Middling picture quality and the impending arrival of a much-hyped replacement model make the Vizio VF550XVT a tough sell despite its bargain price.
Vizio VF550XVT overview
At CES this year, Vizio caused a stir by announcing the VF551XVT, a 55-inch HDTV with local dimming LED backlighting and 240Hz processing for the rock-bottom price of $1,999. If you look carefully at the model number of this review, you'll notice it says VF550XVT. One digit makes a lot of difference in this case; the model reviewed here had neither of those features, although it still costs around $1,999 in stores.
Still reading? Good. The VF550XVT is among the least expensive 55-inch LCDs on the market, but it has a tough row to hoe at this point in its lifespan. First off, attentive readers will realize that if they just wait till June, when the company will ship the VF551XVT, they'll get a lot more TV (judging from the spec sheet) for roughly the same money. We expect Vizio to drop the price on this model at that point, or discontinue it completely, but in the meantime the VF550XVT's best hope is to be mistaken for its LED brother. Second, the overall performance of the VF550XVT is nothing special. We liked its accurate color, but found its black level performance and dejudder processing disappointing compared to other LCD sets. That said, if you're on a budget, want a really big screen--say, if 52 inches is just too small--and have your heart set on LCD instead of plasma, the Vizio VF550XVT makes a tempting target.
This big-screen LCD looks unassuming for the most part, with the standard glossy black frame surrounding the picture area. But the nondetachable speaker bar along the bottom, with its silver coloring, reflective supports, bulbous shape and see-through panel exposing the wall behind the TV, assumes a bit too much, and we predict you'll either love it or hate it. We fall into the latter camp.
A whopping five total HDMI inputs highlight the excellent connectivity of the Vizio VF550XT. The company located four on the back panel and placed a fifth on the side, for as many HDMI inputs as we've seen on any HDTV. The back gets a component input, a PC input (1,920x1,080 maximum resolution), an AV input with composite and S-Video, an RF input for antenna and cable, an optical digital audio output and an analog stereo output.
We liked Vizio's large remote, with its oversize chrome-colored cursor pad surrounded by well-spaced, easily differentiated, yellow-backlit keys. Highlights include a section that offers direct access to different input types, "A, B, C, and D" keys for other devices, such as cable boxes, that double as picture-in-picture controls, and the capability to command three other devices. Many of the keys double up, but the remote handles these well--we appreciate that the oft-used key to control aspect ratio shares the bright red "record" key, for example.
The company has revamped its menu system for the XVT models, squeezing it onto the left side of the screen and improving the graphics. The menus' usability has taken a step backward, however. We found ourselves annoyed at the fact that you can only see one parameter at a time and that too much scrolling is required to access all of the settings.
We liked that Vizio included adjustments for all four of the color temperature presets, allowing you to tweak them to your liking. There's also a range of options that should mostly be left off for high-quality sources. There are three strengths of noise reduction, four Color Enhancement modes (each messes with color decoding; we preferred Off since it didn't introduce red push), and an Advanced Adaptive Luma setting that adjusts the picture according to program content (again, Off proved best).
Vizio equipped the VF550XVT with a 120Hz refresh rate and the accompanying dejudder processing. The processing can smooth out judder inherent in moving video, especially film, and can also help alleviate blurring in motion.
Picture quality on the Vizio VF550XVT falls short of the better LCDs on the market, characterized by relatively light black levels, dejudder processing that's a step behind the competition, and worse-than-average uniformity. We liked its color accuracy, however, and given the price this LCD still produces decent-enough images for satisfy viewers.