Owned by Hisense now, the electronics arm of Toshiba has been quiet in India for a while but with the recent entry of Hisense into India, it’s given the Japanese brand a new lease of life. Toshiba televisions used to enjoy a solid reputation back in the day but in its second innings, it appears to be focusing more on cut price UHD TVs that are similar to Hisense’s own in many ways, price included.
VIDAA la Toshiba
Following the same template as the Hisense 55A71F that we reviewed back in August, the Toshiba too is a bezel-less design, easy to mount table stands, adequate connectivity of 3 x HDMI, 2 x USB and Bluetooth for audio-only. The primary difference here is that while Hisense was running Android, Toshiba has chosen its own VIDAA OS and although it’s quick to respond, its app store is less than stellar to say the least. There’s no Apple TV+, Hotstar, Alt+Balaji or MX. Not yet at least and I’m not sure about how much support it will garner from developers too. There’s a Toshiba App Store though that has an eccentric collection of old Chaplin films and kids movies, if your kids are from 1979.
In terms of picture and sound settings, the Toshiba does let you get inside an expert menu that does give you control over Gamma adjustment and calibration, individual colour channel gain levels and even white balance. You’ll have to dig deeper to get motion processing, so all you get here is Adaptive Contrast and Noise Reduction. There’s HDR of every kind onboard - Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG and along with 4K resolution, the U50 is potentially capable of fine picture quality. Sonically, like most TVs in its price range, the Toshiba doesn’t aim to flap your pants, but with a Dolby Atmos logo emblazoned across its packaging, your hopes do soar for half a second, until you realise how thin and light this TV is and eventually, it only serves the purpose of calming your nerves, not exciting your senses.
Picture not so perfect
This isn’t a comparison with any other TV but the moment you first power it on, the Toshiba exhibits a common trait of low-rung TVs, bleeding-edge lights. When there’s no image on the screen, the borders glow white and when you start viewing a bright white screen, the hotspots around the corners are clearly visible. Fortunately, once you fire it up with some HD or 4K content, it does a fine job of producing vibrant colours and deep-ish black levels. It does have a tendency to burn out some overly bright highlights, but overall, if you keep the sharpness to a minimum, adaptive contrast to low and Gamma at 2.2, you can get a respectable image on or off-axis. There is very minimal deviation in the colour balance as you move around the room and that makes this TV flexible enough for a large living room with sofas on either side of the screen. HDR is well implemented too, enabling it to unravel a deep and rich palette from shows such as Tiny World on Apple TV+, contrasting the stark, sunlit dust of the African savannah with the lush green of the flora that dots it. Motion is handled well enough, even without any additional help from a dedicated engine. More often than not, I tend to switch the motion processing off or keep it at its lowest setting to avoid the “soap-opera effect” anyway. On dimly lit scenes, the bleeding from the edge lighting does take away from complete immersion but also considering the price of this TV, for what it does well 80%of the time, it’s not really a cause for a written complaint. This happens only when the room is totally dark too and in all fairness, the 4K+HDR combo on this Toshiba is in fact, impressive for the money.
Where you might feel a bit shortchanged though is the lacklustre app store of the Vidaa OS. The remote offers hotkeys for Netflix, Prime Video and YouTube and honestly, that’s about all the apps that most folks will find of use. There are plenty others to choose from, under various genres but they’re either too obscure or poorly implemented. Thankfully, casting from your smartphone is easy enough and the Toshiba also offers Alexa voice control if you want to add a touch of coolness to hide your economy purchase. One of the advantages of the Vidaa OS compared to other more elaborate operating systems is the quick response times and that claim really does work. Netflix boot times are almost instantaneous as is the TV itself booting up from complete power-off mode. It all takes no more than 3secs and is tangibly quicker than any Android TV in executing most commands. The remote and the on-screen menu system are kept appropriately simple and clutter-free too. It’s all very easy to get around with useful features like parental lock, Bluetooth audio, voice control and more.
Its 30W audio output rating doesn’t explain much but the sound is par for the course, which is to say, tinny. It does go plenty loud if you want to compensate bass for loudness, but don’t expect any Dolby Atmos theatrics like you would in a multichannel speaker system, obviously.
A slightly different flavour in terms of operability compared to the Hisense that we reviewed earlier, this Toshiba differs by being easier to use, faster to load and having a slightly wider viewing angle. At similar asking prices, it’s a toss-up between brands, discounts and availability, all of which will differ from city to city. If you already have a FireStick or similar to watch OTT content, the Toshiba should suffice but if you’re buying a smart TV for all of its built-in apps, you may want to look elsewhere. The Toshiba dishes up eminently watching picture quality in a frame that is vanishingly slim and stylish, so it boils down to your priorities.