At Toshiba’s dealer line show this year, the company announced updates to its TALEN (Toshiba Advanced Light Engine) line of 720p DLP RPTVs as well as the two TALEN XHD 1080p models. These sets are very appropriate for HD DVD and Blu-ray content—there’s nothing quite like watching 1920x1080 content on a 1920x1080 display. At 72 inches, the 72HM196 is the larger model, and it requires a pretty big room to feel at home.
The input complement is ample, with two HDMI, two component, two Svideo, two composite, and two RF, which feed the integrated ATSC/NTSC (terrestrial) and QAM (unencrypted digital cable) tuners. Unlike some 1080p RPTVs, this one cannot accept a 1080p signal at the HDMI input. Also included is an Ethernet jack for media file sharing on a home network as well as a CableCARD slot. To compensate for the CableCARD’s incompatibility with the service provider’s electronic program guide, Toshiba provides access to the free TV Guide On Screen EPG. All 2006 Toshiba DLP RPTVs measuring 50 inches or more and all REGZA LCD TVs include the company’s new PixelPure Hi-Bit processing, which uses 12-bit resolution (up to 14 bits internally) instead of the more common 8 or 10 bits to achieve smoother gradations and transitions as well as better noise reduction. Another technology touted by Toshiba is Xtreme BLAC (Black Level Aperture Control). “Aperture control” sounds like dynamic contrast to me. Sure enough, there is a Dynamic Contrast control in the user menu, which, as usual, I turned off for best performance.
The TALEN XHD models provide a new 150-watt lamp with a feature called Quick Restart. When this setting is enabled, the TV remains in standby mode for several minutes after you turn it off; if you turn it on again within that time frame, the picture appears immediately. If Quick Restart is off, it can take several seconds to several minutes for the picture to appear, depending on the situation.
The remote is a fairly long design with the ability to control up to five devices other than the TV. It’s fully illuminated. All the buttons have labels printed directly on them, so they can be seen when the backlight is on. However, a few have more than one function, and the secondary labels are printed on the remote body, hich means they can’t be seen in the dark in any case.
The button layout is fairly logical, and the buttons are mostly large and well separated, though there are a few elongated “double” buttons around the cursor control (push one end for one thing, the other end for something else), which is a bit cluttered and confusing.
Unfortunately, this is yet another TV remote with an Input button instead of dedicated sourceselection buttons. The good news is that the Input button calls up a list of the numbered inputs that you can select directly by pressing the corresponding number button, which is better than having to scroll through the inputs. Still, I’d much prefer to have direct input-access buttons rather than a universal remote with dedicated deviceselection buttons like this one.
In my view, manufacturers should not include universal remotes with their TVs. If a user wants a universal remote, there are much better ones on the market than those that come with TVs. Instead, manufacturers should dedicate the TV’s remote to the TV and provide direct input-access buttons. This would make the remotes much easier to understand and operate.
The menu system is simple and direct, with six main sections. Each time you enter the menu system, the section you were last in is the one that comes up, which is great. When you select a picture control to adjust, most of the menu disappears and the control moves near the bottom of the screen. However, it appears above the horizontal legend (indicating which buttons do what) that remains on the screen, obscuring more of the image than necessary. Also, if you adjust the picture controls from their preset values in any picture mode, the mode changes to Preference, which could be confusing.
As usual, the 72HM196 came out of the box way too bright and way too blue. After taming the Brightness and Contrast controls, the set exhibited a very good black level and peak contrast ratio (see “Measurements”). However, the ANSI contrast was not so good, which TPV’s video specialist David Abrams suspects might be due to internal reflections within the gray cabinet. Starting with the HQV Bench mark DVD to test the TV’s video processor, the detail test looked very good, but the low-angle diagonals did not. Digital noise reduction was somewhat effective—a setting of High offered some improvement over Off, and it didn’t degrade the picture, so I left it on. The processor picked up 3:2 pulldown reliably, but not so quickly.