Vizio entered the sound bar market last year, with the VSB210WS, showing that the upstart TV manufacturer's trademark mix of "good-enough" performance and affordable pricing works in the home audio market, too. The VHT210 is Vizio's latest sound bar model and though it's not quite as cheap ($270 list price), it still has a lot going for it. Its design is one of the best we've seen, with both the sound bar and wireless sub boasting a compact form factor that won't dominate your living room. Its sound quality isn't the best we've heard--it doesn't get quite as loud as some competitors--but it does handle stereo music better than most sound bars we test. Our major disappointment was on the connectivity side; the VHT210 has only two inputs, compared with many competitors, like the Sony HT-CT150 and JVC TH-BA1, that offer more. That being said, if you've got a simple home theater setup and style is a priority, the Vizio VHT210 is a savvy choice.
The idea of the sound bar is to shrink the home theater down to a single enclosure, but even by those standards the VHT210 is compact. The sound bar itself is just 31.5 inches wide by 4 inches high by 3.13 inches deep. At 4.6 pounds, it feels incredibly light when you pull it out of the package. It has a familiar cylindrical shape that sits on two silver, built-in legs. The front is dominated by the matte-gray speaker grille, with just a slim rectangle of silver at the top. There are also a few buttons on the top of the unit to adjust the volume of switch inputs. The VHT210's wireless subwoofer (11.18 inches wide by 13 inches high by 11.86 inches deep) is also tiny, even by HTIB standards. The design won't satisfy people looking for more intangible characteristics like "build quality"--it feels a little cheap--but otherwise we think it's one the best overall designs for a sound bar.
There's no traditional LCD screen; instead, the VHT210 features a series of lights hidden behind the speaker grille that become visible when you adjust the volume. Those same lights are also used when selecting inputs, but it's not quite as intuitive. (Three lights show up and each one corresponds with an input, but you have to know which represents which.) Overall the lights work well for adjusting volume, but are confusing for selecting inputs.
The included remote flaunts its minimalism. Power button up top, volume control in the center and mute at the bottom--that's it. We're always asking for simpler remotes and the VHT210 actually gets it right. Even better, you can slide out the bottom of the remote to reveal a few more controls, includes treble, bass, and subwoofer adjustments, SRS controls, and input buttons. The glossy finish collects fingerprints and the slide-out action could be a little smoother, but those are nitpicks on what's an excellent overall remote.
For this price range, the VHT210's feature set is standard. There's no video pass-through of any kind, so you'll need to run video connections directly to your HDTV. That means you'll need to juggle multiple remotes to change inputs, or invest in a quality universal remote. The only sound bar with video switching in this price range is the Sony HT-CT150, which has three HDMI inputs. Also note that though the VHT210 technically doesn't have an LCD display, the aforementioned lights behind the speaker grille almost completely make up for the shortcoming.
|HDMI inputs||0||Analog audio inputs||1|
|Optical inputs||1||Coaxial inputs||0|
|Minijack input||No||Max. connected ext. devices||2|
The VHT210's biggest weakness is its paltry connectivity options. Just two total inputs (one optical digital, one analog stereo) mean that the VHT210 will likely suffice only for relatively simple home theaters. You can connect more devices by using your TV as a switcher if it has an audio output, but that's not always an option.
It's also worth mentioning that the VHT210 has built-in "Vizio HD Wireless Audio technology," which is a proprietary wireless audio standard that Vizio will be releasing products for later this year. Vizio said there will be a wireless iPod dock using this technology, but hasn't announced other products that take advantage of it.