Vizio VF550XVT review: Vizio VF550XVT

Vizio VF550XVT
The side panel is likewise packed with connections, including a fifth HDMI and a second component-video jack.

Performance
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 off-angle performance. We liked its color accuracy, however, and given the price, this LCD still produces decent-enough images to satisfy viewers.

Prior to our standard calibration, the VF550XVT's Normal color temperature preset came closest to the D65 standard, but it was still somewhat plus-green and minus-red overall. We used the controls to bring it into line as much as possible, although the grayscale did vary quite a bit from light to dark--to help correct this variance, we would have liked gain and bias controls for color temperature as opposed to just gains. We tamed the extremely bright picture in Movie mode to our nominal maximum light output of 40ftl, and afterward the gamma was somewhat off at 2.36 versus the ideal of 2.2; again, we'd like to see a control to address this (increasing light output, which sometimes improves gamma, had little effect in this case). Most of our other tweaks involved turning off the various advanced picture features, including the two that automatically adjusted the picture according to content.

Check out this post for our complete picture settings.

Our comparison tests enlisted a couple of sets we had on hand, including the Samsung LN52A650 and Panasonic TC-P42S1. We also used the 55-inch Sony KDL-55XBR8 and Pioneer PRO-111FD, both significantly more expensive, as reference models. This time around we checked out "Quantum of Solace" on Blu-ray for the majority of our image quality tests.

Black level: The Vizio VF550XVT produced one of the lighter shades of black we've seen from a modern LCD. In darker scenes, such as the outdoor nighttime shots in Chapter 12, dark areas like the night sky, letterbox bars, and the water under the boat, for example, all appeared a good deal lighter than on the other displays in the room. Shadow details, such as the folds in the tuxes of the opera goers, were a bit less distinct than on our reference displays, but as good as the Samsung LCD.

Color accuracy: The Vizio outperformed the Panasonic plasma in this area but didn't beat the Samsung LCD. Skin tones, like the pale back and shoulders of Strawberry Fields, looked accurate in midbright and darker areas, albeit slightly ruddy in brighter areas. The white walls of the hotel room also looked a bit redder than we'd like to see, but the difference was subtle. Primary colors, like the green palm trees and blue boats in Haiti, were as accurate as those on our reference displays, although color saturation wasn't as deep on the Vizio as on any of the others. We attribute that issue to the Vizio's lighter black levels.

Our principal gripe with color came in dark areas. Blacks and very dark shadows on the VF550XVT had the characteristic bluish tinge seen on many LCD displays, and this one was no exception. In comparison, the Samsung has a slightly greenish tint to very dark areas, but it wasn't nearly as pervasive as the Vizio's blue. That said, the bluish tinge didn't distract too much.

Video processing: Speaking of distraction, we also checked out the VF550XVT's dejudder processing. Dejudder on any so-equipped HDTV is designed to lend a smoother look to film-based material, although to our eyes it makes film look too much like video--that 24-frame judder is part of what makes film look like film, and we prefer that look to the smoother appearance of typical dejudder processing, the Vizio's included.

This model has four main settings for dejudder under the Smooth Motion Effect menu: Off, Low, Medium and High. It also includes a Real Cinema option with three settings: Off, Smooth,and Precision. All of those different permutations allow more adjustment than usual--Sony typically has two dejudder strengths, Samsung three, for example--but they can be confusing. Here's a cheat sheet: in our testing, Real Cinema should be set to Precision if you want to use dejudder, because Off kept judder intact, while Smooth (which is unfortunately the default for most of the Vizio's picture modes) introduced more artifacts.

Many of the artifacts involved breakup in fast-moving objects. In the initial car chase scene, for example, we saw breakup around the edge of Bond's Aston Martin, the profile of a female Carabinieri against a stone wall, or even in Bond's car's license plate as it pulls into the city of Sienna. In precision mode, the plate remained stable in this scene, although a bit later, when he opens his trunk to reveal his unfortunate passenger, the plate breaks up slightly in both Precision and Smooth. We definitely felt that the car chase was better--more visceral and real--with dejudder turned off, probably because the shaky camera and quick movement was preserved in all of its jerky glory, not artificially smoothed over.

