Toshiba 55L7400 LED TV Review
Toshiba's affordable flagship is just right for gamers, but not cinephiles.
The Toshiba 55L7400U (MSRP $1,500, online $1,100) is the company's top-of-the-line 1080p TV for 2014. It features Toshiba's Cloud Portal 2.0 smart platform, a 120 Hz native refresh rate, and full-array LED backlighting.
Unfortunately, the TV's many strengths are matched by some notable weaknesses. A poor black level and shallow overall contrast hurt its chances of making a good choice for home theaters. However, great motion performance, lots of brightness, and very low input lag make it a suitable for gamers, sports fans, and most casual viewers. For the very competitive online price of $1,100, its flaws are tolerable to the right buyer.
An even mix of pros and cons
The L7400U is Toshiba's top-tier 1080p TV for 2014, so it has some fancy features. Unfortunately, things like a native 120 Hz refresh rate, full-array with local dimming, and a dual-core video processing engine don't necessitate a good picture quality. In the case of the L7400U, the results are a mixed bag.
To begin with, this TV is a stellar choice for gamers and casual viewers who will use it in a brighter room, but it isn't as desirable when it comes to movie night. Toshiba's "SuperBright" full-array backlight design has a key trade-off, producing oodles of very bright light at the cost of black levels. With mixed bright and dark content on-screen, the squeaky bright elements are emphasized, resulting in shadow details that are unsuitable when you're watching in a dark room. What's more, this excessive emphasis on luminance occasionally causes stair-stepped, choppy gradation in shadow tones.
There are also advantages and disadvantages to the TV's local dimming process. This is a function that allows the LEDs behind the screen to turn on and off individually from one another. To put it plainly, the L7400U's local dimming leaves something to be desired: I'm not sure exactly how many local dimming control zones there are, but our time with the TV tells us that Toshiba should have added a few more. The aforementioned excess of luminance makes full-array zone activity, like dimming or brightening, more visible to viewers than it should be.
When it comes to color, the L7400U performs admirably. I measured very accurate color production, with just a hint of excessive blue tinting in the secondary colors. Fortunately, that flaw was easy to fix with the TV's ColorMaster control, which allows you to adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness of the TV's primary and secondary colors. Unfortunately, despite the accuracy of the colors, subtler gradations from hue to hue are (again) glossed over a bit thanks the TV's excessive brightness—something that's much harder to correct because there's no gamma control.
Without a doubt, the L7400U will find fans in the form of gamers. A native 120 Hz refresh rate isn't going to make a difference for most movie content, but it'll sure make a difference when your PC is plugged in and you're playing something fast-paced, like a racing sim. On an even brighter note, my co-workers and I were impressed with how little input lag this TV exhibits in Game mode. In the past, Toshiba has often had a leg up on the competition when it comes to low amounts of input lag, and the L7400U seems to continue that tradition admirably.
Overall, this bright, fast-action TV is better suited for casual viewing or a few gaming sessions than installation into a home theater. It may have a few flaws, they're easy to overlook in the wake of such competitive pricing.
Toshiba continues a tradition of silver lining
Like most of Toshiba's 2014 lineup, the 55L7400U puts on no airs. The TV's hollow, rectangular stand and lower bezel are a matching brushed silver color, helping it stand out a bit in well-lit space. The other three bezels are glossy black, and tend to pick up fingerprints. From edge to edge the L7400U is quite thin and stylish, and evokes enough modernism to appease starry-eyed buyers.
The rear casing is all charcoal plastic, but you're hopefully not going to spend much time looking back there. Users will find four HDMI inputs, one full and one shared composite input, two USB ports, ethernet (LAN) in, VGA and PC audio in, a coaxial jack, analog audio out, and an IR blaster port. Accessories include only an infrared remote control, but it's still a reliable and smartly designed controller. Just don't use it for browsing the web—in fact, you're better off just avoiding that feature altogether.
Meets minimum expectations for a flagship TV
Toshiba's 2014 TVs feature a smart platform called Cloud Portal 2.0, and as you might guess, it relies on cloud processing to get things done. Users will find a handful of apps like Netflix and YouTube, a web browser, and a few extraneous utility items like a calendar or weather information. If you've got cable or satellite, you can select your provider and the Cloud Portal hub will list the current programming for you.
Many L7400U owners have complained excessively about the overall lack of content in Cloud Portal 2.0, and they're on the money. Unless you have absolutely no other way to watch Netflix or Hulu Plus, you'll likely find no use for these features. I can't knock the addition of smart features too much, though: It's an industry trend, after all, and the L7400U is much cheaper than the competition, so it's not like you're really paying for it.
If you're a videophile or D.I.Y calibrator, however, you'll be very pleased with the generous number of picture adjustment options in the main software. All of the basics like Backlight, Color, Tint, and Contrast are here, but you'll also find a test image, built-in white balance patterns, 2- and 20-point controls, a full CMS (Color Management System), and toggles for settings like DynaLight and Dynamic Contrast.
The perfect choice for thrifty stick jockeys
For $1,500 (or $1,100 online), the 55-inch L7400U is one of the cheapest 1080p flagships on the market right now. Tons of luminance, smooth motion, and very low input lag make it a great, hyper-affordable choice for gamers and sports fans looking to play or watch in an environment with variable lighting conditions. A weak black level hurts its chances for home theater supremacy, but we're not certain Toshiba was even trying to win that race.
At this price, Toshiba checks off a lot of the right boxes in extra features and functionality, and you could hire a calibrator to work out the color production kinks with the money you save.
On the other hand, you can find Samsung's excellent 55-inch H8000 online for about $1,300 if you know where to look. It's a more flexible performer with stronger contrast abilities, and may better scratch your itch if you're pining for a more premium viewing experience.
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