Vizio made its name by charging less than all the big brands, but savvy buyers may have noticed that Vizio doesn't really have the price advantage that it used to. While the 32-inch Vizio VO32L sells for a reasonable $650 (as of press time), other entry-level competitors like the Panasonic TC-32LX85 are available for the same or even less at online retailers. The VO32L doesn't need a pricing handicap, however, as it held its own in our image-quality tests, with relatively deep blacks and accurate primary colors. That's not to say it doesn't have issues, as dark areas tended to look greenish and the lack of aspect-ratio control on HD sources was definitely a frustration. Overall, though, due to image quality that rivaled the Sony KDL-32M400 and a fully packed connectivity suite, we were able overlook the missteps. You may not get a huge discount by going with the VO32L, but its performance makes it worthy of consideration against its name-brand competitors.
In a world of glossed-up, mirror-like LCD frames, the Vizio VO32L almost looks quaint. Sure, there's a small strip of glossy black plastic surrounding the screen, but the larger part of the bezel actually features a matte finish. That's OK, though, as we actually like the subdued look, and it reflects less light in a sunny room. Right under the screen is the very prominent Vizio logo, which glows bright orange when off and bright white when on. Unfortunately, you can't disable the shining logo, and it stood out (in a bad way) compared with the other LCDs we had set up.
The included clicker has a simple design--which we appreciated--but we were frustrated by some other design snags. The directional pad is centrally located, but it doubles as both channel and volume control; we prefer separate, dedicated button rockers. We were initially thrown off by the center "V" button, which brings up the menu and also doubles as an "OK" button in the menus. The clicker lacks a dedicated button to switch between aspect ratios, so you'll have to dig into the menu to change modes (although this issue is somewhat of a moot point, since the TV can't change aspects with HD sources). On the upside, we liked the individual buttons to access inputs, although it's somewhat confusing that they're lumped in with other functions like "mute" and "last."
There are nine different picture modes on the VO32L, which is much more than you'll find on other TVs. That's because Vizio offers up custom picture settings for different types of sports, so there are separate picture modes for baseball, football, and golf (hockey fans, as usual, are ignored). As you might expect, the modes don't actually enhance different sports--the settings generally just exaggerate green and adjust the sharpness. And more disappointing is the fact that the picture modes are not 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.
Extra features are a mixed bag with the VO32L. Unlike some of its competitors, the VO32L offers picture-in-picture functionality, including pretty granular customization via the setup menu. On the other hand, we were disappointed to learn that the VO32L cannot adjust the aspect ratio on HD sources, so you'll have to rely on your cable/satellite box to change the shape of the picture. For standard-definition sources, there are three aspect ratio options--normal, wide, and panoramic--but, again, you'll have to dig into the setup menu to change them.
The VO32L's connectivity suite is fully packed. The rear panel houses two HDMI inputs, a VGA-style PC input, a component video input, and an A/V input that offers both composite and S-Video. The side panel offers up another HDMI input, along with an additional component and AV input (only composite). It's worth noting that the side component and AV inputs share an audio input, so you'll have to choose one or the other.
The VO32L's relatively solid black levels, accurate primary colors, and natural flesh tones make it a solid performer in the entry-level, small-screen LCD category. The main knocks during our image-quality tests were its tendency to look green in darker areas and some minor uniformity issues. While the VO32L does offer color-temperature controls, we couldn't eliminate the green in darker areas without making the overall grayscale less accurate during our user-menu calibration. See our picture settings at the bottom of this blog post for more details.