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Vizio GVLF review: Vizio GVLF

Vizio GVLF

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David Katzmaier
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David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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10 min read

Every time Vizio enters a new screen-size category with its flat-panel HDTVs, the company seems to break a new price barrier in the process. The 52-inch GV52LF is another case in point. It's the first 1080p LCD we've seen at this size to dip below $2,000--provided you have the appropriate Costco coupon. As we've come to expect from the bargain flat-panel powerhouse, this Vizio's feature set compares well to costlier models, anchored by four HDMI inputs and plenty of picture controls. The set's picture quality itself is decent, although black-level performance and off-angle viewing could certainly stand improvement. However, when you consider that a number of 50-inch plasmas can be found for comparable prices, and that many of them offer superior picture quality despite lacking that magic "1080p" designation, the GV52LF becomes appealing mainly to people whose hearts are set on an LCD.

6.6

Vizio GVLF

The Good

Relatively accurate color; includes custom color temperature controls; comparatively uniform backlight; solid PC performance; excellent connectivity with four HDMI inputs; detachable speakers.

The Bad

Produces a light shade of black; below-average shadow detail; poor off-angle viewing; backlight control not independent per input; emits faint humming sound when backlight is turned down.

The Bottom Line

Although a bargain by big-screen LCD standards, the 52-inch Vizio GV52LF has a hard time competing against similarly sized plasmas.

Design
Like its smaller brothers in the GVLF series, this 52-inch LCD has a relatively good-looking two-tone appearance. The stand and speakers are colored silver, while the frame around the screen itself is glossy black. The company logo lights up bluish-white when the TV's turned on, and turns orange when the TV's turned off. And like its line-mates, the GV52LF has bold text on the front that reads "GALLEVIA 1080 PROGRESSIVE LIQUID CRYSTAL HDTV." That's trying way too hard, and the words detract from the otherwise classy look of the set.


The Vizio GV52LF's detachable speaker.

Thanks to a set of screws, however, if you don't like the words you can remove the entire nameplate and expose the pedestal stand between the speakers. People with separate sound systems have the option to detach the speakers as well, chopping a good deal of bulk off the TV, and if you're hanging the set on the wall, the stand can also be removed. Including speakers and stand, the GV52LF measures 50.4 by 34.7 by 12.2 inches and weighs 110 pounds. Without speakers and stand, the panel measures 50.4 by 30.2 by 4.9 inches.

The GV52LF is the second model we've reviewed to feature Vizio's new, improved clicker. Every key on the midsized remote is illuminated, the exception being the big cursor control disc. The buttons are well-differentiated and -spaced, and we really liked the four dedicated keys for directly choosing inputs. We could complain about the mushy-feeling cursor disc and the fact that the aspect ratio key shares space with the less-important "record" button, and we don't love the prominent A, B, C, and D keys (which are only useful for controlling certain gear aside from the TV), but that's about it. The remote can command three other pieces of gear.

The set's menu system is straightforward and simple enough to use, although it was a bit confusing to have to use the menu key, as opposed to a dedicated "back" button, to move to a previous level in the menus. While the menu screen itself obediently disappears during most picture adjustments, it annoyingly remains overlaid during a few, including those in the Advanced video menu.

Features
As the nameplate proclaims, the GV52LF features a 1080p native resolution, which translates to 1,920x1,080 pixels., Those pixels enable the set to display every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources, the highest resolutions available today. All other sources, including 720p HDTV, DVD, standard-def TV and computers, are scaled to fit the available pixels.


The Vizio's backlight control is not independent per input.

We appreciated the numerous picture controls on the GV52LF. It offers three nonadjustable preset picture modes, along with a fourth Custom mode that's independent for each input. Yes, all four HDMI jacks can have different picture settings, unlike those of the Westinghouse TX-47F430S for example. Unfortunately, the important backlight control is an exception and remains at the same level for every input and picture mode, a limitation that prevents you from effectively using one setting for a bright room and another for the dark. We did like the ability to fine-tune the color temperature beyond the three available presets, of which Normal (not Warm) came closest to the standard. We weren't big fans of most of the options available in the Advanced picture menu, however, and ended up leaving them turned off for critical viewing of high-quality sources.

