As I mentioned above, Vizio (along with Samsung and LG) is also supporting M-Go, an on-demand video service with content from most major studios aside from Disney. We learned more about the service at CES 2013, including the fact that it acts as an UltraViolet locker, but there's still no official launch date.
I paid special attention to the Wi-Fi connection on the E420i-A1, and it appeared to work well in my limited testing in the lab -- just as well as a nearby PlayStation 3. As usual with Wi-Fi, your mileage will vary, and if you're a heavy streamer, I'd recommend using a wired connection if possible.
Picture settings: The selection here is good enough for a basic TV, including a two-point grayscale control and plenty of picture presets -- nine in all, a few with names like "football" and "basketball" that don't really make such footage look any better. The only missing item is a selection of gamma presets, which might have helped the TV's performance a bit. I appreciated that the picture controls are available when watching streaming video. The E420i-A1 also has a Smart Dimming option that enables and disables its local-dimming function.
Connectivity: Three HDMI and a single component-video input (which can be sacrificed to accept composite signals) are on-duty to handle high-def sources, while a single USB slot deals with multimedia. Vizio dropped the VGA-style analog PC input, however.
Despite the promise afforded by its local-dimming direct LED backlight, the E0i-A1 doesn't significantly outperform other LCD TVs in its class. I found picture quality was actually better with dimming turned off. In that mode black levels were still good for an LCD TV, however, and uniformity and bright-room quality were solid. Color accuracy is a bit of a weak point on the Vizio, as is its video processing compared with actual 120Hz TVs.
Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.
|Comparison models (details)|
|Toshiba 40E220U||40-inch LCD|
|TCL L40FHDP60||40-inch LCD|
|Samsung LN46E550F||46-inch LCD|
|Samsung PN50E450||50-inch plasma|
|Vizio M3D550KD||55-inch LED-based LCD|
|Panasonic TC-P55ST50 (reference)||55-inch plasma|
Black level: The darkness of black the Vizio E0i-A1 can produce is determined largely by to what position -- On or Off -- you set its Smart Dimming toggle. Typically I prefer to leave such modes turned on since they usually make for a darker and more realistic shade of black. In the case of this Vizio, however, I ended up leaving it off, because the sacrifice in shadow detail during dark scenes was not worth the trade-off.
Even in Off mode the Vizio delivered decent black levels, as evinced by how it compared with the rest of the lineup during the dark scenes of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." It basically matched the depth of the Samsung E550 listed above and beat out both the Toshiba and the TCL during the Hogwarts assault sequence starting with chapter 12. Details in shadows and near-black areas looked relatively realistic and better than on the E550, although not as good as on the more expensive sets or the Samsung E450 plasma.
With Smart Dimming engaged, blacks were a good deal darker, but the same scenes looked too murky and devoid of realism; the shadows faded into the letterbox bars and whole swaths of the picture were simply invisible. Examples from the assault included the establishing sequences with Voldemort and Co. on the hilltop (45:50) and the wave of giants (55:00). Even when they weren't obscured completely, details near black, like Ron's checked shirt at 51:31, looked too dark. In comparison, Vizio's better local-dimming set, the M3D550KD, delivered plenty of punch and detail in these scenes.
The E-Series Vizio's dimming also introduced abrupt changes in overall brightness, as the dimming responded in a noticeable way to a change in overall picture brightness. Most of these shifts were subtle but annoyingly visible, once I became aware of them. A prominent example occurred at 53:46, when the background behind a descending boot grew darker over a second or two until many of the details were submerged in murk.
Color accuracy: Although not terrible in this department, the E0i-A1 still looked less accurate than most of the past Vizios I've tested. The main weakness came in saturation; for example, the green grass and young Lily Potter's red hair looked a bit duller and less vibrant than on most of the other displays, although the colors were still more accurate than on the Samsung E550. Meanwhile, blues, like the water in chapter 9 as the friends come up from the lake, had a redder cast than on the other sets.
Like the other LCDs, the Vizio showed a bluish tinge in dark and black areas, although it was not as bad as the Samsung E550 or the TCL. Skin tones were a strength on the E-Series; the faces of Ron and Hermione in the cave (50:01) looked realistic enough, although still not as true as on the plasmas or the other Vizio.
Video processing: As I mentioned above, the E0i-A1 claims a 120Hz "effective" refresh rate, but it behaves in all respects that I tested like a 60Hz TV. It's unable to reproduce the correct film cadence of a 1080p/24 source, introducing the characteristic halting stutter I associate with 60Hz sets using 2:3 pull-down. It also measured the 300-odd lines of motion resolution I expect from a 60Hz set, not the 600 or so I've seen on nearly every 120Hz model.
Uniformity: To its credit, the screen of my E0i-A1 review sample showed no obvious flashlighting (bright corners or spots during dark scenes), and so outdid the Toshiba and TCL in this category. From off-angle it lost black-level and color fidelity about as quickly as most of the other LCDs.
Bright lighting: The matte screen of the Vizio reduced the intensity of glare from reflections nicely, and also did a solid job of retaining black-level depth. It was no better or worse under the lights than the other matte LCDs in my comparison lineup, but as expected it outdid the Samsung plasma handily in this area.
Sound quality: For a TV at this price level the sound was decipherable but nothing special, with a distinct lack of bass. Dialog was clear though there was a lack of low frequency response. In our action movie test ("Mission Impossible III," Chapter 11), the female actor's voice sounded restrained and a little muffled as she unveiled who she thought "the rat" was, but there was only a little bit of compression on the explosion that cuts her voice off.
Music wasn't very crisp and there was also no bass response to speak of -- changing the mode to rock introduced some richness to Nick Cave's voice but didn't help bass reproduction. (Sound tested by Ty Pendlebury)
|GEEK BOX: Test||Result||Score|
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0072||Good|
|Avg. gamma (10-100%)||2.28||Good|
|Avg. grayscale error (10-100%)||2.51||Good|
|Near-black error (5%)||1.16||Good|
|Dark gray error (20%)||1.27||Good|
|Bright gray error (70%)||1.67||Good|
|Avg. color error||4.10||Average|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Fail||Poor|
|1080i De-interlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||300||Poor|