Not long ago, if you walked into a store with $1000 to spend on an HDTV you’d have to settle for one with a small 720p screen and almost no features whatsoever. Nowadays, that same $1000 gets you a much larger full HD screen, and in some cases, neat features like 3D and networking capabilities, as seen with the Vizio E601I-A3. With the Toshiba L2300U series you can get a fairly big 1080p screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, good audio output, and a relatively sharp LED backlit picture, but that’s about it. This bare-bones HDTV line is not only light on features but its color accuracy is off and its black levels are weak. We tested the 50-inch 50L2300U ($999.99 list) , and while it’s a serviceable HDTV there are better deals to be had for the money.
Editors’ Note: This review is based on tests performed on the Toshiba 50L2300U, the 50-inch model of the series. Besides the screen-size difference, the 39-inch $529.99 39L2300U is otherwise identical in features, and while we didn’t perform lab tests on this specific model, we expect similar performance.
Design and Features
The 50L2300U’s 3.5-inch deep cabinet is relatively thick for an LED-backlit HDTV. Thin (0.8-inch) glossy black bezels frame the top and sides of the panel, while the 1-inch bottom bezel is done up in a gun metal gray finish with a remote sensor and power indicator light on the right side. The screen comes with a rectangular plastic stand that matches the set’s bottom bezel. It doesn’t do a very good job of supporting the 33.5 pound cabinet and was pretty wobbly after we put it together. You’d be better off mounting this TV on a wall, if possible.
This set only comes with three HDMI ports, two of which are at the rear of the cabinet facing inconveniently outward. They are joined by a set of shared component/composite AV ports, a VGA (PC video) input, a cable/antenna jack, and two audio jacks (digital-out and analog-in). The third HDMI port shares space on the left side of the cabinet with a single USB port and four control buttons (Volume Up/Down, Channel Up/Down, Power, and Input). Unlike the Vizio E601I-A3 and Sony Bravia KDL-50EX645, the 50L2300U does not support Internet connectivity, and as such, lacks any Web services. It also doesn’t have 3D capabilities.
The 7-inch remote is a basic wand with 34 buttons and four directional arrow keys for navigating the settings menus. None of the keys are backlit, but the white labeling stands out and is easy to read. The 50L2300U offers plenty of picture settings; there are five presets (Dynamic, Standard, Movie, Game, and PC) and the usual Brightness, Contrast, Color, Tint, and Sharpness adjustments. In the Advanced menu you can fine-tune color levels by enabling the ColorMaster option, allowing you to access the BaseColor Adjustment menu where you can adjust hue, saturation, and brightness levels for red, green, blue, cyan, yellow, and magenta colors. Here you can also adjust Gamma and Color Temperature settings, enable the Auto Brightness and DynaLight (black level correction) options, and switch on the Edge Enhancer for a sharper picture.
There are also a good selection of audio settings that coax solid output from the down-firing speakers. You won’t rattle the windows with this set but the Audyssey ABX switch provides a decent bass boost and a bit more pop than you’d expect from HDTV speakers. The Stable Sound feature, which prevents sudden changes in volume when channel surfing, is a useful option.
The 50L2300U handles 1080p content reasonably well but, doesn’t produce the dark blacks necessary for intricate shadow detail and a high contrast ratio. Using a Klein K10-A colorimeter, SpectraCal’s CalMAN 5, and images from the DisplayMate HDTV diagnostic utility, I measured a peak brightness of 251.76 cd/m2 and a black level of 0.1836 cd/m2, neither of which are very impressive (the black levels were particularly high). The resulting 1,371:1 contrast ratio can be blamed for the murky shadow detail I observed while watching underwater scenes from the movie Piranha on Blu-ray, and is disappointing compared with the Editors’ Choice budget HDTV, the RCA LED42C45RQ’s admittedly middling 1,796:1 contrast ratio. Motion handling, on the other hand, was very good, thanks to the panel’s 120Hz refresh rate.
Color accuracy was sketchy; as shown in the CIE chart above, reds were oversaturated, greens were a bit light, and whites were a bit warm. The closer each dot is to its color box the more accurate the color. The light green reproduction didn’t have an obvious effect as far as tinting goes, but the hot reds had skin tones looking more flushed than they should be. A full calibration would likely correct this problem and the 50L2300U certainly has the controls to perform one, but a full color calibration is a time-consuming process that can be expensive if you’re not familiar with the process yourself. Viewing angle performance was good; there was a slight loss of luminance when viewed from around 60-degrees from center, but colors remained true.
The 50L2300U used 87 watts of power during testing in standard mode and 69 watts in movie mode. That’s significantly better than the Sony Bravia KDL-50EX645 (106 watts in standard mode and 92 watts in Eco mode) and comparable to the LG 55LM6700 (67 watts).
The Toshiba 50L2300U isn’t a top performer and it isn’t packed with features. It is affordable, however, and gets you into a 120Hz big-screen HDTV for under a grand. It doesn’t use a lot of power and offers better than average audio output, but its out of the box color accuracy could be better and its black level performance is weak. If you’re itching for a big screen HDTV and have limited funds, this model will fill the bill, but there are better choices out there, including the Vizio E601I-A3, which offers a bigger screen and both wired and wireless Ethernet capabilities. Or, if you can live with a smaller 46-inch screen, our Editors’ Choice for budget HDTVs, the RCA LED46C45RQ, offers better color accuracy for less than half the list price of the 50L2300U.
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, USB|
|Diagonal Screen Size||39 inches|
|Pixel Refresh Rate Speed||120Hz|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc