The most common question asked by our readers is: 'Which 32-inch TV should I buy?' There's a number of reasons why 32 inches is an incredibly popular choice. It's the most cost-effective size, and most people don't have unlimited budgets to blow. Such sets are also popular as bedroom TVs for students and people who just don't have that much space.
Whatever your motivation for getting a 32-inch TV, you're going to have to go with LCD technology, unless you opt for one of LG's small plasmas. As a rule, LCD is a much better technology for these smaller TVs and will remain so until OLED becomes mainstream.
But is the 32-inch, 1080p Toshiba Regza 32RV635DB LCD TV, available for around £500, worth your hard-earned cash?
Getting to know the TV
The 32RV635DB offers several advantages over older Toshiba models. The first we noticed is the new menu system. In the past, we've criticised Toshiba for having ugly and outdated menu systems. This has become even more noticeable recently with the likes of LG and Samsung really improving the look and feel of their TVs. Toshiba seems to have agreed with us, and the menus on the 32RV635DB are much improved.
It's also significant that the company seems to be allowing users to make a great deal of settings tweaks. In the past, we haven't always been able to adjust the picture of Toshiba sets as comprehensively as we'd have liked. But now Toshiba seems prepared to let you fiddle with everything to get the picture set up as you'd like it. If you get into a pickle, there are reset buttons in all the submenus that will return the TV to its default settings.
But, in fact, we found the TV required very little messing about with. When you first set it up, the TV gives you a number of options. It asks if you're in a shop or at home, and it uses your answer to set itself to the appropriate brightness. The set-up process also lets you decide if you want to tune in analogue or digital channels, or both. We picked digital only, because watching analogue in central London is like having your head repeatedly smashed with a breeze block. Set-up takes pretty much no time at all, which is terrific.
Picture and sound quality
We've always liked the picture quality of Toshiba TVs, and we're pleased to see that the 32RV635DB manages to continue this tradition. In some ways, it appears that being small helps this TV to offer a strong Freeview picture, and that's no surprise really -- the more you stretch a standard-definition image, the worse it will look.
For the most part, we were impressed by the TV's ability to cope with the noise, blocking and general mess that is broadcast digital TV in the UK. Sure, it's no Pioneer, but it holds its own -- especially at this cheaper end of the market.
Toshiba has included its Resolution+ system on this TV too. Essentially, this system is supposed to make standard-definition pictures look like high-definition ones. It does nothing of the sort.
We always get very cross when manufacturers make claims that have no basis in fact. Indeed, earlier this year a Toshiba spokesperson told a room full of journalists that upscaling YouTube to 1080p was a possibility. The fact is that you can't generate information that isn't there, and the old adage of 'garbage in, garbage out' holds true, even in these days of upscaling. So, what does Resolution+ actually do? It sharpens the image at the edges, which means that the picture might look slightly more detailed but you're likely to see halos on hard edges.
To be fair though, Resolution+ is easy to turn off. We'd suggest that you try it turned both on and off, and decide which setting works for you.
Blu-ray movies look pretty good on this set. The small screen means you won't get the full impact of the 1080p picture, but there's nothing here that would upset a movie lover either. We did notice that motion wasn't being artificially smoothed by the picture-processing technology. Because this set isn't a 100Hz model, you might find that it doesn't perform as well with movies as larger, more expensive models. But we think it does a very respectable job with HD movies, especially considering this TV isn't really aimed at the HD-movie-buff market.
The sound produced by this TV is also fairly impressive. It won't blow you away on movie night, but watching normal TV shows on Freeview is a perfectly pleasant experience. Dialogue, in particular, is easy to understand, and that's good news, because all too often we struggle to hear what people are talking about.
The physical stuff
The 32RV635DB looks pretty cool. It's a basic-enough TV, but it's also sufficiently smart and we think it will look great in any room. It's certainly not one of those TVs that shouts for your attention, unlike some we could mention.
The remote control is worthy of a mention too. It's smaller than most TV controllers we see these days, which makes it look rather cheap at first glance, but it's actually very sensibly laid out. The buttons you need most often, like the channel numbers and the rocker switches for volume and changing programmes, are all pleasing and large. Even the smaller buttons are big enough for an adult male to handle.
Significant progress has been made by Toshiba in moving many functions away from a button on the controller and into a menu. Although this might make things harder to find, it's generally the case that, once the TV is set-up how you like it, you'll never use the settings again. So removing them from the remote is no bad plan.
Considering that this is a 32-inch TV, Toshiba certainly manages to provide a decent amount of inputs. You get four HDMI sockets -- three on the back, and one on the side. A pair of Scart inputs, component and VGA connections are also present. At the side, you'll find USB, composite and S-Video inputs.
To save space in the box, Toshiba ships the 32RV635DB with a stand that you'll need to build yourself. This isn't a complicated process and, because the TV is reasonably light, it can be done by one person. It took us about 5 minutes to complete, and involves eight sturdy Allen socket bolts. A simple Allen key is also provided, if you don't have a set of your own.
We like the Toshiba Regza 32RV635DB. For about £500 or so, you get a well-designed, simple-to-use TV with plenty of user-configurable options. It's ideal for people who want a gaming TV for their PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. We also think features like the new menus and improved remote control make this TV a good choice for people who aren't technically inclined.
The picture quality is likeable, and the sound from the built-in speakers is pretty good too. In fact, there's not much about this TV that we don't like. Sure, it's not going to blow your socks off like a large-screen plasma or LED-backlit LCD might, but it's a sturdy, appealing performer with a recession-friendly price tag.
Edited by Charles Kloet