Some TV makers have stopped offering LED-backlit LCD HDTVs with local dimming in order to focus on edgelit versions instead, but the value-minded brand Vizio continues its support of this important, performance-oriented product category with three updated top-tier models.
Vizio’s aim, obviously, is to grab share away from other premium-tier makers, as these latest sets are pretty much loaded to the gills with advanced features, and offer a level of performance that is surprising on a number of levels. In addition to the 47” set that we got to spend some quality time with for this review, there’s also a 42” version and a 55” model from which to choose.
Consider this HDTV if: you’re looking for a quality LED-backlit LCD TV with local dimming, and a feature set that’s surprisingly rich coming from a popular value brand.
Look elsewhere if: You’re really persnickety about picture artifacts that often accompany sets with LED local dimming backlighting systems—artifacts such as blooming. Instead, consider a 1080p plasma alternative, which on a comparable screen size basis could save you some money as well.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced LCD HDTVs):
• Overall picture quality (SD): 8
• Overall picture quality (HD): 9
• Features: 9
• Connectivity: 8
• User interface: 7
• Value: 8
With 240 Hz screen refresh (Vizio refers to this as Scenes Per Second), the set features both detail enhancement for fast motion content as well as judder reduction (smoothing) for film-originated content. As with other LCD-based sets, the use (or not) of the judder reduction capability is best left up to the user, as many film buffs don’t like the effect it provides.
Compared to its predecessor, Vizio’s latest 47” model features an increase in the number of local dimming control zones, up from 120 as before to 160 zones in the new unit. Increasing the number of local dimming zones, or clusters, provides greater local dimming precision, which in turn reduces the chances of “haloing”, which is a gentle gray fog against a black background that surrounds small bright portions of the screen image. Vizio also touts that with this latest series, the LEDs themselves can be turned off completely, whereas with earlier models the LEDs could only dim to 5% of their brightness but could not be completely turned off. This improvement allows for blacker blacks along with the usual inflated (and not to be believed) dynamic contrast specs.
The Vizio’s complement of installed Internet applications is broad indeed, with a raft of both free and pay-for-use service providers already installed. The list is extensive to be sure, and includes a selection of Yahoo widgets for various informational functions (news, weather and others), along with Internet radio (Pandora) streaming, photo viewing (Picassa, flickr), plus support for the popular social networking site Twitter, with which the Vizio is especially compatible due to its unique remote control design.
Unlike some competitive models, the Vizio provides more than one choice for streaming movie subscription services, with the set supporting Netflix, Amazon VideoOnDemand and Vudu HD. The set also features Rhapsody’s subscription streaming music service.
Along with a LAN port for wired Ethernet connection to the home network, the set features an on-board dual band 802.11n high speed wireless adapter, which will be a boon for those who want to place the set where no wired LAN connection is nearby, and which provides the speedy wireless connection that’s needed for glitch-free HD viewing. Vudu suggests a 4.5 Mb/S minimum and recommends an optimum 9 Mb/S rate for their HDX highest resolution HD streaming quality level, for example.
There are four HDMI inputs on the back panel, and a fifth on the side panel, and there’s a single component video input as well as a composite video input. There are three USB ports arrayed along the side panel, and the Vizio includes an RGB PC input that supports up to full 1920 x 1080 HD resolution. For connection to an external audio system (which we always recommend), there’s an optical digital output and a stereo analog output that can be configured as either fixed or variable. The HDMI inputs are the latest 1.4 specification and they support Audio Return Channel, which will be helpful for those with an external audio system who elect to use the set’s built-in DTV tuner.