Like any other major consumer electronics giant, Toshiba has a very wide variety of home electronic appliances to offer consumers and is a very strong brand in its home country. TVs make up one of the bigger business chunks for Toshiba, but demand from developed counties is plateauing . The good news is that Toshiba has identified that the ASEAN market is a prime candidate for the next burst of growth, as well as the rest of south Asia. With that in mind, earlier this year, Toshiba has made Singapore the Asian headquarters for its TV operations. Just over a day ago, Toshiba held its regional TV business strategy event in Singapore and the press from around the region were treated to three new series of TVs that will be the mainstay of Toshiba's 2011 Regza TV lineup in Asia. We focus on the two of the series which are 3D capable and more pertinent to the local market.
While Toshiba long had the ultra expensive Cell TV that offered a 3D TV experience, it wasn't really retail available. Just a little earlier in September, Toshiba launched the WX800 series in the US as the company's first 3D TV available for retail. Still expensive, but not as exorbitant as the Cell TV. Focusing on Asia's high-end home entertainment market, especially on home ground, Toshiba presents its the top of the line ZL800 series using LED backlighting with local dimming. The flagship model is the the 55-inch 55ZL800 which even comes with a two-way soundbar speaker system that's capable of delivering 40W of audio power, significantly higher than most TVs. The ZL800 series boasts the new CEVO engine, Mega LED panel and 2D to 3D conversion with 3D Resolution+ processing.
The CEVO engine is the new brains for image processing with 3D support for the TV that's based off multiple cell processors. It is also responsible for controlling the complex array of LED backlights (with local dimming) of the ZL800 TVs as well as advanced processing algorithms such as compensating for the dimming effect of the active shutter glasses used for the 3D effect. The ZL800's Mega LED panel is capable of 1000cd/m2, 9,000,000:1 contrast ratio and 3072 LEDs with 512 segments for local dimming. These impressive specs help achieve high luminance for 3D viewing, higher contrast ratios for more lively images and complex local dimming for deeper blacks and more faithful reproduction of details. Finally, 3D Resolution+ processing promises to reduce crosstalk in 3D viewing and thus improve stereoscopic experience. It also analyzes the playback content to determine if extra frames are required to be inserted to enable smooth video viewing.
From our trials with the ZL800 series, we can tell that the panel is exceptionally bright for normal viewing, but it turns out for the better on 3D viewing as the dimming effect of the shutter glasses is well compensated by the more vibrant panel. Surprisingly, even the the 2D to 3D conversion feature does a decent job at times but more often, the effect is minimal. The ZL800 series is slated to to be available from January 2011.
Apart from the premium ZL800 series, the WL700 series is a little more down to earth with its edge-lit LED backlights but still supports 3D stereoscopic viewing. Coming in 55-inch and 46-inch sizes, the WL700 is beautifully designed with collaboration with Jacob Jensen Design. The design elements are readily visible with an ultra slim 29mm thickness, pretty touch-sensitive controls that dim away to make them obscure and a sturdy matte black base with a translucent TV spine that gives a perception that the panel is floating over the base.
Aside from the TV's design, the WL700 series uses Toshiba's Meta-Brain Premium processing engine to support upscaling of content to 1080p resolution, 3D Resolution+ processing to improve the smoothness of content playback, reduce crosstalk for 3D viewing and thus improve the overall image quality delivered. The processing engine also supports 200Hz refresh for improving fast motion scenes. Meanwhile, the panel offers up to 7,000,000:1 contrast ratio, not as high as the ZL800 series, but it's still plenty enough.
A couple other features were added specifically to address the ASEAN market such as AutoView which sense surrounding brightness and adjusts the backlight intensity accordingly. Another feature is the Auto Signal Booster that improves weak radio frequency (RF) signals for countries and regions still heavily relying for over-the-air broadcasts for regular programming. Improving the signal qualify automatically helps achieve clearer images on the TV.
The Toshiba Regza WL700 series is slated to go on sale sometime later in December 2010 and we can't wait to give this a test-drive in our own lab along with the more premium ZL800 series. Prices have not been revealed yet, but we expect that to be made known in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned!