The Toshiba REGZA ZV650 series of LCD televisions are a mixed bag of interesting specifications and ponderous features that require a careful examination. The ZV650 series consists of three models, the 42-inch 42ZV650U, the 47-inch 47ZV650U, and the 52-inch 52-ZV650U. The first two models have manufacturer's suggested retail prices of $1,299 and $1,699 respectively; the price of the 52-inch model is still unavailable, but will most likely be over $2,000.
The three ZV650 televisions are becoming available this April.
Apart from the differences in size, the ZV650 models all have the same basic feature-set. These LCD televisions are Toshiba's first to utilize an LED backlight. By replacing the traditional fluorescent backlight used on LCD flat-panel televisions, Toshiba has greatly reduced the power consumption of ZV650 models compared to their predecessors. LED backlights are also more brilliant and longer-lasting than their fluorescent counterparts. The energy savings makes the ZV650 series compliant with Energy Star 3.0 power consumption standards. If you're concerned about your monthly electric bill, the ZV650 televisions shouldn't have a significant impact on your usage.
All three models have 1080p high-definition resolution. On televisions smaller than 50-inches, such resolution is slightly excessive, though these days, it's hard to find 40-inch TVs that don't have it.
The ZV650 models have plenty of connections for accessories, including four HDMI inputs. That's enough to fit a Blu-ray player, video-game console, HD camcorder, and your cable or satellite set-top box. Toshiba has included two component analog HD inputs as well, should you need the extra room.
New Inputs for New Media
Two non-traditional inputs help make ZV650 TVs stand out: an SD-card slot and USB input. Toshiba has included the USB input to allow viewers to put their own downloaded media content, such as videos, photos, or music files, onto a USB thumb drive or external hard disk drive and plug it directly into the television. The TV is capable of decoding videos in the MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and DivX formats, as well as JPEG photos and MP3 music files. The SD-card slot allows for photo viewing of JPEG image files.
Buyer Beware: 240Hz and Deep Lagoon Design
There are, however, two major features that call for a skeptical eye. The first is Toshiba's purported ClearScan 240Hz refresh rate. Details are sketchy, but it appears that this purported 240Hz specification is not actually 240Hz, but rather a "240Hz effect" achieved by using a 120Hz refresh rate in concert with "backlight scanning" using the LED backlight. What does this mean? Frankly, it probably means nothing. It sounds like technical marketing mumbo-jumbo. Even if the ZV650 series were capable of achieving 240Hz, it would simply be overkill. 120Hz is hardly worth the extra cost associated with it, let alone double that. Don't be fooled by fancy specifications like this.
The other feature is the "Deep Lagoon Design," which Toshiba says is inspired by nature, somehow. The Deep Lagoon Design creates a fade-out effect along the outer edges of the TV by using curved bezels laden with recessed dots. It is rather attractive looking, but it's merely aesthetics, and does not affect the quality of the display.
All in all, the ZV650 series isn't the most exciting line of new televisions to debut in 2009. There are some appealing new innovations, like the USB input, but also some eye-roll inducing flourishes like the ClearScan 240 feature. Compared to the real strides being made aesthetically by Samsung and their ultra-thin models, and LG and Vizio's broadband-enabled sets, these Toshiba televisions seem plain.