Product Review -
Toshiba TW40X81 40" TheaterWide®
High Definition DTV Rear Projection Television - March, 2000
Toshiba TW40X81 DTV
(W) x 44 1/8" (H) x 18 7/16" (D)
|Toshiba America, Inc., 1251 Sixth Avenue, Suite 4100, New York, New York 10020; Phone 212-596-0600; Web http://www.toshiba.com|
was one of the early 16x9 TV manufacturers in the US. They had a hit on their hands with the original 56” 16x9
set. It even came with a couple
of anamorphic LDs so that you could get the most out of the current high-end
format. Other than that, I really
don’t remember much in the way of Toshiba prior to the launch of DVD.
we all have Toshiba to thank for the early adoption of component video outputs
on their DVD players. But, what good
are component outputs on a DVD player if you have nothing to plug them into?
Toshiba knew this and were among the first, if not the first, to offer
component inputs on their TVs. The
original TW40F80 (F80), reviewed in Secrets a couple of years ago, was one of those first
16x9 component video-equipped sets.
With the dawn of DTV upon us, Toshiba has blessed the market with an updated version of their 40” that offers 1080i and progressive DVD compatibility. It is officially a Digital Television (DTV).
am going to be very blunt right now. If
you do not intend on having this TV properly calibrated by an ISF type
technician, then I recommend that you look elsewhere. Prior to the set's arrival, I did a little leg work and
visited a few local showrooms that had the set on display. Every place that had this TV on the showroom floor had done a
poor job of calibrating it, and it looked
bad. When I got mine, I
plugged it in and it looked just like it did in the stores. It was poorly converged and very fuzzy. The gray scale was not even close to being consistent from
black to white; dark scenes were tinted red while bright scenes were tinted
blue. I don’t mean to pick on
Toshiba, because all TV manufacturers are guilty of poor factory settings.
projection type televisions need some tweaking to get them into tip-top shape.
They rely on three CRTs being aligned as well as properly focused, and
things do tend to get bumped around when they are shipped. Twenty-four
hours later, the TV was transformed from an ugly duckling into a beautiful
swan in my living room. Any properly trained tech
with the right equipment should have no problem with this transformation.
like its predecessor (TW40F80), the TW40X81 (X81) is small. It's so small that it is not really possible to mount a big center
channel speaker on top of it. No
problem for me, as I built a speaker stand that fits snugly around the TV that
holds my center channel. I
actually built it for the TW40F80; the new one is just a hair shorter but still
TV contains five source inputs: four on the back and one on the front.
Two of the inputs on the back are the DTV/progressive DVD inputs.
There is also a standard component video input and the usual S-Video
TV 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 (aka “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 readjust to compensate for any
drifting, and that includes both the picture controls and convergence.
X81 also has several modes in which to watch TV programs.
You have the standard mode, which should be used for all 4:3 films.
The borders on the side will be either gray or black depending on which
mode you are in. For anamorphic
DVDs and HDTV, you will want to use the FULL mode.
One thing Toshiba has done that is really nice is that they allow you
to change the video mode even on the progressive inputs.
For HDTV, it should always be set at FULL, but on DVD with a progressive
or line doubled source you may need to change the mode.
This is for 4:3 and non-anamorphic DVDs.
You will want to use the Theater Wide settings for non-anamorphic DVDs.
Theater Wide size 2 is the one you should use, as it will stretch the
picture equal in both the horizontal and vertical direction.
Using either the Theater Wide size’s 1 or 3 will stretch the picture
in only one of the other directions, distorting the picture.
“Scope” films (2.35:1 aspect ratio), there will still be black bars along
the top and bottom. This is
from the F80
changes have been made since the F80, including a new first surface mirror,
color purity filters for the red and green CRTs, improved lenses, and
multi-scan capability. Their
literature for the X81 has many features listed, including the useless Scan
Velocity Modulation. I am always
amazed at how they try to spin a positive story on it.
Thank goodness it is turned down when in theater mode.
It is also simple for an ISF type tech to permanently disable.
color purity filters bring the red and green CRTs closer to where they should
be. The reds are red instead of
orange. At the end of "The Music
Man", you can see just how pure the red is on the marching bands' uniforms.
The downside of color filters is they limit light output.
For the record, the X81 outputs plenty of light.
the subject of light output, the X81 greatly benefits from its internal line-doubler or being fed a progressive source.
More phosphor is actually being used at once, creating more light
output. (When the signal is
line-doubled, the phosphors are being bombarded by the electron beam for a
larger percentage of the time.) The X81 puts out at least
20% more light than the interlaced picture of the F80.
remote has been improved from the previous F80 version.
