LCD- and DLP-based microdisplay HDTVs are as popular as celebrity poker, and one of the biggest reasons is design. They cost more than standard CRT-based rear-projection sets but offer slimmer, lighter cabinets and high-tech looks. The Vizio RP56 from V, the same company responsible for the , aims for that person willing to pay extra for a microdisplay-based HDTV but unwilling to shell out a little more for the design of a name-brand set such as the Samsung HLN567W or the Sony KF-60WE610. Since it's virtually identical to Gateway's ($2,499), the Vizio RP56's online price of around $3,000 will need to fall a bit before this set earns our full recommendation.
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.The main place where the RP56 diverges from the is the color of its skin. We described Gateway's set as a "black hole," while the RP56 is silver. The same expanse of molded plastic houses the 56-inch diagonal screen, which sits atop a separate section of cabinet that holds the speakers. A line of buttons allows control of many of the set's functions, as well as menu access.
Despite its large screen, this TV isn't furniture in its own right. You'll need to place it on a stand or a low bench to raise the display to eye level. Thanks to DLP technology, the set measures only 19 inches deep and weighs a mere 130 pounds. Its build quality seems a little light as well, but at least the jack connections are solid.
We liked the large, blue-backlit remote, though we would have preferred fewer buttons and tighter organization; novices may find this clicker confusing. Dedicated keys provide direct access to groups of inputs; for example, Comp cycles between the two component-video ins. A second, smaller remote is provided for the RP56's well-appointed picture-in-picture control (see ). The rudimentary, text-only internal menu system can be a challenge to navigate.
One unusual trait of DLP TVs is that they don't turn on immediately. After we hit the power button, the RP56's screen took an average of nearly 40 seconds to light up with a picture. The delay was quite a bit longer than what we experienced with Samsung's HLN467W. And the Vizio has another weird characteristic: You have to press the power key twice to turn off the set. Two major features stick out on the spec sheet: DLP technology and an extremely versatile picture-in-picture (PIP) function. The set's DLP engine incorporates Texas Instruments' HD2 chip, which has a native resolution of 1,280x720--enough to display every pixel of a 720p high-definition signal. Like any fixed-pixel set, the Vizio converts 1080i HDTV; DVD; VHS; standard cable, antenna, and satellite television; and all other resolutions to fit its native resolution. You'll need to attach a separate HDTV tuner to watch high-def programming.
The Vizio has one of the most useful PIP features we've ever seen. The television comes with two remotes, so you and your spouse can independently change channels, swap sources, and even adjust the volume; the second window is linked to a dedicated headphone jack with a volume control. The PIP function's main limitation comes up with cable and satellite boxes; you'll need two boxes to access all channels in both windows. DVI and RGB (computer) images must appear in the main display, but otherwise, any source can appear alongside any other.
Our favorite performance-enhancing feature, independent input memories, enables you to adjust contrast, brightness, and other parameters for each source (except DVI; see ). You also get a choice of three color temperatures, while four aspect-ratio choices let you resize images on the wide screen. Along with 4:3 and 16:9, you get Zoom for nonanamorphic DVDs and Panorama for stretching the picture's sides more than its center. Choices for HD sources are limited to two: only 4:3 and 16:9 are active when the incoming signal is 1080i or 720p.
The RP56's jack pack is quite impressive. Its DVI input has HDCP copy protection for compatibility with HDTV receivers and DVI-equipped DVD players. Both of the rear component-video hookups can accept standard, 480p, and HDTV signals. A flip-out bay on the face's left side holds one A/V connection, and the back provides two more with S-Video. That front-panel compartment also hosts a headphone jack for each PIP window and one of the two VGA inputs for your computer (the second is on the back panel). Finally, there's a full set of A/V outputs, complete with S-Video. The only missing link is an HDMI input. Overall, the Vizio RP56 delivers an average DLP picture. Its use of the older Texas Instruments HD2 chip, as opposed to forthcoming DLPs that will use the HD2+ chip, will be an issue for future-looking videophiles, but we'll reserve judgment until we actually review one of the new DLPs. In the meantime, the V's image-quality strengths include the ability to produce relatively deep blacks--as deep as those of any LCD-based set we've seen--and fairly good video processing. It shares with other fixed-pixel rear-projection TVs a wide side-to-side viewing angle and excellent sharpness with high-res material. On the downside, its color isn't very accurate, its DVI input lacks full picture controls, and it suffers from the rainbow effect (see below).
During one of our favorite black-level torture tests, the opening of Alien, the RP56 acquitted itself relatively well. The rings around the planet appeared clean, with only minor false contouring in the transitions between the greenish brown of the ring and the (somewhat) black void of space. On the other hand, we did see more false contouring on the V than on the ViewSonic VPW4255 plasma, and, more troublesome to some viewers, the white lettering of the titles brought out a good deal of rainbowing. As we looked back and forth between the slowly assembling title Alien at the top of the screen and the credits in the middle, we noticed trails of color following the white letters. This wasn't an acid flashback: single-chip DLP TVs like this and the Samsungs are subject to these rainbow artifacts. Some people notice them, and some do not. Another strange anomaly: The edges of some objects and especially onscreen text appeared slightly discolored, as if shadowed by an off-color double.
The RP56 passed our test for 2:3 pull-down detection, but we still recommend you mate it with a progressive-scan DVD player. Switching between the interlaced and the progressive output of our reference , we noticed the interlaced feed caused the TV to render things less smoothly; the onscreen text description of the Nostromo spaceship, for example, crawled with irregularities along the edges of the letters. The letters became slightly more stable when we switched to , running 720p via the DVI output, but that introduced a major problem: the TV had only contrast and brightness control via DVI. To adjust color, we had to use the controls inside the DVD player, which were quite coarse. We would have preferred to have full control of every picture parameter on the DVI input via the TV, and any precision picture adjustment, such as DIY or professional calibration, will be difficult without those controls.
Unlike most sets we've seen, the RP56 actually deaccentuated reds by a good deal, so again we had to reduce the color control to avoid, for example, overly green facial tones. We also found it impossible to get a passable grayscale in calibration, due to lack of control, but the out-of-box grayscale in Warm color temperature mode wasn't terrible (see the geek box for details).
We watched plenty of HDTV from our DirecTV satellite feed, and naturally it looked great. Native 720p material from ESPN HD was rock solid, and the conversion of the other 1080i channels to the chip's 720p resolution didn't harm the image noticeably. We didn't do any formal testing with computer sources, but the set's pair of VGA inputs worked well during our casual hookups. You'll want to set your PC's output to 1,280x720 to take advantage of the RP56's native resolution.
|Before color temp (20/100)||6,628/7,824K||Average|
|After color temp (20/100)||7,288/7,190K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 747K||Average|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 310K||Poor|
|Color decoder error: red||-20%||Poor|
|Color decoder error: green||0%||Good|
|DC restoration||Gray pattern stable||Average|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|