The Toshiba UK31 is a budget 4K HDR TV that delivers a solid set of features at a competitive price but falls short on picture performance
Pros Dolby Vision and Dolby AtmosAmazon Alexa built-inEffective smart platformCons Limited brightness and colour gamut coverageNarrow optimal viewing anglesImages could be more accurate
Despite being the flagship entry in the company’s 2021 TV lineup, the Toshiba UK31 is an eminently affordable option for those seeking a 4K HDR television.
It sports a design and level of build quality that’s about what you’d expect at its price point but its big draws are support for both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, along with built-in Amazon Alexa.
Other strengths include decent image detail, low input lag and an effective, Linux-based smart platform. However, narrow viewing angles, limited brightness and colour gamut coverage and disappointing picture accuracy prevent it from standing out in a crowded market.
Toshiba UK31: Key specifications
|Screen sizes available:||43in 43UK31|
|Panel type:||VA-type LCD|
|Resolution:||4K/UHD (3,840 X 2,160)|
|HDR formats:||HDR, HLG, Dolby Vision|
|Audio enhancement:||Dolby Atmos|
|HDMI inputs:||3 x HDMI 2.0|
|Freeview Play compatibility:||Yes|
|Gaming features:||Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)|
|Wireless connectivity:||802.11bgn (2.4GHz)|
|Smart assistants:||Amazon Alexa built-in, works with Google Assistant|
|Smart platform:||Toshiba Smart Portal|
Toshiba UK31 LED LCD review: What you need to know
The Toshiba UK31 is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR smart LED LCD TV that comes in screen sizes ranging from 43in to 65in. Toshiba is rather vague when it comes to detailed specifications, but this Vestel-built TV appears to use a 60Hz VA panel with a direct LED backlight.
The UK31 runs the latest version of the Toshiba Smart Portal and supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. There’s also Dolby Atmos and built-in Amazon Alexa, along with a decent selection of streaming apps and Freeview Play, with the latter ensuring a full complement of TV catch-up services.
Toshiba UK31 LED LCD review: Price and competition
At the time of writing, you can buy the 50in Toshiba UK31 for £387, which is a great price for what is the brand’s top model. It’s a price not dissimilar to much of the competition, with Hisense, TCL and more established brands like LG and Samsung all offering comparable alternatives.
Like the UK31, Hisense’s A6G supports both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos and has Alexa built-in. In addition to a similar set of specs, the A6G retails for a very similar price: it’s available for £379 in the lead-up to Black Friday.
If you’d prefer one of the more established brands, the 50in LG UP75 will set you back £439. We reviewed the 43in model in October 2021 and were taken by its image accuracy, HDR tone-mapping and WebOS smart platform but it failed to deliver in some key areas.
Our favourite affordable 4K LCD TV of 2021 so far is the Samsung AU9000, which sports a design that belies its price tag, great gaming features and impressive SDR and HDR images. It is more expensive than the aforementioned options, however, with the 50in model costing £599. If you’re willing to downsize slightly, the 43in version can be picked up for a more wallet-friendly £429.
Toshiba UK31 LED LCD review: Design, connections and control
The Toshiba UK31 is fairly pedestrian in terms of its design, using a simple 10mm bezel and equally nondescript stand, with both finished in gloss black. The stand measures 545 x 250mm and offers 60mm of clearance for those planning to use a soundbar. If you’d rather wall mount, the UK31 is compatible with a 200 x 200 VESA bracket.
The 50in model measures 1,129 x 81 x 655mm (WDH) without the stand and weighs in at 12.5kg with the stand attached. The largely plastic construction reflects the price point and is fairly standard for a TV that, regardless of the brand name on the front, is actually manufactured by the Turkish TV giant Vestel.
There’s a combination of rear and side-facing connections, with the latter located 33cm from the edge of the screen. As a result, you shouldn’t see any cables poking out of the side when viewing the TV from the front.
These side-facing connections are composed of two HDMI 2.0 inputs, a USB-A port, an aerial socket and a CI (common interface) slot. Facing rearwards you’ll find an optical digital output, an Ethernet port, a satellite connector, a headphone jack, and a third HDMI 2.0 input. The only wireless connection is 2.4GHz Wi-Fi.
