Native resolution, which on HDTV spec sheets usually refers to the number of physical pixels used to create the picture, comes in two basic flat-panel LCD flavors: 1,366x768 and 1,920x1,080. The latter, known as 1080p, has become increasingly common even among relatively inexpensive models, and Vizio's GV47LF HDTV is one example. Another is the Westinghouse LVM-47w1, which we reviewed last October and considered a good value. The Vizio has better styling and a more consumer-friendly feature set compared to the Westinghouse, and while both offer decent, if not spectacular, picture quality, we give the slight nod to the Westinghouse. Both sets also compete directly against similarly priced 50-inch plasmas, such as Vizio's own P50HDM and Panasonic's TH-50PH9UK, both of which scored better in our performance tests. But if you definitely want a 1080p LCD, and the slicker looks and built-in HDTV tuner of the Vizio appeal to you, then the GV47LF HDTV is still a solid bargain.
In our opinion the GV47LF HDTV is the nicest-looking Vizio design yet, but the difference between it and, say, the 46-inch GV46L HDTV is still subtle. The 47-inch model shares the Vizio line's black frame set atop a silver base that incorporates speakers and the stand, but the frame itself is a bit thinner than before and encased in clear plastic, which shows around the borders as a subtle, classy accent. In another slick design move, the controls on the panel itself aren't buttons but rather touch-sensitive areas of the frame that light up when touched and tastefully disappear when not in use. We wish the glowing Vizio logo did the same.
With the stand and speakers attached, the GV47LF HDTV measures 44.5x31.4x10.6 inches (WHD); divested of stand and speakers the panel is a trim 44.5x26.9x4.5 inches. We like the ability to strip off the speakers, especially if you're going for an "all-picture" look and using an external sound system anyway. Naturally, Vizio sells custom wall-mount brackets if you'd like to go that route.
Unlike the exterior, Vizio's remote and menu system haven't changed a bit. The clicker is still crowded with buttons that in some cases serve more than one purpose, and while the backlight behind the keys is great, we wish there was more differentiation to make navigating by feel a bit easier. We like the direct-access buttons for different input types, though. The menu offers a fairly painless way to access the TV's controls, and we appreciate that it doesn't obscure the screen during picture adjustments.
The main difference between this Vizio LCD and previous models is the pixel count. The screen of the GV47LF HDTV displays 1,920x1,080 pixels, allowing it to supposedly resolve every detail of today's highest-resolution sources: 1080i and 1080p. As always, other sources are scaled to fit the available pixels.
We say "supposedly" because the Vizio GV47LF HDTV didn't actually pass the test to determine how many pixels it can resolve in 1080i mode (turns out that doesn't matter much; see Performance for more). That's because, unlike most 1080p flat-panel HDTVs, it lacks a dot-by-dot aspect-ratio mode (which would display 1080-resolution sources without scaling) when fed 1080i sources. It does do dot-by-dot (in the "wide" setting) with 1080p sources, however. With all HDTV sources, the Vizio offers two aspect ratio choices, "wide" and "normal"; with standard-definition, the number increases to four.
Otherwise the GV47LF HDTV shares the same features as most other Vizio sets. It includes an HDTV tuner, which allows it to tune over-the-air HDTV channels, along with a QAM tuner for digital cable that, depending on your cable service, might let you tune some unscrambled HDTV channels. The Vizio also include a versatile picture-in-picture control that lets you watch two sources simultaneously.
Picture controls start with three preset video modes and a fourth custom mode that lets you adjust the rest of the picture parameters independently for each input. In addition to the three color-temperature presets, we liked the fact that you can adjust red, green, and blue in a custom color-temperature menu, but unfortunately it's not as effective as we'd like.
There's also a selection of so-called advanced picture controls that we mostly left turned off for critical viewing. The Black Level Extender is said to improve detail in dark areas, but we couldn't detect any difference so we left it off. The White Peak Limiter is said to do the same thing in light areas, and again we left it off since it had no visible effect. A control labeled "CTI" (Color Transient Intensity) supposedly corrects for errors in fast-moving scenes, but again it had no effect we could discern so we left it off. The Low Flesh Tone control simply intensified reds and made them appear pinker, so we left it off. We also turned off the dynamic backlight and Adaptive Luma controls, which are both said to change the picture according to what's on the screen.
The Vizio GV47LF HDTV's connection bay has everything we'd expect. It includes a pair of HDMI inputs which can take 1080p sources (at 60 but not 24Hz), two component-video inputs, one A/V input with composite video and one with composite and S-Video, one RF input for cable for antenna connections, an optical digital audio output, and a VGA-style PC input for PC connections.
If you're connecting a computer, you'll probably be disappointed that the VGA input maxes out at 1,360x768 resolution (which did look pretty good) instead of the full 1,920x1,080. We did connect a PC via HDMI and got 1,920x1,080 resolution, but the image didn't look as sharp as the 1,360x768 version. Again, we believe this has to do with the lack of a dot-by-dot mode, although perhaps people playing with picture settings, either in the Vizio or in the video card's drivers, can achieve a better-looking higher-resolution computer image. All-in-all, shoppers looking for a big computer monitor would be better served by the Westinghouse LVM-47w1.
While certainly not the best-performing LCD we've tested, the Vizio GV47LF HDTV held its own in the picture-quality department. Color accuracy was a strong point, along with decent standard-definition picture quality. On the other hand, we'd like to see somewhat better black levels, which would also improve saturation, as well as better uniformity. Overall it's still a better performer than the 46-inch GV46L HDTV, however.