It’s hard to think of any TV brand that better fits Forrest Gump’s “life is like a box of chocolate” mantra than Toshiba. With the Toshiba name now being applied to TVs made chiefly in Turkey rather than Japan, we’ve seen a pretty dizzying mixture of the decent, the bad and the ugly from Toshiba’s recent TV efforts.
With this in mind, it was pretty much impossible to predict what we were going to get out of the new 50-inch 50UK3163DB when it landed on our test benches. Certainly we could never in our wildest dreams have predicted that it was actually going to end up dazzling us with arguably the most aggressively ‘next-gen’ pictures we’ve seen from any sub-£500 TV to date.
While the 50UK3163DB’s £449 price might seem cheap by regular 50-inch TV standards, it’s actually on the high side for a budget-oriented brand such as Toshiba. This is pretty quickly explained, though, by the set’s support for relatively high-end features such as Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound.
It’s up against stiff competition from the likes of Samsung’s £449 UE43AU7100, Hisense’s £399 R50A7200UK Roku TV, and even the 55-inch TCL RP620K. As a result it’s going to have to do at least one special thing if it’s going to stand out from the crowd.
The Toshiba 50UK3163DB looks pretty distinctive for a budget TV. The jet black finish of both its bezel and large, plinth-like desktop stand enjoys a generous level of gloss that tries maybe a bit too hard to disguise the TV’s essentially plastic build quality, while a peculiar little rectangle dangling from the middle of the screen’s bottom edge adds what could almost be called a nerdy angle to the whole eye-catching concoction.
It’s fairly substantial round the back too - though since this is likely associated with its need to accommodate both a direct (rather than edge-based) LED lighting system and a Dolby Atmos-capable sound system, we’re not going to complain about it.
The 50UK3163DB’s remote is similarly big and chunky - but that’s not actually a bad thing given that it allows it to carry large, spaciously laid out buttons that fall easily to hand even in a dark room.
As noted, the highlight features of the 50UK3163DB – aside from the fact that it offers 50-inch 4K HDR pictures for just £449 – are its support for the Dolby duo of Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound.
The former enables the TV to take advantage of extra scene-by-scene data delivered by Dolby Vision sources, while the latter sees the TV taking on the challenge of creating a soundstage capable of delivering at least a sense of Dolby Atmos’s object-based approach to sound.
Toshiba hasn’t gone for the full HDR sweep by also including support for the HDR10+ system that Samsung TVs favour over Dolby Vision. Providing Dolby Vision on top of the more routine HDR10 and HLG HDR formats is still a compelling proposition, though.
The 50UK3163DB also stands out from entry-level Toshiba TVs via its TRU Picture Engine. This takes the form of ‘Tru’ options in the menus designed to deliver such benefits as smoother contouring, smoother motion reproduction and enhanced contrast through more detailed image analysis.
Screen type LCD w/ direct LED backlight
HDR formats HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Optical out Yes
Dimensions w/o stand (hwd) 70 x 113 x 2.5cm
Rather than turn to the likes of Roku or Android TV for its smart features as might have been expected of a TV with a background such as that of the 50UK3163DB, Toshiba’s latest TV instead bravely uses a home-grown system. Presentationally this actually works very well, resembling Samsung’s Eden platform in the way it limits its home screen appearance to a couple of icon decks at the bottom of the screen.
The way you can simply shift up or down from the home menu to access the TV’s settings and other features is actually pretty inspired, too. Plus it’s rare indeed to find a sub-£500 TV that carries a built-in far-field mic to support voice control via either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
The Toshiba 50UK3163DB’s connections include three HDMIs and one USB port. The HDMIs support Automatic Low Latency Mode and ARC audio pass through, but not 120Hz, variable refresh rates, or the eARC system that can be used to pass lossless Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks over HDMI to compatible soundbars and AVRs.
Finally, it’s worth coming back to the fact that the 50UK3163DB uses a direct LED lighting array (where the lights sit directly behind the screen rather than around its edges) and a VA panel to create its pictures. Two factors that raise hopes, at least, of a superior contrast performance.
The 50UK3163DB does actually deliver on the contrast front, but not how we’d expected.
