Editors' note (March 4, 2010): The rating on this product has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace, including the release of 2010 models. The review has not otherwise been modified..
Vizio chose to adorn its VO320E 32-inch LCD with claims of environmental consciousness, saying the little set exceeds Energy Star guidelines by 15 percent. But that's not a very high standard, and according to our tests the Vizio, while definitely no power hog, sips just a couple bucks less juice per year than other LCDs in its class. Its true appeal is low price combined with perfectly acceptable picture quality. A couple of flaws might give black level sticklers or dual-use PC/TV aficionados pause, but other bargain hunters should consider this entry-level Vizio among the better LCDs in its class.
Editors' note, November 19, 2009: This review has been updated since its initial publication to reflect additional comparison testing, but its rating has not been modified.
The Vizio VO320E is one of the more conservative-looking TVs out there, toning down the glossy black around the screen with a wider border of matte black perforated by thousands of tiny holes. Some accent is provided by a strip of reflective silver along the bottom of the squared-off frame, as well as by the glowing (and unfortunately not user-dimmable) Vizio logo. The matte plastic stand feels a bit cheap, and doesn't swivel.
We don't really like the Halloween-colored menu system, mainly because it hides too many functions away from view, requiring too much scrolling. Everything's accounted for, however, and we did appreciate the helpful text explanations that accompanied menu selections.
Vizio's chunky little glossy black remote quickly became grimy with our fingerprints. The clicker has a minimum of keys and, in an unusual but not inconvenient move, combines the "enter" and "menu" keys into one button in the middle of the directional keypad. We did like the direct access buttons, such as "HDMI" and "AV," for quick jumps to specific inputs but were annoyed at the lack of a dedicated button for aspect ratio.
Like most less expensive 32-inch TVs, the Vizio has a native resolution of 1,366x768, or 720p, as opposed to the 1080p resolution found on step-up models. Of course, at this screen size the benefits of 1080p are negligible, except with computer sources, so we don't consider this feature omission a big deal.
The VO320E sports an above-average selection of features otherwise. Its best move in our book is the ability to adjust color temperature beyond the standard four presets. There's also a healthy selection of nine picture modes, including four sports-themed options (football, baseball, golf and basketball). In case you're wondering, setting the TV to "basketball" didn't immediately improve the look of the Lakers game, for example, but we do appreciate having all of those extra picture modes to play around with. You can adjust all of them, and one, entitled Custom, is independent per input.
A few other picture settings are onboard. Advanced Adaptive Luma changes the picture according to content; a five-position "color enhancement" control messes with color balance; and a noise reduction circuit is available to clean up lower-quality sources. We left all of these modes turned off for critical viewing of high-quality material. You can also change the "backlight" setting to fluctuate according to either picture content or room lighting; again we left this function off. Finally a "film mode" is available for 2:3 pull-down detection.
Despite Vizio calling the VO320E an "Eco" model it doesn't have any special power-saving features. There's no specific power saver setting or picture mode, for example, as seen on many other TVs, and it was also missing the Home/Store dialog that makes sure the default picture setting is not set to "torch mode" during initial setup. The VO320E has four aspect-ratio choices with standard-def sources and three with high-def.
Connectivity on the VO320E is average for the entry-level breed. It has two total HDMI inputs, both located on the back panel, two component-video inputs (one located on the side, which can also serve as a composite video input), one VGA-style PC input, one AV input with S-Video (a second AV input with just composite video is located on the side), an RF input for antenna or cable, and an optical digital audio output.
The Vizio showed relatively accurate color and realistic shadow detail. Its PC picture quality fell a bit short, however, and there are similarly priced LCDs that produce deeper black levels.
The initial Movie setting of the Vizio delivered the most accurate picture, and in particular we were impressed by its relatively linear grayscale in that mode's default "Normal" color temperature preset. It delivered solid "before" numbers (see the Geek Box below), albeit with a pronounced greenish tinge. A few tweaks to the custom color temp settings, in addition to reducing light output to our nominal 40ftl level, were the major changes we made to the basic picture settings in our calibration. In the end we saw a slight improvement in grayscale accuracy (although we couldn't improve the top and bottom ends of the scale much, so "after" got a "poor" rating), removal of the green tinge, and very good gamma (2.18 versus the ideal of 2.2).