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Product Review - Toshiba TW40F80 16:9 TV - August, 1997

By Stacey Spears

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Toshiba TW40F80 16:9 TV
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Toshiba TW40F80 TheaterWide (16:9) rear projection TV; 40" diagonal; Inputs: 3 audio, 3 composite, 2 S-Video, 1 set of component video inputs; 2 RF inputs; 1 composite video, 2 audio (fixed and variable), 1 RF, 1 speaker external (spring clips); Dimensions (HxWxD): 44" x 37.25" x 15.69"; Weight 145 pounds; MSRP $3,299.; Toshiba America Consumer Products, Inc.; 82 Totowa Road, Wayne, New Jersey 07470; Phone (800) 631-3811, Fax (201) 628-0672

Introduction

The last couple of years have been very exciting in the home entertainment field. New formats that have come to market include the latest video games systems, more powerful computers, Digital Broadcast Satellites systems, and the latest product, Digital Versatile Disc (DVD). With all the improvements that happen on the source side, it was time for a new display device that is capable of taking advantage of all of this.

Toshiba has really moved ahead of the pack over the last couple of years. They were one of the few who introduced 16:9 TVs in the US a couple of years ago, and not only have they kept them in their line, they have made marked improvements. At CES two years ago, Toshiba was the first manufacturer to introduce a DVD player with component video outputs (three: Y, R-Y, B-Y), and at the same time, they also displayed a TV capable of accepting the component video from their DVD player.

Component video is not new, it has been used in the broadcast world for some time, and Pro Scan had a 34" 16:9 a few years ago that had a similar input, though this TV is no longer on the market. Toshiba has set the standard in the consumer industry by outfitting their DVD and 16:9 TVs with component video connections.

The TW40F80 is Toshiba's 40" 16:9 TV with component video inputs. Not only can it accept the most accurate signal from your DVD player, but it can also take advantage of the DVDs whose movie images are stored anamorphically, and unsqueeze the picture to obtain greater vertical resolution!

A little insight

The TW40F80 is, without a doubt, one of the coolest TVs to hit the market in a long time. As with all products, it has it good and bad points, but at the price point and performance, it is a definite winner.

When the TV was delivered, the box it came in was the size of my current rear projection TV (RPTV), but the actual TV inside was much smaller. The Toshiba is one of the slimmest, if not the slimmest RPTV currently available, as it is only 15" deep. This is thinner than many 27" direct view sets. The TV has a tiny swivel base that allows you to turn it if you are sitting off center (for those nights when you are laying across the couch).

The TW40 has about a bazillion features, one of which I found to be very cool. When you hit the mute button on the remote control, it automatically kicks in closed captioning. So while you are talking to someone on the phone, you can still read what is being said on the screen. Another cool feature is POP (Picture out of Picture). This splits the screen down the middle and displays two channels side by side. The picture on the left is the one that you hear through the internal speakers. (Picture in Picture, or PIP, is where the main image fills the screen, and the pip sits inside the main picture, in one corner.)

There are three source inputs, two on the back and one on the front. One S-Video input is on the front, and one on the back. When using a DVD player equipped with component video outputs like their SD-3006, you would use input 2 on the TV. The Y (luminance) of the component shares that same input as a composite cable with Cr and Cb (the two color signals) below to the right. There are also two antenna inputs on the back and one antenna output; this would allow you to loop through a cable box.

The Toshiba has three color temperature settings: Cool (Default in Standard mode), Medium, and Warm (Default in the Theater mode). When first turned on (straight out of the box), the TV is in Standard mode with the contrast at 100, or as Joel Silver of the ISF refers to as "torch Mode". The first thing that should be done is to bring the contrast down to about 15, and let the TV warm up for a couple of hours. During the first month of using any new TV, you should adjust the settings several times to compensate for any drifting. This includes both the picture controls and convergence. "Warm" is the closest setting to the reference D6500 Kelvins. This TV, like others, really shine after calibration (gray scale adjustment). I will go into more detail at the end of the review. (Note: Kelvins is a form of temperature measurement, like Fahrenheit or Centigrade. Absolute 0 is 0 Kelvins, but -4600 F, and -2730 C. All physical objects warmer than absolute 0 emit electromagnetic radiation, including the human body. You may have seen documentaries on TV where infra-red sensors are used to distinguish breast tumors from healthy tissue. The tumor is warmer than the surrounding tissue, and its electromagnetic radiation is shorter wavelength. We can't see this radiation with the naked eye, but the sensors can. Cool objects emit long wavelengths such as radio waves, while very hot structures emit short wavelengths like X-rays and gamma radiation. We can see electromagnetic radiation within certain wavelengths, from red to violet. Color temperature is expressed in Kelvins or 0K, meaning that the color being described is equivalent to the color (visible electromagnetic radiation) that would be emitted by a "black body" (something which absorbs all radiant energy that strikes it) heated to that Kelvin temperature. In the morning, sunlight has a color temperature of about 5,500 0K, and in the afternoon, on a clear day, about 7,000 0K. An incandescent light bulb is around 3,000 0K. The video and audio noise you get on a TV channel with no broadcast station on it represents, to a large degree, the electromagnetic radiation emitted by countless bodies in outer space of varying Kelvin temperatures. Ed.)

