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The Toshiba Regza 40CV550A is a 40 inch LCD television with a native resolution of 1920×1080. It has the performance and feature set of a mid-range panel and as such has its fair share of problems but if you are looking for something that is reasonably priced and while still offering decent image quality, this could be the panel for you.

The biggest problem the Regza suffers from is intense backlights which tend to wash out blacks and make it difficult to achieve a well rounded mix of colour and contrast. When viewing darker areas in an image, especially pure blacks, the back light makes it look grey.  It has variable backlight control but it doesn’t do all that much and whether you leave it on or off makes little difference. It is a shame that the backlights aren’t implemented better as the image quality is actually quite good, especially at the native 1080p resolution. 

This unit is also a 50Hz model, rather than the spiffy 100Hz that many manufacturers are pushing these days.  Toshiba recognises that 100Hz technology isn’t important to everyone and some people would prefer a cheaper option.  The good thing about this is that even at 50Hz this panel handles motion quite well.  While there is some visible judder during fast motion, it is fairly minor and doesn’t hamper the viewing experience.

We tested the panel at 1080p resolution by viewing ‘Iron Man’, ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘Speed Racer’ and “Wall-e” on Blu-ray.  We also played 1080p games on both the PS3 and Xbox 360.  At 1080p, the panel shines with crisp images and excellent contrast.  The backlight problem isn’t terribly noticeable when a film is running full screen but if you are watching a movie originally filmed in a 2:35:1 aspect ratio you will notice it on the black bars at the top and bottom of the image.  We found the colour balance was superb when viewing ‘Speed Racer’ and the darker scenes of ‘The Dark Knight’ showed no signs of contrast stepping.  However, we did notice some image noise when viewing dark images but it isn’t overt enough to be noticed by most viewers.

 

1080p and 720p gaming is handled quite well.  There isn’t any jerkiness during moments of quick movement and the images stayed smooth even when the action became more intense.  We also played some 720p video from the Xbox 360 hard drive and found no problems to speak of.

In standard definition, the 40CV550A struggled to upscale the image properly.  When 1080p panels were first introduced, many of them had problems scaling a 576i image to 1080p.  Since then, most manufacturers have overcome the problems with better scaling technology but this panel exhibits the same problems those early panels had.  The colours showed some minor discolouration at times but the real problem was with excessive image noise.  Viewing the lobby scene from “The Matrix” revealed an image awash with grain that isn’t present in the original film.  If you choose this panel we recommend purchasing an upscaling DVD player or sticking with Blu-ray titles.

The customisation options are rather limited but still offer a reasonable level of control over the image.  However, and this is hard to come to terms with, it looked its best in ‘Dynamic’ mode.  This came as quite a surprise since pretty much every television we have ever reviewed has looked horrible when set to ‘Dynamic’.  The reason it looks its best in ‘Dynamic’ is that the image has more brightness and contrast and the backlights are less of a problem.  Normally, we would recommend that people use the custom mode and set the options themselves to achieve the best image but with this unit, that is a very hard thing to do.  The only problem with leaving it on ‘Dynamic’ is that the sharpness level is far too high resulting in a halo effect around objects, especially fine detail like text and curved edges.  When we set it to the custom mode and fiddled with the options ourselves, we were able to remove the over-sharpening but the image wasn’t bright enough and looked flat.  Unfortunately, when the Dynamic mode is used, the option to tweak the sharpness becomes unavailable.

The speakers are reasonable but aren’t great.  They produce good well rounded sound but tend to vibrate when subjected to heavy bass.  Many people who are looking to upgrade to a flat panel television are also in the market for a home theatre sound system so this may not be a big problem but it should be considered nonetheless.  The volume range is also rather good but even at maximum volume it isn’t quite as loud as some of its competitors.

 

The Toshiba Regza 40CV550A has a good number of connection options including two HDMI ports, one Component and two composite connections.  It has a D-Sub terminal for hooking up a PC but you can also connect via DVI using an adapter in one of the HDMI ports. There is a 3.5mm input jack so you can also connect the PC sound to the TV as well.  For those with surround sound systems there is also both an optical and coaxial digital audio pass through. Like most panels on the market, the Regza comes with an integrated HDTV Tuner as well.  We would have liked to see a second component connection for those with pre-HDMI devices but the offering should suffice most users.

The 40CV550A is a well priced and adequate entry into the flat panel market.  It isn’t exceptional but it definitely hits the right mark for its target audience.  It is meant to be a compromise for those not wanting to spend a large wad of cash on a new TV but still looking for a 1080p experience.  It is best suited for watching Blu-ray films or playing 1080p games but even at 720p it still does a great job.  If you own a vast DVD collection, you will need to buy an up-scaling DVD player to get the most out of this panel. 

The Toshiba Regza 40CV550A is available now at the recommended retail price of $1979.

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