As the sun sets on the Toshiba mothership, the Japanese brand is making a strategic but successful return to the Australian TV market under the stewardship of Adelaide-based distributor Powermove.
Powermove General Manager for TV and business development Nigel Dent says the distributor “saw a big need in the market for brands that consumers know and that consumers trust at high-value and more-reasonable price-points.”
Snaring the Toshiba TV brand was an enormous opportunity for Powermove, and they’re looking to make the most of it. However, Dent emphasises the importance of being able to “pick-and-choose” which retailers they work with, at least to some degree.
He explains that bringing Toshiba back to Australia isn’t about racing back onto the shelves of every and all retailer in the country. Just the ones that matter to consumers. What’s more, according to him, the early response to this strategy has already exceeded expectations.
Lamenting the fact that the biggest TV brands in the market have steadily tilted their focus towards the top-end of things, Dent admits that “everyone loves premium but not everyone can afford it.”
Dent says that Toshiba’s return to the Australian market has seen them move to explore the meaningful niches left overlooked by companies like Samsung and LG.
Toshiba’s return to the Australian market has seen them go after customers who want “a very good picture and very good experience but not necessarily the latest technology” with a range of TVs that range from FullHD to 4K.
The brand’s revamped LCD LED Pro Theatre range currently consists of the FHD L37 and 4K-ready U77 Smart TV, each available in a number of sizes.
Of course, getting a great picture quality without relying on the most advanced hardware is a tall order. That’s why Toshiba are leveraging software as their key point of difference, both through Android TV’s smarts and the CEVO Engine.
Calling the CEVO 4K engine the “cornerstone” of the Toshiba TV experience, Dent claims it helps 4K experiences align to the original intentions of the director and deliver the best home entertainment experience to customers.
Saying other brands often “overinvest in the design” of their TVs, Dent claims that Japanese brands like Toshiba always “try to strive for great picture quality” and the features offered by the CEVO engine reflect that.
At first, the picture-quality enhancements offered by the CEVO Engine might seem a little abstract. However, taken one by one, it’s clear that they’ll offer a lot to customers for a relatively-competitive price point.
Firstly, there’s the Contrast Booster. This bit of integrated software works dynamically to dim or lighten the contrast for content in order to produce the optimal results.
It comes accompanied by AutoView and BrightOn, which Dent says works behind the scenes to automatically adjust the backlight to suit surounding light levels.
Finally, AMR+ (advanced motion resolution) uses algorithms to insert additional frames in order to smooth out motion-heavy video. Dent expects that the feature will prove a boon to sports-watching Australian audiences in particular.
Dent expressed confidence that customers who “shop with their eyes” will be able to see the difference.
They’ll also be able to hear it. Toshiba’s new TVs accrue further value through the inclusion of an integrated front-firing soundbar, built into both the U77 and L37. Dent says there’s a market out there “for consumers who want a better sound” but don’t want to or can’t fit a seperate soundbar into their home theatre setup. Supporting both DTS: TruSound and Dolby Digital Plus content, it’s a strong point of difference over other the lacklustre speakers built-into other brands.
For the U77, specifically, there are a number of other additional innovations in the software mix. For example, 3D and MPEG noise reduction tech that Cevo uses to effortlessly ensure picture quality isn’t distorted.
The CEVO Engine’s Color Remaster Pro feature will see images further enhances to more closely reproduce the video content the way it’s meant to be seen.
The U77 arrives ready to play Ultra High Definition content but also supports 4K upscaling for content that isn’t.
The 10-bit color mapping in the U77, which means they support a degree of high-dynamic range and the wide color gamut content. However, Nigel makes clear that the range currently lacks the required nits and contrast-ratio to deliver a true HDR experience.
Dent says they didn’t want to mislead customers by branding themselves as HDR unless they met the requirements for proper HDR10 or Dolby Atmos-grade content.
While they kept things humble, first cycling some entry-level products into the market, Dent indicates that Powermove will be taking the Toshiba TV brand into the OLED space soon enough.
“It won’t be mid-tier when it comes to quality, more in terms of price point,” Dent says.
He says that the arrival of Sony and Panasonic who will expand the OLED market even further. He says there are plenty of customers who are interested in OLED but not LG.
“We’ll be in market first half of 2018 with a good line-up of OLED, based on our Japanese models.”
He says that, like this year’s TVs, their OLED offering will run on Android TV.
Dent says that they saw Android TV as “the best smart platform out there.”
He says it’s clean, intuitive and will only get better over time as Google iterate and improve upon it.
He says that the new Toshiba TVs will be able to support the next three major iterations of Android TV (up to 8.0).
“It’s pure Android,” Dent assures us before adding that “the joy with the Google side is that they’re very mindful” of ensuring the best quality experience.
Dent says that while he understands the desire of other TV manufacturers to not be “controlled by Google” and their concerns about the lack of diversity in the market that might result from widespread adoption of Android TV, he insists that Toshiba’s certified partnership with the platform is another strategic move from them.
He says that Powermove are expecting a major uplift in Toshiba TV sales with the arrival of Google Home, which comes ready to integrate with the smart TVs.
Android goes with Android, and the U77 already comes with a second microphone-driven remote that allows users to navigate between apps and select content using Google Assistant.
“What you get out of [this platform] will really skyrocket,” he says.
With regards to potentially expanding this smart integration to other speakers like the Amazon Alexa, Dent says “it’s something certainly on the table but no firm plans.”
Toshiba’s Pro Theatre range, consisting of the L37 and U77 LCD LED TVs are currently stocked in Harvey Norman, Domayne and Joyce Mayne. Pricing starts at $499 and goes all the way up to $1699.