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Seriously considering Toshiba 34HF81 but need your input!

1451 Views 25 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  JohnnyG
I've searched the boards many times over, and for the most part, I've heard really good things about the 34HF81. The xbr2 is my #1 choice, but while i could afford it, i don't have loads of cash to throw around. Also, i'm going to be using this TV exclusively for games and movies, so a built-in tuner would be useless.

I'd like to know how you guys (and girls) rate the 34HF81 in comparison to other 34" widescreens in terms of picture quality, sound quality, features, cost to benefit, and overall (I ripped that off of circuit city hehe). Does this set have any notable problems? And most importantly, is this HDTV a good value? I appreciate any and all input.
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I have been looking to upgrade my office TV from analog to digital. Every weekend I go into my local Bestbuy and check out the direct view sets they have that would would fit in my exsisting cabinet (27inch to 34inch). I wanted the new TV to be 16:9 ratio and be around 34 inches. One day I noticed the Panasonic 34. Great picture, decent remote, but I waited to see the Toshiba. When the 34 Toshiba arrived they put it right next to the Panasonic. To my eyes the Toshiba has a better picture and was (is) cheaper. Since that time I saw both side by side I have been all over the net looking for user feedback on the Toshiba and pro reviews. From everything I have read, it is the 16x9 direct view set to buy. I'm going to Bestbuy this Saturday (10% off coupon) to pick up (all 163lbs) my Toshiba. Hope this helps you a bit :D

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The Toshiba 34HF81 is the best 34-inch HDTV period. Forget the Sony. Too much money, not necessarily better.
I saw the Toshiba, Panasonic and Sony all side by side at Ken Cranes last Sunday.

I had the salesman set all of them to their factory default settings.

All had an identical HD feed from the same tuner.

The Sony had the best picture, closely followed by the Panasonic. The Toshiba came in last.

Who knows what a calibration would do for these sets. The out of the box settings however left the Toshiba behind.

It did not have the same dynamic range as the other two. Tones had a flat, washed out appearance. Detail was okay, however the ability to recreate subtle gradations of color was lacking.

The Panasonic and the Sony had an almost identical picture. Close to a toss-up.
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hmmmm...alchymie, would you still consider the toshiba a good value or would you direct me away from it altogether?
I have been watching my 34HF81 for a week now and tweaking often looking for the best picture. It's very difficult to evaluate picture quality in a showroom setting. Picture quality is so dependent on source material. As I recall the Factory default settings for the Tosh is "Sports" - not much dynamic range there compared to "Standard" or "Movie". My own custom choices seem to center on modifications to "Standard".

I think the bottom line is that you can tweak most modern TV sets to produce reasonable picture quality for your choice of source material. I use HDnet on DTV as my reference as the programs repeat all day so I can look at the same material over and over again with minor tweaks. Very subjective, but works for me.

Don Cone
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Don't know what to tell you.

I was thinking about the Toshiba as well. (That's why I went to Ken Cranes.) I like the smaller packaging. The Sony looks a lot bigger, the Panasonic not much larger.

For the lazy man who doesn't like to adjust anything, or pay money for calibration - the Toshiba in my opinion did not look as good as the Sony or the Panasonic.

Maybe Toshiba blew the factory default settings. I don't know. I figured that was a good enough method as any to baseline all three sets.

I base this primarily on observing the skin tones of the actors. A movie with African American actors was playing. It wasn't immediately obvious, but I noticed the flesh tones on the Panasonic and Sony showed the subtle variations in the skin coloring on the actors faces. On the Toshiba the color was more uniform, in a sense monotone relative to the other two sets. Looking at the Toshiba alone, the picture looked great. However when compared to the other sets, I began to notice that color information was missing.

I guess it will have to wait for a professional review. Someone who will calibrate it for the evaluation.

Its a shame the manufacturer doesn't add calibration into their manufacturing process. They could do it cheaper than what we have to pay. Of course their established process should produce a TV that should be acceptable to most people.

Based on that, I would have to say that the Panasonic and/or the Sony is a better set.

I'm thinking seriously now about the buying the Panasonic with a separate STB. In a few years when plasmas are cheaper I'll get one of those.
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I was in the same boat buddy. Definitely wanting to get a 34", but still trying to compare. The folks at my local "The Wiz" offered me a sleeping bag the other day so I could camp out in front of the sets there! hehe!

Anyway, after much deliberation, I finally decided on the 34hf81. It's absolutely a better value for the money. Why pay 1 grand more for a "subtle difference?" At this store, the Sony xbr is right next to the Toshi and at first I thought that the Sony had a better pic. But after I fooled around with the settings, I saw that it just needed some tweaking and the Sony ended up looking soft and unrealistic while the Toshi was sharp and bright (only my untrained opinion though--of course only YOU can decide for yourself).

Good luck!

Well I haven't received mine yet, as they're backordered in my neck of the woods (Ontario) right now. Having gone through the process of looking at a whole bunch of sets though, and doing a huge amount of research, I think it's a fantastic set at a great price.