The biggest change would be the addition of back-lighted buttons.
They have a smooth red glow to them.
There is a button at the top of the remote that actually activates the
light. Any time a button is
pressed, the light button illuminates. The
remote fits nicely in your hand and is easy to operate.
Just be careful not to hit the reset button by mistake.
testing by using test patterns
testing the X81, I used both Avia and Video Essentials DVDs.
This is the ability
to hold black at black throughout the picture, and it is one area that the Toshiba falls short
in. 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 changes. This is a bad thing.
For the X81, you must set the black level based on the high output
level pattern (PLUGE with white), and when doing this, you will see the blacker
than black line on the PLUGE with log gray scale. (This is necessary.)
This behavior is very similar to the TW40F80 that I reviewed a long
difficulty in setting black level on a rear projection set is internal
reflections. There is a half moon
type reflection that shows up on the PLUGE pattern.
Most rear projection sets that I have seen have this anomaly.
I tried several things to get rid of it, but it's there for good.
This is 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 TV’s out there.
When you use the component inputs, you are bypassing this section
getting an even more accurate picture. There
does seem to be a very minor push of the red when using the component
connections. When you are using
the DTV inputs, be sure to set the TV properly.
You have the option of the input being HDTV or Progressive DVD.
Selecting the wrong choice may affect the decoding process.
I should also note that with the X81, you are able to change the tint
control on the component inputs. This
should never be an option, but it is.
This is how
well the picture is able to track a grayscale from black to white.
The Toshiba is very linear and does an amazing job once its calibrated.
Out of the box this was a different story.
The bottom end of the gray scale had the color temperature for a 20 IRE
window at 3,542 Kelvin’s and the 100 IRE window at 10,112 Kelvin’s.
This was in theater mode where the gray scale is set at medium.
When putting up a solid white or gray pattern, you will see a color shift from
one side to the other. If you look
at a full white or gray screen, there is slight red tint to one side
and blue to the other, but it is not really noticeable when you have an actual
good is the TV’s internal comb filter?
The Toshiba has a 3D-comb filter that does a great job on Cable, VHS,
and LD. You bypass it when using
either the S-Video or Component inputs. This
3D comb filter is actually much better than the one in the F80.
The F80 exhibited "tearing" in the Snell & Wilcox zone plate
pattern; the new filter appears to be flawless. It
actually performs much like the one in the Pioneer CLD-99 LD player.
The amount of overscan varies from TV to TV and may drift over time.
There is an internal adjustment that service personel can do, like an
ISF tech, to get you close. You
do not have the same flexibility as a front projection CRT, but Toshiba does
provide a lot of control for a properly trained tech.
Unlike the F80, the X81 has a built-in line-doubler that de-interlaces the
signal. It does not do film mode
detection (3:2 pulldown/inverse telecine).
It just puts the picture together as it comes into the TV.
Since it can accept a progressive DVD player signal or an external line
doubler signal, there was no real need for the added cost of 3:2 pulldown.
I found it to be good enough for TV broadcast programs and DSS. I would, and did, add an external doubler to improve my LD
collection (iScan Plus from DVDO). I eventually ended up running the ReplayTV, DSS, and LD through the
iScan into the X81. This allowed
me to take advantage of the black bars instead of the annoying gray ones.
I also found the picture to be a little sharper and with more depth through
the iScan than through the built-in line-doubler.
This was really noticeable on ZDTV with shows like Silicon Spin, The
Screen Savers, and The Money Machine. The
built-in line-doubler is an improvement over previous attempts by other TV
of the things I always disliked about the F80 was the fact that I had to
zoom in to watch non-anamorphic DVDs. This
made scan lines extremely visible and in my face. Now, when I zoom in on progressive DVD, it's much more tolerable
on the X81. From my seating
distance, 12 feet, I can’t see any scan lines in the zoom mode.
Toshiba blew me away after it had been properly calibrated!
I calibrated the TV in such a way that if the TV's controls are reset,
the defaults produce a near perfect picture.
I found this necessary since they put a reset button on the remote.
TV did drift for the first several weeks.
I had to re-converge almost daily until the drifting slowed.
The TV actually has different convergence memories for 480i, 480p, and
1080i. Multiply this by the 3
(standard, zoom, and full modes) and you see how much work it is to properly
set up the TV.
original F80 offered the user a center convergence (essentially a 1-point
convergence). The X81 actually gives the user 9-point convergence.
This is a significant step in the right direction for end users, and it
allows the user to get a much better picture.
It still does not compare to the service mode convergence, but it’s a
good move on Toshiba’s part.
