the local-dimming feature on and off. With most local-dimming TVs, I would tell you to leave it on in all circumstances; but, in this case, I think there’s a reason why Toshiba leaves it off in Movie 1 mode, and you may want to keep it that way (we’ll talk more about this in the performance section).

The 47TL515U doesn’t have a true 240Hz refresh rate: It has a 120Hz refresh rate and scans the lighting system to create a 240Hz effect. As with previous models, Toshiba kindly separates its motion-blur and de-judder technologies, which I appreciate because it allows you to reduce motion blur without altering the character of film sources. ClearScan 240 specifically addresses motion blur, and the setup menu simply includes on and off options. Film Stabilization deals with film-based sources and includes three settings: Off, Standard, and Smooth. The Standard mode performs basic 3:2 pulldown detection to minimize jaggies, moiré, and other digital artifacts. The Smooth mode adds frame interpolation to eliminate the juddery look of film sources and produce that smooth, video-like effect.

Toshiba_47TL515U_3D_LED_HDTV_review_back.jpgBecause Toshiba’s passive 3D glasses aren’t as dark or tinted as active 3D glasses, the TV doesn’t have (or require) a separate 3D picture mode. With two Movie modes at your disposal, you could configure one for 2D and one for 3D, but I found that the same settings I configured for bright-room viewing worked well for 3D viewing. The main 3D setup menu, located under Preferences, allows you to adjust the depth of 2D-to-3D conversion, set the 3D Auto Start function, turn off the 3D safety warning, and enable a 3D timer. Via the remote’s Quick button, you can also access controls for 3D format selection and light/right swap.

On the audio side, the setup menu lacks preset sound modes but offers basic balance, bass, and treble controls, as well as voice enhancement and dynamic bass boost. This TV includes Audyssey’s Dynamic Volume to minimize the level discrepancies between sources, as opposed to the Dolby Volume offered in previous Toshiba displays I’ve tested.

Toshiba’s NET TV platform has a clean, logical design that’s easy to navigate. Hit the remote’s NET TV button to launch the interface: The full video source continues to play in the upper-center portion of the screen, while the NET TV options appear below it. Of course, part of the reason it’s so simple to navigate is because NET TV doesn’t include as many options as the Web platforms you get from Samsung, LG, and others–namely, there’s no App store. Still, Toshiba covers the major bases, with VOD from Netflix, VUDU, Blockbuster, and CinemaNow. Plus, you get YouTube, Pandora, Skype, and Yahoo! Widgets for access to Facebook, Twitter, and more. All in all, it’s a well-executed system.

Performance
Earlier this year, I reviewed the 55WX800U [https://hometheaterreview.com/toshiba-55wx800u-3d-led-lcd-hdtv-reviewed/], one of Toshiba’s first 3D-capable TVs. It was an active 3D model that also uses an edge LED lighting system. In almost every respect, I found the new 47TL515U to be a better performer. That begins with the DynaLight function. The 55WX800U did not use any type of local dimming; consequently, its black level was only average, and the screen suffered from a lack of brightness uniformity–a common problem with edge-lit displays in which certain areas of the screen are brighter than others. With DynaLight engaged, the 47TL515U was able to produce a black level that was often comparable to my reference Panasonic TC-P50G25 plasma. During my standard black-level demos from The Bourne Supremacy (Universal), Signs (Buena Vista), Flags of Our Fathers (Paramount), and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista), the plasma occasionally had a slight advantage, but for the most part the black levels were similar. The 47TL515U also had above-average brightness uniformity for an edge-lit LED; I saw a hint of brightness around the corners, but there were no blatant patches of light to detract during dark film scenes.

Read more about the performance Toshiba 47TL515U 3D LED HDTV on Page 2.

