Published On: February 14, 2011

Toshiba 55WX800U 3D LED LCD HDTV Reviewed

Published On: February 14, 2011

Toshiba 55WX800U 3D LED LCD HDTV Reviewed

Part of Toshiba's high-end Cinema Series line, the 55WX800U has a super-thin, attractive design and comes loaded with features like 3D capability, integrated WiFi, NET TV, and more. Adrienne Maxwell puts this 3D HDTV through a battery of tests and calibrations. How did it fare? Read on.

Toshiba_55wx800u_3DHDTV_review_sportscar_resized.gifToshiba has introduced its first line of 3D-capable TVs, the WX800 Series. With screen sizes of 55 and 46 inches, this new 3D line is part of the company's high-end Cinema Series and thus is loaded with Toshiba's most advanced technologies and features. Toshiba sent us a sample of the 55-inch 55WX800U. Like most of the new 3D-capable flat panels, the 55WX800U requires active-shutter glasses and uses frame-sequential stereoscopic 3D technology, in which the TV alternately flashes a full-resolution left-eye and right-eye image. The shutters in the glasses open and close in sync with the signal to direct the appropriate image to each eye. Toshiba kindly includes not one but two pairs of active-shutter glasses as part of the package price (a $340 value; additional pairs of the FPT-AG01U glasses cost $170 each), and the IR emitter that syncs the 3D glasses with the TV is built into the front panel. The 55WX800U doesn't support 2D-to-3D conversion, a feature that's offered on some competing models.

Additional Resources
• Find a 3D-capable AV Receiver and Blu-ray player to complete the system.
• Learn more about how 3D affects the human eye.

Beyond its 3D capabilities, the 55WX800U employs an edge-lit LED design. As opposed to a full array of LEDs positioned behind the screen, this TV's LEDs are positioned around the screen's outer rim, and light is directed inward. Toshiba's ClearFrame 240 and Film Stabilization technologies are available to reduce motion blur and film judder, respectively, and the TV features the NET TV Web platform, with access to Netflix, VUDU, Pandora, YouTube, and Yahoo! Widgets (with Blockbuster VOD coming soon). You can connect to a home network via wired Ethernet or integrated 802.11n, and the TV also supports media streaming from DLNA-compatible devices on your network. The 55WX800U has EnergyStar 4.0 certification and an MSRP of $3,299.99.

Toshiba_55wx800u_3DHDTV_review_profile.gifSetup and Features

The use of edge LED lighting allows this 55-inch TV to have a slim profile, measuring only 1.15 inches deep. The 55WX800U has a subtly elegant aesthetic, featuring a single-pane front panel with no raised bezel and a gloss-black finish with a chrome accent along the outer edges. The CrystalCoat screen is reflective, as opposed to the traditional matte screen found on many LCDs. The TV's front face includes a touch-sensitive control panel, with invisible buttons (for power, input, menu, channel, and volume) that illuminate when you touch them. Of course, it's somewhat difficult to locate invisible buttons until you know exactly where they are (on the lower right side of the panel). The down-firing speakers are invisible from the front, and the TV comes with a square, swiveling base that's quite sturdy but not as intuitive to attach as other stands I've used. The prototypical Toshiba remote is long and a bit wide. It lacks dedicated input buttons but offers full backlighting, which I always appreciate. This remote doesn't have a full keyboard like the Vizio model I just reviewed, nor does the TV support the addition of a USB keyboard, for easier text input when using NET TV. You have to input text the old-fashioned way, using the remote to maneuver an onscreen keyboard.

The connection panel includes four HDMI inputs (three down-facing, one side-facing), as well as a PC input and one RF input to use the internal ATSC/Clear-QAM tuners. The TV uses a single mini-jack input for component video, with a supplied adapter cable. Other connections include an Ethernet port for network connectivity, an SD card reader, and dual USB ports that support music, photo, and video playback. The back panel sports an IR port but not an RS-232 connection.

