CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
Vizio is a company best known for offering bargain-price HDTVs that perform better than you'd expect, so we weren't surprised to find that the company's VBR200W Blu-ray player fits the same mold. It's one of the cheapest players ($190 street price) we've seen that has built-in Wi-Fi, which makes it much easier to access its suite of streaming-media apps, which includes Netflix, Vudu, and Pandora. However, it appears that Vizio made some sacrifices to hit the lower price point. The VBR200W has the slowest disc-loading speeds of any standalone player we've tested this year, and its Wi-Fi performance is significantly worse. It lacks the polish of some competing players, and has occasional operational hiccups and a loud disc drive. Even though the VBR200W has its flaws, we feel that its perks will make up for them, especially for bargain-minded buyers.
Powered off, the VBR200W has an extremely minimalist design with a very glossy black finish, no front panel buttons, a bulging silver disc tray, and orange Vizio logo in the center. There's no visual indication of how to operate the player until you press the power button on the remote. Then, the VBR200W's touch-sensitive buttons light up, including playback controls on the far right. The buttons mostly worked well, but we did have to "double touch" a few times when our presses weren't picked up. Also, Vizio didn't include a USB port on the player's front panel, so you'll have to reach around to its back to plug in a USB flash drive. The player is thicker than many of the competing models we've tested, coming in at 2.4 inches high compared with the Sony BDP-S570's 1.8-inch height. The VBR200W's design walks that fine line between slick and a little cheap; however, ultimately our impression came down on the cheap side, mostly because of the chunky disc tray.
Vizio carried the cheap aesthetic over to the remote control. It's unusually large and covered in glossy plastic that gets covered in fingerprints in a hurry. Its button layout is decent, although the huge play/pause button is probably larger than it needs to be. The remote wasn't quite as responsive as we'd like in the main menus; we're not sure if it was the menus or the remote, but the VBR200W couldn't keep up with rapid button presses. Overall, it's a substandard clicker, but as always you can swap it out for a quality universal remote.
Though we are lukewarm about the VBR200W's exterior styling, we like its main user interface. The interface graphics are relatively attractive and the straightforward icon-driven approach makes it easy to pick your media type. Once you get into the setup menu, the menu organization becomes a little more convoluted, but the VBR200W gets the basics right.
Vizio includes Netflix's latest interface that lets you view some movies not in your instant queue, in categories like "Movies You'll Love" and "New Arrivals." If you're looking for some of the other apps, such as Facebook and Twitter, for the player, those are actually Vudu apps and are located in that menu. We were a little skeptical about the apps running off the Vudu platform, but they were very fast and responsive. On the VBR200W, Vizio also includes a basic interface for navigating music on an attached USB drive. It certainly lacks the eye candy of more-advanced interfaces like Apple TV or even the interface on the LG BD590, but it works for listening to some tunes in a pinch.
|3D Blu-ray||No||Onboard memory||No|
Considering the VBR200W's price, its feature set is solid. It's one of the only two sub-$200 Blu-ray players we've seen with built-in Wi-Fi, with the other being the Insignia NS-WBRDVD. It doesn't have onboard memory or 3D Blu-ray support, but it's hard to complain about its lack of those features when more-expensive units like the $225 LG BD570 don't include them either.
The VBR200W's selection of streaming-media services covers all the most important bases: subscription-based movies with Netflix, pay-per-view movies with Vudu, and free streaming audio with Pandora. Its competitors, such as the LG BD570 and Samsung BD-C6500, certainly have more services, but there are diminishing returns after the basics are covered, and we found the VBR200W's selection perfectly adequate.
The rest of the Vizio's apps are inside the Vudu menu and use Vudu's app platform. These apps include weather, Flicker, Picasa, and more. We were a little skeptical of this arrangement at first, but we found that the apps worked quickly and well, even if they are a little hidden in the menu. It's worth noting that the company's apps-equipped TVs, on the other hand, have a different, custom apps platform with a wider selection, albeit no Vudu apps.
We were disappointed to find that Vizio didn't include DLNA compatibility or any other PC streaming functionality on the VBR200W. The LG BD570 and Samsung BD-C6500 are DLNA-compliant out-of-the-box and the Sony BDP-S570 is getting a firmware update for DLNA in the summer. Yes, the VBR200W can read digital media files off a connected USB memory drive, but network streaming is a nice convenience. We also didn't have any luck playing back a DivX file off a USB drive; the VBR200W said "file type unsupported."
|Dolby TrueHD||Yes||DTS-HD Master Audio||Yes|
|Dolby Digital Plus||Yes||DTS-HD HR||Yes|
|Bit stream output||Yes||SACD/DVD-Audio||No|
Like nearly every Blu-ray player available, the VBR200W offers onboard decoding for both high-resolution Dolby and DTS formats. If you're looking to play back SACDs and DVD-Audio discs, you'll need to look to Oppo's competing players; Sony's competing BDP-S570 also offers SACD playback.
|HDMI version||HDMI 1.3||Stereo analog||Yes|
|Component video||Yes||Multichannel analog||No|
|Ethernet||Yes||SD card slot||No|
|USB ports||1||RS-232 port||No|
The rest of the Vizio's connectivity is also standard. Yes, some competing players have two USB ports, but having only one is just a minor inconvenience.
