The Toshiba 55QA5D63DB deploys no less than five promising lines of attack to try and win the hearts and minds of hard-pressed UK TV punters. First, its 55-inch screen uses Quantum Dots to make its colours, rather than the more common but less efficient and less effective filters. Second, it boasts a content-rich smart system courtesy of Android TV. Third, it supports all four of the current HDR formats, when most brands only support two or three. Fourth, it boasts a speaker system designed with audio brand Onkyo. Fifth and most importantly, it costs just £429 (around $525 / AU$750) – remarkably little for such a big and promisingly specified TV. Time to go in search of the catch…
Getting a 55-inch TV of any sort for just £429 (around $525 / AU$750) looks like a great deal. And that’s even before you’ve added into the equation the Toshiba 55QA5D63DB’s premium Quantum Dot colour system, expansive high dynamic range support and content-rich Android TV smarts.
The only other TV we’ve looked at that offers Quantum Dots on a 55-inch TV for anything like the same price is the £529 (around $645 / AU$925) TCL 55C735K which, while obviously a little more expensive, also offers some key gaming features that the Toshiba does not.
If you want to go even cheaper and can live without Quantum Dots, Toshiba’s 50UK4D63DB is a surprisingly effective all-rounder currently available for just £349 (around $400 / AU$575).
All of these TVs are, unfortunately, exclusive to the UK.
The 55QA5D63DB’s design sets a mixed tone. The frame around the screen is wider than we typically see these days, and it has a seam that looks a bit clumsy. Build quality is decent for such a cheap TV, though, and the mixture of black on three sides and grey for the deliberately and stylishly protruding bottom edge works well.
The two desktop feet set towards each corner if you’re not wall hanging the TV feature an attractive blade design that means they all but disappear if you’re looking at the TV straight on.
The 55QA5D63DB ships with a plasticky, rather drab-looking remote control – though this does redeem itself a bit by carrying a fair selection of buttons for providing direct access to key streaming services.
The 55QA5D63DB’s combination of a Quantum Dot colour system (which can deliver cleaner, purer, brighter colours than the usual LCD colour filter approach) and direct LED lighting (where the LEDs sit directly behind the screen rather than around its edges) raise hopes of a better performance level than you’d usually get for so little money.
Potentially undermining these hopes, though, is the 55QA5D63DB’s use of an IPS type of LCD panel rather than a VA one. This means, based on past experience, that it may remain enjoyable to watch from a wider viewing angle than VA rivals, but will likely struggle to deliver serious contrast.
There’s no local dimming system to deliver local light controls, but this isn’t surprising at all at the 55QA5D63DB’s price point.
Also not surprising for the 55QA5D63DB’s money is the slightly limited nature of its connections. Three HDMIs dominate rather than the four you can generally expect if you step up a couple of hundred pounds, and none of these three HDMIs supports the latest premium gaming features of 4K/120Hz or VRR.
There does seem to be some support for the ALLM switching feature that can switch TVs into their fast-response Game mode whenever a game source is detected, but this doesn’t work as consistently during our tests as it should.
Our resident Xbox Series X detects the 55QA5D63DB as capable of operating in Dolby Vision HDR mode while gaming, but warns that this mode will likely be affected by high levels of latency. A warning that proves correct to a pretty much unplayable extent, alas.
Screen size 55 inches (also available in 43, 50, and 65in)
Type LCD with Direct LED backlight
HDR formats HLG, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
Operating system Android TV
HDMI inputs x3
HDMI 2.1? Yes
Gaming features ALLM
Optical output Yes
Dimensions (HWD, without stand) 71 x 123 x 6.9cm
Dolby Vision is far from the only HDR format the 55QA5D63DB supports. In fact, it also covers all three of the other key HDR formats found in today’s content world: HDR10, HLG and HDR10+. This means that the 55QA5D63DB will take in the best version available of any source it’s presented with.
The 55QA5D63DB’s Dolby connection extends to Dolby Atmos audio decoding too, while its onscreen menus include a surprisingly broad range of picture set-up options – including various tweaks for Toshiba’s proprietary ‘Tru’ Picture Engine video processor. For the most part, though, the impact of many of the provided adjustments is pretty limited. Some of the features are so inscrutably named and poorly explained, too, that it’s actually pretty much impossible to figure out what they’re supposed to do.
As noted earlier, the 55QA5D63DB has gone for Android TV for its smart system. This means that there’s no repeat of the missing Disney+ and Apple TV+ apps situation found with the otherwise impressive Toshiba 50UK4D63B. In fact, content levels are high, especially as Toshiba has also brought on board Freeview Play to cover Android TV’s blind spots when it comes to the catch-up apps for some of the UK’s main terrestrial broadcasters.
The 55QA5D63DB’s Android implementation is slightly sluggish at times, and during our time with the set, we’ve experienced a few bugs, such as sudden momentary brightness drops seemingly unrelated to any specific picture setting, and complete losses of sound (and loss of control over the sound) that could only be fixed by fully powering the TV down. Hopefully, these niggles can be addressed by firmware updates.
With just the right content, the 55QA5D63DB can deliver some pretty engaging pictures. Unfortunately, though, most of the time its picture quality varies between disappointing and flat-out poor.
