Look! It's the stereotypical modern television, featuring a thick black plastic bezel, a black plastic stand, a speaker bar at the bottom of the screen, and ports on the side and back of the display.
There is no flair to this TV: no brushed metal finish, no clear plastic bezel, no touch of color design, no fancy stand apparatus. The profile is thick due to CCFL backlighting which, by today's standards, is so 2002. The is a function TV, not an expensive room accessory and you would buy it for its list of features at the remarkably low price, not its aesthetics.
No touch-sensitive controls is a plus for the . Classic button controls are easy to find and distinguish in the dark, and they won't leave unsightly fingerprints on the bezel of your set.
The remote for the is a powerful tool for sure. This compact device has the responsibilities of controlling the internet, streaming video, VIZIO Internet Apps, 3D imaging, a horde of menus and standard operation simultaneously. It does a good job too.
One side of the remote looks like a standard TV remote, with the additional buttons for Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and Vudu. Be aware of the shininess of the veneer on this remote, which looks nice but really only stands to pick up finger prints. We had to wipe it clean after about a minute of use for the product photos.
The other side is a full QWERTY keyboard with a directional pad and four buttons in what appears to be the shape of a Super Nintendo controller. This is very interesting, in that there are games in the VIZIO Apps Store, and as they develop the remote on the would be ready to handle a reasonable amount of gaming complexity.
The buttons on the keyboard side are much stiffer than those on the general playback side. You have to put a little effort into engaging each letter, but they do spring right back giving your fingers bounce to type anew.
As well as a television, the box provided a double-sided remote with batteries, two sets of 3D passive polarized glasses (1 Basic, 1 Premium), a detachable power cord, a cleaning cloth, a safety tether to secure your TV to the wall, a user manual, a quick start guide, warranties and warning documents.
The had an average black level for its LCD screen. LCDs tend not to achieve rich black levels of less than 0.1 cd/m2 like you find on plasma screens. Only the super-high-end Sony in our LCD lineup dropped past 0.1; impressive indeed. More on how we test black level.
The screen on the can get really bright, as shown by the peak brightness chart below. Televisions that shine around 250 cd/m2 are more than bright enough to watch in any room in the house, anything past 250 is gravy, and you get a good helping of that from the . More on how we test peak brightness.
Contrast ratio is deduced from a television's peak brightness divided by its lowest black level and is a measurement of value for televisions in today's market. A higher contrast ratio means a greater difference between light and dark, which translates into more detail in all images.
Two of the comparison models in the chart below are expensive, high-end models from strong brands, which is why they have some of the best contrast ratios available. Though not at the top in this comparison, the has a strong contrast ratio, especially matched against the other VIZIO, a higher-end screen that costs a few hundred bucks more. More on how we test contrast.
We test to see if increasing or decreasing the area of a black rectangle on the screen has an effect on the black level produced by the television. Though there is a steady trend of brightening as this rectangle got smaller, it is not enough to be noticeable, giving the a strong score here. More on how we test tunnel contrast.
If you reverse the tunnel contrast test, you get our White Falloff test (increasing/decreasing a rectangle of white and its effect on peak brightness). The straight horizontal line of the graph below shows that the has no problems with maintaining its peak brightness no matter how large or small an area of pure white is displayed. More on how we test white falloff.
The is lit by Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFL) an older technology than the current trend of LED lights. It is hard to get a great uniformity from either of these technologies actually, given that there will be unlit gaps between any arrangement of lights.
The center of the 's screen is clear of any cloudiness on both black and white screens. The problem is the edges and the corners of the screen which create a circular cloudy frame around the entire picture. These cloudy edges are not large, but we removed points because this circular rim is not only cloudy, but noticeably colored. On an all white screen, the edges and corners are definitely yellowish to the point of distraction. When watching actual content it was less apparent, but now that we know it's there, we see it all the time. More on how we test white falloff.
In this test, we see how smoothly a screen transitions along the grey scale from black to white. The ideal graph would be a straight line with a slope between 2.1 and 2.2.
