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By: Adrienne Maxwell

LED backlighting is the way of the future for LCD televisions. Most of the top-selling LCD manufacturers now offer at least one line that uses LED backlighting. Some of these models only place the LEDs around the edges of the panel, while others use a full array of LEDs behind the LCD panel, with local-dimming technology that allows the individual LEDs to respond dynamically to the content onscreen--i.e., they can shut themselves off to create deeper blacks in areas of the picture that require it. These two LED approaches have different performance characteristics: While edge-lit LED-based LCDs have some advantages in power consumption and form factor (they usually have a super-slim profile), they don't offer the same performance benefits you get from a full-array LED backlighting system. If top-tier performance is what you crave, the latter design is where you'll find it.

Toshiba's new REGZA SV670U Series, which includes screen sizes of 46 and 55 inches, uses full-array LED backlighting, with a local-dimming system called FocaLight. The SV670U Series also features Toshiba's ClearScan 240 technology to reduce motion blur, Film Stabilization to reduce film judder, Resolution+ to improve the appearance of standard-definition sources, 14-bit PixelPure processing, and a 10-bit LCD panel. A healthy connection panel and attractive design round out the package. We reviewed the 46-inch, 1080p 46SV670U, which has an MSRP of $2299.99.

The Hookup
Toshiba uses some fancy terminology to describe this TV's appearance. "Infinity Flush Front" describes the seamless front panel with no raised bezel, while "Deep Lagoon" describes how the front panel's glossy black fades to clear at the edges, like a lagoon meeting up with the sand (ahhhh). I'll just say that the design is distinctive and elegant, but also subtle enough not to draw unwanted attention to itself. The down-firing speakers are invisible from the front, and the TV comes with a matching, rounded base that has a swiveling mechanism. A prototypical Toshiba design, the remote has a clean, intuitive layout but is a little bulky and lacks dedicated input buttons. Even though all of the buttons look like they should light up, only the four Mode Select buttons actually illuminate.

On the back panel, you'll find three HDMI, two component video, and one PC input, plus a single RF input to access the internal ATSC/Clear-QAM tuners. The HDMI inputs accept both 1080p/60 and 1080p/24 sources. The TV lacks picture-in-picture functionality. The back panel sports an IR port that allows for IR pass-through, but there's no RS-232 connection. The TV also lacks an Ethernet port for network connectivity, so you can't enjoy Web widgets or streamed video-on-demand content. Over on the right side panel, you get a fourth HDMI input, plus an SD card slot for photo viewing and a USB port that supports Divx, music, and photo playback. Many TVs include either an SD card slot or a USB port; Toshiba gives you the convenience of both.

As you'd hope for in a top-shelf model, the 46SV670U has an excellent array of picture controls, starting with six picture modes--including a game mode designed to improve response time with gaming sources, as well as an AutoView mode that automatically adjusts the image based on the content being displayed and the room's ambient light. As usual, I went with the Movie mode, which looks the most natural out of the box, and made general picture adjustments using my Video Essentials discs (DVD International). In addition to standard setup options like color, tint, sharpness, and an adjustable backlight, the TV's advanced setup menu includes a number of worthwhile selections. Instead of providing a few color-temperature presets like cool, neutral, and warm, this TV has a sliding-scale color-temp adjustment, from 0 (warmest) to 10 (coolest). This allows you to more precisely designate the color palette you want without having to access the advanced RGB offset and gain controls--which, thankfully, are also available if you wish to perform a more precise calibration. The ColorMaster function lets you adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness of all six color points, while the Auto Brightness Sensor enables automatic backlight adjustment, based on the room's ambient light. Static Gamma provides a +/-15-degree scale to fine-tune black detail, and both MPEG and digital noise reduction are available. Toshiba's Resolution+ technology is designed to make SD sources look more detailed; in the setup menu, you have the option to turn this feature off or on and adjust the level of improvement (we'll talk performance in the next section).

Within in the setup menu, a couple of items merit special attention. First is the DynaLight function: On other Toshiba TVs, DynaLight provides automatic backlight adjustment based on image content; however, on the SV670U series, it controls the local-dimming function. When I first turned on this TV and switched to the Movie picture mode, I noticed that the local-dimming function wasn't working. The LEDs were not shutting themselves off with black content; instead, the TV behaved like it had a traditional always-on backlight. In scanning the setup menu, I discovered that the DynaLight control is turned off by default in the Movie mode. Cycling through the different picture modes revealed that DynaLight is on in some modes, off in others. I can't fathom why Toshiba would turn this function off by default in the Movie mode of all places, but it's an easy fix--just make sure to enable DynaLight during setup.

