Every time Vizio enters a new screen-size category with its flat-panel HDTVs, the company seems to break a new price barrier in the process. The 52-inch GV52LF is another case in point. It's the first 1080p LCD we've seen at this size to dip below $2,000--provided you have the appropriate Costco coupon. As we've come to expect from the bargain flat-panel powerhouse, this Vizio's feature set compares well to costlier models, anchored by four HDMI inputs and plenty of picture controls. The set's picture quality itself is decent, although black-level performance and off-angle viewing could certainly stand improvement. However, when you consider that a number of 50-inch plasmas can be found for comparable prices, and that many of them offer superior picture quality despite lacking that magic "1080p" designation, the GV52LF becomes appealing mainly to people whose hearts are set on an LCD.
Like its smaller brothers in the GVLF series, this 52-inch LCD has a relatively good-looking two-tone appearance. The stand and speakers are colored silver, while the frame around the screen itself is glossy black. The company logo lights up bluish-white when the TV's turned on, and turns orange when the TV's turned off. And like its line-mates, the GV52LF has bold text on the front that reads "GALLEVIA 1080 PROGRESSIVE LIQUID CRYSTAL HDTV." That's trying way too hard, and the words detract from the otherwise classy look of the set.
Thanks to a set of screws, however, if you don't like the words you can remove the entire nameplate and expose the pedestal stand between the speakers. People with separate sound systems have the option to detach the speakers as well, chopping a good deal of bulk off the TV, and if you're hanging the set on the wall, the stand can also be removed. Including speakers and stand, the GV52LF measures 50.4 by 34.7 by 12.2 inches and weighs 110 pounds. Without speakers and stand, the panel measures 50.4 by 30.2 by 4.9 inches.
The GV52LF is the second model we've reviewed to feature Vizio's new, improved clicker. Every key on the midsized remote is illuminated, the exception being the big cursor control disc. The buttons are well-differentiated and -spaced, and we really liked the four dedicated keys for directly choosing inputs. We could complain about the mushy-feeling cursor disc and the fact that the aspect ratio key shares space with the less-important "record" button, and we don't love the prominent A, B, C, and D keys (which are only useful for controlling certain gear aside from the TV), but that's about it. The remote can command three other pieces of gear.
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.
As the nameplate proclaims, the GV52LF features a 1080p native resolution, which translates to 1,920x1,080 pixels., Those pixels enable the set to display every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources, the highest resolutions available today. All other sources, including 720p HDTV, DVD, standard-def TV and computers, are scaled to fit the available pixels.
We appreciated the numerous picture controls on the GV52LF. It offers three nonadjustable preset picture modes, along with a fourth Custom mode that's independent for each input. Yes, all four HDMI jacks can have different picture settings, unlike those of the Westinghouse TX-47F430S for example. Unfortunately, the important backlight control is an exception and remains at the same level for every input and picture mode, a limitation that prevents you from effectively using one setting for a bright room and another for the dark. We did like the ability to fine-tune the color temperature beyond the three available presets, of which Normal (not Warm) came closest to the standard. We weren't big fans of most of the options available in the Advanced picture menu, however, and ended up leaving them turned off for critical viewing of high-quality sources.
The Vizio offers a choice of just two aspect ratio modes for HD sources: one that zooms the image to cut off letterbox bars and one that happily provides a dot-by-dot version of 1080i and 1080p sources for the sharpest possible picture with no overscan. We did miss having a mode with some overscan, which can obscure the interference that appeared along the extreme edges of certain channels, like ESPNHD from our DirecTV feed. Happily, the Vizio provides a position control that you can tweak to eliminate visible interference. A healthier selection of four modes is available for standard-def sources.
In terms of conveniences, the GV45LF delivers an excellent, versatile picture-in-picture function that allows numerous combinations of sources, including RGB (aka computer) and HDMI. A freeze-frame function is also onboard for people who like to read the fine print in erectile dysfunction ads.
Although the GV52LF is squarely entrenched in the "bargain" category, its connectivity rivals that of high-end HDTVs. As mentioned above, the highlight is the four HDMI inputs, allowing direct connection to, say, an HDMI-equipped cable box, a DVD recorder, a Sony PlayStation3, and an Xbox 360 Elite (if you don't have 4 HDMI devices, you're just not trying hard enough). The Vizio also offers two component-video inputs, one AV input with composite video, an RGB-style PC input (which accepts the full 1920x1080 resolution) and an RF input for the cable and/or antenna, including broadcasts to the ATSC tuner. There's also an optical digital output for surround soundtracks from said tuner, and a standard stereo audio output. The GV52LF's left side is home to another AV input equipped with S-Video and composite-video jacks.