Toshiba 37UL863 TV review

37-inch Edge LED-backlit LCD TV
Photo of Toshiba 37UL863 TV
£599

It’s not often we review a 37in-sized screen like the Toshiba 37UL863 TV. The category has almost dropped out of use and been replaced by 40in+ sizes – but what it lacks in stature, this Toshiba LED-backlit panel makes up for in core quality.

The Toshiba’s design and chassis are nothing flashy, but the hardware on offer from this strictly 2D TV is good value. A stunning complement of four HDMI inputs should please all kinds of users, and is rare at this price. There’s also a D-Sub 15-pin connector, a couple of USB slots, and slots for component video, composite and even Scart. How quaint. Audio can be taken in or out via phono sockets, and taken into either headphones, or to an amplifier via digital optical audio.

Other ins and outs are RF and LNB, which reveal the presence of both DVB-T2 and DVB-S2 free-to-air tuners, making both Freeview HD and Freesat HD channels available. The 37UL863 also comes equipped with DVB-C and analogue tuners, the former of which could be of use in mainland Europe. The latter is fast becoming redundant, at least in Western Europe – the digital switchover in the UK is due to finish next year.

There’s also an Ethernet LAN port on the 37UL863′s rear side, but the real boon is an integrated WiFi module, which we really didn’t expect at this price. It’s excellent news, particularly because the 37UL863 has a significant online dimension.

Toshiba Places
After a few years of playing catch-up, Toshiba has unveiled its Places online hub for 2011. It’s not up to much yet. It offers BBC iPlayer and YouTube, though these two key online video-on-demand (VOD) services are actually accessed via the TV’s central – and rather crisply designed – GUI. We tried to activate them from within Places are got short shrift; error messages aplenty.

Other apps in Video Place include Viewster, Box Office 365, Dailymotion, Woomi, Cartoon Network and HiT Entertainment, while Music Place hosts just Aupeo, an online radio service. Social Place is better, though it’s without Twitter.

With the Toshiba TV Remote App, downloaded to an iPhone, failing to hook up with the 37UL863, we had to go the old-fashioned route. We’re glad we did because the remote that ships with this UL Series screen is, in itself, something quite special. It’s overlong and too narrow, but there’s a reason; a metallic slider is on hand to cover, or not, the remote’s middle-ranking buttons. It’s worth engaging because the remote as a whole henceforth becomes more comfortable to use.

Elsewhere, the 37UL863′s WiFi goodness powers its DLNA home networking feature, using which we were able to play AVI, MP4 and AVC HD files streamed from a PC laptop alongside MP3 and WMA music. Plug in a USB stick and that file count changes slightly. The bad news is that AVI and WMA files can’t be played. If that’s a shame, some consolation comes in the form of MKV support, which will please many.

Image quality
The 37UL863 is fitted with a Panasonic-made IPS Alpha LCD panel with a 1920×1080-pixel HD resolution. It’s LED-backlit using the Edge LED system – clusters of LEDs are strung along the top and bottom of the panel and angled to thrust brightness across the back of the screen. The result is intended to be a dynamic brightness that allows both light and dark images to be reproduced correctly, though in essence it’s a way of improving performance only so far; the tech’s popularity is in its secondary function of making the panel much thinner. Measuring 541x873x35.8mm, the 37UL863 is reasonably thin – though nowhere near the single-figure millimeter achievements of the likes of Samsung on its high-end D8000 range of (far pricier) LED TVs.

The trouble is, Edge LED, even on a screen as (relatively) small as the 37UL863, causes a few other problems. Key on this example if noticeable light leakage; a dark screen shows-up its LED clusters, which are really quite obvious.

They do have an effect on the image, but apart from a lack of uneven brightness the 37UL863 does reasonably well. The colour palette is impressive, with natural tones and a restrained brightness that’s really quite alluring – though there are weaknesses. Our Blu-ray test disc featured some noticeable motion blur, despite the screen having a 100Hz refresh rate feature.

Detail in still images is high, dropping away during motion, but it’s contrast that proves the 37UL863′s main drawback; that LED backlight really isn’t as dynamic as it thinks it is. Black areas of the image that are too bright, and lack detail within. The problem isn’t ruinous, though, and at the price, the 37UL863 will still make a decent all-rounder for most living rooms.

Company: Toshiba

Website: http://www.toshiba.co.uk/

Contact: Toshiba on 0844 856 0730

Positives
  • Dual terrestrial HD tuners, GUI, MKV from USB, WLAN module.
Negative
  • Online VOD, light leakage, contrast, poor audio.

Verdict

The features are loaded onto this Edge LED-backlit LCD TV to the extent that is just has to be regarded as great value. Contrast is merely average and there is some motion blur, but the inclusion of Freeview HD, Freesat HD, built-in WiFi, BBC iPlayer and support - albeit inconsistently - for both AVI and MKV make this an ideal choice for a living room.