Toshiba Regza 37A3000E (37-inch LCD) - Review

Toshiba Regza 37A3000E (37-inch LCD) - Review

It has been almost a year since Toshiba embarked on an aggressive campaign for its rebranded LCD TVs. Since then, we have witnessed the debut of its pioneer 66-series Regzas and the latest 100Hz-ready 68 counterparts. The time is just about right for a replacement model for the now entry-level 66 range. Would the upcoming A3000s be a complete rework or a mere rehash of its moderately successful predecessors? Read on as we bring you this full review.

Design of the Toshiba Regza 37A3000E (37-inch LCD)

Instead of branding a new look, the 37A3000E sports a tweaked design of the company's flagship 68-series Regzas. On top of the unique V-shaped pedestal stand and streamlined Jet Slit speaker system, there is also a dash of glossy black finish on the bottom. This replaces the matt-silver hue of the latter and blends harmoniously with its black LCD frame, giving the panel a nice classy feel. While we would not call it a sexy piece the likes of the Sony Bravia X and Samsung Bordeaux Plus, its overall design is none too shabby. In fact, most would agree that it's definitely one of the better lookers among the entry-level class.

Accessing the side A/V inputs on this Toshiba is a straightforward affair, conveniently situated on the right and clustered well out of the way of the TV controls. The same, however, does not hold for the HDMI, PC and TV aerial jacks. These are horizontally mounted on a recessed panel, facilitating wall-mounting--optional kit at S$199 (US$130.99)--without clearance limitation for thick cords, but at the expense of installation difficulties. Looking on the brighter side, two huge clips are available for basic cable management, routing unsightly cables behind the pedestal stand which is itself capable of delivering a conservative 15-degree two-way swivel.

The TV is bundled with a plain cylindrical remote in silver. It offers very few perks in aesthetics and functionality but is, nonetheless, ergonomic and comfortable in hand. You will probably need some time to get acquainted with this stick, too. This is due to its shared channel/volume controls and use of symbols over texture labels. To switch between video sources, you have a choice of either a toggle button or software scroll list. Neither is the preferred choice in our books, though the latter does speed up selection in general.

Working our way within the familiar software menu is both a no-brainer and satisfying experience. To our pleasant surprise, Toshiba has thrown in quite a competent array of basic and advanced configurations for this humble and inexpensive panel. Putting aside the standard flairs of contrast and sharpness, you will also have access to six-hue color management, black enhancement and various noise reduction functions. That's not all. Some of these boost multistep adjustments, giving users a higher degree of flexibility to fine-tune the video and sound quality.

Features of the Toshiba Regza 37A3000E (37-inch LCD)

The 37A3000E is HD-ready out-of-the-box, featuring a 1,366 x 768-pixel native resolution LCD panel. This features a competent set of paper specifications well befitting the set's entry stature. Worth noting here are its above-average 1,200:1 contrast ratio, fast 8ms response time and industry-leading 178-degree viewing angle. Even the brightness factor of 500cd/m2 is on par with or higher than its Japanese compatriots and Korean competitors, giving them a definite run for the money considering the lower-than-expected S$2,299 (US$1,512.50) price tag.

While its flagship 68 Regzas are equipped with the company's latest proprietary Meta Brain Pro 100 video processor, the A3000-series is supplied with only the non-100Hz version. This is rather a simple matter of market positioning in our humble opinion. Rest assured you are not losing out much as both offer near-identical capabilities, differentiated mainly by the additional frame rate-doubling function of the former. You will still get the pixel-level processing plus tri-motion-adaptive technologies in cross-color suppression, digital noise reduction and deinterlacing.

To Toshiba's credit, its premium Jet Slit speaker system has also made its way into the new A3000s. In this scaled-down iteration, there are twin 60 x 120mm drivers instead of a six-piece ensemble, powered by a modest 10W amplifier. The audio subsystem is designed to reproduce audio through a narrow 15mm slit. This channels compressed sound and generates a burst of output which is said to be stronger and wider. If all these sound incomprehensible, perhaps you can take comfort by knowing that the hardware is enhanced by SRS WOW software enhancement.

True to its no-frills proposition, there is very little extra icing when it comes to the onboard connectivity. On the plate for HD sources are a single HDMI terminal and two sets of component-video sockets. These are only 1080i-compatible, though the former edges out the competition by being version 1.3-compliant with a built-in lip synchronization function. Computer interfacing has not been forgotten, either. This is handled by a PC input capable of supporting up to 1,280 x 1,024-pixel resolution. The only omission here is an S-video jack which is nonetheless available by the side.

Performance of the Toshiba Regza 37A3000E (37-inch LCD)

Setting up and calibrating the 37A3000E was generally a smooth exercise, hooked up to a Toshiba HD-E1, Xbox 360 and Pioneer DV-S969avi via Monster interconnects. To kick off our evaluations, we tuned into the local MediaCorp broadcasts, and boy, were we delighted by the sharp and clean pictures rendered onscreen. It's easily one of the best we have seen in months characterized by minimal video grains and dot crawl even in between high-contrast areas.

The panel also nailed the technically challenging Avia test patterns with a strong showing of resolving power and accuracy, scoring perfect results not only in color decoding but also the hard-to-tackle grayscale tracking. The latter was reaffirmed during numerous runs of our reference-quality DVD clips, in particular, the revealing shadow details in Blade 2's dark warehouse showdown between Wesley Snipes and his ninja adversaries.

But what really got our seal of approval was the excellent picture quality garnered from native HD sources. Despite the apparent lack of pixels, subtle details were surprisingly abundant and reproduced in solid fidelity. Playing the HD-DVD rendition of The Phantom of the Opera also revealed a delicate tonal balance--the colors were vivid but not overly saturated. Concluding the positive observations were the smear-free 720p graphics in the motion-packed Ridge Racer 6 Xbox 360 game.

For all its outstanding visual prowess, the panel faltered in PC display quality and versatility. Even with a near-native 1,024 x 768 resolution, text showed up soft, while widescreen signals were clearly out of the company's radar. Enabling one-to-one aspect ratio restored sharpness, but at the expense of bordering black bars. Moving on, nor were we convinced by its bass-shy audio which was distortion-free even when driven hard. This, nevertheless, was offset by solid stereo imaging and spacious SRS surround sound.

Priced at S$2,299 (US$1,512.50), the Toshiba 37A3000E is probably one of the most affordable HD-ready 37-inchers available on shelves. As with most entry-level models, the proposition here is neither geared toward design nor features. Rather, a no-frills panel which delivers outstanding value and beautiful pictures that rival some of its higher-end counterparts.