Blu-ray image quality
We didn't know quite what to expect from the Vizio VBR200W in terms of image quality, but it handled itself well, passing a surprising number of test patterns and nearly all of our program material tests. It did stumble on one video-based program material test, which puts it a step behind the best-performing Blu-ray players, but we'd emphasize the difference is minor and for nearly all movies you'll see identical performance from the Vizio VBR200W and competitors. Unless you're a hardnosed videophile, the VBR200's Blu-ray image quality will look very impressive.
All our testing was conducted via HDMI at 1080p/60, with the Samsung PN58B650 display and Oppo BDP-83 and LG BD570 for comparison. For more information on our testing procedure, consult our full guide to how we test Blu-ray players. Home theater enthusiasts can also see more-detailed testing results in our 2010 Blu-ray player comparison chart.
|Film resolution||Pass||Dynamic range high||Pass|
|Video resolution||Pass||Dynamic range low||Pass|
|Text overlay on film||Pass||Luma multiburst||Pass|
|Cadence tests||1/8||Chroma multiburst||Pass|
|Chroma bug test||Pass|
The Vizio VBR200W passed all of the most important tests, including the Film Resolution test that indicates that it should handle the majority of Blu-ray movies perfectly. The only tests it came up a little short in were the cadence tests, but actual program material with uncommon cadences is so rare that it's not worth considering.
|"Ghost Rider"||Pass||"Tony Bennett"||Pass|
|"M:I:III"||Pass||"NIN Live"; chapter 3||Fail|
|"Sunshine"||Pass||"NIN Live"; chapter 4||Pass|
The VBR200W did so well with test patterns that we were surprised to see it stumble on one of our program material tests. We did see some significant jaggies on the video-based "Nine Inch Nails: Live" at the 8:10 mark, in the strings of Trent Reznor's guitar and when we looked at the same disc on the Oppo BDP-83, the jaggies weren't there. However, the Vizio did pass with all of the more common film-based movies, and the video-based "Tony Bennett: American Classic," which indicates it won't struggle with all video-based titles. Overall, we'd say the VBR200W's image quality is very good, but die-hard videophiles can find nits to pick if they look hard enough.
|"M:I:III" | player on||21.70||"POTC" | until movie||85.11|
|"M:I:III" | player off | quick start||n/a||"Spider-Man 3" | until movie||72.22|
|"M:I:III" | player off | no quick start||28.50||"Sunshine" | chapter skip||15.95|
|"POTC" | past loading||35.35||CNET speed rating (composite score)||74|
The Vizio VBR200W is the slowest standalone Blu-ray player we've tested this year, although it's still a good deal faster than the PS3 Slim. It was consistently slower than other players in pretty much all of our speed tests, including both movies with simple and complex menus. Still, the differences in load times between players are rarely more than 20 seconds, so those with a little patience will be fine with the VBR200W. It is worth pointing out that after the disc loads, the VBR200W "feels" a little faster than its 74 speed rating indicates, and it certainly navigates menus faster than the Panasonic DMP-BD85K, for example.
In addition to the sluggish load times, our overall experience with the VBR200W made us feel that the hardware was a little less stable than competing players. Once when loading "Sunshine," the VBR200W took an abnormally long time to load the disc and when the image finally came up, it was half-garbled. Adding to the feeling of instability is the loudness of the VBR200W's disc drive, as you can often hear the player struggling to read the disc--it's significantly louder than other players we've tested. That being said, the hiccups and noise weren't deal breakers for us, and we expect many people would accept them as acceptable trad-eoffs for the lower price tag.
|Video resolution||Fail||"Star Trek: Insurrection"||Pass|
|Text overlay on film||Fail||"Invite Them Up"||Pass|
The Vizio did a better-than-expected job on our DVD test patterns and program material tests. The only major slip-up came on part of the video resolution test, which it did fail particularly badly, with several jaggylike artifacts appearing intermittently on the test pattern. That being said, our video-based "Invite Them Up" program material was handled with ease by the VBR200W. Subjectively, we'd say the VBR200W's upconversion looked about average; it won't suit image quality enthusiasts, but it should be good enough for most people.
Streaming video image quality
As with most devices, we saw no major image quality issues with Netflix streaming on the Vizio VBR200W. That gives the VBR200W an edge over the Sony BDP-S570, which suffers from some streaming image quality issues.
Image quality was up to par, but we did notice that its Wi-Fi performance overall was mediocre. It took us forever to load up Netflix movies and even just accessing network-enabled sections felt sluggish. We conduct our Blu-ray player reviews in the same test environment and haven't had any network issues with other Wi-Fi enabled Blu-ray players. When we switched over to a wired Ethernet connection, we didn't run into the same issues.
|Standby | quick start off||0.55 W||Standby | quick start on||n/a|
|Power on | watching movie||20.50 W||Power on | idling||19.15 W|
|Annual cost; quick start off||$1.78||Annual cost; quick start on||n/a|
Unlike some other Blu-ray players, the VBR200W lacks a quick start mode and therefore uses very little power in standby mode. In comparison, the Sony BDP-S570 has an annual cost of $7.35 with its quick start feature enabled. The downside with the VBR200W is that you don't have the option of faster load times if you're willing to pay the extra cost.