The line in the chart is not exactly straight, there is a bit of curve at the black end of the spectrum. Also, the line is not exactly smooth, as there are small jumps up and down where the could not produce the correct grey value, most notably at the darker end of the spectrum as well. The slope of the line (2.62) is far enough outside the 2.1 to 2.2 range for us to be unimpressed. All together, this is a pretty typical performance from a mid-level television. More on how we test greyscale gamma.
Color temperature doesn't get much better than what you see in the chart below. The showed no aberrations in the color temperature outside the human perception error limit at any level of brightness. In other words, the color temperature was spot on, except for a few small divergences that you will not be able to notice. More on how we test color temperature.
This chart of the three primary colors shows how well the was able to transition colors along a signal spectrum from darkest to brightest. In a perfect world, these three lines would be the same: perfectly smooth, slightly curved lines, stretching from 0 to 100% luminance with no plateaus.
What you see in the chart is something close to the ideal, with a few problems. The lines are pretty jumpy, meaning that the was not producing the correct color value at the given luminance. Furthermore, it looks like the reds and the blues peak early. Early peaking manifests as an inability to show detail in the most brightly colored images. More on how we test RGB curves.
The strips below are visual representations of the RGB curves above. If we said something about the curves, you should be able to see it in the strips. The jumps in the lines, where the could not produce the correct color value, will show up in the strips as bands of color instead of the smooth gradient you see in the ideal response. Early peaking will show up as a block of one color at the brightest end of the gradient.
We try to give our televisions every reasonable advantage during testing. For our motion tests, we turned the video processing feature "Smooth Motion Effect" on to "High", something we tend to turn off when watching actual content. Motion smoothing processing can make film-based content smoother than it was intended to be viewed. The result is that shows and movies lose their filmic quality and look much more like a daytime soap opera. Smoothing is great for sports however, and should be considered on game day.
Anyway, we turned this feature on and it helped immensely in our motion tests. Photographs moving back and forth across the screen lost very little detail, faces were recognizable and fine details, like mortar between bricks, were as clear in motion as they were statically.
The only noticeable problems were with slight artifacts. Anything in the image that is not part of the original signal is called an artifact. There was some flickering at the edges of moving objects and a slight overall warping of the object when it reached either end of the screen. The had the most artifacts with high frequency patterns in motion, showing increased flickering and minor color trailing, but all-around, the motion performance was really strong. More on how we test motion performance.
Not every television can handle 24 frames per second well. With refresh rates averaging at 60 Hz (i.e. 60 frames per second) it is hard to convert 24 to 60 in a way that won't flicker. This has historically been a problem, and some televisions today are still unequipped to deal with different refresh rates.
None of this is difficult for the , with a couple of processing modes to handle 24fps content. "Film Mode", when set to Auto, detects 24fps content and adjusts accordingly. This setting eliminated almost all flickering in our 24fps high frequency patterns and added a good deal of smoothness to the motion as well. The other function, "Real Cinema Mode" had two settings: Precision and Smooth. Precision actually made matters worse, displaying more flickering especially with moire patterns. Smooth on the other hand was another improvement on top of "Film Mode" on Auto. Flickering was eliminated and detail in motion was stark as well as smooth. The showed exemplary performance here. Hey other brands, get a pen ready and take notes. More on how we test 3:2 pulldown and 24fps.
Changing resolution can cause problems for a display. A television will try to fit a differently sized image to the same amount of screen. Often, changes in resolution force parts of the image to end up off-screen somewhere, causing the television to try and fit the remaining picture to its exact matrix of pixels. This is called overscan. When a television overscans, it is trying to take a truncated image and fit it to an specific number of pixels, but it will not map exactly 1:1 because parts of the image are not being used for the mapping. The picture needs to be stretched or squished and problems displaying an exact signal will result.
This lengthy explanation is necessary to show you how awesome the is at resolution scaling. No overscan in the two HD formats and a minimal amount of overscan at 480p means the is a beast, and won't have problems at different resolutions. More on how we test resolution scaling.
In 480p, the displayed 6% vertical and 4% horizontal overscan, which is not awful considering the aspect ratio is also changing from 16:9 to 4:3, which won't map perfectly any way you do it.
