Toshiba 46HX83 HD Monitor
As the name suggests, the 46HX83 has a 46-inch-diagonal screen. While this isn't huge, it should be just the right size for the average living room. Thanks to the industrial design, it's attractive without monopolizing the room. For your connection needs, the 46HX83 offers three inputs that can be either composite or S-video (one is on the front), two HD-capable component inputs, and DVI with HDCP. You can name each input, so you don't have to remember what's connected to it.
The remote is all-inclusive; it seems to have a button for everything. This is a nice change from a few other remotes I've reviewed recently that barely offer volume and channel buttons. Another nice change is that it's backlit with a soothing blue light. Oddly, when the remote lights up, it emits a tiny, high-pitched squeal, almost like a miniature light saber. At first, I thought it was coming from me, but a quick check of person revealed no such noise. At arms length, this noise is barely audible. The only complaint that I have about this otherwise easy-to-use remote is that it requires two hands to use. Just about every function involves more than one button or requires buttons that are on different ends of the remote. This isn't a problem if you're less lazy than I am and don't mind using more than one thumb.
The 46HX83 is a little difficult to set up, thanks to an onscreen menu that takes up almost the entire screen and won't go away while you make adjustments. This is too bad, as there are controls for just about every aspect of the picture. If you have the patience to make an adjustment, exit the menu, then go back in to readjust, you should be able to dial-in the image pretty well. There are three factory video presets, as well as a preference setting that you can adjust and save per input.
The front panel is hidden from view but contains just about every button you need to control the TV, including an auto convergence button (called TouchFocus). This works well, but, for that extra bit of precision, there's a 10-point manual convergence mode in the user menu. I don't know why people don't find it fun to converge a TV. (I also don't know why people think I'm weird.)
There's one final setup item that you may not have considered: The TV's placement, at least vertically, is crucial. Due to its extremely directional lenticular screen, if you're not right in line with the 46HX83, brightness drops off considerably. Even a difference of a few inches up or down dramatically affects light output. Make sure that whatever you place the TV on puts the middle of the screen at eye level when you're sitting in your favorite chair.
Out of the box, the 46HX83 is capable of a tremendous amount of light output. With the contrast all the way up, it measured a scorching 233 foot-lamberts. This is really too bright unless you plan on watching TV outside. With sunglasses. And your eyes closed. Reducing the contrast to a more-watchable level will no doubt increase the set's life, as well as improve its ability to track the gray scale from light to dark. Lowering the light output also improves the DC restoration, or the TV's ability to show detail in dark portions of an otherwise bright image. The 46HX83's color decoder isn't the most accurate that's passed through these doors, but it certainly isn't the worst. When the Flesh Tone control is off, there's little to no red push.
One of the 46HX83's coolest features is one that you may not even notice working: automatic aspect-ratio control. With 480i sources, the TV is able to sense the incoming signal's aspect ratio (4:3, anamorphic, or 4:3 letterboxed) and adjust accordingly. With every DVD I tried, this worked perfectly. The 46HX83 isn't the first TV we've reviewed that had this feature, but it has never worked this well on other sets. Unfortunately, it doesn't work with 480p (it assumed everything was anamorphic), but it does let you change the aspect manually. I can't say the same about HD sources, which have no aspect-ratio control at all. Bummer.
On to some video. First up was Armageddon, an old standby for sure, as it offers several video tests. The low camera shot looking up at a building in chapter 2's opening tests the set's ability to pick up the 3:2 sequence. The TV picked up the sequence quickly, about as fast as the average progressive DVD player (this is no small feat, as most TVs take forever to find the sequence).
I also used the same scene to test the set's ability to zoom in on a nonanamorphic, letterboxed DVD, and this TV did a fine job. There was some slight artifacting, but this was minimal and never distracting. In fact, if you weren't looking for it, you'd probably never notice it. This chapter's opening scene has a lot of contrast, and here the 46HX83 stumbled a bit. Because the TV floats the black level slightly, the image's shadows and dark portions lost some detail, but it wasn't severe.
At the end of chapter 12 in Gladiator, we see a flyover of ancient Rome. On TVs with lesser processors, the rooftops and tiny people can become an artifact-filled mess. Again, the 46HX83 picked up the 3:2 sequence and scaled the image nicely to the display's 1080i native resolution. Through the composite connection, this test usually leaves a TV writhing in agony, but the 46HX83 picked up the 3:2 quickly (a refreshing change from most of the TVs I've reviewed recently). Unfortunately, the Toshiba's comb filter had a worse-than-average amount of cross-color artifacts. So, if you still have a VCR, upgrade to DVD before you get this TV (why haven't you already?).
Incorrectly encoded material is a TV processor's greatest test. We use a DTS demo disc that has an Apollo 13 trailer with an incorrect 3:2 sequence. Most TVs make a mess of this selection, creating jagged lines, combing, and other undesirables. Impressively, the Toshiba had almost no jagged lines and no combing. Its processing wasn't quite as good as that of the best progressive-scan DVD players, but it did a better job than any TV that I've seen. In fact, you could pretty much do without a progressive-scan DVD player. That's high praise coming from me.
With HD material, the 46HX83 really comes into its own. It's not as detailed as some of the TVs that we've reviewed recently, but its extremely accurate color and deep, inviting blacks more than make up for it. Discovery HD's excellent documentary on the International Space Station includes HD flyovers of our blue marble, Earth. Vibrant blues dominate, of course, but browns, reds, and varying shades of white looked extremely lifelike and accurate. Test patterns indicate one thing about this TV's resolution, but watching HDTV on it says another. The image is smooth, and you'll never feel that it lacks resolution. It just looks good.
Obviously, the 46HX83's biggest drawback is its size. In a larger room, it just wouldn't look very big. This is also its greatest strength. This TV is for those people who have a smaller room and want a bigger screen but can't afford the footprint of a huge rear-projection TV. It has accurate color reproduction, it can be extremely bright if you need it to be, and it has a decent black level to make the DLP crowd jealous. So, while it isn't the biggest on the block, it certainly holds its own. Perhaps that's exactly what you're looking for.
• Automatic aspect-ratio control
• Sleek looks
• Can be really, really bright