The 55WX800U has almost every picture adjustment you could need to fine-tune the image, including: seven preset picture modes; an adjustable backlight and an automatic brightness sensor; an AutoView mode that automatically adjusts the image based on content and ambient light; a 10-step color temperature control, as well as 2-point and 10-point white balance controls; the ColorMaster color management system to adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness of all six color points; gamma adjustment; MPEG and digital noise reduction; and test patterns and filters to help set up the TV. As always, the movie mode looked the most natural out of the box. This 3D TV wisely includes two movie modes instead of just one, so you can calibrate one for 2D viewing and one for 3D viewing. The use of 3D glasses affects the picture's color and brightness, which is why you may want different settings for 3D content. (While some 3D TVs automatically switch to a special 3D picture mode, the Toshiba does not.) The setup menu also includes settings for Toshiba's Resolution+ technology, which is designed to make SD, HD, and 3D sources look more detailed: You can turn the function on or off and dictate the level of adjustment. The 55WX800U has six aspect-ratio options, including a native mode for viewing content without overscan.

Toshiba_55wx800u_3DHDTV_review_power_button_closeup.gifThe 55WX800U doesn't have a true 240Hz refresh rate: It has a 120Hz refresh rate and scans the backlight to create a 240Hz effect. As with previous models, Toshiba 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. ClearFrame 240 specifically addresses motion blur, and the setup menu simply includes on and off options. Film Stabilization deals with film-based sources and includes four settings: off, standard, middle, and high. With 60Hz film sources (like TV and DVD), the standard mode performs basic 3:2 pulldown detection to minimize jaggies, moiré, and other digital artifacts. The middle and high modes add varying degrees of motion interpolation to create smoother motion. The middle mode is a new addition this year (previous models just offered standard and smooth options), so you now have a little more flexibility to tailor the smoothing effect.

As a 3D-capable TV, the 55WX800U also includes a 3D setup menu, located under Preferences. Within this menu, the 3D Auto Start function dictates what you want the TV to do when it detects a 3D signal: It can automatically display 3D or 2D or provide a prompt that lets you manually select a choice each time. The menu also includes an option to set a 3D pin for access to more advanced setup tools, which you'll want to do in order to access the 3D Safety Settings. Why do you need to access the 3D Safety Settings? So that you can turn off the 3D Start Message that, by default, appears every time the TV auto-detects a 3D signal. If you don't turn this off, you'll be treated to a 3D safety warning every time you watch 3D. It's unsettling enough to ponder the potential long-term ramifications of watching too much 3D TV; I personally don't wish to be reminded of this issue every time I switch to a 3D source. The 3D Safety Menu also includes a timer that will automatically switch 3D to 2D in 30, 60, 90 or 120 minutes, if desired. Toshiba does allow you to swap the left- and right-eye images if the picture looks blurry; however, that option is oddly not available in the general 3D setup menu. To access it, you must hit the remote's Quick button to pull up the Quick Menu and access 3D settings from there.

On the audio side, the setup menu lacks preset sound modes but offers the following: a Smart Sound equalizer with a five-band adjustment and the ability to designate whether the TV has wall or stand placement; a balance setting; a surround mode with off, spatial, and cinema options; voice enhancement; and dynamic bass boost. You can also enable Dolby Volume to minimize level discrepancies between sources. The Dolby Volume setup menu has off, low, and high settings. Toshiba also incorporates a handy half-mute feature: Hit the remote's mute button once to quickly cut the volume in half; hit it twice for full mute. Don't expect miracles from the tiny, down-firing speakers: I found the audio to be thin, to say the least, and I had to push the volume much higher than usual to breathe any life into the sound.

You have the option to add the 55WX800U to your home network via a wired or wireless connection. Once connected, you can launch Yahoo! Widgets or NET TV via separate buttons on the remote. NET TV provides access to the video- and audio-on-demand services, as well as YouTube. The NET TV interface shrinks the source that's currently playing into a window in the center of the screen, while the list of NET TV apps appears beneath it. It's worth noting that this TV's VUDU function does not include the VUDU Apps feature, only the VUDU movie service. Also, the Netflix app does not allow you to browse titles and add content to your instant queue. The remote's Widgets button brings up a different toolbar along the bottom of the screen, through which you can navigate options like Twitter, Facebook, news, weather, etc. (you can also launch NET TV through the toolbar). Both the toolbar and the widgets that pop up along the left side of the screen cover up the main source just slightly. (Other Web services I've seen, like the one from Vizio, shrink the source to ensure that you see the whole image.) Generally, the NET TV system is cleanly laid out and easy to navigate, but I found it to be somewhat sluggish in executing commands.