Its black level performance is actually pretty average – easily its biggest weakness, in fact. Dark scenes are invariably affected by the familiar low-contrast blue-grey mist effect, immediately denying them the natural, cinematic look they enjoy on the very best TVs.
This issue can lead to some colours in dark scenes looking a little ‘polluted’ by greyness too – though at least neither the greyness nor any over-aggressive work by the Tru Micro Dimming system results in any significant loss of shadow detail.
While the 50UK3163DB isn’t anything special when it comes to handling dark images, it sure stands out with the intensity it brings to both bright parts of dark scenes, and full-screen bright HDR content. In fact, when it comes to the bright end of the light spectrum, it delivers arguably the most aggressive HDR performance in its class.
The really startling thing about the 50UK3163DB’s HDR performance is that as well as delivering bright HDR shots with an impressively high level of baseline brightness, it still has enough brightness headroom to shift up another gear for the sort of ultra-intense highlights that really make HDR shine. This is something that no other sub-£500 TV we’ve tested to date has been able to do so successfully.
A great example of what we’re talking about can be seen in the sequence in It where Georgie chases his ill-fated boat down a rain-soaked street. On the 50UK3163DB every raindrop splash is accompanied by a marked HDR gleam, while the light reflecting on the windows of the houses and parked cars blares out with all the intensity you’d expect to see if you were there sploshing down the street after poor Georgie.
So eye-catching is the 50UK3163DB’s HDR performance, in fact, that we’re confident that if you were to put it side by side with any other TV in its class, its HDR efforts would leave its rival looking drab and dull by comparison.
The 50UK3163DB’s HDR efforts aren’t the only way it makes an unexpected mark on the affordable TV world, either. Its native 4K pictures also look remarkably sharp and detailed. So much so, in fact, that they make the efforts of even some recent LCD TVs we’ve seen from the usually dependable Samsung look soft and undefined by comparison. (Though its upscaled HD pictures, by comparison, look a little soft and noisy.)
The 50UK3163DB’s taste for spectacle is let down somewhat by its colour handling. The screen just doesn’t seem able to support a wide enough colour gamut to ‘keep up’ with its intense brightness, leading to some bright tones looking a bit thin and washed out versus some rivals. Similarly, the picture can clip subtle shading out of bright HDR and even SDR highlights quite noticeably thanks, presumably, to its preference for presenting HDR as brightly as possible rather than tempering it to the screen’s specific brightness capabilities with serious HDR tone mapping.
Finally in the negative column, motion handling is only solid rather than great, even with the Tru Motion feature active.
For all the 50UK3163DB’s flaws, though, there’s no other similarly priced TV right now that delivers so emphatically on the charms of both HDR and 4K.
The 50UK3163DB has a surprisingly game go at getting some value out of its Dolby Atmos decoding. Switching between the DTS and Dolby Atmos tracks on a couple of 4K Blu-rays clearly reveals an expansion in the size of the sound stage, a wider dynamic range, and a more aggressive, forward sound.
It’s noticeable, too, how the Dolby Atmos decoder locks dialogue to the screen, while projecting at least a semblance of a three-dimensional soundstage behind it and slightly to the sides.
Detail levels are quite high, and dialogue is never overwhelmed. The mid-range is quite open and expressive, and escalates decently well to meet the challenge of big action movie moments.
Treble can get quite harsh at high volumes, especially if there’s a dense soundmix underneath, and bass is in limited supply too. There’s no sign of cabinet rattle or speaker drop out/crackle, however, and the openness of the mid-range hides the lack of bass to some extent.
Basically, there’s seldom anything in the 50UK3163DB’s sound profile that actively distracts you from what you’re watching, while there’s actually quite a bit that actively tries to involve you.
Inevitably for its money, the Toshiba 50UK3163DB isn’t perfect. Black levels are average, its pictures sometimes border on harshness, and its colours sometimes look rather washed out.
Its entirely healthy obsession with trying to give you the maximum 4K and HDR bang for your buck may well win it plenty of fans, though. Especially in shops where it can be shown running side by side with its subtler rivals.
- Picture 4
- Sound 4
- Features 4
Read our review of the Samsung UE43AU7100
Read our Hisense Roku 50A7200GTUK review
Read our TCL 55RP620K review