These days, we often praise Toshiba TVs for their low price. But, with the Regza 46SV685DB, the company has leapt from one extreme to the other. This 46-inch, 1080p LCD TV costs about £2,500. Why is it so expensive, you ask? Because it's Toshiba's first TV with LED backlighting.
Pretty but portly
As with most, if not all, LED-backlit TVs to date, the 46SV685DB sports a rather portly profile, measuring about 10cm thick. That rather untrendy size looks even more exaggerated if you compare the 46SV685DB to the wafer-thin, LED-edge-lit Samsung UE55B7020WW that we recently reviewed.
But the 46SV685DB isn't an unattractive TV from the front, thanks to its glass-like finish and 'deep lagoon' design. Apparently, the full crystal panel sitting flush over the TV's front improves contrast and colour, as well as making the set look flasher.
Among the 46SV685DB's connections are four HDMI ports, a USB socket capable of playing JPEG, DivX and MP3 files, an SD card slot for playing back photos taken on SD-compatible cameras, an optical digital audio output, and an Ethernet port for accessing files stored on the hard drive of a DLNA-certified PC. There's no online functionality available via the Ethernet port, though.
Because the 46SV685DB uses LED backlighting (the LEDs are positioned directly behind the screen) it can use local-dimming technology, whereby each of the screen's 128 LED arrays can be controlled individually. This means the screen can turn off the LEDs in dark parts of the picture at the same time as the LEDs in bright parts are left on. In other words, local dimming enables the 46SV685DB to produce pictures of a dynamism that ordinary LCD TVs, with their single light sources, just can't compete with.
But Sharp's recently tested Aquos LE600 and LE700 TVs also offer LED backlighting and local dimming, while being considerable cheaper than the 46SV685DB. Hmm. Maybe the 46SV685DB uses the relatively expensive but supposedly superior RGB-dimming technology, rather than Sharp's white-dimming approach? Toshiba doesn't say.
It's just as well, then, that the 46SV685DB has a few interesting features up its sleeve. For instance, there's Toshiba's Meta Brain processing engine. This combines the brand's Active Vision 'multi-purpose' video-processing technology -- including a 200Hz processing engine -- with Resolution+, which aims to deliver improved upscaling of standard-definition pictures to the screen's 1080p resolution.
Tucked within the 46SV685DB's on-screen menus are such features as a sliding gamma-adjustment bar, a convenient black/white balance slider, a flexible colour-management system (complete with the option to switch off the red, green and blue colour components individually), and MPEG and standard noise-reduction systems. You can also turn the 200Hz engine off.
It's quite a relief to find that the TV provides so many picture adjustments, since it took a fair amount of calibration before we could get the best out of this set. But, once you get the settings right, the 46SV685DB's best performance is extremely good.
Particularly mesmerising is the set's black-level response. The local-dimming technology helps produce dark scenes with a depth and naturalism that no ordinary LCD TV can match. The 46SV685DB also manages to largely overcome a common flaw of LED-backlit TVs by displaying plenty of subtle detail in dark areas.
It's also a relief to report that the local-dimming system only very rarely produces evidence of the common phenomenon among LED-backlit TVs whereby light halos appear around bright points in otherwise dark pictures.
The sharpness and detail in the 46SV685DB's pictures are also superb. High-definition footage looks almost three-dimensional, thanks to the TV's ability to render detail, while Resolution+ makes standard-definition sources look markedly closer to HD than we customarily see with 1080p sets.
The 46SV685DB's colours impress in many ways too, thanks, in particular, to the set's knack for portraying subtle colour shifts and blends with extreme finesse. This also helps pictures look dynamic and involving, rather than flat and unrealistic.
As for motion, the 200Hz engine (it uses a scanning-backlight/frame-interpolation combination, rather than an actual 200Hz refresh rate) works rather well. It doesn't achieve the same impact as, say, Philips' or Samsung's 200Hz pictures, but some people might well prefer its more reined-in approach, especially as there are impressively few processing side effects. If you're one of those purists who hate the whole idea of motion processing, you'll be glad to know that, even with the 200Hz engine deactivated, motion judder and blur are seldom distracting.
Overall, the 46SV685DB produces easily the best pictures we've yet seen on a Toshiba set. It doesn't sound bad either, using its bulk to produce a louder, more dynamic sound stage than most flat TVs.
But the 46SV685DB isn't without its flaws. Watch it from any significant angle, and you'll start to see obvious backlight inconsistencies and reductions in contrast and colour. The set's pictures are also just slightly too green in tone. This is particularly obvious when using the TV's default settings, but, even after extensive calibration, images don't look quite right for such an expensive TV.
Toshiba's Regza 46SV685DB is certainly a mighty fine TV. The main reason we can't give it a higher score is its price. While this TV is undoubtedly very good, we're not fully convinced it's worth shelling out £2,500 on.
Edited by Charles Kloet