Vizio has sold a lot of HDTVs by undercutting the competition's pricing with key technologies at popular screen sizes. The GV42LF is another example, bringing 1080p resolution to a 42-inch screen at a price that's tough to beat. As usual, we found a lot to like about the GV42LF's picture, especially considering its price: it can deliver a relatively deep black, its color after adjustment isn't bad, and it makes an excellent computer monitor. Of course we found some things to complain about, but in sum they won't deter many bargain-seeking shoppers who are convinced they need 1080p and prefer LCD over plasma. Of course, 1080p resolution at this size is mostly wasted on non-PC applications, and Vizio's VP42 plasma costs less and is a good performer in its own right.
Speaking of bargains, Vizio makes a virtually identical 1080p 42-inch LCD, the VU42LF, that costs even less but should deliver identical picture quality. We say "should" because we didn't review the VU42LF, but according to Vizio, it lacks only the detachable speakers, virtual surround sound, and compatibility with high-resolution computer signals (maxing out at 640x480 via HDMI and 1,024x768 via VGA; see below for the GV42LF's computer capabilities). Aside from these features, dimensions, and appearance, the two sets are the same.
There's nothing special about the Vizio GV42LF's familiar appearance, but it's fairly handsome nonetheless. The stand and removable speakers--a nice touch that is also one of the main differences between this and the less-expensive VU42LF--are colored silver, while the relatively thick frame around the screen itself is glossy black. The company logo lights up bluish-white when the TV is turned on, and turns orange when it's turned off. And true to form, Vizio went too far with the text emblazoned on the bulge between the speakers, which reads "GALLEVIA 1080 PROGRESSIVE LIQUID CRYSTAL HDTV." The Vizio GV42LF measures 42 inches wide by 30.1 inches high by 10.6 inches deep, including stand and speakers; the panel, sans stand and speakers, measures 42 inches wide by 25.6 inches high by 5.2 inches deep.
The set's menu system is straightforward and simple enough to use, although it was a bit confusing to have to use the menu key, as opposed to a dedicated "back" button, to move to a previous level in the menus. While the menu screen itself obediently disappears during most picture adjustments, it annoyingly remains overlaid during a few, including those in the Advanced video menu.
At the top of the GV42LF's spec sheet is its 1080p native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels--the most available today--which enables the set to display every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources. All other sources, including 720p HDTV, DVD, standard-definition TV, and computers, are scaled to fit the available pixels.
In terms of conveniences, the GV42LF delivers an excellent, versatile picture-in-picture function that allows numerous combinations of sources, including RGB (from a computer) and HDMI. The obligatory freeze-frame function is also on board for people who like to read the fine print in car-financing ads.