In Canada, the 34HF81 can be found for around $1K less than the the similar Panasonic. If you compare Cdn prices vs US, it's an even better deal.

What made me choose the Toshiba? In pretty much every showroom I've been to where this set was on display beside its competition, all the attention was on this set. It just seems to pull people toward it because it has a great combination of pq, style, format and price. Never underestimate the drool factor!

I just wish they'd make the darned thing about 100lbs lighter. :(
I just had mine delivered and had my antenna installed yesterday. I have not had the chance to spend too much time with so I don't have an opinion yet. The reason why I bought this was due to this being a recent release versus the Pani and it was $300 cheaper.
Like db_a4, I live in Ontario and am pining for the delivery of my 34HF81, which I ordered over four weeks ago. I made the bonehead mistake of passing on my old TV to my sister (who lives out of town) when I ordered it on the basis that delivery would take "about 2 days" from Toshiba Canada's warehouse to the store. In fairness, the dealer did not know about the constrained supply at the time either. So, alas, I wait in desperation. My empty TV cabinet mocks me every time I pass it, encumbered with multiple yet-to-be-connected A/V cables, dangling like oh-so-many empty stockings on Christmas morn'. Anyway, I digress. Sorry.

My point. I went to the top of The Bay (Canadian department store) at Yonge & Bloor Streets in Toronto over lunch today. They have the 34HF81 and the Panasonic CT-34WX50 side-by-side on demo playing the same material. To me the Toshiba is better in many respects, but what strikes me the most is that the Panasonic combs horribly due to its inferior line-doubler, while the Toshiba's is rock solid.
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I didn't look at an interlaced source.

Its good to know that the Toshiba is better at deinterlacing.

I agree about the detail. The Toshiba did a very good job at it.

It certainly is packaged nicely, with a very competitive price.

Maybe I should go back to Ken Cranes and experiment with the controls to see what happens.
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I've had my 34HF81 for a week and it's great. There's no question that it could use some adjusting. I'm just waiting for my new sound system before running Video Essentials on it.

When I put up HDTV on it, particularly HDNet, people are amazed with the picture.
I've never seen the sony and toshiba side by side...that's my goal for this weekend. Anyway, i just need to figure out if the difference between the xbr2 and 34hf81 is worth 1K or not. I've never had a HDTV-ready set before, so i don't think i'd be able to tell a huge difference. I'll just have to wait to see them side by side!

Off-topic question - I don't know jack about calibration. How much does it cost to have it done, and where to you find someone who is qualified? How do you learn to do it yourself? What supplies are needed to calibrate?
The factory setting for the Toshiba is Sport and Cool. That gives you 100% brightness, lots of sharpness and contrast and Cool colors. Movies do not look well in this setting.

The set has two other settings in addition to sport, and an additional setting to store your preferences. You could have it professionally calibrated, but whether or not it is necessary depends on your taste. For me all that was necessary was to reduce brightness, contrast and sharpness and go to warmer colors. Then I saved the preferences and that is mostly what we use. We sometimes change the brightness according to the ambient light.

I think that professional callibration is more important for rear projection sets.

I agree that the line doubling is great.

By the way, between the Panasonic and the Sony I liked better the picture of the Panny.

I also believe that the Panasonic does not allow you to use the stretch modes when using component inputs (someone please correct me if I am wrong). I have the DVD connected through component video inputs and have used the stretch modes for severely letterboxed DVDs.

If you are concerned about space. The Sony is way larger. The Panasonic and Toshiba have very similar front dimensions, with the Toshiba being about 1/2" lower. Though the Panasonic is better in the back, it is nicely curved as opposed to the Toshiba that has a block sticking out on each side. This will make a difference if you put the set in a corner, the Panasonic will use about 2 inches less of the corner.

Just one more thing, another setting that I did not like out of the box is the strength of the Bass. I think that they wanted to show off the Bass handling capabilities of the set.
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Wow, Dewi- over a month?

Jaysus, I don't knows if'n I can wait that long! Any recent updates on when they might arrive at Toshiba Canada?


I'm told "any day now." I purchased it at NBT Electronics and they include an ISF-spec'd calibration in the price, so I will have to wait a couple more days after it arrives at the dealer's.

What do you think about some of the Toshiba projections? I do like the 34HF81, but I don't think I can suffer the smaller screen. Do you guys like any of the 40"+ Toshiba RP sets?
Originally posted by Dewi

I'm told "any day now." I purchased it at NBT Electronics and they include an ISF-spec'd calibration in the price, so I will have to wait a couple more days after it arrives at the dealer's.


Heh, me too. Guess John's making some serious money off of us guys. If only Toshiba would just get him the sets.


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btw, if anyone else "up here" is looking for this set or other tv's, John at NBT (in Mississauga) is a good guy and will answer your questions as well as give you a competitive price.

Highly recommended.

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