Toshiba 58L7300U LED TV Review
A solid performer held down by terrible, sluggish software
The L7300U series is Toshiba's flagship line-up for 2013, offering three large screen sizes to choose from: A 50-inch iteration for $1099, a 58-inch for $1,499, and a 65-inch for $1,999. As Toshiba's high-end HDTV, it should also be the company's top performer for the year.
Just like last year, Toshiba's flagship series is notably cheaper than the high-end options from Samsung, Panasonic, and Sony. The L7300U series features Toshiba's new CloudTV internet platform, and comes with a Bluetooth keyboard.
Heavy as a really heavy thing
For an "ultra-slim" LCD TV, the 58-inch L7300U is very heavy—over 60 pounds! This is due primarily to the TV's gun metal frame and stand, which are the real deal: It's a snazzy look, but adds heft. Toshiba took an interesting approach to design this year, culminating in the L7300U's unique stand—a traditional rectangular pedestal with its middle area removed, leaving only the perimeter (really, the best way to eat a Reese's). The negative space provides a handy storage spot for the TV's included remote control and keyboard, or could even house a smaller cable box to use with the included IR blaster. We also just adore the completely out-of-place aqua stand neck.
The L7300U comes with a rather large remote control, stuffed edge to edge with buttons, as well as a Bluetooth keyboard, which (for keyboards) is on the smaller side. Frankly, we think that Toshiba should have made the remote smaller and the keyboard bigger, but that's a mild gripe. To operate the keyboard, users need only plug its included USB sensor into one of the L7300U's two USB 2.0 inputs, located on the right, rear side of the television. Here, you'll also find four HDMI inputs, two component inputs, one composite input, and both analog/digital audio connection options. We like the arrangement and spacing of the ports, and think the choice to include four HDMI ins makes the L7300U a decent candidate for a home theater.
Cloudy, with a chance of AWFUL
The modern flagship television has become a vehicle for a web browser, premium content providers, games, and apps—all bundled into what we call a "smart platform." While these platforms are now standard to modern TVs, they've only started to get dependable (and worthwhile) very recently. Most of them are still not a viable substitute for a smartphone or tablet, but companies such as Samsung and LG have made great progress since last year, regardless. I first saw a demo of Toshiba's new platform, CloudTV, at CES 2013, and thought it looked like a big improvement from last year's usable, but content-impoverished iteration. What I've seen bundled with the L7300U, however, is a total mess—just terrible as of right now.
Any task involving processing is sluggish and slow. The CloudTV home screen dims at random, many of the apps do not yet work, and navigating with the included remote is very slow. Even the settings menu is affected: Clicking "Settings" on the remote brings up the main menu, which then takes an egregious amount of time to populate the Picture or Sound menu. Cloud processing involves an external drive, which does the bulk of the work with web pages and app functions. The problem seems to be that Toshiba's cloud server is not computing and communicating quickly enough, and the TV's own on-board processor—which should be able to handle simple menu operations—does not have the horsepower to do so.
This is a shame, as the menu itself is smartly designed. It's easy to read and use... when it loads. Calibrating the L7300U for optimum contrast and color performance was a simple process, as the menu software is quite intuitive. It's possible a big software update will come along in a few weeks and make CloudTV a more viable option for browsing or streaming content, but right now you should steer clear.
A decently performing LCD, with the usual flaws
For its price, the L7300U sports quality performance. It pales a little in the wake of other flagships (namely those of the plasma variety), but for an LCD, its color accuracy is very good. In fact, basic performance is the L7300U's strong point—you definitely don't want to buy it for features right now. Our tests revealed solid color accuracy when comparing red, green, and blue to the Rec. 709 standard for HDTV color. We saw some missteps in proper saturation, but nothing to get bent out of shape over. The L7300U handles its color and greyscale curves with ease, and displays minimal color temperature error across its intensity input.
One place this flagship needs to improve is in motion performance. The L7300U boasts a "ClearScan" 240Hz refresh rate, but with this setting disabled its motion performance is fairly poor. We saw a lot of blurring, some color trailing, and jaggies during moving content of a mid-grey shade. Enabling the 240Hz setting only improved things a little bit, though blurring was decreased healthily. Like many LCDs, the L7300U also suffers from a narrow viewing angle, meaning its picture degrades rapidly at obtuse off-angles.
We're a fan of the compliment sandwich, so we'll "wrap up" by saying that we were impressed by the L7300U's natural contrast ratio. While the TV's black levels are not terribly dark, its peak luminance is absolutely searing—like a panini press—giving it a healthy amount of black/white differentiation. It's definitely better than the average LCD (see the Science page for numeric details). Overall, the L7300U is a solid performer, with the usual LCD-related drawbacks.
Definitely wait for an update
Let's make one thing clear: This is a solid TV. At its $1500 price, getting a pretty, slim 58-inch LCD is a steal. Toshiba did the same thing last year, offering their flagship (replete with internet and 3D features) for way, way less than the big name competition—and the L7300U is a better performer than its 2012 predecessor, to boot. The down side is that the L7300U's current software is, to put it elegantly, trash on a summer noon.
In our opinion, this TV is a great choice if you're looking for a smart LCD (Toshiba's same-paneled L7350U includes 3D, by the way). While it's very likely Toshiba will upgrade CloudTV and its cloud processing soon (the complaints must be rolling in already), it's unpalatable in its current form. Our advice? If this TV meets your needs for budget and features, wait for a little price drop, buy one, and leave it offline until an update. That would be win-win.
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