These days, it’s incredible how much you can get in an HDTV at an affordable price—that is, as long as you don’t care about 3D, a razor-thin profile, or a perfect picture. The Toshiba 46SL417U, a 47-inch LED-lit HDTV, offers a nice selection of features, including built-in Wi-fi, a solid stable of Web apps, and some of the best energy-consumption stats we’ve seen in a screen this size, all for just $1,099.99 (direct). This set isn’t perfect; the menu system is convoluted and the picture lacks shadow detail, but for the price, it’s a solid deal.
Design and Features
The set combines a simple, utilitarian design with a surprising splash of style. If you look at the screen head-on, you’ll see a simple Toshiba HDTV, with a plain flat bezel highlighted only by the Toshiba logo in the middle of the lower edge. If you look at it from an angle, though, you’ll see a surprising flourish seldom seen on today’s TVs: chrome. The left and right edges of the HDTV are mirror-finished, chrome plastic. A ton of reflective chrome would be distracting when watching the screen, but the hints of chrome on the sides here simply make the set look appealingly unique. The screen measures just 1.2 inches thick, very thin but certainly not record-breaking for an LED-backlit set.
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The connections on the back panel are placed almost perfectly. Unlike other HDTVs where most of the inputs face straight out from the back, every connection is instead placed along the side and bottom of a recessed area. These side- and bottom-facing inputs make switching devices a snap, especially if the set is mounted on a wall.
The 9-inch remote control is similarly stylized and loaded with useful concessions, which help overcome its otherwise bulky design. The wand is thick and has a gentle curve, with a raised glossy black panel holding all the buttons on top of a silver accent around its edges. The buttons are thoughtfully laid out, with the number pad on the top and Web app, navigation, and playback controls proceeding down the remote. Unfortunately, the buttons are fairly narrow and flat, and not incredibly easy to feel for blindly. On the bright side, a dedicated Netflix button makes accessing the world’s most popular video-streaming service a cinch.
- Screen Size
- 46 inches
- LCD TV, HDTV, LED
- Supported Refresh Rates
- Video Inputs
- Component, DVI, HDMI
- Networking Options
- 28.58 inches
- 42.44 inches
- 11.3 inches
- 40.57 lb
Not only does the 46SL417U come with a wide selection of Web apps, the set can access them wirelessly with integrated Wi-Fi, an often-desired but not-omnipresent HDTV feature. In fact, it’s the least-expensive Wi-Fi-enabled set at this screen size we’ve tested. In addition to one-button Netflix access, the TV loads Yahoo Widgets while watching television through the dedicated Yahoo Button. YouTube, Pandora, CinemaNow, Vudu, or Blockbuster-on-Demand content (along with Netflix) are delivered via the Net TV button. There aren’t any social media apps (besides the Yahoo! widgets) or Web browsers, but if you just want to watch online content, you get a wide library of services.
46SL417U Picture and Energy Performance
When we test HDTVs, we calibrate the screen for brightness and contrast and set color temperature to a “warm” setting to produce the best picture that an average user could reasonably get from the HDTV without extensive calibration work. The Toshiba HDTV comes with an almost-too-wide array of settings; color temperature can be altered on a scale of 0 to 10, and that’s before going into the more advanced color calibration settings. Individual color gain and offset settings for red, green, and blue let skilled users micromanage their HDTV’s color settings and pull out the best color profile manually. It’s unreasonable to expect the average user to do this sort of work, though, and the out-of-box color settings and black levels are less than optimal. As such we had to spitball the correct temperature setting at Standard mode with a Color Temperature setting of 2 (the lower the level, the warmer the colors).
We used a chromometer to measure luminance and color profiles after the simple calibration. The 46SL417U puts out a generous 274.93 cd/m2 peak white output. However, its black levels only reach down to an unimpressive 0.07 cd/m2. But even mediocre black levels can’t preclude a solid screen; the 46-inch Sony Bravia KDL-46EX720 ($1,599.99, 4 stars) produced similar black levels but earned Editors’ Choice status given its 3D support and other features. Even better, the 47-inch 3D-enabled LG Infinia 47LW5600 ($1,699.99, 4.5 stars) manages to combine a wide feature set with an excellent picture, and adds in a top-notch 0.01 cd/m2 peak black level. With both white and black levels, the 46SL417U offers a respectable contrast ratio of 1:3913.
Color on the HDTV is decent, but blues were just a little too purple. The advanced color settings of the HDTV can readily fix this, but it’s an extra step that you don’t need to take with many other TVs. I tested the 46SL417U with the special edition Blu-ray of Mission Impossible. While it required some slight tweaking, the picture was okay, but the mediocre black levels produced muddled shadow details in darker scenes. Viewing angles proved a small frustration also. While the HDTV remains watchable at wide angles, this set suffers from slight color distortion when you view it off-axis. This is an issue we haven’t encountered in other LED-backlit LCD HDTVs.
Energy efficiency is laudable. In its brightest mode, the 46SL417U consumed a modest 95 watts. In calibrated Movie 2 mode, the number dropped down to 74 watts. The screen-dimming AutoView mode saw power consumption plummet to a very low 42 watts, though the screen might be too dim for some to comfortably watch in that mode. Movie 2 mode is the best compromise, with the lowest power consumption we’ve seen, earning the HDTV our GreenTech seal of approval.
Considering its broad feature set, decent picture, and excellent energy efficiency, the Toshiba 46SL417U is a great bargain at $1,100. It’s not a perfect HDTV, and you’ll benefit from giving the screen at least a cursory calibration (and even then, black levels won’t be particularly good), but it still offers a lot of functionality for the price. If features and low energy costs matter more to you than a cinema-perfect picture, you’ll be pleased with the 46SL417U.