Toshiba recently has made a major move in the LCD market that very likely has gotten the attention of the boys at Sony, Samsung and Vizio. Their latest line of high-definition LCD displays, specifically the 42-inch Regza Cinema Series HD display reviewed here are thinner, brighter and better than any other set in terms of refresh rate. What’s even more impressive is that you buy one today for a reasonable $1,699 retail.
While the product number may be confusing, the Regza Cinema Series HD LCD has a 42-inch, 16:9 display, with a native resolution of 1080p and a 120Hz refresh rate. I’ll get into the 120Hz argument in a moment, but first let’s take a gander at the TV itself. The Regza is an attractive yet minimal display. It doesn’t hawk a lot of silvery plastic or flashy finishes at you, but opts instead for a simple gloss-black bevel with a subtle dark gray accent below the Toshiba badge. The Regza comes standard with a sleek pedestal stand, though wall-mounting is an option with a third-party wall mount. The display itself measures roughly 40 inches wide by 25-and-a-half inches tall and nearly four inches deep. The Regza, with stand, weighs a modest 54 pounds. The manual controls are located along the right side (looking at the display) of the display itself and feature hard buttons for power, menu, channel and volume, as well as a single HDMI and composite audio/video inputs, which are pretty much standard. Around back, you get three more HDMI inputs, two sets of component video inputs and a full complement of composite and S-Video connections, all with coordinating analog audio inputs. There is a PC monitor input (15-pin), as well as a IR pass-through, a fixed analog audio out and a Dolby Digital optical output.
Under the hood, the Regza boasts a myriad of features, some more standard than others. The Regza is a full 1080p display and, with the help of Toshiba’s own SRT (Super Resolution Technology) Technology, it will scale all signals to 1080p. SRT is Toshiba’s proprietary upconversion technology that upconverts and enhances the signal to bring legacy sources and the images they produce to near HD-quality levels. The Regza also utilizes Toshiba’s ClearFrame 120Hz Anti-Blur Technology, which, like most 120Hz displays, does its best to eliminate motion blur on images by creating new frames from the digital data and inserting said frames in between the normally-produced frames. The 120Hz argument has its pros and cons and every manufacturer does it a bit differently, with varying degrees of success, at least to this reviewer, but the Regza may be the closest to ideal. The Regza is a 10-bit LCD design with deep color and x.v. color capabilities. It also has a 24 fps Cinema Mode, as well as numerous theater wide modes and image presets. One notable image preset is AutoView, which uses an internal light sensor to gauge ambient light conditions and tailor the viewing experience to the room at the moment for the best possible image.
No HDTV is complete without a remote. The Regza’s is, well, a remote. It’s a bit bulky; okay it’s huge, more the size of a receiver remote and thick as a brick. The layout is mildly logical and, once you spend about fifteen minutes with it, it’s easy to memorize by feel, but damn, it’s just entirely too big and too cheap-feeling for a TV as good as the Regza.
I installed the Regza in my bedroom system, where my reference Samsung 120Hz LCD display would have to sit idly by. Due to its minimal design (by minimal, I mean lack of excess plastic framing), the Regza was far easier to position and install by myself than my Samsung could ever hope to be. Making the requisite connections was a snap, as I connected it to my Dish Network DVR, AppleTV and Sony PS3. My bedroom home theater is a bit between set-ups for the moment, so I utilized the Regza for both its audio and video capabilities.
Once connected, the set-up menus were superb and calibration was a breeze. Truthfully, to my eyes, the Regza is close to out-of-the-box ready in its AutoView and Movie modes, save for two items. The image is decidedly warm and should be set to a more neutral setting or, better still, a cool one. I had to back off the brightness just a touch to preserve a solid black level, but once I did that and checked it against my Digital Video Essentials disc on Blu-ray, I was good to go. The 120Hz ClearFrame settings can be activated at any time, but for my first go-round with the Regza, I kept them off. I should also point out that, if you start with, say, the Movie picture setting but change the color temperature to Cool, it will automatically set your setting to Preference, for you cannot alter the image presets in any way. Clearly, Toshiba’s proud of the presets and doesn’t want you mucking them up but the downside is, there is only one user preset option.
I kicked things off with a little AppleTV viewing, beginning with the digital download of The Dark Knight (Warner Home Video), with the AppleTV’s internal scaling set to auto. Since I purchased The Dark Knight, the resolution was actually a touch less than DVD, landing it squarely in SD land with a fair amount of compression. Hell, it’s a two-and-a-half-hour movie - that’s less than two GB, but you wouldn’t know it through the Regza. Was it HD quality? No, but had I not known where the source material came from, I’d swear I was watching a very well-played DVD. I don’t believe DVD can look like HD, but DVD can look very very bad. Through the Regza, The Dark Knight was mighty impressive. Color accuracy and saturation was very strong and extremely natural and detailed. Black level was respectable, again on par with good DVD playback, but nowhere near as deep, rich or detailed as HD. What was most striking was how smooth and almost artifact-free the presentation was. Jaggies were kept to a minimum and noise levels in all but the darkest regions of the image were not noticeable from the proper viewing distance. Remember, the Regza was handling all the upscaling and processing of the image, which is something I seldom promote, as there are third-party scalers and chips that usually do a much better job than your TV’s internal chips, yet I was impressed by the Regza. Edge fidelity was good and image dimension and depth were respectable, but these were the areas where the source material showed its cards as being clearly not HD and perhaps a touch below even DVD.
