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Having been impressed with the improved quality when I ditched my old CRT computer monitor for an LCD model it was only going to be a matter of time before I would replace the televisions in my house with LCD systems, the picture is so much crisper and the colours a truer reflection of their real selves. With full size LCD televisions costing the best part of one thousand pounds I decided to update my bedroom portable first just to make absolutely sure I was still enamoured by the improvement these displays give, and so it was that I popped into my local independent electronics shop and parted with the £400 necessary to make the Toshiba 17WL46B my own. Luckily they had a good stock and the fact that the packaging is not at all bulky means it is the type of product you can take away with you there and then. The Toshiba is silver in colour as is the trend at the moment and has a screen size of 17" and is widescreen shaped although all other screen formats are easily switched to using the remote control.
What's in the box?
Well apart from the TV there is the mandatory remote control and instruction booklet. Wire wise the user is supplied with a cable to connect the TV to a PC which is a great bonus if you want a multi function display, but I was interested solely in using it as a television. Because the TV is so thin there is little room to fit the power adapter so this is external and comes in the form of a box slightly larger than a packet of cigarettes. Finally there is a stereo connection cable to provide a better class of sound by connecting to an external device such as a stereo or amplifier or to connect to your PC`s sound card if you wish to use the TV as a computer monitor. And rather strangely that's all there is in the box! No scart lead or S-video cable is included which I found a little strange given the type of advanced TV this is and the price.
Setup is a simple process, the stand is already fixed to the TV so it is a simple matter of positioning the unit where you want it, plugging in the aerial and connecting any external devices such as Video and DVD players, freeview boxes or Sky receivers. If the TV is also going to be used as a PC monitor then the D-sub connector goes from the graphic card to the TV. And that is about the extent of the physical setup process. Once the TV is switched on for the first time The A.P.S (Automatic Programming System) starts automatically where a few simple choices such as the country you are in and which language you prefer are concluded with the TV automatically searching and storing all available Channels. This process takes little more than a couple of minutes where after a list of channels is displayed to be stored, deleted or renamed as required.
100 Channel Storage:- The Toshiba can store up to 100 programmes from either VHF or UHF band (Different frequencies), it can also store cable channels and has a dedicated PC channel.
Auto Picture Modes:- Using the remote control the picture can be switched between 4:3, 16:9, Cinema, Subtitle, Zoom and Panoramic modes. There is also an Auto mode where the TV decides the optimum screen size and it is this mode that I tend to stick to.
32 Button Remote Control:- All actions can be carried out using the slimline remote control, one button can be used to toggle between TV, AV`s 1 to 4 and PC while Fastext is navigated using the four coloured buttons. The remote control is responsive and lightweight which is always a bonus.
Stereo Sound System with Effects:- The TV already boasts Nicam Digital stereo but can be connected to an external stereo system or amplifier to improve sound. A balance option allows adjustment between the TV's built in speakers while six sound modes (User, classic, jazz, rock, pop and flat) can be toggled through depending on the program being viewed. I find these effects really come into there own while watching the many music channels available on satellite TV.
Automatic Volume Limiting (AVL):- This handy little feature normalises the volume of different programs, it has long been my theory that the adverts on TV are louder than the programs they are in so AVL makes sure a consistent level is maintained.
High Resolution:- 1280 x 768 pixel display with a contrast ratio of some 400:1. The colour depth is 8 bit with the capacity to show 16.7 million colours while the TV has an impressive response time of less than 25 milliseconds. For the laymen amongst us this all adds up to striking, crisp and smooth picture quality.
NTSC Playback:- As well as the Europe wide PAL format this TV also displays American NTSC which means that imported Playstation 2 or Video will work at last!
Picture In Picture If using as a PC Monitor:- If the TV is also being used as a PC Monitor you can still enjoy your favourite TV program while surfing the net. Simply pushing the PIP button opens a small screen to the left bottom corner which can be changed using the standard channel buttons. Sound can also be toggled between the PC or the TV program depending on preference.
Auto Shutoff and Mute:- These handy features mean it is impossible to leave the TV on in error. If no valid signal is detected the TV will switch itself off after five minutes while the sound will be muted to avoid that annoying static hiss.
Sleep Timer and Child Lock:- These options are to be found in the Features Menu, Sleep timer can be set from 15 minutes to 2 hours and a small digital countdown clock will be displayed on the right hand side of the screen. Child Lock, as the name suggests, makes sure young fingers cannot switch off or alter the TV`s channels or settings in any way. This feature is easily turned on or off in the menu.
As a fan of LCD TV's and monitors I was always going to like this Toshiba offering, when I saw it in the shop the picture looked just that little bit sharper and smoother than the others available. Externally the TV is silver as seems to be the vogue and the whole unit feels sturdy and well put together with no loose parts to damage. When turning the TV on the picture appears instantly and is in perfect focus from the off, colours are crisp and true while the various screen size options mean there is always an optimum viewing situation be you watching a program, playing a games console or using the TV as a PC monitor. Sound is amazingly clear; any hissing that may crop up can be altered with a noise reduction setting in the on screen menu. Of particular joy to me are the different sound settings, if you are watching a music program or listening to satellite radio the various effects give a good range of alternative styles. Connecting external devices such as Videos and DVD players is simply a matter of connecting a scart lead and letting the on screen menu tune in the equipment. And of course a major boon of LCD TV's or monitors is the fact that they are ultra slim with a tiny footprint compared to traditional televisions.
As a PC monitor the Toshiba is a major improvement on the classic CRT offering but does not quite cut it when compared to a dedicated LCD monitor. With a top screen resolution of 1280 x 768 it lags behind the 1600 x 1200 offered by other monitors but as a TV that can double as a PC screen it is well worth the investment - just don't buy it for use just as a PC monitor as there are better and cheaper alternatives available. Aftersales service includes a dedicated hotline for problems and a one year manufacturer's warranty. The included instruction manual is easy to understand and is well laid out. Had this model of included a Scart lead and had a slightly better top screen resolution when used as a PC monitor I would have awarded it the full five stars, as it is it must settle for four with the conclusion that this is a fine small to mid sized LCD screen with features galore and some clever ideas.