Test Devices: Toshiba: 58L9300 U UDH 4K
Toshiba: BDX-6400 Media Box DVD
Sony: SMP-N200 media player
Media PC: FX-799A-6NF9 4k video adapter
WiDi PC: Samsung Series 7 slate
Mobile devices: Nokia N9 and Nokia 808 pureview
Router: BUFFALO AirStation Extreme AC 1750
Reviewer experience level: Uber, nija, jedi, techie geek.
Let me first state, I dislike “smart TV’s”. Basically a “smart TV” is the mash-up of a display and a computer- but think more android tablet then desktop pc. My dislike comes for the fact that 1) it’s a “crippled” computer and 2) the “user interface” for smart TV’s – the remote is the worst way to interface with a computer EVER devised! That said the 58L9300u can be reviewed in two ways, as a smart TV, or as a monitor.
Who watches TV via coax anymore? Today very few people actually watch TV as they use to in the ‘90’s – straight from the cable. The vast majority gets content from a set-top box, or DVR so many people will use the 58L9300 as a “plain TV” – display and speakers.
Cord cutters, if you gave up on the cable companies and you just “watch the internet” for all your content, you have been doing this via a dedicated Media PC or a Laptop in this case you are using even less of the 58L9300 features and it’s just a “dumb display” and you are most likely routing audio over an AV receiver to external speakers.
The 4k issue… plain and simple. No broadcast content exists- since no stations are delivering it. No streaming content exists since little native UHD format content is licensed for streaming (Netflix has announced future availability). Little or no disc based content exists because no native 4k “dvd” players exist. Frankly the 4k UHD standard is so volatile that all manufactures have long legal disclaimers that 4k “may not work in the future” on their sets. The only place you will find 4k content is the internet and on some proprietary media devices like the Sony FMP-X1 “hockey puck”.
That said… The 58L9300 is a fantastic 4k display that CAN –with the right input sources- display stunning 4K UHD content. Now what do I mean by “fantastic”? Fantastic as in, a great quality display panel, with all the right in’s and out’s, and great hardware. Compared to what? Compared to anything you have in your home today!
So the number one issue for 4k UHD TV buyers is….. Upgradability! Just like your computer and mobile device, manufacturer support for updating the firmware is KEY!! So the question to ask is 1) does my purchase have the hardware oomph so that it can be upgraded and 2) will the manufacture upgrade me or abandon me?
So this isn’t a Chinese knock off set, the 58L9300 has class leading features comparable with Sony, Samsung, LG… and I’m not going to focus on the “same-ness” of the products, but I will focus on the pluses.
Major hardware pluses:
These features are important since they are not “upgradable”, the hardware is the hardware.
• It’s a second generation set so it has more cores, CPU’s and GPU’s them competing sets. It is also an in house chip set that Toshiba uses so they have complete control over the hardware/firmware.
• 3 extra inches!!!! Size Matters!!! Really makes a big difference over a 55” display.
• Higher native refresh rate 240 hz then many competitors.
• WiDi support- WiDi is an open standard for wireless transmission of computer display signals…if you never tired it, you don’t know what you are missing. WiDi allows me to display my Series 7 slates screen simultaneously on the 58L9300 exactly as if the Series 7 was connected to the display via HDMI, but WiDi does this over WiFi – note to WiDi HD with 5.1 audio you need a kick ass router.
• Active Shutter 3D
• Hardware keyboard support – Yes a keyboard and a touchpad!!!
• Native DivX Plus HD support.
• Software doubling of refresh rate from 240 to 480 – important for sports and action scenes.
• Audyssey built in.
• Internet based firmware upgradable – and we have seen upgrades from Toshiba.
• HDMI CEC and ARC – the Toshiba CEC version is more open then many, unlike Sony who limits CEC functions to Sony only peripherals
• 4K up-scaling
Okay so what is the real reason to get the 58L9300 now? TWO WORDS 4K up-scaling!! Connect a 58L9300 to an up-scaling DVD player or Media box and I will guarantee you the best “2K” 3D movie experience you have ever had in your life! Take a title like Life of Pi, with the BDX-6400 as the player and the 58L9300 as display the 3D is incredible. “2K” 3D is more impressive than using the same hardware to play a “mastered in 4K” title like Battlefield: Los Angeles- since the “mastered in 4K” is lost when pressing to a BD.
Needs Improvement: Not all is perfect… Now this is very subjective…. My point of view is that any dedicated device will do a better job than a “Smart TV”, hence my old Sony SMP-N200 media player is a better DLNA render then the 58L9300, my media PC’s browser is better than the 58L9300 browser. So many of the “complaints” you hear about in blog posts is that people compare the “Smart TV” functions to the experience on a dedicated device. That said the open standard functions work as advertised; I can easily access music, photos and video wirelessly on both the Nokia N9 and 808 pureview as well as my wired Buffalo Linkstation Pro. On the Nokia 808 pureview I can connect an HDMI cable directly to the display (Yes, the 808 has an HDMI out) and display the 38 mega pixel pictures on the 58L9300 in 4K UHD.
***Note the internal renderer will only render up to HD, NOT UHD – this is not a display limitation but a renderer function (see section on no 4K standards existing).
***Also Note the web browser is an open source HTML5 browser… no current FLASH support! But if you know where to look you can find content to render, again issues here is not display but the app.
*** Notable omission- NO Amazon instant video app. (I don’t care since Sony SMP-N200 has brilliant Amazon app, or use media PC). Since I use the 58L9300 as a “dumb display” I have no need for many of the “Smart TV” functions. But as a whole I think Toshiba could improve on the usability of apps a great deal.
Is it the sexiest UDH set? No… but then again I’m not buying a TV for the thinness of the bezel, or how cool the stand looks, and anyway all my sets are on articulating mounts. The remote is functional- but I never use it due to integration with CEC and AV receiver. I’m also not impressed with the sets sound using the internal speakers, but then again hard for me to judge since I haven’t listened to TV without it going through a AV receiver since 1993.
Conclusion: All 4K UHD TV’s are in limbo due to content “un-availability”. BUT both Sony and Toshiba have said that the current gen TV’s will be HDMI 2.0 upgradable via firmware WITHOUT the need to buy an external adapter – In truth HDMI 2.0 will not really impact most content consumption since most content is shot at 24/30fps which the current crop of 4K UHD TV’s support, HDMI 2.0 biggest feature is support for 4K 3D.
The Toshiba 58L9300 has some distinct advantages over the competition; one of the biggest is the extra 3 inches in size. Higher refresh rates. It is active shutter 3D. Supports such geek features as WiDi. Also it is a more open platform then the Sony when it comes to CEC interoperability. Yes CES is just around the corner, but for the price you can’t go wrong.