Out of the box, the picture controls for color and tint are pretty close to being set properly. As I said before, the contrast is WAY too high and must come down. Brightness and sharpness must also come down a bit.

Performance measurements though test patterns

My plan here is to set a protocol for future reviews of TVs in Secrets. I will be listing several parameters that I believe are important in reproducing an accurate picture. Some of these parameters will be exceeded while others may fall short. My goal is to point out both the good and bad points and to sum it all up. Since this will be the first television review with these parameters, it might sound like everything is wrong with the TV, but very few consumer TVs can do everything correctly, and very few high-end setups can do it either.

DC-Restoration: This is the ability to hold black at black throughout the picture, and is one area where the Toshiba falls short. It is tested using VE (Video Essentials - laserdisc, DVD) or AVS (A Video Standard - laserdisc) while switching between two frames, [Frame: 29109 & 29110]. If you set the black level on the PLUGE with log gray scale then switch to the other pattern (PLUGE with white), you will see the black level change as the light output from the TV changes. This is a bad thing. For the Toshiba you must set the black level based on the high output level pattern (PLUGE with white [FRAME: 29110]). When doing this, you will see the blacker than black line on the PLUGE with log gray scale, but this is necessary.

Color Decoder Accuracy: How well the TV is able to decode RGB from the composite and S-Video sources. The Toshiba does a VERY good job. It still pushes the red a little, but it is a lot better than many TVs out there. When you use the component inputs, you are bypassing this section, getting an even more accurate picture, but there still is a very minor push of the red on the Toshiba.

Grayscale Tracking: How well the picture is able to track a grayscale from black to white. The Toshiba is able to track all the way down except for the last IRE window and stay with in the 200-Degree tolerance range.

White field Uniformity: When putting up a solid white film, is it tinted from one side to the other. When looking at a full white screen, there is slight red tint to one side and blue to the other, but it is still very acceptable

Comb Filter: How good is the TV's internal comb filter. The Toshiba has a 3D-comb filter that does a very good job, particularly with cable and VHS. You bypass it when using either the S-Video or Component inputs.

Overscan: How much overscan is available. This will vary from TV to TV and may drift over time. There is an internal adjustment that a service person can do, like an ISF affiliate, to get you darn near perfect.

Post Calibration

The Toshiba blew me away after it had been properly calibrated! I set it up in the "Medium" color temperature mode; this produced a D6500 grayscale, and when set on the "Low" setting it produced a D5400 grayscale. (The lower the color temperature, the more yellow it will be. The higher the temperature, the bluer it will be.) Why D5400 you might be asking? Because most black and white films are not adjusted when transferred from film to video, thus still looking blue when set at D6500. Very few consumer sets have this capability! Toshiba owners who have their sets post calibrated are in for a real treat.

Nicholas Grieco of the ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to properly calibrate the Toshiba for me. He used the Photo Research Spectrum Analyzer (this analyzer is more accurate than a standard Philips color analyzer because it takes many different phosor measurements). For source material he used both the VE LD and a test pressing of the VE DVD. After several hours of tweaking, the job was done, and this set looked sooooo much better than it did out of the box, in fact, FANTASTIC!

During the calibration, we tried different things. First we replaced the screen with a Da-Lite Video Vision screen. The removed all hot spotting that RPTs have and made the picture look exactly the same from any position in the room. But it also lost dynamic range and A LOT of light output. It made the image on the TV unwatchable in daylight! In the end I decided to put the original screen back on.

We were also able to properly adjust the color level and brightness using the component inputs with VE DVD. This will be a necessary tool for properly setting up your DVD player with your TV.

There are some controls available to service people that are not available to the general public, like overscan adjustment. Well, the service convergence mode is AWESOME! It allows you to adjust almost any point on the screen (to some degree) and not move the convergence at other points. The standard consumer convergence mode is like all RPTs, and it does not come close to what you need to get a good picture. Perhaps Toshiba will offer a scaled down version of the service mode to consumers in future releases (PLEASE).

Before I was able to view the VE version of DVD, I used the sweep pattern [Frame: 46622] on the VE LD to look at the resolution capabilities. At first, it did not look like the TV was able to image anything past about 5 MHz (1 MHz gives 80 vertical lines of resolution). This meant resolution was down around 400 vertical lines (defined as the horizontal resolution). The specs say the TV is capable of 800 lines. Once I got the DVD version of VE, using the same pattern, I could clearly see all the way to 5.5 MHz (440 lines) with no problems. My LD player was the source of the lack of resolution, though on my Pioneer TV set I could see all the way to 5.5 MHz with my LD. The Toshiba is clearly capable of extracting every nuance from DVD.

There are some other picture options like "Flesh Tone" and "Noise Reduction". Turn these off, since they will keep you from getting the best overall (most accurate) picture.

