Despite putting in a largely likable picture performance, the 42VL963's appeal is seriously hampered by its overly fussy user interface and lacklustre remote control.
The latter looks classy, with a gloss black panel and large buttons lain on a curved silver base.
However, it's badly weighted to the top – where the battery compartment lies in its undercarriage – and it's not very responsive at all.
Numerous times during the review did we have to wait for commands to be accepted by the TV or, more usually, discover that the TV just didn't allow quick commands.
Whatever we tried, the 42VL963 was always either two steps behind, or half asleep. Even switching between picture presets involve a second or two of blank screen.
Sadly, the 'quick menu' button on the remote brings up some pretty unusual settings, such as picture size and headphone sound levels. It's hardly streamlining.
The remote also lacks a 'back' button of suitable size and placement, since it turns out to be the primary button for getting out of menus, returning to main menus and swapping between MP3 songs and videos.
Toshiba has designed a potentially useful carousel behind the Menu button that puts major functions together; Connected TV (which leads to links to YouTube, BBC iPlayer and the Toshiba Places pages), Media Player (USB or network-sourced media), Function (just a sleep timer) and Setup (Picture, Sound, System Setup and Preferences).
Toshiba Places is slow to navigate, though apps load quickly. However, when exiting Toshiba Places, we got an irritating 'Are you sure?' delaying message, with the default set to 'No'; three button presses to get back to live TV.
Digital file support via its USB slots is rather less irritating.
Amid a rather functional, but not unpleasant, USB Media Player interface that puts all folders and files in a simple grid on a black background, we managed first to play MP3, M4A and WMA music.
Video formats included AVC HD, AVI, MKV, MOV, MP4, MPEG and WMV HD (though not WMV), although for some reason a preview pane pops up when you hover over a specific file, though shows nothing.
Once again, the remote's buttons are too small and unresponsive to smoothly navigate within and between digital files; the left and right chapter skip buttons are also positioned at the base of the remote, which makes it tricky to use if holding the remote in one hand.
After taking four button presses to fire up the equally drab, slow Network Media Player interface instead, in our test the 42VL963 successfully streamed the same music file formats, albeit with a second or three's delay, but only AVI video files. Still, it's a decent effort.
The 42VL963's twin 10W speakers are a smidgen above average.
Hidden in the Advanced menus is a surprisingly effective voice-enhancement mode, while the Audyssey ABX function – available on a low or high setting – adds some finesse to treble highs, though little in the way of much-needed bass.
Overall, the soundstage is wider and more detailed than most, though it's not particularly proficient with music.
The 42VL963's lack of Wi-Fi puts it a step behind most of its competitors at this price, though it's arguably the lack of a dual-core processor and a decent remote control that puts the 42VL963 down the pecking order, despite its thoroughly respectable pictures.
The provision of four pairs of 3D glasses – and plenty of ins and outs – do claw back some ground for the 42VL963, but not enough to prevent us from making this obvious conclusion; there are better value all-rounders available – and more user-friendly ones, at that.