This overscanning didn't seem to bother the , it showed great detail in resolution tests, only showing a little banding in our highest frequency patterns. Text was a little less legible than in other formats, but it is also harder to show fine detail at 480p because there are fewer pixels from the original signal.
It was an easy switch from 1080p to 720p. There was no overscan, no problems with moire patterns and only the slightest amount of banding in the highest frequency pattern. Text legibility was easy, with smaller fonts squishing together, but still very readable.
Normally, we wouldn't bother writing about the native resolution, but we deducted a point because of the 1080p performance. This was the only resolution that showed color artifacts in our moire patterns. Banding was not a problem, all patterns were displayed accurately, but some of them were a light greenish-blue. If someone on screen is wearing a heavily patterned shirt or jacket, it may show some blue hue skew. Who knew?
This VIZIO offers passive 3D imaging. Passive 3D takes a full 1080p image, doubles it up slightly offset, cuts out every other line of pixels on both images at 45º and 135º angles respectively, and re-maps the image to a now 540p resolution. The glasses you wear are polarized such that your left eye blocks out one set of angles, and your right eye blocks out the other to produce stereoscopy. The end result is a 3D image displayed at almost standard definition. Tilting your head left and right destroys the 3D image because the glasses are no longer at the correct angle to block out the proper set of pixels. But passive 3D is cheap! The glasses can be bought from about $5 or $10, or stolen from your local movie theater which work just fine. Watching 3D with family or friends is much more accessible to the average consumer when using passive polarized glasses.
One of the options in the 3D menu is "3D Sensio" which refers to content using the Sensio codec. VIZIO is partnering with Sensio to offer 3D content that has virtually lossless compression, with claims of providing 1080p resolution for passive 3D. As with any new technology, there are many competing brands of 3D-encoded content vying for dominance of the market, Sensio is one of them. There is not much Sensio encoded content out there yet, we did not have access to any, but VIZIO will make titles available through their streaming video on demand.
We tested the 3D experience with the passive, polarized glasses that came with the . It is necessary to have your head at or below the height of the center of the television, at least six feet away for the intended effect. The side-to-side viewing angle for maintaining 3D was very wide. We found that the depth was not as intense as some of the active 3D televisions we have tested, but it was also not as sickening when objects close to the screen passed by. Specific to the were problems with crosstalk, especially with blue and black colors.
Switching from 2D to 3D, a large amount of contrast is lost. This is caused by the glasses you wear. All of the glasses have some tint to the lenses, thereby darkening any image that the displays. At the same time, television engineers know that the glasses will darken your picture, and they will brighten the picture to compensate. But we have the television set at maximum brightness already, and so this can only brighten the black level. The result is a lower peak brightness, a black level that is not as dark, and in this case, a contrast ratio cut in half. Comparatively, this is not a bad contrast ratio for 3D, despite the losses.
Slightly more cool than in 2D, this color temperature is still great. The graph does not breach the perceptible error limit until the brightest end of the spectrum. The brightest pictures on the will be slightly blueish, but not by much.
The color curves below are fairly smooth, some small jumping shows that, in 3D, the had a little trouble producing every value of each color along a gradient from darkest to brightest. The reds and blues peak early, you can see the greens go all the way to brightest without flat-lining, which is ideal. Reds and blues will have no further detail past a certain brightness in 3D.
The 2D color gamut was above-average in accuracy for the , and makes a good reference point for the 3D colors. The biggest differences in the two sets of colors from 2D to the 3D were the blues and white point. You can see below, that the white point is headed for the blues, the blues are under-saturated and a skewed a little cyan. These readings are all filtered through 3D glasses, so the has to adjust the colors accordingly. This VIZIO is doing a solid job of keeping all the colors normal given the multiple layers of processing required to watch 3D.
Crosstalk is what causes the breakdown of a 3-dimensional illusion. The original signal needs to be separated so your eyes receive different pictures to create a sense of depth. When parts of the left image invade the right, or vice versa, this is called crosstalk and it drastically takes away from the intended effect.
We measured crosstalk on the by covering the left lens of the polarized glasses and sending left and right images to the right lens. We then recorded how much of the left image was seen through the right lens for every color, black, and white. Blacks and blues were the biggest crosstalk offenders, with the worst crosstalk occurring with black on green and black on white. We saw this in action when we viewed 3D content. Is there a blue sky? Then every character has a distracting halo around them. Are there any shadows or is anyone wearing black? More halos, less depth.
VIZIO provides two pairs of polarized 3D glasses when you buy a : the "Basic Theater" glasses and the "Premium Theater" glasses. The difference between these two are merely a sense of style and something like $20. VIZIO encourages you to bring these glasses to the theater as they will work there too, while supplying advertising for VIZIO.
The glasses are much more comfortable than the active shutter ones we have used for other 3D models. They are extremely light, because really they are nothing more than cheap, polarized sunglasses, but not having to wear some serious hardware was a nice break. They fit nicely over prescription glasses, and after a while you might even forget they are there.
The displays at 1080p and can handle all standard NTSC formats.
If you look at the tight grouping of the comparisons in the chart below, you can see that the viewing angle for the is relatively standard for an LCD screen.
Bright LED lights shined directly at the screen of the were reflected back strongly. There was not much of a diffusion pattern around the lights, which shows us that the is not designed to handle strong lights pointed at the screen. Adding angle to the lights helped with the reflection greatly. As long as you aren't shining a flashlight directly at your screen while you watch, reflectance should not be a problem.
There are many video processing features on the , in fact more than the manual lets you know about. Below we detail them all and tell you if it's a marketing ploy or something you may actually want to use.
The comes pretty close to calibrated out of the box. We made a few adjustments using DisplayMate software to get the best all-around quality on this set and below you can see the changes we made.
All of our calibration is done in conjunction with the DisplayMate software.
With so many features, it is no surprise that the has plenty of video modes that we delineate in the table below.
VIZIO labels their connections "Good" for composite, "Better" for VGA and component, and "Best" for HDMI in case you needed to know what type of quality you will get from each connection type. Most people interested in this TV with its various features will know HDMI from composite, but it's just a friendly reminder.
The ports are found on the back and the left side of the in an extremely tight configuration. Though there is space for connections with composite, component, VGA with 1/8th inch audio, cable/antenna connection, and the analog in and out, they are packed so closely together that the wires extending out will form a thicket of cables. If you have an entourage of older devices, you may have to plan out the sequence of how you connect them all. The three HDMI and two USB ports are separated from the rest of the bunch to make for quick and easy connections.
On the side are the HDMI ports for speedy hookup and the two USB ports that accept media files for playback of photo slideshows, downloaded video and audio content.
The menus directly effect the picture on the by squishing it to the right, or up a little with the DLNA menu. Specifically the DLNA menu did not just change the aspect ratio, but added artifacts like extra signal noise and faint halos. You will not be watching anything with the menu up, but you should not worry about changing settings to fix this because it will go away when no longer being used.
You get two instruction manuals with the : a quick start guide, for those itching to get into streaming 3D content, and a more extensive user manual. The user manual is easy to read, well-organized with a helpful table of contents. There is no index for quick reference and no tabs for easy section opening, but it is short enough that this will not burden you.
We gave this particular manual a couple of extra points for excellent photos with call-outs explaining all of the connections, and an grid demonstrating where overscan will occur in various formats and screen size settings.
Between the two manuals you will get the help you need, explained in a simple and clear manner.
We got excited by the full keyboard on the remote. All that QWERTY made us assume that there would be a web browser to access the full internet. After searching, no such option was available. The keyboard will be helpful for some of the DLNA options, like Facebook, that come to you in the form of Yahoo Widgets, similar to what you find on a few other DLNA televisions.
We subtracted a point from this score because we had some problems with the interface. When we went in for a second look at the DLNA offerings, the "V" button did not work, nor did the Netflix, Amazon and Vudu buttons. All of the other buttons worked just fine, and through the main menu we were able to test our network connection: we were connected. There is no way to access the DLNA from the main menu, so this option was just closed off to us and suddenly more than half of the functions on the remote were useless. Turning the television on and off and connecting directly via the ethernet cable got us back on, but be wary of the software developed by VIZIO. It may not be 100% street ready.
The "V" button in the center of the playback side of the remote for the brings up the DLNA menu that shows up as various options along the bottom of your screen. The menu is simple and quick. You scroll left and right through pre-programmed widgets like powerhouses Amazon Instant Video, HuluPlus, Netflix, and Vudu.
"Free Streaming Web Videos" opens up various channels and streaming video searching abilities. There is a lot to see here, and you could spend a long time going through all they have to offer. Much of the content are advertisements for shows from the major networks; not really the entertainment you imagine when you think streaming video.
There is a Yahoo Widgets Gallery that allows you to add more functions to your DLNA menu bar, but most of the widgets are clunky, limited versions of services you can get from your computer easily.
The two USB ports allow you to watch movies, listen to music and view photos in a slideshow accompanied by the music files on the same thumb drive. The interface is simple, moving you through all the folders on your USB to find the content you wish to experience. You can choose the photos and music for your slideshow, as well as affect the speed at which the photos cycle.
Something disappointing about media playback on the is that the files must be very specifically formatted. The only usable files are jpg, mpg and mp3. Though a good portion of content is already formatted this way, much of what can be downloaded from the internet and put onto a USB storage device comes in other formats that you cannot use. The has a solid processor to be able to handle streaming features and 3D imaging. It should be able to show a giff, wmv or an mp4 easily, but these formats are not supported.
The is a bright device, outputting almost 400 cd/m2 with the backlight at maximum, costing $31.24 for the year. You can save a few dollars, and some invaluable energy resources, by dropping the backlight down a little and still see a lambent picture.
Matched against TVs with similar features, the consumes on the higher-end of our comparison models, but it won't break the bank or trip the circuit breaker.
If you are looking for a large, good-looking TV, the Samsung LN46D550 is a sleek model with four more inches of screen than the . But for about $150 less, the VIZIO has as good of a visual performance and more advanced features like 3D and streaming internet video.
The Samsung LN46D550 has a better contrast ratio because it has a black level that is about 50% darker than the . Considering luminance is on a logarithmic scale, this difference is large, meaning the Samsung gets several magnitudes darker than the VIZIO.
It would be hard to beat the in a color temperature fight, as this reading is practically perfect. The Samsung is still very strong here, with the only significant deviation evident at the brightest end of the spectrum, where really bright highlights will read as slightly blue.
These two sets had similarly strong scores on their RGB color curves, with the Samsung slightly better than the VIZIO.
The had a handful of motion processing features that really helped it ace our motion tests. The Samsung here had some minor problems like rectangle skewing, slight juddering and stair-stepping on the edges of images, and some blurring. The displayed some of these problems, just less severely.
LCDs are known to have narrow viewing angles, the Samsung being the best demonstration in our comparison chart below. The two VIZIO models have competitively wide ranges of watching for LCD screens. The VIZIO is the better choice if people will be watching TV from all over the room.
The Samsung has more ports than the VIZIO if you plan to connect a pile of devices. Both sets can playback USB media, the Samsung supporting more formats than the VIZIO. What you do not get on the Samsung is a built-in wireless connection and the breadth of DLNA options available on the . If streaming video is more important than sheer volume of connections, then the VIZIO is the way to go.
What? No 3D? Sorry Samsung, the is competing in a higher class. Even though 3D is still a ways away from perfection, it's a feature that usually adds about $500, but can be found on the cheaper VIZIO.
The comparisons in this section may get confusing because they are both VIZIOs with complicated suffixes. We will refer to the XVT3D424SV as the SV, and the E3D420VX (the television being reviewed) as the VX to make a clear separation of the two.
The prices of these two sets do not make any sense. Specifications like screen size, contrast ratio, internet capabilities, and 3D imaging are points that add money to the cost of a television. The VX is $400-$500 cheaper than the SV and offers the same screen size and set of features. One important difference being that the VX has a better contrast ratio and a much cooler remote. The only advantages on the SV are two more HDMI ports and a slightly better viewing angle. Both of these TVs are from 2011, one is just much cheaper for the same or better quality.
The SV had a worse contrast ratio due to its poor black level. The VX has much more range. This becomes important when watching 3D, as wearing glasses with dark lenses diminishes the contrast ratio. The VX maintains a stronger contrast ratio than the SV for 3D images as well.
The VX had one of the most consistent color temperatures we have seen on a television. The SV did very well and fell shortly behind, but still behind.
The VX had more motion smoothing options than the SV and performed a little better on our tests. There was less loss of detail and fewer artifacts with Smooth Motion Effect on and Real Cinema Mode set to Smooth.
The more expensive SV had a wider viewing angle than the VX. The processing functions were about the same, the SV lacking access to the Real Cinema Mode function which helped with motion smoothness.
The SV is an HDMI monster with five HDMI ports. Other than that, the XV has more variety, with more analog audio connections and built-in WiFi, a feature that generally costs a pile of greenbacks.
The is priced like an entry-level television, but it boasts capabilities like 3D imaging and tons of DLNA content accessible by a built-in WiFi connection. These features are generally reserved for high-end sets like the Sony Bravia KDL-55EX720, which sells for $1500 at the very cheapest, and often much more than that. These two models are comparable in that they both have strong visuals and a similar features list, but they are definitely distinct televisions for different purposes.
The Sony Bravia KDL-55EX720 has 11 extra inches of screen, a gargantuan contrast ratio, and top-of-the-line visual performance. It is one big, bad (bad as in good) media machine that will impress just about anyone. The VIZIO is a broadly accessible television for those looking for advanced features without spending thousands. Yet, note that the matches this high-end Sony in many of our tests, even at its entry-level price.
The Sony just demolished the VIZIO on contrast ratio with such a great range of luminance. The VIZIO has a strong contrast ratio, but if you saw these two side-by-side, you would see the Sony delivering a much richer picture.
Color accuracy was strong and about the same for these two sets. The Sony had better color curves, but the VIZIO had a more accurate color gamut and a steadier color temperature. However, the margins of difference in each of these categories were insubstantial and probably not noticeable.
Sony's MotionFlow technology is king of the video processing features and dominated our motion tests with ease. Using similar technology, "Smooth Motion Effect", the performed very well, but did not have the same type of quality that comes from Sony engineering.
Again, these two tested remarkably similarly. Though the VIZIO had a better viewing angle by a hair, we had to artificially adjust the numbers to make a fourth line appear, because the VIZIO and the Sony were overlapping.
The Sony has more HDMI, USB and composite connections, so it is better. Wait...what's that in the chart below? WiFi on the Sony requires a separate purchase but not so on the VIZIO? We think this is important because ethernet cables have sort of been phased out in this new wireless world. If you just spent a couple grand on a TV and it doesn't come with WiFi, we think you will be disappointed.
3D is hard to compare, but it is easy to say that its pretty awful on both TVs. More importantly, the Sony has a web browser with unbridled access to the internet, where the VIZIO only offers streaming video and widgets; a big win for this Sony.
The is a television that offers advanced features to the average consumer. Frequently, 3D and streaming video are come with a higher price tag. Most people cannot afford to drop a couple thousand dollars on a television and thus are prevented from being able to experience these exciting frontier technologies. VIZIO makes these attributes affordable in more ways than one. The is one of few televisions that uses passive 3D technology, which means no expensive glasses. With this TV, the whole family can view 3D without spending an extra $1000.
Features are not the only strong point of the . Looking at performance alone, the competes with high-end models from strong brands in the categories of color accuracy and motion processing. It certainly outclasses its entry-level brethren with these pros, as well as a strong contrast ratio.
A few drawbacks are worth noting. We saw some color artifacts that we could not get rid of, specifically a blueish tint to some of our high frequency patterns as well as a circular yellowing at the edges of the picture, most noticeable on an all-white screen. The DLNA offerings are great, but the interface software may need another round of tweaking to get rid of bugs that, at one point, prevented us from accessing the streaming content at all.
All together, the is an affordable way to get into 3D and internet streaming video, without sacrificing strong visual quality.
Models in the E3DxxxVX series provide high-end features for a fraction of the price of similar televisions. Each of the three versions have passive 3D imaging and access to a host of internet streaming video. All models come with two sets of polarized glasses and a double sided remote for cruising the DLNA offerings.
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Christian Sherden is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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