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Toshiba 15VL63G 15" LCD TV
I first bought this TV five years ago and have been using it as my 'bedroom TV' ever since. It originally set me back £200 from Comet and was a replacement for my Grundig (they are a brand, yes!) which was one of those cinderblock TVs which took up more space than a small suitcase. I bought this Toshiba when LCD TVs were just starting to become mainstream and as a result it was quite high-spec at the time. However, given its age and the pace of technological change it is a little outdated now but still serves me very well and I think it deserves more than a word of praise. I had done a fair bit of research on several TV options leading up to my purchase - as is my normal buying routine - and after considering a range of TVs in the same price range, I made my decision. I was eventually won over by the styling, the features and the brand name of the Toshiba TV.
=== Design/Styling ===
Firstly, the styling is very nice. It has a matt effect black plastic frame with silver edging and a silver stand which is shaped like a thick wedge with the widest part at the front. The plastic is not one of those glossy varieties and I think this makes the TV look much smarter and less liable to accumulate finger marks. It still looks very modern today and is very similar in design to the much more recent 32" Toshiba TV that I currently have in my lounge. The screen is 15" diagonally and is quite small as TVs go but is ideal for a small room where you're not going to be sitting far away from it. My bedroom is very small and I sit on my bed to watch it from a distance of around 3 feet and in my opinion, this is this perfect size TV for this viewing distance. The black frame surrounding the screen is not too chunky to detract from the viewing experience but also not too thin to make the TV look cheap or flimsy.
One of the main reasons I updated TVs is because my old Grundig looked out of place in my room and took up far too much space. With the Toshiba I can stand the TV further back towards the wall on my bedside stand and use the free space in front of it for bits and bobs (my Freeview box and alarm clock). The TV is not the thinnest on the market now but is still thin enough to be considered truly flat-screen. A quick measurement tells me that the depth is a mere 7cm excluding the stand which projects a little further out from the front of the screen. There are a collection of buttons on the TV itself for when you lose the remote. These can be found on the top of the screen and allow you to change the volume/channel and access the menus. The on/off switch is located on the underside of the TV itself and is easy to access although I would have liked this to be on the top just because it would be easier to see whilst pressing.
=== Picture Quality ===
Moving onto the picture quality of the TV I cannot say that I have ever been disappointed. I have a Hitachi Freeview set top box connected to mine and so the picture quality coming from my aerial is very good. The TV gives credit to this reception with its clear high resolution screen and shows all colours very vividly. The brightness of the TV can be adjusted to suit your tastes and possible to fit in with the varying light levels of the room. My bedroom suffers from the afternoon sun and due to my bedroom layout and laziness to rearrange it the TV is often cast in a strong beam of sunshine. The non-reflectiveness of the screen certainly helps here - a major flaw with my old CRT Grundig TV - and the brightness settings can be altered to combat the blaze of the daylight.
There is one criticism I would give though about the picture quality and that is the intensity of black or dark areas on the screen - or lack of. Most noticeable whilst watching dark scenes in programmes or movies, the black comes across as a sort of washed out black or very dark grey. This removes from the viewing pleasure at times and you can find yourself struggling to make out the picture in strong sunlight especially if you're watching a dark movie such as Alien (don't ask why I was watching Alien at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon!). However, I think a lot of TVs struggle from this problem and without knowing the exact reason for these washed out blacks I think it has something to do with the backlight. I've seen plenty of other branded TVs suffer from this same problem so it isn't unique to this TV or Toshiba.
On a similar note, another flaw with the Toshiba is the viewing angle. It boasts a 160 degree viewing angle which means that you can sit anywhere in an imaginary 160 degree wedge projecting from the screen and still be able to see the picture. Unfortunately I don't think this is quite accurate. There are only 180 degrees in front of the TV geometrically which means theoretically as long as you're not sat at the very widest angles (10 degrees either side from the level of the screen) you should be able to see the picture. However, when I shift positions from the centre of the TV the screen starts to look hazy and contrast degradation becomes noticeable. I don't get anywhere near the edge of the 160 degree viewing plane before I can no longer make out whether I'm watching an episode of Peppa Pig or a scene from Scarface. This is by no means too big of a problem and I position the TV so that it is pointed directly at me so I don't suffer from this issue. If you planned to watch the same TV with a group of friends however, those on the periphery would start to notice what I've just described. The solution would be to snuggle up together more directly in front of the TV - not really a viable option when watching footie with the lads.
