At a time when most HDTVs are piling on features, the Toshiba 55SL412U takes a contrarian approach. This 55-inch, LED-backlit LCD TV doesn’t support 3D, does not connect to the Internet, provides mediocre audio, and offers only a basic set of connectors. But it does deliver pretty good image quality at a low energy cost—and although prices on larger sets are coming down in general, the 55SL412U’s price is still fairly inexpensive for its screen class.
In our juried image-quality tests, the 55SL412U’s 120Hz, 1080p display earned generally good if not superlative scores, collecting the highest marks for brightness and contrast. But judges were less generous in other categories, most notably its handling of color and skin tones. Several judges noted oversaturation of colors on some test clips, with one judge complaining that people tended to look sunburned.
We also saw a few motion-related artifacts. For example, in an aerial shot panning over city skyscrapers in The Dark Knight on Blu-ray, judges observed slight shimmering and even blinking effects on tall buildings with straight lines. However, the problems were not severe, and the set’s overall image-quality rating squeaked into the Very Good range. The 55SL412U is quite economical from an energy-consumption standpoint, too: In our tests it drew 75.6 watts per hour when turned on and no noticeable amount of energy when powered down, numbers that we rate as Very Good.
Audio quality was another story. Equipped with two puny integrated 7-watt speakers and no simulated surround-sound technology, the set produced somewhat anemic sound. You could barely hear the sound of the candle being lit in the opening titles of Phantom of the Opera on Blu-ray, for example, and the music in general sounded a tad tinny. At least the set provides an optical digital-audio-out port, so you can bypass its sound system in favor of a home-theater audio setup.
That audio-out port is one of a mere handful of connectors grouped together on the back of the set, most of them facing outward—a definite plus that makes connecting cables easier (although it can make wall mounting trickier). The collection includes two HDMI ports, PC video and audio inputs, one component-video and one composite-video hookup, one set each of analog audio inputs and outputs (for stereo sound), the aforementioned digital audio output, and a coax port for a cable or antenna connection. Additionally, you get two side-facing ports: a third HDMI input and a USB input for use in media playback and software upgrades.
The 55SL412U’s design is fairly nondescript, with the usual shiny black bezel and pedestal. For some reason, though, Toshiba put a distracting, bright turquoise blue Energy Star sticker on the lower-left corner of the front bezel.
The printed setup instructions are among the worst I’ve seen. They’re on a fold-out pamphlet, with one side in English and the other in French; both versions are in such a tiny font that it hurt my eyes to try to read them. You’re much better off going online to download a PDF of the full owner manual (not provided in print).
The fairly typical first-time wizard asks you to configure your language, time zone, setup location (home or store), and video source for cable/antenna hookups. The on-screen menus are also typical: You get five video presets (sports, standard, movie, PC, and a customizable preferences option) plus a separate toggle for game mode that’s supposed to speed up the set’s response to controllers; a full complement of aspect-ratio settings; channel-lineup editing; sleep-timer functions; and parental controls. The advanced image-control settings offer access to motion compensation, static gamma, dynamic contrast, color temperature, noise reduction, and other features, but you don’t get any on-screen explanations as to what those controls do, so you have to consult the manual.
You can view .jpg stills and play MP3 audio files from a USB drive in the Media Player, but it does not support video playback. You can set up a slideshow from images in a folder, however, and use background music.
Also minimalist in its approach is the remote, which is a bit shorter than other HDTV remotes and lacks a backlight or color-coded context-sensitive buttons. But while most of its buttons are reasonably sized and clearly labeled, they’re also the mushy, rubbery kind that doesn’t provide great tactile feedback. At least the remote offers limited support for HDMI-connected devices that are compatible with Regza-Link, Toshiba’s brand of CEC technology.
Macworld’s buying advice
For people who aren’t interested in a connected TV, or who aren’t fussy about audio quality (or a great remote), the Toshiba 55SL412U delivers decent image quality on a roomy, ecofriendly screen—and it’s certainly easier on the wallet than more-polished, full-featured competitors are.