When we settled back to watch a movie--in this case, Syriana on HD-DVD via the Toshiba HD-A1--we mostly liked what we saw. In darker scenes such as Jimmy Pope's fireside chat with Bennett Holiday, the depth of black in dark areas was fairly good for an LCD; not quite as deep as some we've seen, such as the Samsung LN-S4051D's or the Sharp LC-37D90U's, but still pretty dark. We had a couple of more-expensive like-size LCDs onhand to compare--namely the Vizio's step-up brother, the G42L HDTV, the Philips 42PF9831, and the extremely expensive Sony KDL-40XBR2--and the Vizio L42 HDTV's depth of black was just slightly brighter than that of the Sony and the other Vizio, and significantly darker (better) than the Philips's.
The Vizio L42's shadow detail was a bit worse than that of the Sony, however. During the next scene with CIA agent Bob Barnes, the chairs and stools under the bar appeared slightly murkier with less of their legs and seats visible in the shadows. We also noticed a bit more false-contouring on the Vizio than on the Sony. During Barnes's interview with Hezbollah, for example, we saw the faintest lines in the shadows on the wall behind the leader as they faded from light to dark. It's worth stressing, however, that contouring overall with the Vizio was minimal--far less than the aforementioned Samsung's, for example, and most viewers won't fine it objectionable at all.
We did notice a few somewhat brighter areas in the screen, especially when it faded to black, such as immediately after Barnes is tortured. In the case of our review sample, the upper-right corner and the edge immediately below appeared lighter than other areas, as did a few areas along the top edge. These lighter spots will vary from sample to sample, although it's worth noting that the Sony, unlike the other Vizio and the Philips, was consistently black across the screen. The Vizio L42 HDTV's image became more washed out starting at about 45 degrees from dead center, which is average among LCDs we've seen, but not spectacular. It's worth noting that plasmas look good from extreme off-angles, while on the flipside, their glass screens reflect more light than matte LCDs.
After we'd adjusted color temperature as described above, the L42 HDTV exhibited commendably accurate color for an LCD. There was no trace of red push in skin tones, such as the face of Julie Woodman as she argues with her husband in the park. We did see a bit more yellow than we'd like to in green areas, such as the grass through which Mazar and Shahid walk on their way to see the shaped-charge device, but it wasn't too much worse than many LCDs we've seen.
Likewise, details were as good as we'd expect for an LCD of 1,366x768 resolution. On the HD-DVD, the blades of grass and trees looked sharp and lifelike, and we could discern the mesh in the Mazar's white cap. We did notice a few signs of edge enhancement that couldn't be removed despite reducing sharpness to zero. In an overhead shot of Barnes after the torture, for example, we saw slightly unnatural-looking brighter edges along the black grid of the tiled floor. Again, the effects were subtle.
With standard-def sources, the Vizio L42 HDTV did a solid job, although we do wish it had some kind of noise reduction. During the noisy shots of skies and sunsets from the HQV Benchmark DVD, for example, the snowy video noise was relatively prevalent, although not overwhelming. We did appreciate the quick engagement of 2:3 pulldown detection, and the Vizio did an above-average job of smoothing out jagged edges in diagonal lines. Via component-, composite-, and S-Video, we did notice that some images appeared a bit softer than they should have, but not terribly so.
|Before color temp (20/80)||8,621/6,643K||Poor|
|After color temp||6,200/6,666K||Average|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 443K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 197K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.635/0.340||Good|
|Color of green||0.277/0.615||Average|
|Color of blue||0.146/0.064||Good|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||No||Poor|