If you remember, the F80 was not able to fully resolve all 540 TV lines that DVD is capable of (480 in all but test patterns). It looked as if the F80 could only resolve around 440 lines. I am happy to report that the X81 could fully resolve all 540 DVD lines. The Avia test DVD contains a couple of test patterns that have a 6.75 MHz window (540 line test pattern).
are some other picture options like “Flesh Tone” and “Noise
Reduction”, but you should just turn these off!
Activating them will prevent you from getting the best overall (most accurate) picture.
I removed the protective screen, I had to re-focus the lenses.
I also did a full convergence on the picture.
The picture was now much more crisp, and the fuzziness I had once witnessed
was gone. After
all of the time-intensive work was done, it was time to adjust the gray scale.
measurements were taken in the theater mode with the gray scale set at medium.
The test patterns were from the Avia DVD, and the measurements were made
using a Sencore PC based color analyzer (photo of setup shown at left).
As you can see below, the measurements were pretty bad out of the box.
(The Pre, meaning measurements before calibration, and Post, meaning
measurements after I calibrated the TV, numbers are in degrees Kelvin (K), i.e., the color temperature. Lower numbers
represent a reddish color, while higher
numbers represent more of a blue-white color. The numbers are referenced to
measurements made on the color of the inside of a 1 cm3 platinum cube that has a small hole in which a probe is
placed, and the cube having been heated to various degrees Kelvin. The color of the
inside of the cube is measured as it gets hotter and hotter, and it begins to
glow from the heat. IRE means Institute of Radio Engineers and are values
assigned to brightness, with low numbers being gray and high numbers being
more towards white. An IRE of 0 would be total black. An IRE of 100 is total
may have seen some information about black level options on new DVD players being a
choice of IRE 0 or 7.5. Some video material uses IRE 0 to reference black and others
IRE 7.5, so you can set your DVD player to match the source. IRE
1 Volt Peak-to- Peak Video is divided up into 140 IRE units. This is done to
make numbers for luminance levels easier to communicate. The amplitude of the
video signal from blanking (zero Volts) to peak white is 0.714286 Volts or 100
IRE units. Synchronization signals extend from blanking to - 0.285714 Volts or
- 40 IRE units.)
The 3452 measurement (Pre-Calibration) at 20 IRE confirms the red tint I had noticed upon
initial viewing. Once the
calibration was done, the picture was no longer tinted red. The blinking line
on the chart represents 6,500 K, which is the desired color temperature.
calibration, the TV was being forced to put out 30 foot lamberts (fl) of
When I was finished, I had the TV putting out 12 fl.
A movie theater generally puts out 10 fl.
While 12 fl might seem like a small number, believe me it is plenty.
I will probably get a much longer life out of my CRTs, and there should
be no chance of burn-in from video games or MSNBC's intense network logo. (I have
seen that logo and the Home Shopping Club logo burned into a lot of TVs.)
Like all products, there are features that are useful and others that are not. And, in most cases, people do not often agree on the same features. The following are features of the X81 that I do not like or would like to see improved.
screen shield is one of the biggest things about the X81 that I do not like.
Unlike the F80, where Toshiba glued the glare screen in place, you can
easily remove it from the X81. There
is a large gap after removal, but this can be
easily fixed with a few pieces of weather stripping.
If you do remove the screen, the CRTS need to be re-focused.
I actually lived with the glare screen on for about five weeks.
I could not watch the TV with the overhead light on.
The glare was really bad, and I could see myself and everyone else while I
was watching TV. The glare screen
also cuts down on light output
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).
The reason DVD is not close to a reference standard is because it is
the player that is converting the signal to NTSC on the fly, not the software like LD.
And of course, the picture settings are different with DVD when using the S-Video and
Component connections. 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 (instead of "high" or "low") for
adjusting the settings, so you can easily write down the exact number for each
onscreen 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
The X81 has gray bars on the side in the 480i modes. As soon as you switch to the DTV/progressive DVD inputs, they turn to black bars. I don’t really understand this; they should all be the same (black or at least a choice of black or gray).
put a reset button on the remote that I have hit on more than one occasion.
through the inputs is a slow process because there are five inputs, and it takes
approximately 1.5 seconds before you can move on to the next.
Pioneer has always offered direct inputs, and I wish Toshiba had offered
My last gripe is a minor one. Theater
Wide settings are not retained when power is lost. So if you unplug the TV or have a power outage, you will have
to be sure you change back to Theater Wide 2.
A little tweaking never hurts
few weeks after watching the TV, I wanted to see if I could improve the
picture. I was trying to
eliminate the half moon reflection I had experienced on the PLUGE pattern.
