Perhaps a year or so ago I remember reading a trade publication article on TV makers’ market share, and was surprised to see relative newcomer Vizio occupying the fifth spot—a remarkable achievement for a brand that hasn’t been around all that long. And recently another trade article appeared that showed that Vizio sales had increased so substantially that by the end of 2007, they were in solid third place, nipping closely at the heels of long-term players Sony and Samsung (very close in fact, with only a fraction of a percentage point separating all three).
We wanted to include a Vizio in last month’s Buyer’s Guide, but weren’t able to get a sample from its new line in time to meet our deadline (springtime is new model changeover time for most TV makers). The VO32L is Vizio’s newest 32-inch model, and it has a lot going for it, especially in terms of connectivity and overall picture quality. As with a couple of the other 32-inch 720p LCD models we looked at in last month’s Buyer’s Guide, the Vizio carries a suggested list price of $700, but the street price is much lower—the week that I received the review sample, it became available at a big-box retailer for $550—a healthy chunk of savings.
The set’s remote control is a step above average, with some buttons for discrete input selection along with a cursor keypad that doubles as the volume adjustment and channel selector control. The center Enter button is the only one that is backlit, and only lights up after it is pressed—a superfluous feature. The Last button has two functions—as a return to previous channel function while watching broadcasts and as an escape button for the on screen menu display.
Vizio has done its homework with the on-screen menu, as it is well laid out, for the most part, featuring Video, Audio, Setup and TV sub-menus, along with slider bar controls with numerical readouts. Unlike so many sets, the menu doesn’t disappear after just a few seconds of non-use (which is very helpful when setting the TV up with a good test disc), and the Last button is there to back out of the menu anytime you wish (the menu will disappear after a minute or so of inactivity).
Two caveats bear mention: First, the normal/ wide aspect ratio choices are buried within the Setup menu (and not the Video menu, where they should be in lieu of a dedicated button on the remote), and second, the aspect ratio is fixed with a high-definition source, either from broadcast or from an external player or cable/satellite box. While I personally have no problem watching 4:3 content with the attendant “pillarbox” vertical black bars on either side of the program, many folks want all of their widescreen TV’s pixels exercised all of the time, which is why almost all other HDTV sets offer at least one horizontal stretch mode that works regardless of the incoming signal’s resolution.
Another concern is that the set doesn’t offer a 1:1 pixel mode (most sets do). Having a 1:1 pixel mode means that there is no overscanning going on. With overscanning, the incoming picture information is slightly enlarged by five to ten percent or so, which, with high-resolution images that have a lot of fine detail, can result in the image manipulation processing involved producing noticeable “ringing” artifacts—possibly with noticeable softening of the picture. It’s certainly noticeable with test patterns, but is also occasionally noticeable with real program material. That said, I didn’t detect any ringing artifacts with anything other than 1:1 pixel test patterns on the Vizio.
Note: The following recommended settings were obtained using a Samsung Blu-ray player, set to 720p output, and connected to the set via HDMI, using the recently released Digital Video Essentials HD Basics Blu-ray test and set-up disc. Having a test DVD and/or HD disc on hand is really the only way to ensure that your source components and the display are properly adjusted, especially with respect to the brightness and contrast controls, among others.
(No Country For Old Men)
|The film’s opening scene features slow pans across the arid southwestern landscape, with individual foliage gently moving with the breeze, and is sharp as a tack on the Vizio.||Rich, without oversaturation. The color analyzer returns a very good score here, better than some displays I’ve measured that cost many times the price of the Vizio. The movie’s lush color palette looks as good on the Vizio as it does on much more expensive plasma and LCD sets I have on hand.||Quite good, as evidenced by the lack of any visible light from the letterboxed black bars above and below the film’s 2.35:1 image. This is with the backlighting set to a reasonably low level.||Better than average, for an LCD set. The third chapter has Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) hiding an automatic weapon under his trailer near dusk, and the rifle’s details are easily visible even in this darkly lit scene.||None noted.|
(Heart—Alive In Seattle)
|An excellent live concert video, featuring lots of closeup shots of various instruments being played and is suitably crisp and detailed.||Concert videos are an excellent choice to detect color artifacts such as banding. Here I see none, even with rich blue stage lighting, which can often be problematic.||Here again is another reason why a good concert video is extremely useful. The black microphones and their mesh screen covers are properly black and finely detailed.||Audience pans between songs show the mostly dark interior of the ornate auditorium, with the rococo details of the hall quite visible.||Occasional (and only barely noticeable) tearing artifacts that are more often than not a byproduct of the disc’s video editing and mastering.|
|Featuring lots of scenes of gleaming corporate and luxury airplanes, the Vizio puts out a great picture that is well detailed. A 1080i presentation that the Vizio properly downcoverts to 720p with no visible maladies.||Two scenes show the color capability of the Vizio. One is shot inside a Boeing Business Jet and is obviously over-saturated. The next scene is inside the NBA’s Miami Heat custom 727 airplane, and is correctly presented color-wise, showing that the Vizio simply presents whatever is being sent to it.||The camera pans over the Miami Heat’s Boeing 727 livery, with the back end of the plane painted in a deep black. The Vizio clearly reveals the gently rippling sheet metal fuselage under the black paint job.||Another good score here, with the cockpit of the original Air Force One (a Boeing 707 now in a museum) and slow pans over the instrument panel in dim light – it’s easy to read the various displays and markings.||None noted.|