The Vizio offers a choice of just two aspect ratio modes for HD sources: one that zooms the image to cut off letterbox bars and one that happily provides a dot-by-dot version of 1080i and 1080p sources for the sharpest possible picture with no overscan. We did miss having a mode with some overscan, which can obscure the interference that appeared along the extreme edges of certain channels, like ESPNHD from our DirecTV feed. Happily, the Vizio provides a position control that you can tweak to eliminate visible interference. A healthier selection of four modes is available for standard-def sources.

In terms of conveniences, the GV45LF delivers an excellent, versatile picture-in-picture function that allows numerous combinations of sources, including RGB (aka computer) and HDMI. A freeze-frame function is also onboard for people who like to read the fine print in erectile dysfunction ads.


Four HDMI inputs highlight the GV52LF's jack pack.

Although the GV52LF is squarely entrenched in the "bargain" category, its connectivity rivals that of high-end HDTVs. As mentioned above, the highlight is the four HDMI inputs, allowing direct connection to, say, an HDMI-equipped cable box, a DVD recorder, a Sony PlayStation3, and an Xbox 360 Elite (if you don't have 4 HDMI devices, you're just not trying hard enough). The Vizio also offers two component-video inputs, one AV input with composite video, an RGB-style PC input (which accepts the full 1920x1080 resolution) and an RF input for the cable and/or antenna, including broadcasts to the ATSC tuner. There's also an optical digital output for surround soundtracks from said tuner, and a standard stereo audio output. The GV52LF's left side is home to another AV input equipped with S-Video and composite-video jacks.


The GV52LF's side-panel inputs include composite and S-video.

Performance
As with most Vizio HDTVs we've tested, the GV52LF's picture quality was good enough for most people, but it certainly won't please discerning viewers. Its main issue is lack of the ability to produce deep blacks, and while its color performance was quite solid, we were also disappointed in its off-angle viewing characteristics.

We began as usual by adjusting the Vizio for our darkened lab, which meant reducing the light output to around 40 FTL for comfortable viewing. We also noticed a very faint humming sound when we reduced the backlight to zero; it became progressively quieter as we increased the backlight, and was nearly inaudible at 100. Nonetheless we set the backlight to zero to coax the best black levels possible out of the GV52LF, and tweaked brightness and contrast accordingly. We also took advantage of the red, green, and blue color temperature sliders, which improved grayscale accuracy in dark areas especially. The set's grayscale wasn't very linear, however, dipping into red in mid-dark areas and up toward blue in brighter ones--we really could have used six controls instead of three. For our complete adjustments, click here or check out the Tips & Tricks section above.

For this comparison we used a number of more-expensive 50-something HDTVs we had on-hand, including the Pioneer PDP-5080HD plasma (our reference for black level), the Pioneer PRO-FHD1 plasma (our color reference), and two 52-inch LCDs, namely the Toshiba 52LX177 and the Sharp LC-52D64U. We watched The Departed on HD DVD played from the Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player at 1080i resolution.

The Vizio GV52LF's panel doesn't muster as deep of a shade of black as the 42-inch GV42LF, and its picture certainly looked lighter than as any of the other more-expensive comparison HDTVs. During the warehouse meeting with Jack Nicholson's crew, for example, the letterbox bars, the black of Leonardo DiCaprio's shirt, and the metal of an Uzi didn't look as dark as on the other displays, which robbed the scene of some impact in comparison. The Vizio also delivered fewer details in shadows; the folds of DiCaprio's jacket when he types on his hidden cell phone appeared indistinct compared with the other LCDs and especially the plasmas.

As we mentioned above, the Vizio's color in dark areas remained true, unlike the Sharp and Toshiba, but it still had a tendency to redden lighter, mid-dark areas. We saw evidence of this in the encounter between DiCaprio and his psychologist in her apartment, where their skin appeared a bit less natural compared with the more-accurate PRO-FHD1. In brightly-lit scenes on the Vizio, some areas like the white-washed walls of a driving range looked a bit too blue compared with the other displays. In both cases, however, the effect wasn't egregious especially for a budget LCD. Color decoding was quite accurate as were primary colors, but the Vizio's apparent saturation was worsened by its lighter blacks.