Toshiba_47TL515U_3D_LED_HDTV_review_angled_park.jpgDynaLight doesn’t exactly function like other local-dimming displays I’ve tested; we’ll discuss this more in the next section, but the short version is that it limits brightness in darker scenes. Even with a brighter HDTV show, if DynaLight detects that a certain scene has a lot of dark elements, it lowers the overall LED brightness, which limits light output. That may be helpful with movies, but it’s not as desirable with HDTV content…which is why I preferred to leave DynaLight off in the Movie 1 mode that I used for my general TV watching, usually in a brighter viewing environment. I configured this mode with the backlight set high (about 70 percent), which produced a bright, wonderfully saturated image with HDTV and sports content. Meanwhile, I used the Movie 2 mode with DynaLight engaged and a lower backlight setting of about 20-25 percent for movie-watching in a dark room. The fact that the Toshiba can accommodate both environments is a plus, especially when you consider its lower price point.

In the color realm, the 47TL515U’s color temperature, even at its lowest color-temp preset, is
somewhat cool (or blue) across the board. With some minor tweaks of the RGB offset and gain controls, using my reference plasma as a guide, I was able to quickly dial in a more neutral color temperature without too much effort (the darkest blacks still had a bluish tinge). The six color points look fairly close to accurate, with none veering too far into oversaturated territory. Color purists will appreciate the inclusion of the color management system to more precisely tweak the six points.

Toshiba opted to omit the Resolution+ feature that’s offered on the 55WX800U, which is designed to produce a sharper-looking image. Compared with my reference plasma, the 47TL515U’s picture was slightly less crisp with HD sources but notably softer with SD sources. In other processing areas, with the Film Stabilization mode set to Standard, the TV properly detected the 3:2 cadence in my favorite Gladiator (DreamWorks) DVD test, and the processor also did a good job cleanly rendering the diagonals in a video-based Pilates DVD. The TV passed the 1080i tests on the HQV HD Blu-ray disc (Silicon Optix); it cleanly handled the stairs in chapter 8 of Mission Impossible III (Paramount) but produced a little moiré in the blinds of chapter 12. I did not notice any blatant artifacts with 1080i HDTV content. In regard to Toshiba’s ClearScan blur-reduction technology, it generally performs well. The TV was tripped up by a couple of the motion-blur patterns on the FPD Benchmark Software Blu-ray disc; the image would jump between clear and blurry within the same pattern. However, with the primary patterns that I use (the motion-resolution pattern and the moving-map pans), ClearScan consistently produced a clear image. And, with real-world signals, the TV kept blur to a minimum. Finally, the 47TL515U earns points for its smooth grey-scale reproduction and lack of digital noise. With both SD and HD sources, the image is clean, even without noise reduction engaged.

Finally, I moved to 3D content. As I mentioned above, the 47TL515U’s passive glasses don’t dramatically dim the picture or change its color temperature the way active glasses do; so, I didn’t feel the need to configure a special picture mode. I simply used the bright Movie 1 mode I had set up for daytime viewing. In this mode, the 47TL515U served up a bright, clean Blu-ray 3D image with a good sense of depth and no meaningful amount of crosstalk. In the latter respect, it outperformed the passive LG 47LW5600 I previously tested, which kept crosstalk to a minimum at a direct viewing angle but struggled a bit off-axis. With the 47TL515U, I seldom noticed crosstalk at any angle, even in chapter 13 from Monsters vs. Aliens (DreamWorks) where I almost always see some crosstalk. The Blu-ray 3D image had a solid level of detail and good color. A benefit to the passive approach is that you don’t have to worry about flicker from the active-sh
utter glasses, which makes for a more comfortable, relaxed 3D experience in a brighter viewing environment. The glasses are lighter and less cumbersome than most active 3D glasses, but they were a bit too big for me and slid down my nose whenever I moved my head too quickly.


