Until recently, you'd have had to go for an LG TV if you wanted a passive 3D display. Now that the Toshiba Regza 47VL863B has arrived, that's no longer the case. It uses the same passive 3D technology as LG sets, and comes with four pairs of passive glasses included.
This 47-inch, 1080p LCD TV has a few other tricks up its sleeve too, as it uses LED backlighting and features Toshiba's new Places Internet platform, which gives you access to online services such as BBC iPlayer. At current prices, it'll set you back around £900.
The 47VL863B's cabinet feels rather flimsy when you're taking it out of the box -- something we've noticed on other recent Toshiba models. Nevertheless, this TV still cuts a dash, thanks to its strong, minimalist lines and the brushed-metal effect used on the narrow bezel. That said, it doesn't look quite as upmarket as Sony's Monolith or LG's Infinia designs.
Toshiba has taken an interesting approach to the remote's design. There's a wide silver band around the remote that can be slid up and down to cover and uncover the number buttons, leaving just the main volume, channel and d-pad controls visible. Although it looks cool, it's actually a tad annoying, as the band tends to wobble about in your hand, rather than locking in one place.
At least all the usual connectivity bases are covered. There are four HDMI ports, as well as Scart, component and VGA inputs. There are also two USB ports, one of which can be used for media playback, and the set also has an Ethernet socket that allows you to access online services and stream digital media from a PC or network-attached storage drive.
Unfortunately, the media-streaming features aren't all that impressive, as has been the case with other recent Toshiba models. We couldn't get the TV to play DivX, Xvid, or MKV files across our network from either our NAS drive or our PC, which is poor, as most TVs now have no problem playing these file types.
Bizarrely, the telly played these formats locally from a hard drive plugged into one of its two USB ports without any problems, so there's no real reason why it shouldn't also be able to stream them across a network.
Previous Toshiba TVs have been pretty half-baked in terms of online features, usually only offering simple BBC iPlayer and YouTube apps. This model features Toshiba's new Places platform, but it's still rather disappointing.
The menu for accessing Places is sluggish and there are some odd inconsistencies. For example, YouTube and iPlayer are listed in Places, but, if you select them, you're told to access them from the main menu instead. Also, the range of services on offer is relatively poor, especially compared to the offerings from LG and Sony.
Toshiba has taken a leaf out of Panasonic's book and added two tuners to this TV -- one for Freeview HD and the other for satellite services. Unfortunately, the satellite tuner isn't compatible with freesat HD, so it just tunes into all available free-to-air channels from the Astra 19.2°E satellites, including a number of foreign channels that may, or may not, be useful to you.
The set's 1080p panel uses edge-mounted LEDs and Toshiba's Active Vision picture-processing system, which includes 200Hz scanning, along with the company's Resolution+ upscaling technology. Despite all this, the 47VL863B's 2D pictures are disappointing.
Perhaps the biggest tissue is the inconsistent backlight. There are obvious pools of light visible around the edge of the TV during darker scenes in movies and TV shows. The set's colour palette looks muted too, and skin tones have a yellowy-orange tone to them, so they don't look as natural as they should. The telly's not great for sharpness either, with standard-definition content looking quite smeared at times, which is unusual, as Toshiba's Resolution+ system usually does a good job of upscaling standard-def material.
The big selling point of this TV is its passive 3D technology. This 3D system reduces the resolution of the screen because only half of each frame is delivered to each eye. The result is a picture that looks close to around two-thirds of the maximum resolution, even through it's actually more like half.
The big advantage of passive 3D, though, is that the glasses are extremely cheap. For example, this set comes with four pairs of glasses, but you can buy more for around £5 each, compared to the £80 to £100 price tag on active-shutter 3D glasses. The passive glasses are also lighter and more comfortable to wear.
This TV's 3D performance is quite impressive. As long as you're sitting a normal distance from the TV, the drop in resolution isn't all that apparent. The sense of depth created is every bit as good as that of active-shutter systems, and images are also surprisingly bright. There's no ghosting around the edges of objects either, which is a major boon.
Unfortunately, though, this TV drops the ball when it comes to audio quality. The speakers never really trouble the bass end of the frequency spectrum, and even dialogue sounds tinny and harsh. It's an issue that affects many slim-line LED sets, but the 47VL863B suffers in this department more than most.
Although it's great to see another manufacturer offering a passive 3D TV, the Regza 47VL863B just isn't one of Toshiba's better offerings. Backlight bleeding, unnatural skin tones and below-par Internet features make this set feel much less polished than similarly priced rivals.
Edited by Charles Kloet