Toshiba was sadly forced to withdraw from the UK TV market a couple of years ago, unable to make ends meet in what had become a notoriously aggressive consumer space. Now, though, the brand is back. Sort of.
The Toshiba name is now owned by Turkish giant Vestel, and the latest UK Toshiba TVs come off Vestel’s production lines. But Toshiba engineers are still, we’re told, involved in overseeing the products coming out under its own name. So hopefully the 49U6763DB will turn out to be just the sort of triumphant return the increasingly embattled entry-level sector of the 4K TV market needs.
From the front, the 49U6763DB looks like it should be worth more than £399. The frame around the screen is reasonably trim for a budget set, and looks decently well built. There’s a cute metallic box attached to the bottom edge that adds a dash of futuristic style, too.
The design team appears to have clocked out before thinking about the set’s rear, mind you. It’s the chunkiest, most plasticky looking back end we’ve seen on a TV in 2017. Personally, though, we couldn’t really care less about this given that we spend our time looking at the front of our TVs rather than their rears.
Connections are unexpectedly numerous. Highlights include four HDMIs, three USBs, wireless and hard wired network connections, plus – drum roll please – a Scart socket. Wowza. We can’t actually remember the last time we saw a TV sporting one of those. Hopefully this isn’t symptomatic of general datedness in the 49U6763DB’s features and performance.
Design TL;DR: Reasonably cute if viewed from the front, a chunky plasticky mess if viewed from the back. So just watch the front, yeah?
While the 49U6763DB doesn’t boast a particularly intuitive smart interface or as many useful apps as most smart TVs, the fact that it offers any smart TV features at all for £399 should be considered a bonus.
Highlights include Netflix and Youtube, plus access to the catch-up TV services for the UK’s main terrestrial broadcasters courtesy of a built-in Freeview Play app. This app even lets you find shows you may have missed via an electronic programme guide that scrolls back through time as well as forwards.
It’s pleasing to find, too, that the Netflix and Youtube apps both support 4K streaming.
On the downside, there’s no Amazon Video app, 4K or otherwise. Also, many of the 50 or so apps you do get are niche to say the least, and the menus tend to be sluggish to load.
Smart TV TL;DR: Although the 49U6763DB only carries a fairly limited collection of apps, finding any at all is surprising on such a budget TV.
Unfortunately the 49U6763DB’s picture quality makes it neither much of a budget hero, nor a great way to re-establish the Toshiba name.
Watch anything remotely dark on it, for instance, and it struggles badly to deliver the sort of black level depths we’re now used to seeing from LCD TVs. Even other pretty cheap ones.
Parts of the picture that should look black instead look grey and flat. This leaves you squinting through low contrast ‘mist’ to try and see what’s going on, and also leaves colours during dark scenes looking bleached and drab.
Dark scenes are also impacted by backlight clouds creeping in from all four of the screen’s edges. As well as being distracting, this clouding is actually pretty weird given that the 49U6763DB appears to be using a direct lighting system (where the LEDs sit right behind the screen) rather than the more common edge-based solution.
Colours with HD/SDR content tend to look rather rough and ready, lacking the blend and tonal subtlety that helps good TVs stand out. Sometimes colours even appear as stripes or blocks rather than smooth blends.
The 49U6763DB looks more lively and involving with uniformly bright images. And actually, if you use the dynamic contrast option on its medium or high setting its brightness can be aggressive enough to hide the flaws with darker parts of the image during mixed brightness shots. It is only an optical illusion, though; more uniformly dark scenes can never be made to look really satisfying.
A quest for positive things to say turns up a couple of things. First, while colours generally fail to impress, flesh tones actually look surprisingly natural by budget TV standards. Second, if you’re thinking of using the 49U6763DB as a cheap-but-large gaming screen, it keeps its input lag – the time it takes to render its pictures – to a passably low 41ms. It’s worth bearing in mind that some sets this year get below 20ms, though.
Finally, the set upscales HD sources to 4K reasonably tidily, and largely avoids the excessive judder, blurring and smearing when reproducing motion often seen on very affordable LCD TVs.
HD/SDR Performance TL;DR: Although it does OK with sharpness and motion, the 49U6763DB feels off today’s pace where contrast and colour are concerned.
The first thing to say here is that the 49U6763DB doesn’t support high dynamic range playback. This is unusual for a 2017 4K TV, but we wouldn’t necessarily say it’s disastrous. After all, more often than not very affordable TVs tend to do HDR so badly that you end up wishing they hadn’t bothered trying!
More unfortunate is the way it fails to capitalise on the 4K resolution it DOES have. A lack of crispness and colour definition makes it pretty hard to distinguish between native 4K pictures and upscaled HD ones.
The screen’s contrast shortcomings also tend to hide details in dark areas, again impacting the picture’s sense of ‘4kness’. And finally the screen’s uninspiring light controls mean there isn’t really any scope for boosting the intensity of bright edges or local bright details – two little tricks that can play a significant role in making pictures look sharper and more detailed.
4K/HDR TL;DR: There’s no support for HDR, and or most of the time the 49U6763DB feels like a 4K TV in name only.
While the 49U6763DB underwhelms with its pictures, it exceeds expectations with its sound. Perhaps because of its chunky form it’s able to push out a decent amount of volume without the sound starting to distort, sound excessively compressed, or become harsh.
Voices sound clear but also well rounded and nicely integrated into the rest of the soundstage, while there’s enough breathing room in the mid-range to allow it to shift through at least a couple of gears when handling action sequences.
It doesn’t hit any particularly deep bass levels or fill your living room with all the tiny treble detailing the best sound mixes contain. But it does deliver enough bass and detail to at least sound natural and balanced, which is preferable to sets that over-reach themselves and end up with flabby, phutty, dominant bass and/or sibilant, grating trebles.
Sound quality TL;DR: The 49U6763DB sounds better than some TVs costing twice as much.
Other panels to ponder
We haven’t seen any other TVs this year offering such large 4K pictures for so little money. The 49-inch Sony 49XE70 delivers superior 4K sharpness and colour for £539, as well as supporting HDR. That Sony set also struggles with black levels, but its issues in that department only tend to appear with HDR; it’s actually pretty good with standard dynamic range sources.
Hisense’s 50-inch H50N6800 (we reviewed the 55-inch model) also adds HDR support to its native 4K pixel count for around £549, as well as delivering sharper 4K images and, with standard dynamic range pictures at least, a much better black level performance. It really isn’t bright enough to do HDR properly, though.
If £400 really is as far as your budget can stretch, the 49U6763DB isn’t an outright disaster. It does OK with motion, skin tones and brightness, and produces pictures quickly enough to pass muster as a games monitor.
The set’s features and performance both feel dated by today’s standards, though, with its lack of contrast and soft-looking 4K images in particular making me think you might be better with a good quality full HD TV instead.
- Our guide to the best 4K TVs has all our top recommendations