Let's get this out of the way right now: The Vizio GV42L HDTV is a virtual clone of the Vizio L42 HDTV. They're both 42-inch flat-panel LCDs, they have nearly identical feature sets, their image quality is basically the same, and the difference in cost is $100 as of the time of this review; the GV42L HDTV will currently run you $1,699 online while the L42 HDTV costs $1,599. The two TVs even scored the exact same rating. The differences? The more-expensive GV42L has slightly more sophisticated styling, detachable speakers, an extra "advanced" picture control menu (which doesn't do much of anything useful), and a backlit remote. That's just about it. So if you're in the aisle at Costco wavering between these two extremely inexpensive Vizios, feel free to choose on external appearance, or gut feeling, or the fact that one has a light-up Vizio logo and the other does not. Either way, they're both among the best values available in the 42-inch flat-panel HDTV category. As the first model Vizio has sub-branded Gallevia, the GV42L HDTV represents the company's opening dive into the murky waters of Lake Step-up, meaning that it attempts to milk a few extra bucks based on a couple of nebulous improvements--in this case, most of them have to do with design. Compared to the run of today's flat-panel HDTVs, the GV42L HDTV is somewhat stylish without being nearly as eye-catching as many name-brand models. Compared to the step-down L42 HDTV, the Gallevia has a narrower stand, curvier silver speakers along the bottom of the same glossy-black frame, and an illuminated Vizio in the center. The light-up logo glows orange until the TV is turned on, after which it flashes white, then quickly fades to a very dim white. We like the dimness, especially considering that you can't turn off the illuminated logo completely.
Including its matching silver stand, the GV42L HDTV measures about 42.3 by 29.8 by 11.4 inches (WHD)--a bit bigger than some 42-inch flat panels and slightly wider than the L42--and weighs 73.5 pounds. Like all flat-panel HDTVs, it can be wall-mounted with a special kit such as one available directly from Vizio. Unlike many flat-panel TVs, and unlike the L42, the GV42L's speakers are detachable, which cuts 2.9 inches off the panel's height.
Another difference between the GV42L and its step-down brother is that the keys on its remote are backlit--all 51 of them. That makes finding a certain key in the dark less tiresome than it would be otherwise, but what we'd really like to see is better differentiation among the many buttons. We did appreciate the direct-access keys for different inputs, however, and the fact that the clicker can command three other pieces of gear. Hitting Menu brings up a typically drab-looking array of options, but Vizio covered all of the basics. The Vizio GV42L HDTV sports enough features to satisfy just about everybody without missing anything major. The Picture section of the menu offers three presets that cannot be adjusted, as well as a fourth custom mode that's independent for each input. You can choose from three color-temperature presets or adjust red, green, and blue gain yourself in a fourth custom mode. We appreciated the last option, since the GV42L HDTV's three color temperature presets were really far from the standard (see Performance). There's also an adjustable backlight control that allows you to turn the intensity of the lamp behind the screen up or down. It's worth noting that backlight and color temperature settings are global and cannot be saved individually for each input.
Unlike the L42, the Gallevia has a secondary picture menu labeled Advanced, and like most such menus, its options are often best left in the Off position. One exception is the digital noise reduction feature, which did clean up noisy standard-def images (see Performance). There are controls labeled Black Level Extender and White Peak Limiter, but they didn't seem to do anything with HDMI or componsnt-video sources. According to the manual, a control called CTI (for Color Transient Intensity) is said to "adjust the picture for color errors caused by fast-changing scenes," but we couldn't discern any effect. Flesh Tone destroys the GV42L's fine color decoding, making skin tones appear redder, among other effects. Adaptive Luma adjusted the black-and-white levels according to picture content; the effect was subtle, but we did prefer to leave it off. Dynamic Contrast took over the backlight control, seemingly pegging it near the maximum; it made black levels too bright, so we left it off.
Aside from the advanced menu controls, the GV42L HDTV has a feature set that's identical to the L42's. Conveniences include picture-in-picture, which offers a side-by-side option too. There's also a freeze mode that's handy for catching quick information, such as the 3/4-screen of fine print under automobile financing offers. Vizio's selection of aspect ratio controls is average: three for high-def sources and four for standard-def. And as its name indicates, the GV42L HDTV is, in fact, a full HDTV, meaning that it includes an ATSC tuner for grabbing over-the-air high-def and digital stations.
Around back you'll find a healthy selection of inputs, including the requisite pair of HDMI jacks. Other inputs include two component-video, one A/V input with composite and S-Video, one A/V input with composite video only, and one VGA-style RGB computer input. There's also a single RF input for connecting an antenna or cable, an analog audio output, and an optical digital audio output for passing surround soundtracks from over-the-air HD sources. The image quality of the Vizio GV42L HDTV impressed us overall, especially given its relatively low price. Its picture is essentially identical to that of the Vizio L42 HDTV, with a couple of exceptions as noted below. Black-level performance and color accuracy, at least after calibration, were very good, while a slight lack of details in shadows and the prevalence of edge enhancement deserve minor knocks.
For our performance testing, we tweaked the GV42L HDTV's user menu controls for our darkened room and set it up next to three other like-size--albeit differently priced--LCDs: the aforementioned Vizio L42 HDTV, the extremely expensive Sony KDL-40XBR2, and the still-costly Philips 42PF9831D. Given the other similarities we saw between the two Vizios' pictures, we were surprised to discover that, among the GV42L's four available color-temperature settings, Normal came closest to the standard; with the L42, it was Cool. Normal was still fairly inaccurate, especially in darker areas, which tended toward blue, so we took advantage of the Custom mode's adjustments to get closer (see the Geek box below). To see the complete dark room settings we used, click the Tips & Help tab above.