While 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).
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• Look for a 3D-capable Blu-ray Player to pair with the 47TL515U.
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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.
Setup 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.
Because 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.
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.