If you read Sound & Vision steadily, you know we've only recently embraced LCD flat-panels for serious home theater viewing, mainly because the newest models mitigate LCD's longstanding problems with poor reproduction of black and smearing on fast motion. Taking its proud place in this pack of breakout flat-panels is the Toshiba 47LZ196 Regza 47-inch LCD HDTV, the flagship in the company's new top-of-the-line Cinema Series Regza Pro family.
This 47-incher has a commanding presence out of the box with its smart, gloss-black bezel with beveled edges, "hidden" speakers, and matte-black swivel stand. But it's what you don't see that sets it apart: Along with competitive picture quality, the 47LZ196 has more bells and whistles than a busful of one-man bands.
The package starts with a high-rez 1080p screen and a jack pack with two 1080p-capable HDMI inputs, two RF antenna/cable inputs, and a CableCARD slot (for use with an embedded TV Guide On Screen program guide). An Ethernet connection to your home network allows streaming of MP3 and JPEG files to the TV (where you can make slide shows) and lets you receive and send emails (albeit clumsily, via an onscreen virtual keyboard). You can even email the TV to schedule a recording on your video recorder. The remote has buttons for freeze-frame as well as a double-window function that splits the screen between two inputs so you can keep an eye on two games simultaneously.
Speaking of the remote, its well thought-out layout is among the best I've seen. The button to activate the full backlight is smartly positioned at the upper left corner, where you can always find it in the dark. The good-size Input button is equally accessible, at the bottom right corner of the numeric keypad; hitting it brings up a menu showing all inputs, which you can then select directly by number, via the navigation keys, or by repeatedly pressing the Input button. About the only awkwardly placed control of any import was the Pic Size button for widescreen modes. Otherwise, this remote was pure joy - a rarity indeed.
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