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Toshiba 52HL167 52-inch LCD HDTV Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 September 2007
Article Index
Toshiba 52HL167 52-inch LCD HDTV
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The Downside
Not having seen any of the 120-Hz technologies in action, I can’t yet say whether they improve LCD performance enough to merit the extra cost. What I can tell you is that this TV behaves like an LCD, both in its motion and its viewing angle. Image saturation begins to fall off when you move just 45 degrees off-axis; the picture is watchable even at wide angles, but you should still be mindful of where you place the TV in your room. Motion blurring was evident in fast-moving text crawls and sporting events, which diminished some of that excellent detail.

Good processing is especially important on large-screen displays, because artifacts are so much easier to see. Unfortunately, the Toshiba came up short in this area. Standard-definition DVDs and TV signals looked somewhat soft on this 1080p panel, and they contained a lot of deinterlacing artifacts. When I set my Sony Blu-ray player for 1080i output instead, I saw a noticeable improvement in detail with 480i DVDs, and the number of artifacts was cut roughly in half, which admittedly was still too many. With true 1080i sources, my Silicon Optix HQV Blu-ray test disc showed that the TV correctly stitched together the 1080i fields to produce 1080p, but it did not pick up 3:2 in the film-based 1080i test pattern. However, that pattern was followed by a pan of an empty football stadium, which was actually quite clean, with only hints of moiré in the upper seats. I didn’t notice many artifacts with1080i HDTV and Blu-ray film content, but I saw a lot of them in video-based concerts airing on HDNet. All in all, you’re probably better off letting your source components handle the scaling and deinterlacing whenever possible: set your cable/satellite box and DVD player for progressive output and choose a high-definition player capable of outputting 1080p. Or, if you just happen to have an extra $3,000 lying around, the best option is to mate this TV with a good 1080p scaler, like DVDO’s iScan VP50 or Calibre UK’s Vantage-HD.

The 52HL167’s picture can look noisy, and the noise-reduction controls have little impact. Some of this noise is due to the TV’s bit depth. Despite its claimed 14-bit color, the 52HL167 did not smoothly render all of the steps between white and black in the light-to-dark test pattern on my Video Essentials DVD (DVD International), struggling as many digital displays do with the mid to dark grays, especially through the component video inputs. Consequently, darker-colored backgrounds and dark-to-light transitions often contained digital noise. The problem grows more obvious as you turn up the backlight, so you should set it as low as your room lighting will allow. A second issue involves the TV’s hyper-sensitivity to the amount of noise and grain in the incoming signal. Some 1080p TVs roll off the high frequencies to minimize the appearance of high-frequency noise in the signal, which lessens detail in the process. This TV appears to pass everything through, for better and for worse, which created an inconsistency in image quality. Often, the picture is sharp and pristine; then, suddenly, you’re confronted with a scene that’s extremely grainy and noisy, even within the same program. I couldn’t pinpoint a definitive circumstance, as the effect occurred with all types of content: bright and dark, standard- and high-definition – although high-definition DVD consistently looked the cleanest. Is it better for a TV to roll off high-frequency detail instead? That’s like asking a music lover to choose between a speaker system that tames brighter high-frequency recordings and one that is highly neutral but occasionally passes a harsh note. That’s your call to make.

I struggle to form a final opinion of the 52HL167. When the picture looks good, it looks outstanding. It’s got a lot of HD-capable connections, and the image holds up very well in bright and dark viewing environments, which gives the TV a versatility that many displays lack. However, I found the noise issue to be very distracting, often pulling me out of the entertainment experience to focus on the technology. You definitely don’t want to sit too close to this TV; I sat at a distance of about four times the picture height and would probably sit even further away if this were my everyday TV.

If you’re searching for a TV that renders the most pristine image possible with any signal type, the 52HL167 isn’t the best choice. However, if you’re a movie lover who wants to enjoy beautiful high-definition DVDs any time, day or night, and are willing to exchange some of that cleanliness for great detail, vibrant colors, and rich contrast – all in an attractively slender, gloss-black cabinet – then you should take a look at the 52HL167.

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