I lined the entire inside of the TV with black velvet.
The TV was already a dark plastic on the inside.
This tweak did not eliminate the reflection, but I did get a startling
improvement. I was able to
improve the quality of the blacks in the picture.
I did not realize how gray my blacks were until I saw the truly deep
blacks I obtained after the tweak. During
the process I also covered parts of the mirror that were not in use.
This was not an easy task, and velvet contains lots of little particles
that required a cleaning of the mirror and lenses.
I took a risk of scratching both.
Kicking back and enjoying it
I have griped at how bad it looks out of the box, some of its idiosyncrasies,
and how well it cleans up (the
latter being the most important, since my first impressions of this set were
the full calibration was complete, the X81 was truly transformed into
something beautiful. It took a
lot of work to get there, but the results are staggering.
Color purity, resolution, depth, blacks, it's all here.
Post-calibration, when paired with the SD-5109, produces one of the
best pictures I have seen from an “affordable” consumer device.
The picture is even better than some top $$$ front projection systems I
picked out five films that I thought really demonstrate some of the
capabilities of the X81. These were a non-anamorphic movie, a cartoon, a classic, and
two new films.
Things I hate About You" is the non-anamorphic movie I chose to discuss.
Aside from the 33% loss of resolution, Disney did a good job on this
transfer. If you haven’t seen
the movie, you should go out and rent it, as it is fun to watch.
It’s a modern remake of "The Taming of the Shrew".
This is the first DVD that I watched on the TV with a progressive
signal. The scene that caught my
eye was when Joseph Gordon-Levitt is talking with Heath Ledger in front of a
track field. You can clearly tell
exactly where they are in relation to the track and the football field. Every time
I bring someone over, I have to show them this scene.
shows just how good a cartoon can look. It
took Disney long enough to release their animations on DVD.
Aside from the serious sound flaw in Tarzan, the picture is the
reference for what animation quality should look like.
I chose the scene when Tarzan transforms from a young child to a young
adult. This scene is filled with
wonderful colors from the dark green forest to the bright underwater scene.
One scene that caught my eye in particular was when Tarzan was swinging
on the vines as a child, and a bunch of small monkeys join him.
The monkeys are jet black with white fur.
Too Deep" is the latest film with LL Cool J and Omar Epps.
Take a look at the opening scene with Omar and three other gangsters
riding in the sports utility vehicle. The
TV displays very natural flesh tones, deeply saturated colors, and more of
that wonderful depth.
Music Man" is a classic. It's fun to watch, and the DVD is a great transfer.
So many scenes I could choose to talk about, but the end with the
marching band and their red and white uniforms really show how important color
accuracy is. This is a good scene
to show how important those red filters really are.
The whites also look white thanks to the wonderful gray scale tracking.
"Shakespeare in Love", both chapter 17 and 28 make great demo scenes.
They contain lots of fine detail and colorful clothes.
Again, the depth is so real it feels
like you can just reach in and grab something.
of the films I chose really show the improved depth this TV is able to
and me, NOT!
I was ready to watch HDTV on the X81, but trees surround the area I live in. I tried mounting an antenna on the roof and using an RCA DTC-100 (w/ transcoder), but I was unable to get anything above 10 on the second satellite at 119 degrees. I moved both the antenna and DSS over to a friend’s house a few miles away, and he picked the signals up fine. In fact, he had the antenna sitting on his theater room floor and still picked up the local broadcasts. This, of course, is not the X81's fault. It just goes to show that unless people can actually receive HDTV, it's not going to get very far. We will probably have to wait until HDTV broadcasts are common on DSS and cable before it really takes off.
thing to note about the X81 is that it only has component inputs.
Many HDTV products only output
an RGB signal (this is different than component), making
them incompatible with the Toshiba unless you spend more money on a
transcoder. A transcoder is a box
that can convert a signal from component to RGB, or vise versa, though not
all are bi-direction. I
don’t know whom to blame here, RCA or Toshiba, or perhaps the industry for
not enforcing some type of standard.
X81 uses 7” CRTs, so it will not fully resolve 1080i (you need 9" CRTs
for that). In fact, the scan lines on 1080i might even overlap. I have
seen this on 7” CRT front projectors. Even
so, 1080i should still look fantastic with the scan lines overlapping.
Toshiba has another hit on their hands with this little fellow, providing you can have it calibrated. I have never seen the depth or color purity on any other rear projection set, period! Like other TVs, it has quirks, but they are all forgotten once the lights dim and the movie begins.
- Stacey Spears -
© Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
Return to Table of Contents for this Issue.