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Vizio LED-based LCD: Bangin' LCD picture for the buck

Sure it has a few flaws, but nothing fatal prevents the local dimming, LED-backlit Vizio VF551XVT exhibiting outstanding LCD picture quality for the buck.

Vizio's 55-inch, LED-backlit VF551XVT gives great black levels for less. Sarah Tew/CNET

We're willing to bet that when Vizio announced the VF551XVT back in January, plenty of savvy HDTV bargain hunters marked down "June" as the time they'd buy this 55-inch LED-based LCD. Then the company pushed its release back to September. Then it announced that the"Via" VF552XVT--basically the same as this model with one of the most compelling feature packages we've ever seen, including a Bluetooth remote and Wi-Fi connectivity to complement a robust suite of interactive services--would be shipping in November for the same price. Suddenly the much-anticipated VF551XVT seemed a bit less impressive.

For the price, however, this Vizio still delivers impressive picture quality to big-screen shoppers who can't wait for its successor or don't care about interactive doodads (and no, there's no way to upgrade a 551 to get Via functionality). Its black levels are among the deepest we've tested this year, and while the fluctuating backlight may give videophiles pause, it's not a deal-breaker. The VF551XVT also succeeds on most other performance fronts, although we can't say the same about its styling. Like all big-screen LCDs the Vizio's main competition comes from similar-size plasmas that cost even less and also offer impressive picture quality, but if you have your heart set on LCD, the Vizio VF551XVT is currently the over-50-inch bargain of the year.

Read the full review of the Vizio VF551XVT.