DynaLight 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-shutter 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'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.
In 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'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.
• 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.