It was during my time viewing The Dark Knight that I noticed something peculiar about the Regza. The image was decidedly smoother, deeper and richer than I had come to expect from an LCD design. It was, gulp, more plasma-like than LCD. I’ll go one further: it was more CRT-like than LCD. Then it hit me. The screen surface of the Regza is a somewhat cloudy and textured gray color, not mirror clear. Turning the Regza off proved this, for the screen didn’t become a mirror the way Samsung or Sony sets do. I thought, “Well, that’s interesting,” but it kind of made sense, for Toshiba is going for a cinema-like viewing experience with the Regza, not an ultra-sharp, faux-real HD look like most LCD displays seem to lean towards, especially in their dynamic settings. Truth be told, the Regza doesn’t have a Dynamic setting, nor did it require sun block and glasses for out of the box viewing.
I continued my testing of the Regza with the Blu-ray transfer of The Dark Knight (Warner Home Video) for comparison. With everything now set to fire on all cylinders, I prepared myself for all that the Regza could offer. While I had been impressed with the downloaded version of the film, the Blu-ray version of The Dark Knight was breathtakingly beautiful. The AppleTV version had been enjoyable, but the Blu-ray version was what the Regza was made for. Black levels were superb in their detail, depth and texture. Batman’s suit was rife with detail and texture and the individual elements that made up the armor plates were easily discerned, even in the darkest of scenes. Not to be outdone, the Joker’s purple suit looked as if it had been pulled from the gutter, dusted off and worn. It was a mess of fibers, stitching and moisture that added to the Joker’s already skewed demeanor. Sequences were rendered with poise and precision and had a sense of great depth to the presentation. While the world may be going more and more digital, director Christopher Nolan may be onto something with using the massive IMAX format to effectively rescue film from the death throes of the inevitable. It was gorgeous.
I ended my evaluation of the Regza with Pixar’s latest hit, Wallâ€¢E (Walt Disney Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray. Wallâ€¢E gave the Regza a chance to flex a bit of its 10-bit muscle, and flex it did. Color fidelity was tremendous, with all the vibrancy, detail and shading one could ever hope for. Seriously, LCD has never had an issue with punchy colors, yet they have previously seemed a bit flat or one-dimensional. Not through the Regza. The depth of the gradation and shading was awe-inspiring. Edge fidelity was about as good as it gets this side of serious money and the sheer quality and resolution of the image, even in the furthest reaches of the camera, were rendered fully and truly. Wallâ€¢E possessed the sort of dimensionality that bordered on surreal. This has become commonplace with Pixar, for no one does it better. The rust on Wallâ€¢E’s neglected casings was so neatly and delicately portrayed through the Regza that you’d swear you could take your fingernail to it and scratch a bit off. The motion of the virtual cameras was smooth as silk and improved with the 120Hz settings activated, yet unlike other 120Hz displays, the Regza didn’t impart much of a “cut out” look to the foreground and background elements. It was an improvement without becoming a distraction, though I found the best setting to be the low one. Impressed doesn’t begin to describe my feelings towards the Regza while viewing Wallâ€¢E: it was that good.
This set is for the guy who loves Blu-ray and or who is beaming in 1080i or even now 1080p video from digital cable or satellite. While the internal video scaler is impressively good - Toshiba’s claims of being able to make 480i video look like true high definition are a bit exaggerated to be polite. You can’t make SD into HD you can just make SD look better.
I didn’t much care for the single-user picture setting and felt the image presets were all a bit warm at the outset. You could argue that you only really need one user setting, but we know this isn’t the case, and at least two more would be beneficial.
Toshiba could do better with the remote. For most users, this is their lifeline to the HDTV and Toshiba’s is far worse than even low-cost leader Vizio’s remote. It can’t be that hard to find a better remote. This HDTV is just too good not to come with a slick remote control.
At just under $1,700 retail, the 42-inch Regza Cinema Series HD LCD TV isn’t the cheapest ticket to the show, but it will get you closer to the stage than almost anything in its price range today. If you’re tastes sway a bit like mine, it’ll get you pit tickets, for it is one hell of a good LCD display. It’s refreshing to see an LCD TV that doesn’t try to bowl you over with brightness and saturation, instead opting for accuracy, naturalness and a real, honest to God cinema experience. While Toshiba’s claims of making all things appear HD are a bit of an overstatement, it’s clear to see in the Regza why they were the leader in the HD game while others were still trying to get their acts together. Don’t let the failure of HD DVD keep you away from Toshiba and the stunning Regza line of LCD TVs, for they’re among the very best there are available. I would recommend this set to anyone looking for a killer LCD.
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