All three HDMI 2.0 inputs support 4K at 60Hz, HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, ALLM (auto low latency mode), HDCP 2.2, and CEC. One of the HDMI inputs also supports eARC (enhanced audio return channel). However, this TV doesn’t support 4K at 120Hz, VRR (variable refresh rate) or HDR10+.
As is often the case with Vestel-built remotes, the included controller is actually quite good. Finished in silver and black, the zapper is comfortable to hold and easy to operate with one hand. All the necessary buttons are present and correct, including direct access keys for Netflix, Prime Video and Freeview Play.
Toshiba UK31 LED LCD review: Smart TV platform
The Toshiba UK31 runs an operating system called the Toshiba Smart Portal, which is based around the smart platform developed by Vestel. It’s actually pretty good, with a clean user interface and intuitive navigation. Thanks to quad-core processing, it’s also fairly responsive, making the smart portal quick and slick to use.
The system is based around a launcher bar that appears along the bottom of the screen when the home key is pressed on the remote control. You can then use the up and down buttons to move through a series of options: Home, Search, TV, Settings, and Sources. Most of these are fairly self-explanatory, although TV and Home offer additional features.
The TV option provides access to Freeview Play, the EPG (electronic programme guide), channels, timers and recordings (with an attached storage device). Freeview Play also includes all the UK TV catch-up services, which are integrated into the EPG, allowing you to go backwards in the timeline and watch programmes you’ve missed.
The Home page itself offers a good selection of streaming services, including Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Britbox, Rakuten TV and Twitch. However, there are a few key services missing, such as Disney+, Apple TV+, and Now. The services that are there are quick to load, easy to navigate and offer 4K, HDR10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos where appropriate.
Amazon Alexa is built-in and in April 2022, Toshiba introduced a new ambient screen mode called Alexa Home Screen on its Alexa built-in models, including the UK31. This mode is effectively a customisable screensaver that allows you to access hands-free Alexa functions at any time and have info like the time, weather and calendar events displayed onscreen when the UK31 is on standby. If you’re not a fan of Alexa, the UK31 also works with Google Assistant, making it a smart TV with a degree of voice control.
Toshiba UK31 LED LCD review: Image quality
The Toshiba UK31 appears to use a VA panel, based on the limited viewing angles and native contrast ratio. The former means you need to be sat in front of the TV for the best image, while the latter measures 3,400:1, which is reasonable for an LCD display. This TV uses a direct LED backlight, and while there’s no form of local dimming, the screen uniformity is actually quite good.
The TV ships in Natural mode for SDR that, unsurprisingly, is inaccurate compared to the industry standards, with an excess of blue in the greyscale. The Cinema Night mode is better, and while blue still dominates the greyscale, the gamma tracks around 2.3, and there’s an average DeltaE (error) of 3 for all the colours, reflecting reasonable colour accuracy.
The SDR picture performance is good, but to avoid clipping, turn the Contrast setting down to 82, and also turn the Sharpness down to zero or the picture will look overly processed. Speaking of which, Toshiba’s Tru Picture Engine technology is reasonably effective and includes Tru Resolution, which does a decent job of upscaling lower resolution content to match the 4K panel.
The Tru Contour feature can be used to minimise banding with heavily compressed content, and while Tru Micro Dimming is supposed to improve the contrast levels, since this uses processing rather than actual dimming zones, the blacks remain more of a very dark grey. As for the Tru Blue control, aside from being the title of a Madonna album, its purpose remains a mystery.
Motion handling is good, given the inherent limitations of LCD as a display technology and the panel’s 60Hz refresh rate. As a result, there’s some blurring on fast motion like sport, but the Tru Flow feature adds frame interpolation. This improves perceived motion resolution, and the UK31 handles 24p content without introducing judder, allowing movies to retain a film-like quality.
