Vizio VF551XVT LCD HDTV with LED Backlighting (Playback 25)

 

With the arrival of their VF551XVT, Vizio joins the ranks of LCD flat panel makers offering LED backlighting with local dimming

 

A little over six years or so ago, I transitioned from a career in audio and video product development and marketing to become a technology writer and reviewer. Back then, if someone had said that in a half dozen years or so an upstart TV company founded around that time would be leading the LCD flat panel sales charts this year, I would have probably asked two questions. The first would have been “What kind of drugs are you smoking?” The follow-up would have been “Can I have some?”

Clearly, Vizio has accomplished a lot in a relatively short period of time, firmly establishing themselves as the value brand leader in the hotly competitive HDTV LCD flat panel business. The recent debut of their first local dimming LED backlit LCD flat panel puts them in the company of long established TV makers, and the set delivers surprising performance along with perhaps the industry’s best value in a premium-tier model.

 

OVERVIEW

Consider this HDTV if: you’d like the latest technology, including local dimming LED backlighting and a really big screen for a price that is a fantastic value in terms of dollars per square inch of viewing area.

Look elsewhere if: A 55” set is too big for your situation, as that’s the only size in the LED backlit category that Vizio currently offers (that will probably change, though). The set also doesn’t feature LAN connectivity, which precludes internet TV show and movie streaming.

Ratings (relative to comparably-priced LCD HDTVs):

  • Overall picture quality (SD): 8
  • Overall picture quality (HD): 8
  • Features: 7
  • Connectivity: 9
  • User interface: 7
  • Value: 10

 

FEATURES

While Vizio is certainly not alone in trumpeting their VX551XVT as an LED HDTV, it’s still an LCD flat panel set, but instead of employing conventional fluorescent backlighting, behind the LCD imaging panel are hundreds of white LEDs, which are electronically sectioned off into blocks or zones, which allows the video processing circuitry to dim or brighten portions of the screen independently of others.

While the maximum brightness of the set is the same as with conventional fluorescent-driven sets, the key benefits here are blacker blacks and better dark grays, a performance area where LCD sets typically come up short compared to plasma sets. Off axis viewing is markedly improved compared to typical LCD sets, another area where plasma reigns supreme. While there is some contrast washout when viewed from way offside, it’s not nearly as much as with many other LCD HDTV flat panel sets.

In concert with the LED local dimming backlighting is Vizio’s 240 Hz screen refresh system. They call it 240 Scenes Per Second, and point out in the marketing literature that their system combines a 120 Hz refresh along with a blackout scene between each screen frame. While not as sophisticated as true 240 Hz refresh (which requires an interpolation system that can generate three new frames between each primary frame), the function works quite well, with a noticeable sharpness improvement on fast motion video, as well as smoothing of film-induced judder. The Low setting worked well, without inducing any motion reduction-related artifacts.

Comments

R Wood (not verified) -- Thu, 12/10/2009 - 14:56

I'm curious about the remote control. A cursor wheel is mentioned in the description but I'm guessing the remote is still a standard Infrared type? Some of the newer high end sets are starting to include an RF remote that doesn't have the bandwidth and line of site problems typical of an infrared type.

skris88 (not verified) -- Thu, 12/10/2009 - 17:33

More and more (smart) users don't need multiple inputs or sound on their TVs. They just need a 'monitor' with a HDMI digital video input (and a DVI cable adapter). The multiple "Inputs" will come from a media centre PC (Live TV, PVR, DVD, Blue Ray, games, Internet video, etc) which sends it's (digital) audio to an AV receiver.

Why are such "monitors" - of the same (relatively low) resolution as HDTVs - so hard to get and - where available - so expensive, when they have LESS (expensive) electronics in them than full TVs?

The first manufacturer who learns to have their tuner and multiple inputs as a plug-in module will start to save themselves a lot of money, and find a lot of smart buyers! Just image the advert - $2,000 HDTV ($1,800 as a monitor). Too complicated for the average Jac Citizen?

video fan (not verified) -- Thu, 12/10/2009 - 23:24

Regarding skris88 comment: I'd suspect those $200 are the profit on the set or a good chunk of it - and probably the cost for the other inputs is on the order of $10. It's like many other consumer products in competitive segments where all the money is made on the options.

ShiraAV (not verified) -- Sun, 12/13/2009 - 02:58

These monitors do exist but they are sold to the professional market, pro AV installers and film studios. As such the electronics are actuallly better quality specs are better so they cost more and are not available at retail stores. search for the pro line of Panasonic plasmas and their interchangeable plug in input modules

idealsoundlistener (not verified) -- Fri, 12/11/2009 - 11:44

Most DVD players now offer access to internet, including either amazon or netflix for movies, and youtube, so it seems to me that the lack of internet connectivity should not be a deal breaker.

videoguide -- Sun, 08/01/2010 - 15:32

With $1400 price tag for Vizio VF551XVT I am almost ready to upgrade my 42'' older LCD for the sake of lower profile and bigger screen.

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