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..
Despite all the times we've written about how 1080p just isn't that noticeable, especially at small screen sizes, it's becoming a moot point. Just about every LCD is 1080p these days, and with models like the Vizio VO32LF, the price gap between 720p and 1080p is negligible. This model replaces the 720p VO32L we reviewed earlier in 2008 for the same $599 list price, and the two sets' performances are very similar--and very good for a smaller HDTV. No, you won't see the benefits of 1080p unless you hook up a PC, but you might appreciate this Vizio's color accuracy, connectivity, and adjustability, which make it more than a match for the better-known brands' LCDs.
(Editors' Note: Many of the Design and Features elements are identical between the Vizio VO32LF and the VOJ370F we reviewed earlier, so readers of the earlier review may experience some déjàvu when reading the same sections below.) The styling of Vizio's VO32LF is understated to the point of being boring, but that's fine for a small TV at this price point. Its most obvious feature is the perforation in the matte black plastic of the frame on all four sides, although only the wider swath along the bottom hides speakers. The inside of the frame adjacent to the screen is glossy, and the company ran a glossy black strip along the bottom of the frame, above the stand.
Including the stand, the TV measures 31.6 inches wide by 22.4 inches tall by 8.6 inches deep and weighs 27.6 pounds. Remove the stand and dimensions shrink to 31.6 by 21.2 by 4.2 and weight to 26.1 pounds.
The included clicker has a very simple layout--which we appreciated--but we were frustrated by some other design snags. The directional pad is centrally located, but it doubles as both channel and volume control; we prefer separate, dedicated button rockers. We were initially thrown off by the center "V" button, which brings up the menu and also doubles as an "OK" button in the menus. The clicker lacks a dedicated button to switch between aspect ratios, so you'll have to dig into the menu to change modes. On the upside, we liked the individual buttons to access inputs, although it's somewhat confusing that they're lumped in with other functions like "mute" and "last."
There are nine picture modes on the VO32LF, which is much more than you'll find on other TVs. That's because Vizio offers up custom picture settings for different types of sports, so there are separate picture modes for baseball, football, and golf (hockey fans, as usual, are ignored). As you might expect, the modes don't actually enhance different sports--the settings generally just exaggerate green and adjust the sharpness. And more disappointing is the fact that the picture modes are not independent per input.
We liked that Vizio included adjustments for all four of the color-temperature presets, allowing you to tweak them to your liking. There's also a range of options that should mostly be left off for high-quality sources. There are three strengths of noise reduction, four Color Enhancement modes (each messes with color decoding; we preferred Off, since it didn't introduce red push), an Advanced Adaptive Luma setting that adjusts gamma in dark areas (again, Off proved best), and an Enhanced Contrast Ratio setting we left off, since it caused black levels to fluctuate according to program content.
As we mentioned above, the remote lacks a dedicated key to toggle between aspect ratios, but we did appreciate that Vizio allows toggling between three modes on this set. The default "Wide" mode does map 1080i and 1080p sources directly to the screen's native resolution--a good thing--but we would have liked to see another mode that introduced some overscan to deal with channels that introduce interference along the extreme edges. For standard-definition sources, there are four aspect ratio options, but again you'll have to dig into the setup menu to change them.
The VO32LF's connectivity suite is fully packed. The rear panel houses two HDMI inputs, a VGA-style PC input, a component video input, and an AV input that offers both composite and S-Video. The side panel offers up another HDMI input, along with an additional component and AV input (only composite). It's worth noting that the side component and AV inputs share an audio input, so you'll have to choose one or the other.