Toshiba_47TL515U_3D_LED_HDTV_review_profile.jpg
Low Points

Toshiba’s DynaLight local-dimming function is a bit too heavy on the “dimming” and too light on the “local.” The benefit of local dimming is that,
because the different LED zones can adjust themselves independently, dark areas of the image can be dark while bright areas remain bright.
For instance, in a scene where a bright moon hangs against a dark sky, the LEDs in the dark zones can be dimmed to improve black level while the ones handling the moon can remain bright. With the 47TL515U, I never observed this effect. When DynaLight detects that a scene is predominantly dark, it appears to dim all the LEDs equally to produce deeper blacks (if not equally, then the differences are so subtle, I could not see them). Yes, this results in better blacks, but it also limits the brightness of any brighter objects in the scene. With test patterns, when I moved from a very bright pattern to a dim pattern, I actually saw the image brightness drop; with real-world signals, this brightness shifting wasn’t as obvious, but I noticed it a few times. Although DynaLight is apparently dimming the whole scene, it’s not the same effect as just turning the backlight all the way down: With DynaLight engaged, bright scenes can still remain bright. When comparing the Toshiba with my reference plasma, the brightness was comparable in bright scenes; however, when I quickly switched to a dark scene, the Toshiba would dim its LEDs to make the black level comparable, diminishing light output and overall contrast in the process.

With all that being said, DynaLight still results in a much better black level than you get if you turn it off, and it helps the 47TL515U have better screen uniformity than many edge-lit models I’ve seen. Plus, because the LED zones don’t appear to adjust themselves independently, the Toshiba does not create a glow around bright objects–an effect that can be evident with imprecise local-dimming systems. Some people are quite bothered by that glow and will consider this a huge benefit. So, all in all, DynaLight is definitely worth having and using, as it makes this TV a stronger performer with movies in a dark room. It just doesn’t produce that extra bit of contrast that distinguishes the best plasmas and local-dimming LED models.

Toshiba_47TL515U_3D_LED_HDTV_review_3D_glasses.jpgIn the 3D realm, the passive approach, with its polarized filter and glasses, creates a visible horizontal line structure that grows more obvious the closer you sit or the larger the screen size. With this 47-inch TV, my dilemma was this: If I sat a bit farther away from the TV, I was less able to see these horizontal lines, but the greater distance also diminished the immersive 3D effect. When I sat closer to get a more effective 3D experience, then I could clearly see the lines. Then again, my husband did not notice the line structure, even when I told him to look for it. All in all, I just don’t find the passive approach to produce as crisp and detailed an image as I’ve seen with the better active 3DTVs–especially with television content. DirecTV (and other providers) uses the side-by-side 3D format, in which both images are embedded side by side in the same frame, so the image’s horizontal resolution is already cut in half. Add in the loss of vertical resolution from the passive 3D technology, and the picture loses crispness and its overall sense of depth (including 3D depth).

The quality of the 47TL515U’s speakers is sub-par. I don’t have lofty expectations for flat-panel TV speakers, but these tiny down-firing speakers sounded particularly thin,nasally, and compressed, regardless of the settings I used. I definitely recommend you mate this TV with an external sound system–at the very least, a decent soundbar.

On the ergonomic front, the 47TL515U is very slow to power up: It consistently took more than 30 seconds from the time I pressed the power button to the time I got a picture on the screen. Also, menu navigation was occasionally sluggish.

Toshiba_47TL515U_3D_LED_HDTV_review_shoreline.jpgConclusion
Toshiba’s first passive 3DTV is a worthwhile option in an ever-growing field, striking a nice blend of performance, features, and value. Its price falls at the low end of average for a 3D-capable TV that also offers a “240Hz” refresh rate, integrated WiFi, and a solid Web/VOD portfolio. The 47TL515U’s picture quality doesn’t quite match that of the top-tier HDTVs I’ve tested, but it’s still a good all-around performer that does a nice job with HDTV/sports/gaming in a bright room and movies in a dark room. As for 3D, I appreciate the benefits that the passive approach brings to the table. In terms of picture quality alone, I’d give the advantage to a good-performing active 3DTV–the active route can produce a higher-quality image with a wider variety of sources. But, unless you’re a serious videophile, picture quality isn’t the only factor in a purchasing decision. The casual viewer–someone who isn’t necessarily buying a TV to get 3D, but would like to occasionally enjoy a 3D movie–will probably be content with the quality of the 47TL515U’s 3D image…and more than content with its lower price of admission.

Additional Resources
• Read more 3D HDTV reviews written by HomeTheaterReview.com’s staff.
• See more reviews in our LED HDTV Review section.
• Look for a 3D-capable Blu-ray Player to pair with the 47TL515U.
• Explore soundbar options in our Soundbar Review section.

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