Toshiba’s VL963 range of TVs are aimed at those who want a well-appointed large screen that doesn’t come with a double-take price tag. They’re internet-enabled, offer passive polarised 3D and are reassuringly heavy. The 42in 42VL963 featured here is also available as the 47in VL963 and the 55in 55VL963. See all TV reviews.
The cosmetics betray the hand of Danish design group Jacob Jensen and are suitably modernistic: all edge-to-edge glass trimmed with a metal frame. When Off there’s no obvious bezel; it looks cool but, inevitably, is extremely reflective. See also Sony XBR-84X900 4K TV review.
The screen, which features both standard Freeview HD and generic DVB-C2 satellite tuners, offers four HDMI, SCART, component, VGA and phono stereo inputs, plus a digital optical audio output. See also Group test: what's the best TV?
The general user interface is attractive and fun to use, however Toshiba’s online portal proves less easy to navigate. It’s a senseless collection of hived off areas, dubbed Places. The choice of content is limited to some subscription IPTV services, social-media clients (accessed via a separate Toshiba account) and free stalwarts BBC iPlayer, Dailymotion and YouTube.
Thankfully you can at least get to iPlayer and YouTube directly from the main menu, without have to load the Places portal.
Multimedia support from USB is accomplished. The set’s media player coped with pretty much everything we threw at it, including MKV, WMV, AVI, MPEG, MOV and VOB. MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC audio tracks also played. But it’s a different story across a network. Here the only thing the VL963 plays is dumb.
With a firmware upgrade the TV also offered WiDi, allowing a wireless connection with WiDi enabled laptops. However before this can work, you’ll need to invest in a dedicated Toshiba Wi-Fi USB dongle. Not really a clear example of joined-up thinking.
Image quality is fundamentally respectable. Pictures are dynamic, with smooth, deep blacks and bold colour reproduction.
The latest iteration of the brand’s Resolution+ image upscaler does a good job with standard-definition content, but motion resolution is marred by stuttering artefacts created by the ARM400 Active Motion processor. This is not a screen for sports fans.
The set’s 3D performance does get a thumbs up though. Four pairs of flicker-free polarising glasses are bundled, and as long as you view square on, dimensionality and brightness impress.
View 3D off-angle vertically though and the picture breaks up faster than Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
The screen’s audio performance is surprisingly effective. The 2x10W amplification is adequate for casual listening, and the soundstage isn’t insultingly thin. An Audyssey Premium Television processor helps plump things out.