As with the SV470XVT, we noticed more artifacts on the Vizio than the Sony or Samsung models. In each set's mildest dejudder mode--Precision/Low for Vizio, Standard for Sony, and Low for Samsung--we only noticed breakup on the license plate with the Vizio, for example. Another area where artifacts seemed more prevalent was in faces, although again the Vizio was a worse offender. When Bond turns quickly toward M at the eight minute mark, for example, his face briefly broke up then reassembled, while the other two again remained stable.

Another issue with the Vizio's video processing sees to have carried over from the SV470XVT. When we turned off its dejudder and engaged the 1080p/24 setting on our Blu-ray player, the Vizio didn't seem to preserve the cadence of film as well as the other displays. The pan over the Intrepid from "I Am Legend," for example, looked closer to the 60Hz Panasonic, with its characteristic "hitch" from 2:3 pulldown, than to the Sony, Samsung and Pioneer, which properly convert the 24-frame material for display on their 120Hz (and 72Hz, in Pioneer's case) refresh rates.

In resolution tests the VF550XVT performed as expected, delivering every line of 1080i and 1080p formats in static test patterns, properly deinterlacing 1080i material and delivering around 600 lines of motion resolution with dejudder engaged. To be clear, the only way to get the TV to display that much motion resolution was to select the Smooth setting under Real Cinema Mode and make sure the Smooth Motion Effect was not turned to Off. In other settings the Vizio displayed the LCD standard of around 300-400 lines. As usual, we had a difficult time discerning the benefits of this improved motion resolution with standard program material, as opposed to test patterns.

The VF550XVT exhibited slight edge enhancement that we couldn't eliminate without softening the image with HD material. The issue wasn't noticeable on most program material, but it was visible during test patterns.

Uniformity: When seen from off-angle, the Vizio performed worse than the other displays in our lineup, washing out darker areas and becoming discolored more quickly. The corners, especially along the top, appeared brighter than the rest of the screen in dark scenes, and while the difference was not as great as on some LCDs we've tested, it was worse than either the Samsung or the Sony.

Bright lighting: In a brightly lit room the matte-screened VF550XVT attenuated reflections quite well. It didn't preserve black levels in bright light as well as the Samsung, but the latter's shiny reflections were more of a distraction.

Standard-definition: With standard-def sources the Vizio performed a bit below-average. We appreciated that it delivered every line of the DVD format, but in the Detail shot, which shows a stone bridge, concentric stairs, and grass, we had to choose between an image with a bit too much edge enhancement (sharpness set to 3) or a slightly soft image (sharpness at 2). The TV did an imperfect job on the jaggies tests and the shot of a waving American flag, allowing more jagged edges on moving diagonal lines than most of the other displays. We did appreciate that its three levels of noise reduction cleaned up the skies and sunsets relatively well, but even the highest setting on the Vizio couldn't remove as much video "snow" and moving motes of noise as the corresponding settings on the other displays. The VF550XVT engaged 2:3 pulldown quickly and effectively.

PC: As expected the Vizio VF550XVT performed nearly perfectly with PC sources, resolving every line of a 1,920x1,080 output via both VGA and HDMI, displaying no overscan and crisp text.

TEST Result Score
Before color temp (20/80) 7074/6749 Average
After color temp 6299/6200 Average
Before grayscale variation 340 Average
After grayscale variation 224 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.636/0.332 Good
Color of green 0.286/0.608 Good
Color of blue 0.144/0.063 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement N Poor
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Juice box
Vizio VF550XVT Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 221.03 145.36 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. in) 0.17 0.11 N/A
Standby (watts) 0 0 N/A
Cost per year $47.79 $31.43 N/A
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Fair

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