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Toshiba 39L1350U LED TV Review

Beware of deal

$499.99 39 in.
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Overview

The L1350U series from Toshiba provides bright TVs for thrifty buyers. By omitting bows and frills such as 3D and WiFi, even the 50-inch version sells for under the $1000 mark (by $300). This line comes in 23-, 29-, 32-, 39-, and 50-inch sizes.

Before your eyes turn to dollar signs you should read on, though; while the 39-inch model we tested (MSRP $499.99) actually sort of astonished us with its hefty contrast, the color performance sobered us back up in a jiffy—and that's just one of several significant problems we noted with this TV's picture.

Design

Almost fell asleep trying to write this Design sub-header

If you asked your toddler to draw a TV, that lil' baby would come up with the same design stratagem that Toshiba did. The black rectangular stand has a matte finish and collects dust in its free time. The black rectangular panel has shiny bezels that aren't particularly thin, and a little circle that glows green when you turn the TV on. This is not an ugly TV, it's just uninventive. The remote fits right in, free of any glowing features or helpful colors (aside from the red power button).

This is not an ugly TV, it's just uninventive.

From a utilitarian standpoint, however, things aren't so bleak. For one thing, the 39-inch L1350U barely weighs a thing—with the stand, just 17 pounds. I could easily move this display from room to room unassisted, pretending to be strong. For connections, look to the left side of the panel. Facing out on the side are on-set controls, an HDMI in, and a USB port. On the back of the same side, also facing out, users will discover two more HDMI ports, a PC audio in, a digital audio out, a PC in (VGA), an antenna hookup, and shared composite/component ports.

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Features

Features? Where?

Everyone knows that when you spare your billfold a beating, you also lose out on fancy frills. Along with the TV's dull design, you must also suffer the absence of 3D, internet capabilities, and glow-in-the-dark objects, the latter of which stings the most. Nor will you find an actual equalizer or extensive picture controls.

When you spare your billfold a beating, you also lose out on fancy frills.

What does that leave you with? The L1350U does have a single USB port, but whether you're willing to withstand the withered, doddering interface is up to you. I tried opening up some photos from a thumb drive and had to wait patiently while the TV struggled to load icons for each file. Did I mistakenly ask it to load a satellite image of the Mayan ruins? Holy stars. I'll save you some time: Don't try to use this feature if you have somewhere to be.

This series also features Toshiba's "half mute" function, which cuts volume in half with one click, and mutes sound entirely with another. Then there is DynaLight, which adjusts backlight according to content, and HDMI-CEC, which communicates with Toshiba disc players so that users can control them using a single remote.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the Toshiba 39L1350U, take a look at these other televisions.

Performance

Amazingly deep blacks, but beleaguered by crummy color

In short, the L1350U does not deserve a golden TV trophy. When testing began, there were some initial surprises; this TV lights up like a beacon, and swoops into some impressive black levels as well. Deep black levels? This is rare for LCDs in general, and even more so for budget models like this one. With such a generous array of darks and lights at its disposal, the L1350U finds itself well-equipped for the task of rendering detailed, lifelike images.

Why does Kristen Bell's head look like a ball of Silly Putty?

Well then why did Kristen Bell's head look like a ball of Silly Putty? When color tests got underway, the answer became clear. This TV does not produce accurate colors; reds are underemphasized, and blues are too vibrant. On top of this, visible temperature errors cast an orange tint across the entire greyscale, and whites appear a bit blue at times.

And if you think the tomatos stop flying there, they don't; the viewing angle on this LED follows the technology's trend, meaning it's narrow. If you sit too far from the center, you will begin to lose that wonderful contrast we mentioned a moment ago. But perhaps the worst aspect of the L1350U's performance was its motion. Fast-moving, detailed objects suffered a juddering, blurry effect. Given these last two failings, this display is certainly not a great choice for sports lovers.

Final Thoughts

More of a bust than a bargain

It's frustrating that such spectacular contrast on an affordable TV should go to waste like this. The L1350U (MSRP $499.99) renders some truly beautiful blacks, but its colors just can't keep up. How sad! Like a magnificent race horse with a fear of circles... But in practical terms, regular content appeared washed out and unrealistic, and even Blu-ray discs lacked vibrancy of color. What a waste!

Don't be wooed by this TV's pretty price tag. Trading greenbacks for goodies is one thing—not everyone needs 3D—but when it comes to picture quality, don't settle for this. Even in the bargain bin, there are better TVs than the L1350U.

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