Wednesday

Toshiba 32C120U review

Overview    Specifications   Price 

Cheap TV comparisons are like cheap boxes of chocolate. As long as you temper your expectations, you never know what you're going to get. Toshiba's 32C120U is currently selling for the insanely low price of $250 on Amazon -- ranking it among the top few on that site's Best Sellers list for the last couple of months. Amazingly at this price, it doesn't suck.

In fact, in picture quality the 32C120U competes well against our current favorite 32-incher, the Samsung UN32EH4000. The Toshiba's main weakness, color accuracy, is easier to overlook when weighed against its advantages, including black-level and bright-room performance. It's not nearly as stylish as the fetching, thin-bezeled Samsung, but for this cheap at this size, how much do you really care?



Design




If you like your small TVs the same way certain hipsters like their eyeglasses -- glossy black, thick of frame, and otherwise unadorned -- you'll have little to complain about in the 32C120U. The generic-looking set's only nod to panache is a faint grayish fade along the bottom edge. The unremarkable oval stand doesn't allow the panel to swivel.

Toshiba's tiny clicker is disappointing even for a TV this cheap. Its closely spaced warren of poorly differentiated, mushy keys is an error magnet. The 32C120U's menus aren't as bad, but the top-mounted navigation can be confusing in a world where everyone else stacks the main menu topics in a column on the left side.

Features



The 32C120U's main extra is that it can display JPEG pictures and play MP3 audio files if you slap a thumbdrive into its USB port. Otherwise it's bare-bones all the way. The HD-minimum 720p resolution is probably 1,366x768 pixels, although Toshiba doesn't specify.

Key TV features

Display technology LCD LED backlight N/A
Screen finish Matte Remote Standard
Smart TV No Internet connection No
3D technology N/A 3D glasses included None
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA-compliant No USB Photo/Music

The backlight, unlike some cheap 32-inchers, eschews LEDs for old-fashioned CCFL illumination, and refreshes at a rate of 60Hz. Seriously, what do you expect for $250?

Picture settings
Actually, I didn't expect this level of control for $250. The 32C120U offers a nice array of tweaks, including the ability to adjust the grayscale slightly and choose from among a bunch of different gamma settings. The DynaLight backlight control is another nice little perk.

On the downside, only one of the presets, dubbed Preference, is adjustable; if you try to change any of the others (such as Movie or Standard) the mode switches to Preference without warning. I don't like that system at all, since among other problems it makes it all too easy to lose your settings by accident.

Connectivity
 If you gaze upon the 32C120U's back, you'll count two HDMI ports, one each component- and composite-video, an RGB-style PC input, and a USB port. That's a standard array for a cheap TV.
Picture Quality

The 32C120U does not feature LED back lighting, it uses flourescent lighting to save on production costs. It does not produce the same bright whites as LED but it often has more uniform lighting than LED edge lighting. The cost savings from using CCFL to back light the panel allows you as a consumer to get a good picture at a lower price point.

This model is not really replacement for the top end HX929 series but a continuation of the same type of characteristics and features that Sony is putting into their top end LED backlit LCD offerings. You will find all of Sony's top features on this 2012 TV offering.

Comparison models (details)

  • LG 32CS460 32-inch LCD
  • Panasonic TC-L32C5 32-inch LCD
  • Samsung UN32EH4000 32-inch LED
  • Sony KDL-32BX330 32-inch LCD
  • TCL L40FHDP60 40-inch LCD
  • Samsung LN46D630 46-inch LCD
  • Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference) 65-inch plasma
Black Level
Black levels on the Toshiba 32C120U are satisfactory for a television in this price range. The darkness is inky but it loses detail in low light scenes. Color performance is good, reds are a bit hot but can be dialed back in calibration resulting in a realistic and warm picture.

Color accuracy
This category is a weak point for the Toshiba, for despite its relatively ample controls I wasn't able to wrestle its color into the proximity of most of the others, let alone my VT50 reference. Skin tones were simply too rosy and saturated, as evinced by the almost sunburnt look of Katniss and Gale snacking in the field in chapter 1 (6:25). The greens in the trees and grass also had a too-yellow, almost neon look. Overall the Toshiba wasn't quite as bad as the Panasonic or TCL on this front, but definitely fell short of the others.

In its favor, the 32C120U rendered black and near-black areas with more accuracy -- specifically without as much of a blue tinge -- than most of the others.

Video processing
Like the other 32-inch sets in my lineup the Toshiba failed to properly handle1080p/24 material -- not surprising since it's a 60Hz TV. Instead the flyover of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend" appeared with plenty of chunky judder, instead of the smoothness of, for example, the D630. Also as you'd expect for a 60Hz TV, according to test patterns the Toshiba failed to deliver much in the motion-resolution department, although as usual I found blurring difficult to detect in program material.

Uniformity
From off-angle the Toshiba was mediocre, losing black-level fidelity from either side more quickly than a few of the others (notably the LG and the TCL) and not besting any of its competitors. It also evinced plenty of color shift. I did appreciate the lack of blotchy, brighter areas on the screen, however; the set maintained its brightness consistency well from edge to edge.

Bright lighting
The Toshiba was one of best in our lineup under the lights since its matte screen generated slightly foggier, dimmer, and less noticeable reflections of in-room objects than the Samsung EH4000, yet maintained black-level depth just as well.

Overview    Specifications   Price