When deciding which type of 3D TV to go for, the decision boils down to price versus picture quality. Active 3D sets deliver Full HD pictures but can cost you a fortune in glasses; passive sets halve the resolution but the glasses are ten a penny.
Whatever your preference, Toshiba has it covered. We’ve already tested one of its active 3D sets, the 40TL963 but now we’re turning our attention to the passive 47VL963B, which bungs four pairs of glasses in the box.
Alongside 3D, this 47in LCD TV offers edge LED backlighting, smart TV features, DLNA support, Freeview HD and USB functionality, all for a relatively affordable price.
Design and connections
Not to be outdone by the glitzy, glamorous designs of its rivals, Toshiba has delivered a lovely looking set with a little help from Jacob Jensen Design.
The 47VL963B is a slim and elegant TV, with a single sheet of glass covering the entire front of the screen and a slim bezel that only takes up about 1cm of precious screen space around the edge. It’s topped off by a beautiful silver section and a brushed black panel housing the Toshiba logo.
Build quality is superb and connections are plentiful. You get a grand total of four HDMI inputs (three on the back, one on the side), plus two USB ports, SCART, component and PC inputs, optical digital audio out, Ethernet, headphone output and a Common Interface slot.
Like all the major TV manufacturers, Toshiba has its own Internet content portal – Toshiba Places. This offers a range of apps, bringing music, video and social networking direct to your living room. Sadly, to access it wirelessly you need to invest in Toshiba’s optional Wi-Fi dongle, which will add another £30 to the price.
Toshiba’s limited content selection isn’t a patch on Sony’s Entertainment Network or Samsung’s Smart Hub, but there are a few nuggets worth investigating. The most useful video app is BBC iPlayer, backed up by YouTube, Acetrax, Dailymotion, Woomi, Viewster and CineTrailer. On the music streaming side there’s iConcerts, AUPEO! and 7digital, while the ‘News Place’ contains Livesport, Euronews, France 24 and Meteonews. Completing the line-up are Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and a few games.
DLNA compliance makes it possible to access content stored on media servers on your home network. That way you can stream music, photo and movie files without having to load them onto a USB stick first. But you can play media via USB if you wish, with a list of supported formats that includes DivX, AVCHD, WMV, MP4, AVI, 3GP and MKV, although with the latter it wouldn’t play the accompanying DTS soundtrack. Music file support includes MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC.
The nifty features continue with video recording from the built-in Freeview HD tuner onto connected USB hard-disk drives, plus Intel Wireless Display tech, which enables you to stream content from laptops or PCs directly to the TV.
On the circuitry side, the 47VL963B’s strings are pulled by Meta Brain, a processing engine that controls features like Resolution+ upscaling, Active Vision and the AutoView picture adjustment system.
There’s 100Hz processing, Auto Backlight Control and a range of picture tweaks and presets, including two Hollywood 1 and 2 settings for day and night viewing respectively and detailed colour management tools.
The TV initially runs through all the key settings, such as language, country, location, AutoView, network setup and channel tuning.
Onscreen presentation is highly attractive without going over the top. The main menu is an arc of icons that pops up from the bottom of the screen, and rotates as you press the left and right keys. A second arc of icons above it shows the relevant submenu. The main menu contains all the key functions, such as Connected TV, Media Player (for USB and network playback), Setup and TV programmes, where you can access the EPG.
Make your way to Toshiba Places and you’ll find an immensely likeable interface that breaks the content down into various sections – TV Place, Music Place, Video Place, News Place… you get the picture. They’re found within a row of large bold boxes running across the middle of the screen, with recommended apps, a small preview screen and other options dotted around the edges, which looks a little scruffy.
Delve into Video Place, for instance, and the relevant apps run in a row across the screen, each in a large unmissable box. Sadly BBC iPlayer is the only app you’ll find inside the TV Place, highlighting the gulf in content between Toshiba and some of its rivals’ portals.
The EPG looks good, with its huge programme grid and shortcuts along the bottom, but there’s no live TV and it’s sluggish to respond. The Freeview info banner only is restricted to now and next info, which is also frustrating.
When playing back video files from USB sticks or over a network, the menu screens are clear and logical. Files are arranged in a grid, and if you hover over one for a few seconds it previews in a small box, with the details to the right.
While watching TV or a movie you can call up the Quick menu, which lets you tinker with stuff like picture modes, size and 3D settings without having to visit the setup menu. There’s also a dedicated 3D button on the remote that lets you switch quickly between modes (including real-time 2D-to-3D conversion).