This issue manifests itself to a much greater degree with the vertical viewing angle. The TV screen can be adjusted horizontally and vertically without having to move the stand but there is little scope to slant the screen downwards. Therefore you have to be sat at least on a level with the TV to see the picture clearly. I can't for example lay on my bed to watch my TV very well because if I do the TV is too high on my bedside stand and I'm having to look up at the screen. The result - the dreaded haze. Obviously you could find a lower TV table or wedge some newspapers under the back of the stand to tilt the TV forwards but this is not ideal in many cases.
The picture size can be alternated to either 16:9 (widescreen) or 4:3 at the touch of a few buttons. I have mine set up to the former and so have to put up with black lines along the upper and lower parts of the screen because the TV is not widescreen in itself. This doesn't really annoy me because I've got used to this. Another minor issue worth mentioning is the mute function which when used shows a little white box in the lower left hand corner of the screen proclaiming the message 'Sound Mute'. In order to use headphones with the TV you will need to mute the sound and will therefore have to endure whatever you're watching with this irritable box on the screen. However, you do soon get used to it and barely notice it's presence after a while.
=== Sound ===
The sound quality of the TV is very impressive and the volume will go up to a very high level if annoying the neighbours is your game. The speaker is positioned along the bottom of the screen on the front of the TV so it isn't muffled like many TVs which have their speakers down the side. I watch a lot of DVDs on my TV and I can't complain at all about the clearness or quality of the sound. I must add that my bedroom is very small and so the sound doesn't have to travel very far to my ears. In a large room the sound quality may differ but I can't see this being too much of an issue really since the sound is so clear. It certainly cuts the muster with any comparable TV today.
=== Connectivity ===
The TV has just the single SCART socket to connect your peripheral devices to. However, I have both a Freeview box and a DVD recorder connected to my TV using this single socket. I connect my Freeview box to my DVD recorder and connect that in turn to the TV itself. To watch Freeview on my TV I then have to select the appropriate input using the remote control (very easy) and there I have it. So I haven't needed an additional SCART socket but if you have any more devices to hook up to the TV then you might need more than one. There is also an AV connection which is the white, red and yellow plug combination so you can connect a games console as well. However, this isn't the best quality connection input and an extra SCART lead for this purpose would have been great. There is also an S-video socket for further connectivity but due to its age this TV is not HD ready and so no HDMI inputs exist. All the connection ports are located on the back of the TV and are easy to access although some of the chunkier SCART leads might find it a tight squeeze. I have a particularly troublesome lead with a very thick and rigid cable but still manage to twist it into position without too much difficulty.
The headphone socket is positioned underneath the screen on the right hand side which is certainly not ideal as there is very little room between the TV and the surface you place it on. You may have to lift the TV up to gain sufficient room to allow you to fix in the headphone jack and also to see what you're doing. However, once fitted there is enough clearance to fit the majority of headphone jack sizes and I can't see this being a problem- it is only with the actually plugging in that the room becomes an issue.
=== Other ===
The remote control supplied with the TV is a fairly bog-standard affair with rubberised buttons which are neither too small nor too large for comfortable use. The only issue is that you have to press each button firmly to register your command and I've certainly used better, more responsive controls in my time. I'm not saying you have to be Chuck Norris to operate it but sometimes I find myself having to press a button again because I haven't pressed hard enough, which can get a bit annoying.
The power adaptor supplied with the TV has a fairly decent length cable so should be able to reach any plug socket in your room - nothing that an extension lead won't solve if you have a problem though. The adaptor itself is a block about the size of an average laptop adaptor and will sit unobtrusively behind the TV or in the mass of wires you may have behind your TV. The little green light on the adaptor may be annoying for some though - I have stuck some BluTack over mine because I don't like the slight green glow it emits whilst I'm trying to get to sleep.
=== Verdict ===
Would I buy this TV again? Five years ago - yes. Today - probably not. The picture quality and sound are very good and the styling is excellent. It really is a nice looking TV and much better looking than some modern day models in my opinion. However the lack of modern features such as HD readiness and built-in Freeview mean that this model is a little outdated. The limited viewing angle and lack of an extra SCART socket also somewhat limit the practicality of this TV but it is ideally suited as a bedroom or kitchen TV. There are some minor niggles yes, but these are merely petty grumbles and you will find plenty of similar issues with more recent models. I think the fact that I'm still using this TV today on a daily basis speaks volumes for its quality and I would definitely say that it has been a worthy purchase and well worth the price I paid for it at the time.
Thank you for reading. I hope you found this review helpful :)