Quirks

Like all products, there are features that are useful and others that are not. In most cases, people do not often agree on which are useful. The following are features of the TW40F80 that I do not like or would like to see improved.

The screen shield (glossy plastic) is one of the biggest things about the TV that disappointed me. Toshiba has taken the same route as Sony and has glued the screen shield on. I wish they would have done the Pioneer method and made it easily removable. It is removable, but once removed, you can't put it back on! The reason I dislike the screen is that it is VERY reflective. If there is any ambient light in front of the TV, you can see yourself in it. With the screen, the TV requires tight control over your room lighting. I recently went around to different stores that carry this model and was surprised to find out that a lot of people actually like this shield installed. (Toshiba has done their research.) They like it because it makes it look like a direct view TV; it creates a very shiny picture. The problem that I find is that you cannot always watch TV in a totally dark room, for example, when your significant other wants to read while watching TV. So this requires the light on and viola, you are watching yourself in the shield's reflection.

There are only 3 picture options: "Standard", "Theater", and "Memory" modes. As soon as you make a change in either the "Standard" or "Theater" mode, it automatically becomes the "Memory" mode. So in reality, you can only change one mode and that is the "Memory" mode. This is ok except that LD and DVD require different picture settings. VHS and cable can be set based from LD because with LD you are getting a studio quality picture (at least my hand calibrated CLD-97 does). DVD is not close to a reference standard is because the player is converting to NTSC on the fly, rather than being NTSC to begin with, like LD. And of course the picture settings on DVD, when using the S-Video and Component connections, are different. So to make a long story short, you must change the picture settings every time you switch between sources (that is if you want the best overall picture). Toshiba has made this process easy though; they have supplied numbers for the settings, so you can easily write down the correct reference number for each source.

Toshiba's on-screen menus are very nice looking, but they are in the way when you try to set the picture controls. This is particularly true when setting color and tint. VE has provided alternate test patterns to help get around this by putting the color bars on different areas of the screen. [Frame: 46593] I hope in future models that, once you choose an adjustment, like color, it removes the rest of the menu system and just displays the adjustment bar at the bottom of the screen out of the way.

Gray bars on the side . . . what were they thinking? I understand the reason: they do not want to burn the tubes. Perhaps if they were to offer an option, when the contrast got below a certain point, you could select black bars on the side. TWEAK ALLERT: If you remove the protective shield, it will leave a little edge around the screen. You could put some Velcro in there and then stick a piece of black material (Duvateen works well) on the edges of the screen when you were in 4:3 mode to cover the gray bars.

Watching the TV

Now that I have talked about calibration and my dislikes, let me tell you how HOT this little TV is. I have watched several DVD’s (around 40!) and lots of lasers as well. When using the component inputs, you can see just how good or bad the video transfer is, especially the fleshtones. Some movies contain red fleshtones that your TV’s NTSC decoder might hide or exaggerate. While the component inputs are not a 100% improvement over S-Video, they do offer a big improvement (most of the improvement is seen when going from composite video to S-Video). To me, the biggest thing is that you are bypassing the TV’s internal color decoder and seeing what the Telicine operator saw, i.e., what the director intended. Colors are also a little sharper, and with less noise, than the S-Video because they are not being matrixed together. Component will bring you the closest that any consumer has ever been to the original film.

16:9 is not for everyone. By this I mean that if you never plan on using LD or DVD, then you should stick with a 4:3 TV! On the other hand, if you are a film buff who loves LD and DVD, like me, then 16:9 is the way to go! With a 16:9, you are able, if the film is transferred in the anamorphic format, to get the sharpest picture overall on letterboxed material. This is because you only have 525 lines top to bottom, with only about 480 actually viewable. When you letterbox a film, you are losing some of these lines that make up the complete screen picture (top to bottom). When you squeeze (anamorphic) a movie image together, you can get more picture information in there and then the 16:9 can unsqueeze the picture and retain resolution. If the picture is not squeezed, then you must zoom in to fill the screen. You eliminate most of the black bars but you still have lost the extra resolution of the picture. (You are also blowing up the picture to fill the screen, making it bigger, but this just magnifies the scan lines, so they are now more apparent!)

When using the Theater wide settings, you should use Theater wide size 2; this will stretch the picture equal in both the horizontal and vertical directions. Using either the Theater wide size’s 1 or 2 will stretch the picture in only one of the other directions, distorting it. On "Scope" films, there will still be black bars along the top and bottom, but they are smaller.

The audio system works well. When watching movies, I always use my external processor and turn the volume down on the TV, but for standard cable broadcast or if I am feeling lazy, I am happy using the internal amp and speakers.

Conclusion

If you are building a home theater where LD or DVD are the main sources. this TV is probably the best little set on the market when it comes to value and performance . Again, there are both good and bad points, like all TVs. I strongly feel the good outweighs the bad. The TV is in need of a post calibration if you want to get the best overall picture. So, grab a DVD (preferably VE, if available), go to your local A/V dealer, and see this TV for yourself.

Stacey Spears


Copyright 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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