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A volley from Vizio in the high-end TV wars

Its new 47-inch LCD TV dips below $1,900 as TV makers large and small gear up for next week's mammoth CES gadget fest.

Upstart digital TV maker Vizio is doing its part to nudge down the prices of high-end LCD sets.

The small but rapidly growing company on Thursday formally announced its Gallevia GV47L, which features a 1080p resolution and now lists for $1,899.99, a round $100 under the anticipated price. CEO William Wang first announced his company's plans to introduce the LCD TV in an interview with CNET last month.

Most TVs with that level of resolution sell for $2,400 or more. Rival Westinghouse recently cut the price of a 47-inch 1080p LCD monitor to $1,999, but the monitor does not contain a TV tuner card, an additional piece of hardware that adds costs. Westinghouse is expected to announce its first 1080p TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show next week. Samsung, Sony, Philips and others will also be trotting out new TVs and new features at the show.

The 1080p number means that the TV has a native resolution of 1920x1080 and, right now, it represents the top of the market. HDTVs come in display resolutions of 720p (720 lines of detail) or 1080i (1,080 lines of detail). A standard TV has 480. The "p" refers to progressive scan, in which each of the picture frames is drawn line by line from top to bottom on the screen, causing on-screen action to appear smoother. The "i" stands for interlaced, meaning that every second line of a picture is drawn in sequence.

The 47-inch Gallevia TV also sports an 800-to-1 contrast ratio and 16.7 million colors.

Although not a household name, Vizio has gone from being a consulting firm to one of the larger TV brands in North America. The company ranked 10th in sales for the third quarter in the combined LCD and plasma TV market, according to statistics from DisplaySearch.

Vizio, Polaroid, Syntax-Brillian (which makes Olevia TVs) and Westinghouse can be seen as sort of the little TV makers that could. The companies were relatively minor players a few years ago. Established manufacturers like Sony and Samsung, along with analysts, thought competition in the TV world would be heated up by PC companies like Dell--which currently ranks 20th, according to DisplaySearch.

Low pricing and novel retailing strategies, combined with extensive reliance on contract manufacturers, have allowed the small companies to secure a niche.

Vizio, for instance, sells its TVs mostly in club stores like Costco, which have emerged as a major outlet for digital TVs. The company also tries to keep operating costs low.