Toshiba UK31 LED LCD review: HDR performance
The Toshiba UK31 supports HDR10, HLG (hybrid log-gamma) and Dolby Vision, but as is usually the case with TVs at this price point, the peak luminance is fairly limited. The UK31 hits around 335cd/m² on both a 10% window and a full-field pattern, regardless of which mode you select, so you’re better off choosing the more accurate Cinema mode.
The colour gamut coverage is also limited, with the UK31 struggling to cover the whole of BT.709, let alone the larger DCI-P3 standard used for HDR. In the more accurate Cinema mode, the Toshiba is only able to cover 81% of DCI-P3, resulting in an average DeltaE of around 19, which is fairly high and means colours aren’t reproduced very accurately. On the plus side, the TV rendered the fine detail in native 4K content with skill.
Despite these limitations, the HDR performance can still be good if the TV accurately tone maps the HDR content to its inherent capabilities. This is demonstrated perfectly by using the demo sequence on the Spears & Munsil 4K Blu-ray. This has the same footage in various formats, allowing for direct comparison of the overall HDR performance.
The UK31 was clearly clipping HDR10 content, whether it was graded at 1,000, 4,000 or 10,000 nits. However, watch exactly the same footage with Dolby Vision and the results are very different. The format’s dynamic metadata precisely maps the HDR to the display’s capabilities, producing images free of any clipping, with saturated but natural-looking colours.
It’s a shame that more budget models (and quite a few expensive ones) don’t include Dolby Vision because it really makes a difference with HDR on less capable TVs. The UK31 allows you to enjoy Dolby Vision content on Netflix and supported 4K discs, which is a big plus at its price point.
To test the Toshiba UK31 we used Portrait Displays Calman colour calibration software.
Toshiba UK31 LED LCD review: Gaming
The Toshiba UK31 isn’t a great choice for next-gen gaming as its panel only has a refresh rate of 60Hz, the HDMI ports are all of the 2.0 variety and there’s no support for VRR. However, if you’re using an older console or not a stickler for the latest features, it’ll still do the job.
There’s support for Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), input lag is just 10.3ms in game mode and as an LCD panel, there’s no danger of image retention or screen burn no matter how many hundreds of hours the Call of Duty HUD stays on the screen.
Gaming performance is generally good, with the low input lag producing a responsive and enjoyable experience. The 4K images look detailed, and motion is pleasingly smooth. The limited colour gamut still looks suitably punchy, but the poor tone-mapping with HDR10 does result in a tendency to clip some of the highlights.
Toshiba UK31 LED LCD review: Sound quality
The Toshiba UK31 uses a pair of down-firing speakers, each of which has 10W of built-in amplification. The TV can’t decode DTS, but includes a number of self-explanatory sound modes: Music, Movie, Speech, Classic, Flat, and User. However, the performance is clearly limited by the size and location of the speakers, along with the general lack of power.
As a result, there’s little in the way of bass extension, and the restricted soundstage tends to sound brittle at higher volumes. While the inclusion of Dolby Atmos can’t work miracles, it does at least give the audio a greater feeling of presence with supporting soundtracks. However, if you want good audio quality, you should really consider investing in a soundbar.
Toshiba UK31 LED LCD review: Verdict
The Toshiba UK31 reflects the strengths and weaknesses of a TV in its price bracket. Picture performance is sometimes hindered by the inherent limitations of the panel, image accuracy could be better and the HDR10 tone mapping is prone to clipping. However, when set up correctly the resulting picture is perfectly watchable, especially when enjoying Dolby Vision content.
The inclusion of Dolby Atmos is very welcome too, built-in Amazon Alexa will appeal to those invested in the Alexa ecosystem and support for Google Assistant means the two most popular methods of voice control are covered. Toshiba’s smart platform is another positive, proving both effective and easy to navigate, but the absence of a couple of key streaming services may prove a dealbreaker for those seeking a truly comprehensive selection of content options.
Ultimately, the Toshiba UK31 fails to truly stand out in a very crowded budget 4K marketplace. It’s got plenty going for it, but the similarly priced Hisense A6G has the edge in terms of build quality and design. And if your budget allows, you’d be much better off forking out slightly more for the excellent Samsung AU9000.