The main source of both its strengths and flaws is its brightness. Right out of the gate, you can tell that it’s much brighter than its cheaper 50UK4D63B sibling. This enables it to deliver much more of the brightness, both in small ‘peaks’ and full-screen situations, that high dynamic range content thrives on.
In fact, while we’re obviously not talking about levels of brightness even close to those the best OLEDs or, especially, premium LCD TVs can produce, the 55QA5D63DB is bright enough to deliver comfortably the biggest escalation from SDR to HDR of any TV in its price class.
The higher native brightness of the 55QA5D63DB also means it suffers less with clipping (loss of subtle shading and details) in the brightest areas than the 50UK4D63DB.
Bright HDR scenes additionally reveal the benefits of the 55QA5D63DB’s Quantum Dots, as they appear richly saturated, vibrant and intense, yet also surprisingly rich in nuance and shading subtlety for a TV with such a modest price tag.
The 55QA5D63DB’s love of brightness, though, together with its use of an IPS panel, sees its picture wheels falling off spectacularly whenever there’s a dark scene – or even a dark part of an otherwise bright image – to handle. Black levels are the weakest we’ve seen for many a moon, leaving dark scenes looking consistently washed out, greyed over, flat, short of subtle detailing and just totally unconvincing.
You can improve things marginally – and we do mean marginally – by tinkering with the Adaptive Luma and Local Contrast controls. But even with the 55QA5D63DB’s contrast optimised as much as possible, very dark scenes in beloved films are honestly difficult to watch.
It doesn’t help, either, that the mist and clouding that hangs over dark scenes can sometimes take on a reddish or bluish tint that throws up an even greater barrier between you and what you’re trying to watch.
The 55QA5D63DB’s inability to deliver anything remotely resembling a true black colour means, too, that even its Quantum Dots can’t stop colours looking much flatter and less natural during dark scenes than they do during bright scenes.
The 55QA5D63DB’s black-level woes are less pronounced when you’re watching SDR content, and can also be countered to a degree by making sure there’s quite a lot of ambient light in your room. These are hardly ideal compromises, though – especially as the 55QA5D63DB is in many ways designed with HDR in mind.
There are, to be fair, one or two more picture areas where the 55QA5D63DB does pretty well. Its native 4K pictures are crisp and sharp (a touch too much in its Vivid and Standard picture presets, perhaps), and the sharpness doesn’t break down badly when there’s motion in the frame. Nor is there any of the overt smearing or excessive judder we still often see on budget TVs, even with 24p movie sources.
We recommend using the Low setting of the TV’s motion processing system, as this slightly eases judder without causing unwanted processing side effects or turning films into soap operas. But if you just can’t cope with the idea of using motion processing, the 55QA5D63DB is still pretty easy to watch without it.
The 55QA5D63DB is a better upscaler of HD sources than we might have expected for its money, adding good texture, sharpness and even depth to HD sources. And as one final small strength, its IPS panel retains colour better when the TV is viewed from an angle than rival VA-type panels would.
The IPS panel can’t stop contrast suffering quite badly during viewing from an angle, though, giving us one apt final reminder that for all the things the 55QA5D63DB gets right, its problems with contrast are so fundamental during all but the most glaringly bright content that they’re really pretty hard to live with. In fact, we much prefer the pictures of Toshiba’s substantially cheaper 50UK4D63B, proving – not for the first time – that just throwing Quantum Dots at a screen isn’t the guarantee of better picture quality you might expect. At least at the budget end of the TV world.
Finally, if you’re a gamer desperately clinging to the idea that the 55QA5D63DB’s brightness and bold colours might still play nicely with today’s HDR games, we’re afraid we have more bad news: even in its Game preset, Toshiba’s TV only manages to get input lag down to an underwhelming 50ms or so. That’s five times longer than the best gaming TVs manage.
The 55QA5D63DB’s speakers, which have been designed in conjunction with Onkyo, are seriously powerful, making it one of the flat-out loudest budget TVs we’ve ever heard.
Dolby Atmos playback enjoys a really large sound stage too, which as well as spreading far to left and right actually seems to have a degree of height to it. Certainly, you get the impression of a wall of sound rather than just a horizontal ‘splay’.
The speakers are sensitive enough to present even the subtlest of audio details with conviction and presence, while dialogue is clear and intelligible at all times, no matter how much of a racket there might be going on behind it.
The speakers even have the dynamic range and power to keep on growing in step with an escalating action scene – something many TVs costing way more fail to do – and the sound consistently has direct impact, rather than sounding as if it’s all getting swallowed up somewhere behind the screen.
The only issue is that treble effects can sound over prominent, drawing too much attention to themselves and becoming a touch abrasive at high volumes – something that happens in part because the 55QA5D63DB isn’t as generous with its bass as it is with its high frequencies. Despite these relatively small niggles, though, the 55QA5D63DB sounds impressive overall for such an affordable TV.
The 55QA5D63DB sounds good, stands out from crowded budget TV shelves thanks to its brightness and price, and offers a comprehensive smart TV solution. Unfortunately, though, all of its good work is fatally harpooned by a contrast performance so bad it can be borderline unwatchable at times.
- Picture 2
- Sound 4
- Features 4
Read our review of the TCL 55C735K
Also consider the Toshiba 50UK4D63DB
Read our Xiaomi F2 review