As for the 46SV670U's anti-blur and de-judder technologies, Toshiba wisely separate these two features into different menu items: ClearScan 240 and Film Stabilization. ClearScan 240 specifically addresses motion blur, and the setup menu offers on and off options. Like the LG 55LH90 I just reviewed, the 46SV670U doesn't have a true 240Hz refresh rate: It has a 120Hz refresh rate and scans the backlight to create a "240Hz effect." In fact, Toshiba is careful to omit the "hertz" in naming the function (the name is just ClearScan 240), unlike LG, which calls its technology TruMotion 240Hz. The second menu item, Film Stabilization, deals with film-based sources and includes three settings: off, standard, and smooth. With sources output at 60Hz (like TV and DVD), the Standard mode performs basic 3:2 pulldown detection to minimize jaggies, moiré, and other digital artifacts in film sources. With 24p Blu-ray content, the Standard mode performs 5:5 pulldown, displaying each frame five times to equal 120Hz--an effect that's a bit smoother and less juddery than traditional 3:2. The Smooth mode, meanwhile, uses motion interpolation to more effectively eliminate the juddery look in film sources and create very smooth motion. We'll discuss how these modes performed in the next section.

The 46SV670U has six aspect-ratio options, including a Native mode for viewing content at its exact resolution, eliminating overscan. The TV also offers automatic aspect-ratio detection, but this menu setting is oddly located in the Preferences menu, not the Picture menu. The 46SV670U is Energy Star 3.0-certified, but the only specific power-saving feature in the setup menu is the Power-On Mode, which involves standby power consumption: You can go with the fast power on setting or with power-saving, which increases the time it takes to power up the TV.

I know we video reviewers tend to gloss over audio features in TVs, but the 46SV670U deserves some recognition for being the first TV I've tested that uses Dolby Volume to minimize level discrepancies between sources--for example, between commercials and Dolby Digital 5.1 HDTV shows. Many TVs have a feature that claims to accomplish this, but I've yet to see one that actually works. The Dolby Volume setup menu has off, low, and high settings, and I found that the technology worked as advertised, providing a more even output level across the board. The 46SV670U also includes Audyssey EQ technology, with a Surround menu that allows you to choose between off, spatial, and cinema surround settings; you also get voice enhancement and dynamic bass boost.

I had two other local-dimming LED-based LCDs on hand to compare with the Toshiba: the new LG 55LH90 and my reference display, the Samsung LN-T4681F (the first local-dimming model, now two years old). The two constants I saw with all three of these models are great blacks and excellent overall contrast. The beauty of local-dimming technology is that it can dim or turn off the individual LEDs around the screen to create true blacks while still allowing bright areas to remain bright. You don't have to turn the adjustable backlight all the way down to attain darker-looking blacks; rather, you can set the TV's light output to suit your viewing environment and not sacrifice deep blacks in the process. In comparing the three TVs, the newer LG and Toshiba models had comparable contrast, and both models showed improvement over the first-gen Samsung. The 46SV670U's image looked wonderfully rich and dimensional, regardless of whether the room was bright or dark.

The one limitation to local-dimming LED technology is that, because the number of LEDs used in the backlight is not a 1:1 ratio with the number of pixels, the lighting is imprecise, causing a glowing effect. This effect is most evident in stationary or slow-moving scenes where a few bright objects are surrounded by a completely black background. For instance, in an episode of Sunrise Earth on Discovery HD, when the moon hangs in a still-darkened sky, the 46SV670U's local-dimming function created noticeable glow around the moon. End credits featuring white text on a black background is another good example of a scene where the glow is readily apparent. In these specific cases, the 46SV670U exhibited more glowing effect than the LG 55LH90 and was on par with the older Samsung model. However, when I switched to scenes that had more movement and more juxtaposition between light and dark elements--even a dark sky filled with stars--the glowing effect wasn't as obvious. In dark scenes from The Bourne Supremacy (Universal Home Video), Casino Royale (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), and The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), the 46SV670U produced nice, deep blacks with no pronounced glow--and it did a very good rendering of fine black details. In these scenes, the Toshiba and LG's black-level performances were comparable. Each TV's processor seemed to interpret light levels differently, causing the local-dimming effect to react differently. Sometimes black areas looked darker on the Toshiba; sometimes they looked darker on the LG. Overall, I'd call it a draw--and both models certainly offer better black-level performance than you'll see from a traditional CCFL-backlight LCD.

One other note on black level: like Samsung's Ultra Clear Panel, the 46SV670U's CrystalCoat front panel is reflective, designed to reject ambient light to help blacks look darker in a well-lit room. This proved to be effective. In a brighter viewing environment, the Toshiba's blacks consistently looked deeper than those of the LG, which has a standard matte screen.

With the past few Toshiba TVs I've reviewed, color has been a concern. Previous models had a very green push and lacked direct access to white-balance controls to fully correct the problem. In this respect, the 46SV670U offers needed improvement. The picture looks more natural, no longer veering excessively green. That's not to say the color palette is entirely accurate. The default color temperature is slightly cool (or blue) with bright content and noticeably cool in darker scenes. Frankly, this color temperature will probably appeal to many consumers, as it gives whites more pop. However, for those people (like me) who prefer a warmer color temperature, I was able to use the RGB offset and gain controls to dial in a more neutral temperature across the board. As for color points, the 46SV670U serves up rich but natural-looking reds and blues, but green and yellow are somewhat off the mark. This was evident when watching football or golf: The grass had an unnatural, overly yellow hue. Once again, the menu includes ColorMaster controls to precisely tweak each color point, and I was able to adjust greens and yellows to more closely mimic my reference display. Overall, while the out-of-the-box color is pleasing, the calibrated image, combined with the TV's fantastic contrast, really elevated the 46SV670U's game and produced a gorgeous image.

