The component inputs are also progressive-scan compatible, meaning the television can provide a beautifully smooth picture from your DVDs. It also houses the clever Active Vision processing technology that has won the company plaudits across the LCD range. The technology analyses detail, colour, movement and contrast, and boosts the picture where necessary to give better results. The contrast is beautifully deep -- miles better than even the best LCD or plasma -- and this works wonders on the picture. The television needed some calibrating out of the box to sharpen things up, but at optimal settings this is the best picture quality you're going to get from TV and DVD sources, full stop.
On the audio front, the addition of extra speakers was no mere afterthought. There's some clever processing going on inside the TV, which will accept a straight Dolby Digital 5.1 feed from your DVD player, or process a Dolby Pro Logic soundtrack directly from a stereo source. You can apply all sorts of filters to the surround sound, such as Theatre and Disco, as well as setting the individual audio levels for all satellite speakers. Sometimes when you're connecting a DVD player through surround-sound equipment, you can pick up a lip-synching problem along the way, but the 36ZP48 can produce an audio delay to match up. As Darth Vader would say, "Impressive, most impressive."
There's a similar depth to the picture options. There are four individual picture modes that save your presets for contrast and brightness levels, as well as four picture-format modes. The 36ZP48 automatically picks up and adapts widescreen and 4:3 material, and a Subtitle mode shifts the picture up slightly to make the captions more prominent.
If you're a big picture-quality fanatic, the 36ZP48 is as good as it gets. We've seen a lot of plasma and LCD TVs lately, but the Toshiba reminds us just how great CRTs can be. Blacks look as deep as you want them to be, with darker scenes still showing acres of detail, and subsequently the colour reproduction is natural and rich. This television also doesn't have the problems that plague flat screens, where using lower-quality inputs results in an almost unwatchable mess. Connecting Freeview and Sky to the 36ZP48 through RGB Scart displays none of the MPEG artefacts that blight most LCDs, and even composite video is passable. Toshiba's Active Vision technology is a winner across the board.
The aural performance is something special too. Thanks to the high-quality audio format support, the 36ZP48 takes the Dolby Digital feed directly from your DVD player. The speakers themselves are relatively powerful, at 10W each. They're no match for a dedicated sound system, but you certainly won't need to push beyond 50 per cent volume before they have ample presence. Alas, there's no DTS support, but the speaker package is a real bonus given the price.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide