I remember about 10 years ago, at CES in Las
Vegas, looking at a plasma TV prototype. It was about 30" wide, had a
terrible picture, and was going to be priced at $24,000.
I thought, "This is the future of TV, the
quality will get much better, and the price will come way down."
Well, all of that has come true.
Flat panel TVs, which include plasma and LCD,
are coming down in price so fast, it is actually causing some of the
manufacturers dismay. Of course, it is just the opposite for consumers. We
Finally, all of us can afford a flat panel
HDTV, and I mean we are talking less than a thousand bucks for the smaller
That's incredible, when only a couple of years
ago, it would have set you back $5,000 for a 50" plasma, and if you go back
five years, a 30" 720p LCD flat panel TV was $5,800.
Vizio is a major reason flat panel HDTVs are
priced so nicely for us, and that fact has made them the number 1 seller of
flat panel HDTVs in the world.
That does not mean you can't still pay $3,000
for a 47" to 50" flat panel. But you don't have to. The
Vizio GV47L is now available at CostCo for $1,699 minus a $100 rebate given
at the store.
If you are not familiar with Vizio, you will
At CES 2007, I went to the Vizio booth
and was delighted to see the new GV47L 47" LCD HDTV being displayed. Actually,
they call it FHDTV, meaning "Full" High Definition TV. "Full" is the new
buzzword, at least for awhile, which tells the consumer that the TV has 1920
x 1080 native resolution, instead of 1280 x 720. Not only that, but it is
1080p, which means you can input the 1080p signal coming out of your new Blu-ray
Needless to say, I asked Jim Noyd, who handles
PR for Vizio, if he would kindly send me one for review.
It arrived shortly thereafter, and for the
first time, I needed a second pair of hands to help me lift it (89 pounds)
onto the TV stand near the kitchen table, which is where it stayed for all
of the viewing and bench tests. That's a Blockbuster rent-by-mail envelope
on the stand underneath the right side of the Vizio. It had an HD DVD movie
in it. Man oh man, it looked so good at 1920 x 1080.
Finally, HDTV manufacturers are putting in two
HDMI inputs, which is what the Vizio has. There are also two component video
input sets, an S-Video, two composite video, and one RGB PC input. The
latest Vizio model (52" 1080p LCD) has four HDMI inputs.
The stereo speakers are along the bottom, so
that the footprint is as compact as it can be.
Like all HDTVs these days, there are lots of
menu items to choose from with the GV47L, and selecting the menu items
carefully makes a big difference in the viewing quality.
The first menu is the Picture Adjust, shown
below. I selected Custom mode and the various settings shown in the photo
The Advanced Picture Adjust menu is selected
from the main screen above, and it is shown below. It has Digital Noise
Reduction, Black Level Extender, White Peak Limiter, CTI (Color Transient
Intensity - adjusts for color errors in fast moving scenes), Flesh Tone
(enhances skin), Dynamic Backlight, and Adaptive Luma. All of these things
are basically DSP for enhancing the picture. Basically, you just turn them
on and off to see if you like the effect. If you like it, leave it on.
The Audio Adjust menu is shown below. You can
see that the menus are semi-transparent to the programming which is going on
behind the menu.
The last menu is the Special Features, which
is something that would only be changed one time, when you first set up the
The remote control is curved so that it fits
very ergonomically in the hand. The buttons are shaped differently depending
on function, and they are backlit. Overall, a very nice remote.
The instruction manual is excellent. Step by step. That's the way I like it.
Although there are several picture modes, such
as Standard, Movie, and Game, they do not allow for adjustments (Contrast,
Brightness, Color, and Tint are grayed out), so for any true HD aficionado,
the Custom mode is the only way to go. If you turn on the Dynamic Backlight, the
manual Backlight adjustment is not available. Using the HDMI input, there
are two menus that do not show up. One is the Tuner and the other is
Parental Control. So, not everything is available on every input.
In general, using the Custom mode, I found the
picture quality to be quite good. Colors all appear natural, and I didn't
notice any smearing during fast action. I guess the pixel response time is
finally at a pretty good point. Contrast is also very nice, especially in
the Dynamic Backlight AI mode.
Like most LCD TVs, the dark grays are crushed,
meaning that the low IRE levels are too dark.
The Vizio has more falloff at shallow angles
than some of the more expensive LCD TVs. This results in the picture losing
contrast as you start to move off axis. However, I watch this TV sitting
directly in front of it, so I am willing to put up with that limitation.
In very dark scenes, especially when I watch
TV at night with room lighting dim, there is a blue cast. This is not
adjustable, because it is light leakage through the LCD pixels. Remember,
the backlight is on all the time, and the LCD pixels cannot prevent 100% of
the light from coming through. Compared to plasma TVs, this is a
disadvantage, but plasma has its own problems. Leakage is common with LCD
displays. The way to remedy this is to use a "bias light", which is
basically just having the room light on. This makes the dark areas appear
darker, and the leakage becomes invisible.
I used DirectTV satellite programming input to
one of the HDMI jacks, and an Oppo DVD player connected to the second HDMI
jack. For use with one of my high def DVD players, I had to switch one of
the HDMI jacks. Some of the latest flat panel TVs have four HDMI jacks. I
would suggest that whatever HDTV you purchase have at least two. It won't be
long before lots of universal players become available, which will play SD
DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray, and you can use one of the HDMI jacks for the
universal player, and one for your cable or satellite HDMI connection.
As to the claim that viewers might not see the
1920 x 1080 resolution over 1280 x 720 on a smaller HDTV, I think that is
just not true. I saw the difference on my previous 37" 1920 x 1080 LCD HDTV,
sitting about 6 feet away, and the 47" Vizio is even more obvious. The picture appears sharper, and the color
quality seems better too. However, this is all moot now that 1080p TVs are
appearing all over the place. Within a year or two, 1080p will be the only
thing on the shelves.
Although sports HDTV programming is usually
720p because of jaggies that occur in fast action 1080i programming, my
guess is that it won't be that long before 1080p programming is standard for
everything. Also, the up-conversion from 720p to 1080p is a benefit to the
image. So, I am looking forward to some great picture quality (PQ) when the
football season starts in two weeks.
NTSC (SD) material looks good on the Vizio. Of
course, SD programming is poor quality to begin with on satellite, and all
of the artifacts show through. But, considering all that, it is
satisfactory. I would have liked more aspect ratio adjustment flexibility so
that a widescreen movie on an NTSC channel could be zoomed to fill the 47"
screen. However, this was only a problem with HDMI and the satellite box
signal, not HDMI and the DVD player signal. I am not sure why this is the
case, and I think it is not entirely the Vizio's fault.
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