Performance

I had two other 3D-capable TVs on hand with which to compare the 55WX800U: Panasonic's TC-P50GT25 plasma TV and Samsung's UN46C8000 LED LCD. I began by evaluating the TV's 2D performance, since 2D makes up the majority of content at this point. Both the Toshiba and Samsung TVs use the edge-lit LED design, but the Samsung adds precision dimming that allows LED zones to dim or turn off to produce deeper blacks. This is similar to the local dimming that we've discussed in relation to full-array LED backlight systems. Because the 55WX800U doesn't use precision dimming, its lighting system performs more like that of a traditional LCD with an always-on backlight. As a result, this TV couldn't quite compete with the other two models in terms of overall contrast. Yes, the 55WX800U can produce a respectably deep black if you turn down the backlight setting to its minimum, but the resulting picture is somewhat dim. In dark scenes from The Bourne Supremacy (Universal Home Video), Signs (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), black portions of the image were solid in comparison to the plasma but not as dark as those of the Samsung; however, the brighter portions of the image looked much dimmer and flatter, which robbed the picture of contrast and depth. Ultimately, I chose to turn up the backlight to about the 20 percent mark, even for darkroom viewing: This sacrificed some black-level depth but delivered a brighter, more engaging picture overall. At the Toshiba's default gamma setting, the visibility of fine black details was lacking; but, after turning up the gamma control a few notches, its black-detail reproduction was comparable to that of the other TVs.

Toshiba_55wx800u_3DHDTV_review_angled.gifOn the other end of the spectrum, the 55WX800U is capable of excellent
light output when you turn up the backlight, which benefits brighter
movie scenes, HDTV shows, and sports broadcasts. The image can have a
lot of pop in a moderate to bright room. The screen does a solid job
rejecting ambient light to help blacks look darker in a well-lit room,
but its reflectivity is high--you need to be mindful of how much
sunlight or room light is directed toward the TV.

Even at its warmest color-temp preset, the 55WX800U's image looked
cooler than that of the Panasonic or Samsung. Whites have a bit more
blue in them (which also gives them more pop--something many consumers
prefer), and darker scenes also veered blue. Skintones looked
pleasingly natural, though, and this TV didn't have the excessive green
push that we sometimes see in higher-end TVs. One reason for the cooler
color temp may be to offset the green/warmish tint of the FPT-AG01U 3D
glasses, which is again why you may want to individually calibrate for
2D and 3D content. As for color points, the Toshiba's reds and greens
looked slightly oversaturated compared with the other TVs, but the
remaining color points appeared to be similar and close to accurate. As
I mentioned above, the 55WX800U includes all of the controls you'd need
to dial in a more neutral color temperature and adjust the saturation
of each color point, if desired.

In evaluating the 55WX800U's level of detail, I found the Resolution+
control to be beneficial. With Resolution+ turned off, the TV served up
a solidly detailed HD image, but fine details weren't as clear, and the
image lacked that razor-sharp crispness we're used to seeing on smaller
LCD TVs. Even at its higher settings, Resolution+ does a nice job of
improving the visibility of fine details (like hair or clothing
texture) without adding blatant edge enhancement. Test patterns do
indicate that Resolution+ adds some unwanted noise and edge
enhancement, but I didn't notice any distracting effects with
real-world signals, be they SD or HD.

In the processing department, the Film Stabilization mode needs to be
enabled in order for the TV to correctly deinterlace 60Hz film-based
signals. In the FS standard mode, the TV passed the 1080i tests on the
HD HQV Benchmark Blu-ray disc and cleanly rendered my real-world 1080i
demos from Mission Impossible III (Paramount Home Video) and Ghost
Rider (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). The 55WX800U serves up a
generally clean image: With the digital noise reduction set to low, the
picture had very little noise in backgrounds and light-to-dark
transitions. ClearFrame 240 proved to be effective at reducing motion
blur, based on test patterns from the FPD Software Group Blu-ray disc.
However, even with ClearFrame 240 enabled, the motion resolution
pattern was only clear to about the HD 720 mark, whereas the plasma was
clear to the full HD 1080 level. With football broadcasts, the Toshiba
exhibited a little more blurring than the Samsung, but it could be that
the slight blurring was just more evident on the Toshiba's much larger
screen.

