Like many companies, ViewSonic offers a choice of 42-inch plasma TVs in its lineup. The model reviewed here, the VPW4255, has a relatively high resolution, while its less expensive sibling, the aptly named VPW425, has lower resolution. They have the same size screens, but the VPW4255 will deliver a sharper picture with high-definition images. When set up properly, the VPW4255 is a solid performer, and HDTV sources look quite good on it. Its somewhat limited feature set and industrial look may not appeal to everyone, but if the minimalist "just picture" concept works for you, the VPW4255 is worth considering.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.As far as design goes, the VPW4255 does little to distract the eye from the picture on the screen. Its basic black frame should blend in smoothly just about anywhere, although we thought the model number stenciled on the upper-right corner looked a bit tacky. The only other visible mark is the company logo directly in the center below the bottom of the screen; ViewSonic hid the buttons along the bottom of the frame.
With measurements of 40.5 by 25 by 3.5 inches (W, H, D), this flat-panel set will have no trouble hanging on the wall with an optional bracket or sitting on a table with an optional stand (neither is included).
The remote is quite small and a bit awkward to use. It does offer direct input access, however, which comes in handy for switching sources on the fly. The GUI, or internal menu system, is straightforward and easy to navigate. The instruction manual, on the other hand, seems rather abstruse and technical. With a native resolution of 1,024x1,024, the VPW4255 doesn't have quite enough pixels to deliver the full detail of HDTV. It uses ALiS technology, so unlike other plasma designs, it shares a lot of characteristics with the interlaced scanning method used in standard TVs. (Click here for more info.) The main impact of ALiS is that blacks won't be as deep as on many plasmas. The VPW4255 can display just about any sort of image you throw its way, including--true to ViewSonic's monitor heritage--computer-originated sources up to 1,024x768 (DVI) and 1,280x768 (analog VGA).
ViewSonic does include a number of picture-related features, some that improve the picture and some that do not. The Film mode should be set to On for film-based material (such as most DVDs) to engage the 2:3 pull-down feature. Naturally, this will not apply for HDTV sources or progressive-scan DVD players. The LTI and CTI functions are actually edge enhancement circuits and should be turned off, as they introduce artifacts in the picture. The Black Enhance feature should also be turned off, and black level should simply be set with the proper PLUGE test pattern for the best results. AutoColor is another an undesirable feature that screws up color accuracy rather than improving it. Worthwhile features include four selectable color temperatures: Warm, Black/White, Cool, and Normal, as well as adjustable color decoder and color temperature controls (see Performance).
Connectivity is decent on the VPW4255, and all the jacks point downward to facilitate cable management for wall-mount installations. There are two component-video inputs, one 15-pin VGA-style RGB input for computers, one DVI input with HDCP copy protection, one S-Video input, three composite-video inputs with stereo audio ins, an RS-232 control port, and a set of A/V outputs. All of the video inputs include audio jacks as well, in case you want to hook those optional speakers up to the clip-type speaker jacks. The VPW4255 produces a solid picture, especially for an ALiS display. Our only major complaint had to do with the color decoder, which significantly deaccentuates both red and green out of the box. We fixed it with the user-menu Color Management and Color Decoding controls, which resulted in highly accurate color balance (this should be performed by someone who knows what he or she is doing).
Out-of-the-box grayscale performance measured well for any display; the Warm color temperature setting result was extremely close to the D6500 broadcast standard in our testing (see the geek box below). Grayscale controls are also available in the user menu, which could be dangerous in the hands of the average consumer.
After a thorough calibration, color saturation was excellent with no bleeding reds or people appearing to have sunburned faces. Chapter 25 of the Seabiscuit DVD looked really good. Although the VPW4255 still can't match the depth of blacks that make the best non-ALiS plasmas really shine, darker scenes from Alien looked clean with only minor "dancing pixel" (false contouring) artifacts. In fact, the 4255 smoked the top-of-the-line Sony KDE-55XBR950 in this regard, which is probably the result of better video processing in the ViewSonic.
We did a separate HDTV setup using our Accupel HDG3000 HDTV signal generator. Images in 1080i high-def--the VPW4255's preferred format--from our DirecTV HD satellite feed looked great. HDNet, HDNet Movies, and the Discovery channel again showed excellent color saturation and lots of snap in bright areas, indicating a relatively healthy contrast ratio.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,075/6,450K||Good|
|After color temp (20/80)||6,450/6,450K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/-175K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/-55.5K||Good|
|Color decoder error: red||-10% (0%)||Average|
|Color decoder error: green||-15% (0%)||Poor|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|