The remote is a big, chunky affair with a fetching gloss black and silver colour scheme and clearly labelled buttons. Sadly many of them are far too small – particularly the microscopic keys at the bottom – and the central direction pad is surrounded too closely by a second ring of buttons, which makes it quite easy to hit the wrong one. This second ring contains a set of direction buttons that lets you move up and down pages in the EPG, which is a nice idea but does make that area of the remote a little crowded.
If you’d rather use your smartphone or tablet to control the TV, no problem – Toshiba’s free Apple and Android apps make it possible.
Although it’s not up there with the very best in the LED market, the 47VL963B still delivers enjoyable picture quality.
Feed it a bright, colour-rich blockbuster on Blu-ray like Avengers Assemble and the set is capable of some dazzling images – particularly during our heroes’ climatic battle with the Chitauri on the New York City streets.
Set in broad daylight, the scene bursts with bold, radiant comic-book colours, like Stark’s red suit and Hulk’s green skin. The hues are natural, different shades are subtly blended into each other and skin tones never look waxy.
However to get the most from the set you need to select the right preset, or fiddle with the picture settings to find the right balance. The Standard and Dynamic modes should be avoided like the plague, but we found Hollywood 1 to offer the best combination of contrast, backlight and brightness. Some viewers may not like the loss of vibrancy compared with the other modes, but for that solid, cinematic look it’s definitely the one.
The picture is packed with detail, which is crisply resolved on the 1080p panel and boosted by a decent black level. During the movie’s daytime scenes, black objects (like Hawkeye’s jacket or NYPD uniforms) have a pleasing depth and solidity, which it achieves without crushing out much of the detail within them or compromising the crispness of bright areas in the same frame.
That said, its pictures can’t touch the mesmerising intensity, richness and black depth offered by Sony and Samsung’s best LED backlight sets.
Another area where it loses ground on its big-name rivals is its reproduction of dark scenes. Chapter 4 of Avengers shows Black Widow and Dr Banner having a conversation inside a dimly-lit shack. It’s quite hard to make out the detail in the background and to find the edges of certain objects.
There’s also a faint glow in certain areas of the picture that compromises the overall depth, caused by inconsistencies with the backlight. You can fiddle with the backlight and brightness controls but you end up either making the picture look too murky or washed out.
With fast-paced movies or sports broadcasts, the set’s AMR400 processing keeps a lid on motion artefacts but it by no means eradicates them. There’s a minor hazy trail as Hulk jumps about, but nothing that will distract you from the action.
The set’s passive 3D pictures are hugely enjoyable. Yes there’s a noticeable drop in resolution compared with active shutter technology, plus the jagged edges and visible lines are obvious, yet the picture feels comfortable to watch and there isn’t a major drop in vibrancy with the glasses on. Simply slipping on the specs without having to hold down a button or wait for them to sync with the TV is undeniably appealing.
Freeview HD channels look wonderfully clear and detailed, yet SD channels are a dramatic contrast, drawing far too much attention to MPEG block and mosquito noise and rendering colours with a slightly forced, unnatural look.
The 47VL963B comes equipped with a bevy of Audyssey sound technology. Audyssey EQ corrects the sonic balance, ABX boosts bass and Dynamic Volume keeps everything at a consistent level to prevent any nasty shocks.
Although these modes can’t work miracles, the Toshiba’s sound is surprisingly enjoyable, offering more bass than we’re used to from a slim screen set and a pleasing balance of mid and high frequencies. That gives movies and TV shows a bit of spark and punch during dramatic scenes, and lends authority to dialogue.
The 47VL963B is a great-value bigscreen TV, packing in a lot of features for the money and delivering sharp, punchy picture quality. It’s also pure eye candy thanks to the ‘single sheet of glass’ design. Its images are flawed in places, which stops it competing with the Sonys and Samsungs of this world, but the pros far outweigh the cons, and as a 3D display the immediacy and comfort of its passive pictures cannot be denied. There are other grumbles however – BBC iPlayer and YouTube are the only apps of any merit within Toshiba Places and the lack of built-in Wi-Fi is a pain in the neck (and the wallet).
Manufacturer and model
Screen size (inches)
1,920 x 1,080
Screen / Backlight technology
LCD / Edge LED
3D glasses supplied
Yes x 4
Yes (via WLAN dongle)
2 x 10W
Energy efficiency class
Dimensions (with stand, W x H x D)
1,064 x 696 x 235mm
Dimensions (without stand, W x H x D)
1,064 x 641 x 42mm
Digital audio output
SD card slot