Editors' note: The rating on this review has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
Budget flat-panel powerhouse Vizio is breaking into the lucrative realm of high-end HDTVs with its XVT line, comprised of a 50-inch plasma we detailed at CES and a pair of LCDs, including the model reviewed here, the 47-inch SV470XVT. Equipped with a lot of glossy black, a slicker menu system, a redesigned remote, and the 120Hz dejudder processing also found on high-end models from Samsung, Sony, LG, and Mitsubishi, this Vizio makes a strong bid on paper to compete with the big boys. In many ways it succeeds, starting with excellent color and generally good video processing, notwithstanding some dejudder fits and starts. And while the Vizio can't match the black levels of many competing displays, its competitive pricing--this is the least-expensive 120Hz equipped HDTV currently on the market--enhances its appeal for folks seeking the smoothness.
Vizio slimmed down the chunky frame that typically surrounds the screens of its televisions, spending little more than an inch of glossy black plastic on all four sides. The lower section of the TV's cabinet consists of matte black speakers flaking a silver, perforated panel that bulges out slightly from the plane of the frame. The Vizio logo lights up orange when the TV is off and white when it's on, and unlike with some previous models, the light can't be defeated. The set's appearance is attractive enough and a cut above most other Vizio offerings, but still not on the same design level as most models from Sony, LG, or Samsung.
Including the non-swiveling, glossy black stand, the Vizio SV470XVT measures 43.9 inches wide by 29.7 inches tall by 10 inches deep, while without it the panel measures 43.9 inches tall by 28.1 inches wide by 4 inches deep.
A redesigned remote is one of the first indications that Vizio is aiming for the higher-end. The slim remote control included with the SV470XVT wasn't our favorite, however, mainly because of the loud, cheap-sounding clicks that accompanied every press of the illuminated orange cursor control. The button layout is OK, and happily includes four buttons along the top to directly access input types such as HDMI and component-video, but gaffes like a too-prominent "5.1" button (for attaching an optional wireless speaker system; the button seemed like an advertisement) and an undifferentiated crowd of miniscule, dual-function keys at the bottom made us less happy.
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.
Vizio equipped the SV470XVT with a 120Hz refresh rate and the accompanying dejudder processing, which is one of the most popular step-up features among LCD TVs this year. The processing can smooth out judder inherent in moving video, especially film, and can also help alleviate blurring in motion (see Performance for more details). As expected, this 47-inch HDTV also has 1080p native resolution, although at this screen size the benefits of 1080p are nearly impossible to discern.
A good selection of picture adjustment settings is on hand, including a whopping nine fully adjustable picture modes. Four of these modes, Golf, Baseball, Basketball, and Football, serve to perpetuate the mistaken notion that picture settings can be optimized for particular sports. The default settings for these modes are basically the same with some minor differences--all of the sports except basketball accentuate green, for example, and for some reason Golf gets two more pips of sharpness than the others. In case you're wondering, we detected no discernable benefit to watching a Football game in said mode as opposed to, say, Golf mode, but it's nice to have the extra adjustability afforded by four additional picture modes, regardless of their names. Unfortunately, none of the picture modes are independent per input.
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), an Advanced Adaptive Luma setting that adjusts gamma in dark areas (again, Off proved best), and an Enhanced Contrast Ratio setting we left off since it caused black levels to fluctuate according to program content.
Aspect ratio control on the SV470XVT is disappointing, with only two options available for HD sources and four for standard-definition. In Vizio's favor, the default HD mode, labeled "Wide," does not scale 1080i and 1080p sources or introduce overscan, but we wish there was another mode at least that provided some overscan, for those channels with interference along the extreme edges of the image.
We're also disappointed that Vizio didn't include an energy-saver mode, or offer a home/store option during initial setup, both of which are available on many bigger-name HDTVs and really help cut down on power consumption. We did appreciate the inclusion of a versatile picture-in-picture option, however.
Four total HDMI inputs highlight the connectivity of the Vizio SV470XVT. The company located only two on the back panel and placed the other two on the side, apparently to serve people who regularly need to temporarily connect more than one HDMI device (we prefer the standard 3 back/1 side arrangement). The side panel also sports one of the two component-video inputs, along with an AV input with composite video, making it the most
bloated well-equipped side connection bay we've seen on any HDTV. The back gets the second component input, a PC input (1,920x1,080-pixel 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. The opposite side of the TV (not pictured) includes controls and a proprietary port to connect the company's optional wireless 5.1 surround sound system.
All told, the Vizio SV470XVT is the company's best-performing LCD yet, although its picture quality is still a notch below the better models from marquee-name competitors available today. Its black-level performance is the biggest issue, balanced by excellent color, and while Vizio's first attempt at 120Hz dejudder processing has some string points, it still has a ways to go.
Our standard calibration went exceedingly quickly on the Vizio, mainly because its Normal color temperature mode was already exceedingly close to the D65 standard. In fact, it's as close as any TV out-of-the-box that we've reviewed recently. Our main adjustments involved turning off most of the options in the Advanced picture mode, tweaking saturation a bit, and reducing light output for our darkened home theater. Check out our full picture settings for details.