Finally, I compared 3D performance between the three sets, using 3D
Blu-ray players from Toshiba and Panasonic, as well as my DirecTV
service. With 3D Blu-ray, when the 55WX800U detects the 3D signal, it
gives you an onscreen message saying as much; at that point, you simply
switch on the 3D glasses and watch the 3D image. With my DirecTV box,
however, the TV did not auto-detect the side-by-side format. Instead,
it showed the signal in its native format and asked me to indicate if
it was side-by-side or top-and-bottom (the other two TVs did not
require this step). As for the quality of the 3D signal, this first
thing I noticed was that the Toshiba's picture was dim compared to the
other TVs' default 3D picture modes; I had to push the backlight to a
high setting of about 70 percent to get a comparably bright image. With
demo scenes from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur (20th Century Fox Home
Entertainment) and Monster House (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment),
the Toshiba's 3D image had a good sense of depth. Unfortunately, the
55WX800U exhibited more crosstalk than the other two displays.
Crosstalk (or ghosting) occurs when the left-eye and right-eye images
bleed into one another, creating ghost-like outlines around objects.
Because of the crosstalk, the 55WX800U's 3D image often lacked the
clarity and crispness of the other 3D TVs, especially the plasma.

The Downside

Brightness uniformity is a common issue with edge-lit LED displays, and
the Toshiba is no exception. Put up an all-black image, and the
55WX800U's screen looks patchy, with certain areas being noticeably
brighter than others. In my review sample, two of the brightest patches
were located near the center, top area of the screen, and I found them
to be obvious and distracting when I watched darker DVD and Blu-ray
scenes. By comparison, the Samsung also showed a lack of brightness
uniformity, but its screen wasn't as blatantly "patchy." Precision
dimming can make a big difference in these edge-lit TVs; if the LEDs
can be dimmed or shut off in dark scenes, the uneven brightness becomes
much less noticeable. Another common issue with LCDs, the 55WX800U's
viewing angle is average. The picture loses saturation as you move
off-axis, but both light and dark images were still watchable even at
very wide angles.

The 55WX800U's deinterlacing of standard-definition DVD and TV content
could be better. With both the HQV Benchmark DVD and my standard
real-world demos from Gladiator (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) and The
Bourne Identity (Universal Home Video), the 55WX800U was slow to detect
the 3:2 cadence. The beginning of each demo contained a lot of moiré
and jaggies; but, as soon as the TV locked onto the cadence, the demos
looked clean. In general, I noticed more digital artifacts with SD DVD
than I've seen with recent TVs I've reviewed. If you still watch a lot
of standard-def DVDs and TV channels, I recommend you let your source
devices handle the deinterlacing or mate the TV with a good external
processor.

As I mentioned in the Performance section, ghosting was a concern with
3D content, and the 3D picture lacked the overall crispness and
contrast I saw with the other two 3D TVs. I tried swapping the left-
and right-eye images, but that didn't produce a clearer picture. The
Toshiba 3D glasses were too big for my face, so I had to use the
supplied strap to secure them in place. They were more comfortable than
the Panasonic glasses but not as comfortable as the lighter Samsung
glasses.

Toshiba_55wx800u_3DHDTV_review_stand_closeup.gifCompetition and Comparison

Compare the Toshiba 55WX800U with its competition by reading the reviews for the Panasonic TC-P50GT25 3D Plasma, Samsung PN58C8000 3D Plasma and UN55C7000 3D LED LCD, and the Sony KDL-55HX800 3D LED LCD. Learn more about 3D HDTVs by visiting our 3D HDTV section.

Conclusion

The Toshiba 55WX800U offers solid performance and an excellent list of
features for a slightly lower price than comparably equipped 3D LCDs
from Samsung, Sony, and LG. However, in both its 3D and 2D performance,
the 55WX800U lacks the refinement that characterizes the best
theater-worthy displays that I've tested. This TV is better suited to
brighter HDTV content, sports, and casual movie watching. When you
consider the full package--its attractive form, 3D capability, NET TV,
integrated WiFi, SD card reader, USB ports, and DLNA media
streaming--the 55WX800U would make a good big-screen centerpiece and
entertainment hub in a living room or family room. If you'd prefer to
skip the 3D capability but are intrigued by the rest of the package,
consider the 2D-only 55VX700U, which has nearly identical specs as the
55WX800U for $500 less.

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