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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Vizio's 5.1 sound bar packs wireless rear speakers, innovative remote

Thick enough to sound good

Every input type you need

Wireless surround speakers

Standard RCA-type connection

Wireless subwoofer

Subwoofer back panel

Innovate remote with display

Remote's display

Remote, side view

Front-panel lights

Vizio's jumbo sound bars are coming

Early sound quality impressions good, too

LAS VEGAS--Vizio's S4251W is a CNET's Best of CES nominee in the home theater and audio category, and I was able to spend some extra hands-on time with the 5.1 sound bar this morning.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
The trend at CES 2013 was ultrathin, compact sound bars, but the Vizio has some depth to it. I have my doubts that the smaller sound bars will be able to deliver solid sound quality.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
On the back of the sound bar you'll find an optical, coaxial, and analog input, which is plenty if you use your TV as a switcher. There's also built-in Bluetooth for wireless streaming from mobile devices.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
The S4251W includes two "wireless" surround speakers that you place in the back of your living room. They still need to be connected via wires to the subwoofer, but you avoid having to run cables from the front of your living room to the back.

The nice thing about the surround speakers is they'll give you true surround sound, which the vast majority of sound bars can't deliver.

Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
The surround speakers use a standard RCA-style plug to connect to the subwoofer, instead of a proprietary cable type, so it's easy to get a custom length cable to fit your living room if the included cables aren't the right size.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
The included wireless subwoofer doesn't need to be connected to the sound bar, but it does need to be plugged in and connected to the two surround speakers. You can place the subwoofer in the back of your living room for the cleanest setup. That's not the ideal subwoofer location for music, but it works well for games and movies.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
The back of the subwoofer includes ports for power and connecting to the two surround speakers.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
The included remote is a step above the usual cheap-feeling, "credit-card style" remote most sound bars include.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
The remote also includes a display, so you get visual feedback as to what input you're on and how loud the volume is. It's a much better location for the display than trying to squint and read a front-panel display on the sound bar from across your living room.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
The remote has a solid feel, and the button layout is nice, too.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
The Vizio also has a basic front-panel display: a series of lights along the bottom that light up and let you know how loud the volume is. Having a display on the sound bar (in addition to the remote) is nice in case you end up using a universal remote.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
In addition to the 5.1 sound bar, Vizio showed an extra-large sound bar designed to fit TVs 60 inches and up. It's not officially announced yet, but it's coming later this year.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
In addition to getting some hands-on time with the S4251W, I also had the chance to give it a listen at Vizio's showroom. I don't put too much stock in canned listening demos at trade shows, but my initial impressions were pretty positive. I'm looking forward to taking a more in-depth listen to the S4251W when it comes out this spring with a list price of $330.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Moskovciak/CNET
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