The VIZIO's remote is a bit less convenient than the other two, though it's very flexible and complete. My main complaint was the tiny text on the buttons (necessary when you have this many buttons), which makes it difficult to identify them in a semi-lit room. To VIZIO's credit, the remote will control three other components (and can actually learn a limited number of commands in addition to the pre-programmed ones!) and does offer direct access to the video inputs (very nice). It's not lit, but at least common operations such as volume and channel changes are intuitive enough to do in near darkness.
The VIZIO has a dark gray trim (excellent), and its speakers are detachable (but don't have their own stands or wall-mounts). The owner's manual is well written and extremely straightforward.
The PICTURE tab of the on-screen menu revealed a welcome lack of generally worthless factory presets, but also had only one factory (very high or cool) color temperature, though it does give you the capability of setting your own color temp via RGB controls (more about this in the sidebar). Picture-setting memories, including the custom color temperature adjustments, are separate for each input. (Outstanding!) The SOUND tab has BBE enhancement (very useful for increasing dialogue clarity) but no simulated surround modes and no audio compression. The SOURCE tab allows you to pair your main source with a PIP sub-source and pick which one to listen to. With most sets, you're very limited in your choice of sub-picture sources for PIP. This set is quite flexible and even allows watching the computer simultaneously with most of the video sources. Additional picture controls are available when using the RGB inputs: PC. CLOCK includes two on/off timers and a sleep timer, with access to the sleep timer on the remote as well. Finally, in the SETUP menu you'll find an orbiter (PANEL PROTECTION), which moves the picture around the screen by a small (adjustable) amount to help prevent screen burn. There are no features to "repair" minor screen burn, but you could always run a 100 IRE full white screen from the Avia or Digital Video Essentials DVD test discs for 30 minutes or so to age the screen evenly.
The VIZIO P42HD excels in its computer and DVI features and controls and gets extra points for useradjustable (red, green, and blue) color temperature and the ability to fully customize the look of each input separately. The flexible learning remote is also a standout in most respects. The set loses a few points for lacking features to help eliminate minor screen burn and particularly for not including an HD tuner of any kind. [Note: the manufacturer reports that the VIZIO does have a defeatable pixel-motion feature that helps prevent screen burn.]
Right out of the box, most sets are adjusted way too bright (CONTRAST too high), crushing fine details in the brightest areas of the image and robbing the picture of real contrast and impact. Oddly enough, all three of these were set significantly below their maximum light capability, allowing fine details to emerge in the brightest scenes. Color saturation, as usual, was set way too high on all three. The most accurate color temperature setting was NORMAL on the Dell, though it still gave whites a reddish-orange tint. Other options were either too reddish or too bluish. WARM on the LG erred on the bluish side. The VIZIO had only one preset color temperature, which was also very bluish. My initial evaluations were done mostly with component inputs (for both DVDs and HD), after tweaking the user-accessible "front-panel adjustments" in the menus with test discs and selected movies. Ideally, they should then have looked more similar than different. They didn't.
Differences in color temperature and tracking—always the one thing responsible for the biggest differences in real-world viewing—made some colors in some scenes look drastically different. Even the color of a blue sky sometimes varied tremendously from set to set. The Dell often had a slightly greenish look on darker scenes. Dark scenes on the LG were extremely bluish rather than gray, but even on brighter scenes, black leather jackets always had a bluish look. The VIZIO, with its single coolish color temperature, suffered from slightly washed out colors and an overall emphasis toward blue, though it didn't have as severe a bluish tint on dark scenes as the LG (and could be user corrected to some extent—see the sidebar “Let’s Get Technical”). Brighter scenes sometimes looked close enough in side-byside comparisons that an untrained eye might initially see them as equal, but watching these sets side-by-side for more than a few minutes always revealed significant color differences. On one occasion, after several minutes of scenes in the DVD L.I.E.[New Yorker Video] that made all three sets look very much alike, a darker scene (Chapter 3, 13:47) containing a green lawn appeared. The Dell showed the grass as far greener and more saturated than the other two, which actually looked dull and bluish in comparison. The excess green (Dell) as well as the lack of it (LG and VIZIO) were both errors. Other (brighter) grass scenes looked identical. So, while there was no hands-down winner here (all had errors in one place or another), the Dell, right out of the box, somehow still looked the best.