The TV's level of detail is excellent with both HDTV and Blu-ray content. With standard-definition DVD, I experimented with the Resolution+ technology to see how it affected the upconversion process. Toshiba claims that Resolution+ provides more than just edge enhancement, but that's definitely part of the process. If you enable Resolution+ and turn up the level to 4 or 5, you can clearly see the edge enhancement, or artificial sharpening, around lines. However, I found that a setting of just 1 or 2 did a nice job making the picture seem more detailed without adding a distracting amount of edge enhancement. At these settings, the Toshiba's picture looked more detailed than either the LG or Samsung with standard-def content.

In other processing areas, the 46SV670U did a nice job deinterlacing 480i and 1080i content, as long as the Film Stabilization mode was enabled (it doesn't matter if it's set for Standard or Smooth). With SD signals, the 46SV670U did a below-average job with the deinterlacing tests on my HQV Benchmark DVD; however, when I switched to my real-world torture demos from Gladiator (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) and The Bourne Identity (Universal Home Video), it performed quite well, producing minimal jaggies and no blatant moiré. Real-world scenes trump test discs in my book, so I'm giving the Toshiba good marks here. With 1080i sources, the TV did a solid job, both with test patterns from the HD HQV Benchmark BD and real-world demos from Mission Impossible III (Paramount Home Video) and Ghost Rider (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). The processor was just a little slow to pick up the 3:2 cadence, creating an instance of moiré at the opening of chapter nine in Mission Impossible III, but then it locked on and rendered the rest of the scene cleanly. The 46SV670U also served up a very clean image--even with the noise-reduction controls turned off, the picture had almost no digital noise in backgrounds and light-to-dark transitions.

The ClearScan 240 technology successfully reduced motion blur, both with test patterns from the FPD Software Group Blu-ray disc and with real-world football broadcasts. During quick camera pans, finer details held up better with the Toshiba than they did with the older Samsung, which doesn't have a higher refresh rate. I'm not sure that ClearScan 240 is any more effective than Toshiba's ClearFrame 120Hz anti-blur feature, but they both accomplish the desired task: to reduce blur in faster-moving scenes. I really appreciate that Toshiba lets you enable ClearScan 240 without enabling the Film Stabilization mode, particularly the Smooth mode. A number of LCD manufacturers combine the anti-blur and de-judder technologies into one feature, so you can't have one without the other. I'm not a fan of motion interpolation, as I find it gives film sources an unnatural quality that's more distracting than judder. I will say that Toshiba's Smooth mode is subtler than what you get from Sony, Samsung, and others; if you love that super-smooth look, you might consider this a drawback. However, I consider it a plus. This is one Smooth mode I could actually watch, and it does not introduce as many smearing and stuttering artifacts as I've seen from some motion-interpolation modes. Again, if you don't like the smoothing effect at all, you can just set the FS mode for Standard with film sources.

Low Points
Local-dimming LED technology has elevated LCD's game to rival plasma as a theater-worthy display technology; however, there are still a couple of areas where plasma has the advantage. For one, because plasma pixels generate their own light, the best performers can offer exceptional blacks and contrast without creating the glowing effect that I described above. That said, the 46SV670U's glowing effect is only noticeable in a small number of scenes and was hardly a deal-breaker for me.

The other area where plasma still has the edge is in viewing angle. LED-based LCDs exhibit the same viewing-angle limitations as traditional CCFL LCDs. Image saturation drops off when you view the TV off-angle. In this case, the Toshiba's viewing angle wasn't as good as the LG's with bright content. Both models suffered from higher blacks and lost black detail with darker scenes. You should be mindful of where you position the 46SV670U in your room and may need to put the stand's swiveling mechanism into play at times.

The CrystalCoat panel offers the benefit of improved black levels in a brighter room, but its reflectivity can still be distracting. If you're trying to watch a darker scene in a really bright viewing environment, you'll notice room reflections off the screen, which both distracts and interferes with the ability to discern fine details.

Finally, the 46SV670U lacks the Web connectivity and a video-on-demand platform available with many other TVs on the market today at this price point.

I think you can tell that I'm a fan of full-array LED backlighting systems with local dimming. I've yet to review an LCD that employs this technology that I wouldn't be content to own, and the 46SV670U is no exception. Its picture quality is very good with minimal adjustment and can look excellent if you take the time--or hire a professional--to perform an advanced setup. Beyond a great-looking image, what gives the Toshiba an edge for me are some of its other features: I prefer the ClearScan 240/Film Stabilization combo to other anti-blur/de-judder technologies I've seen, and Dolby Volume is a real perk for those who plan to use the TV's sound system. Throw in its nice connection panel, attractive design, and more-than-competitive price with other full-array LED TVs, and the 46SV670U becomes an easy and glowing recommendation.
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