With the advent of 120Hz displays like the Toshiba 52LX177, the topic of LCD motion blur is worth addressing. We did see some blur when watching the scrolling white-on-black text of the ESPN ticker, where the letters on the Vizio appeared softer around the edges than on the other displays. Blurring was nearly impossible to detect in the fast-motion from Departed, however, such as when DiCaprio apprehended Matt Damon on the rooftop. We switched gears to a football game and looked for blurring in long sweeps of the camera over the field following a kickoff or in the names on jerseys when players moved quickly, and again it was difficult to discern. Although the GV52LF displays worse blurring on the ticker than we've seen on many other LCDs, we don't think it'll be an issue for all but the most sensitive viewers.

Of course one of the Vizio's biggest selling points is its 1080p native resolution, and indeed the set was capable of resolving every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources. Like most HDTVs we've tested, it was incapable of correctly deinterlacing 1080i film-based content, but it did pass the test for video-based content (see the geek box below). Details in Departed looked excellent, as expected from such a high-quality source material, although compared with the 50-inch, lower-resolution (1,366x768) Pioneer PDP-5080HD, the Vizio didn't look any sharper. In fact, with the Pioneer's higher contrast ratio, it often looked more detailed than the 1080p Vizio.

We also compared the two with a 1080p source, the ultra-sharp Corpse Bride played from the Samsung BD-P1200, and the results were similar--when sitting about five feet from the screen staring hard at a paused image, we were able to detect the slightest amount of extra detail in the texture of the one of the sleeves of Finis Everglot, for example. At a normal seating distance with full-motion images, fine details on the two sets looked basically the same. The main benefit of the Vizio compared with the Pioneer was the former's lack of scaling artifacts in certain areas, like the horizontal Venetian blinds behind Martin Sheen's desk, which evinced some unnatural moving lines on the Pioneer but none on the Vizio.

The GV52LF evinced relatively even screen uniformity for a big flat-panel LCD. With completely black screens and less-so with letterbox bars, we noted that the top edge and the top-left corner appeared slightly brighter than the rest. With test patterns that fill the screen with flat gray fields, we did see slightly uneven brightness across the screen, but it was quite difficult to spot in normal program material. When seen from off-angle, however, the picture on the Vizio suffered more than those of most LCDs we've tested. Dark areas became noticeably redder, and the entire image became a good deal more washed out. Viewers seated more than a seat to either side of dead-center could notice the dropoff in picture fidelity, especially in dark scenes.

The Vizio resolved all of the details of the DVD source, and the stone bridge looked fine as long as we kept the sharpness control at the default 4 or higher (that setting induced edge enhancement, but we preferred that look with standard-def to softer alternatives). On the other hand, the Vizio left jagged edges along moving diagonal lines and on the stripes and folds of a waving American flag. The set's noise reduction did a mediocre job of cleaning up the snowy video noise from the skies and sunsets on the HQV disc; even at the highest setting we saw significantly more noise than on the other sets in the room, although the Toshiba was about equal. We did appreciate the quick detection and implementation of 2:3 pulldown, however.

With PC sources, the Vizio produced very good results. We started by connecting a PC's DVI output to one of the GV52LF's HDMI inputs and setting our video card to match the display's 1920x1080 resolution. According to DisplayMate, the set resolved every detail of the signal, and text looked great with no overscan. When we connected our PC via VGA the results were less impressive. The set took the 1920x1080 signal well and displayed an image with no overscan, but the horizontal resolution was truncated significantly, to about half. As a result text looked a good deal softer than it should, although it was still legible. We had better results setting our PC to output at 1,366x768, where text looked a bit sharper. Of course, with the Vizio's four HDMI inputs you'll likely have an extra to use with a PC, so going VGA won't be necessary as long as your PC has a DVI output.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 6339/6685K Good
After color temp 6542/6792K Average
Before grayscale variation +/- 227K Good
After grayscale variation +/- 297K Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.641/0.341 Good
Color of green 0.280/0.615 Average
Color of blue 0.145/0.057 Good
Overscan 0% Good
Black-level retention Al patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Y Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

Vizio GV52LF Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 344.52 173.12 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.3 0.15 N/A
Standby (watts) 0.63 0.63 N/A
Cost per year $105.01 $52.96 N/A
Score (considering size) Average
Score (overall) Poor

6.6

Vizio GVLF

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 6
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