If you were one of the billions of people who watched the Super Bowl, you may have seen an ad for a certain TV company called Vizio, promoting a TV that connects to the Internet to offer Facebook, Rhapsody, Netflix and a host of other dot-com-style names. That TV is the 2XVT series, first announced more than a year ago, and to judge from our experience with those Internet services--conveniently called Apps--Vizio spent all that time getting the experience of getting the Web onto a TV right. Response times were quick, the Apps interface is well-designed and surprisingly easy to use, and integration and content selection surpasses that of any other Internet-enabled TV, regardless of manufacturer. The industry's only included remote with a slide-out keyboard and/or Bluetooth, as well as built-in Wi-Fi, don't hurt. The 2XVT's picture quality somehow falls short of the company's best effort last year, but it's still among the better-performing LCD TVs available. Best of all, as usual for Vizio, is the prodigious bang for the buck.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch member of the Vizio 2XVT series, but this review also applies to the 47-incher. According to the manufacturer both should provide very similar picture quality, although their styling is different and the 47-inch model has fewer inputs. There's also a 42-inch member of the series, the SV422XVT, that lacks the LED backlight and so is not included in this review.
|Panel depth||5 inches||Bezel width||1.8 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||No|
The Vizio VF552XVT looks exactly like the company's two higher-end 55-inch LCDs from 2009, the VF551XVT and the VF550XVT, and compared to most other competing LCDs, it lags behind the design curve. It's not the 5-inch thickness that bugs us--that's plenty "flat" enough in our book--it's the big silver speaker bar, reflective chrome-ish strips, and logo-festooned window. You can disable the illumination on the logos, thankfully, but you can't disable the VF552XVT's chunkiness. Vizio's look will get a refresh in June with the XVT Pro models.
The 47-inch model in the 2XVT series looks marginally better, lacking the big bar and instead going with a silver rectangle below the screen, but neither Vizio will appeal to design-first buyers. We'd also like to see the company step up with a swivel in its stands.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||6.3 x 2.2 inches||Remote screen||N/A|
|Total keys||91||Backlit keys||0|
|Other IR devices controlled||Yes||RF control of TV||Yes (Bluetooth)|
|Shortcut menu||No||Onscreen explanations||Yes|
|Other: Remote has slide-out QWERTY keyboard and integrated control for other IR devices|
Vizio's remote is the first we've seen that makes using interactive TV applications easier. Its secret weapon, found on no other TV remote we know of, is a full slide-out keyboard with dedicated keys for letters, numbers and symbols, just like on a smartphone. Best of all, it's included with the TV for free, not as an expensive option like some other Internet-friendly remotes.
We found the thicker, heavier clicker reassuring in the hand. Its standard keys are easy to navigate and thoughtfully laid-out, although we'd appreciate more differentiation by feel. The lack of any kind of illumination didn't help, and we missed having a dedicated key for aspect ratio. The keyboard worked on all of the apps we tried, and although we found it a bit cramped compared, say, to the keyboard on our T-mobile G1, it's perfectly usable and makes Tweets, Facebook status updates, and username/password sign-ins a breeze. Bluetooth means the remote works without needing line-of-sight, and also promises future functionality. The TV could pair with other Bluetooth devices in the future (full-size keyboard? iPad?) and Vizio even hinted that its remote might be able to control a PS3 via a future software upgrade.
The universal aspect of the remote was also well-thought-out. Onscreen prompts, as opposed to long lists in the instruction manual, guide you through programming control codes for your devices, while the volume and mute keys can "punch through" to operate external gear like an AV receiver. It lacks the full task-based functionality of a Harmony, but this TV remote still goes further than any we've tested toward obviating most users' need to buy a universal model in the first place.
Vizio's menu system resembles another App in appearance, and we liked that the picture settings section is actually integrated into the main App taskbar (see below). Responses were fast, explanations complete and we had no problems finding our way around. In sum, the remote and menus of the 2XVT series were among the best we've used, and surpass in many ways the efforts of more well-known brands.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Full-array with local dimming|
|3D compatible||No||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Refresh rate||240Hz|
|Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes||1080p/24 compatible||No|
|Internet connection||Yes (built-in Wi-Fi)||Wireless HDMI/AV connection||No|
Vizio's 2XVT models occupy a high place on the 2010 TV features totem pole, and only lack of 3D and wireless HDMI--both found on the XVT Pro models coming later this year--keeps them from earning a "10" in this subcategory. Local dimming of the full-array LED backlight, our favorite variety, is the main display-related draw. One difference between the two LED-lit sizes in 2XVT series is the number of LEDs: 960 for the 55-incher and 640 for the 47. Since both sizes group those LEDs into 80 control blocks, however, we don't expect that difference to have much of an impact on blooming or other picture quality characteristics. See Performance for details on blooming, as well as on the results of our 1080p/24 testing.
We applaud the integration of Wi-Fi, but in our testing the Vizio fell short of the integrated Wi-Fi on Sony's NX800, the dongle-enabled Wi-Fi on LG's LE8500, the Roku and other streaming devices. Streaming services on the Vizio via Wi-Fi were far worse than via Ethernet, with more frequent interruptions, longer load times and truncated quality. In our lab, according to the 2XVT's test screen, wired bandwidth registered around 36,000 kb/s, while wireless ranged between 2,100-7,200kb/s. We were surprised by these results since Vizio uses 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi, which should have plenty of throughput, and other devices worked fine with our test router (we did not try another router by press time). Your results may vary depending on your router and setup. Our testing below was performed via Ethernet.
|Amazon Video on Demand||Yes||Rhapsody||Yes|
|Other: Synch TV Kids|
The important names are all accounted for here, aside from YouTube, and we love to see new services like Rhapsody, an app that no other TV currently offers.
Netflix, Vudu and Amazon VOD, generally exhibited the picture quality we expected, and we appreciated that full picture control was available. Vizio treats these streaming services as a separate input, and unlike other such TVs can run other Apps simultaneously, allowing you to Tweet or check Facebook while watching Netflix, for example. Think of it as TV multitasking, or just think of streaming services as another TV channel.
Nearly every Rhapsody function is included in the app, turning the Vizio into a celestial jukebox for subscribers (starting at $10 per month; the TV doesn't count as a "device" against your total) and begging for connection to an external audio system (analog and digital audio output is supported). Searches for artists, songs etc. came up quickly, and an autocomplete kicked in as we typed the first few letters. We assembled a playback queue, called up Rhapsody's channels and our own custom playlists, and enjoyed cover art on the big screen. All was not perfect--we experienced some delays and freezes, such as when loading a large My Library list, and once or twice between songs--but in general this ambitious app is a winner. We just wish the screen went into a dark screen saver mode during long playback sessions.
The free Pandora service also worked well in our testing, syncing custom stations with our online account. Neither audio app lets you run other apps or sources simultaneously, and neither does video from Synch TV Kids, which features full episodes of animated titles like "Babar" and "Class of the Titans."