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. Click here for more information.
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.
The VO32LF delivered a very good picture overall. Its depth of black was fine for a smaller display, and its color accuracy after calibration among the best we've seen in its class. Screen uniformity and off-angle performance leave something to be desired, but they don't spoil an otherwise solid picture.
Before doing our standard calibration we observed that the Vizio's Normal and Warm color temperature presets were both pretty far deviated from the standard. While Warm actually measured the closest of the two, we ended up using Normal because Warm was just too green. Using the Custom color temperature settings we were able to improve quite a bit on both of those presets. Gamma measured a respectable 2.02 after calibration, an improvement from the 1.83 Movie preset, which was also extremely bright. Check out the bottom of this blog post for our full picture settings.
For our comparison we lined the Vizio up next to a few competing 32-inch LCDs, including the Sony KDL-32M4000, the Panasonic TC-32LX85, and Vizio's own VO32L. For reference (not to represent comparable models) we enlisted the Samsung LN52A650 LCD and the Pioneer PRO-111FD plasma. To perform the majority of image quality tests we checked out Razzie Worst Picture nominee In the Name of the King on Blu-ray played via the Sony PlayStation3.
Black level: Compared with the other 32-inch LCDs, the Vizio VO32LF's black level was just a bit brighter than that of the Sony, and about the same as the Panasonic and the VO32L--although the differences were relatively minor. As the Farmer family sits around the picnic table in the dead of night, for example, the shadows in the background and under the table, along with the letterbox bars, all appeared dark enough to satisfy, if oh-so-much lighter than the Sony. On the flipside, details in shadows, such as the dark areas under Ron Perlman's eyes, looked a bit more natural on the VO32LF than the Sony and the Panasonic.
Color accuracy: After calibration the VO32LF did very well in this area, beating the other three displays overall by coming closer to the color seen on our reference set. The VO32LF's grayscale stayed more neutral than the others, as evinced by the consistency of Solana's skin tone whether seen in the dim light of Farmer's house at night or the bright sky outside. The greenish tinge in dark areas we complained about in the VO32L review was not in evidence on the VO32LF. Primary color accuracy was solid, so the green of the trees behind Muriella and the blue of the water near the market, for example, looked quite close to the reference.
Very dark and black areas looked relatively neutral on the VO32LF, a bit better than the bluish VO32L and much better than the very blue Panasonic, but on the other hand they were somewhat green compared with the more neutral Sony.
Video processing: The VO32LF successfully resolved every line of a 1,920x1,080 test pattern, correctly deinterlaced video as well as film-based sources and scored between 300 and 400 lines on our motion resolution tests. As usual, none of these resolution characteristics was distinguishable in program material; the 1,366x768 resolution Sony, for example, looked just as sharp as the 1080p Vizio with high-def video sources.
Uniformity: Here's where our review sample of the VO32LF didn't fare as well as the other sets in our comparison. The far left side of the screen evinced a slightly brighter area that was visible in very dark scenes, such as the nighttime picnic and when the black screen of the credits came up. The corners also appeared a bit brighter than the middle in the letterbox bars, and we could see some uneven backlight structure in scenes that included flat fields, such as a pan over a patch of sky. Although they earn the Vizio below-average marks in this category, none of these issues was particularly distracting during normal viewing.
Off-angle performance was relatively poor, and about the same as what we saw on the VO32L. When seen from off-angle, the VO32LF washed out more noticeably than either the Panasonic or the Sony, and became discolored (redder), an issue the other two didn't suffer.
Bright lighting: We saw the usual stellar performance expected from a matte LCD screen under high ambient conditions with afternoon sun coming in through the windows. The screen attenuated reflections as well as the other matte LCDs in the lineup and better than the glass-screen plasma or the shiny-screened Samsung A650, although the latter maintained black levels better in bright lighting.
Standard-definition: Standard-def picture quality was solid on the Vizio VO32LF. The set resolved every line of the DVD format while details in the stone bridge and grass looked sharp enough. We did appreciate its ability to remove jaggies from spinning diagonal lines and the stripes of a waving American flag. The noise reduction circuit was hit-or-miss, cleaning up some shots of skies and sunsets well but leaving many with more snowy motes than the other displays in our comparison. The Vizio's film mode processing kicked in quickly and effectively to remove moire from the grandstands behind the race car.
PC: As we'd expect from a 1080p LCD, the Vizio VO32LF resolved every detail of a 1,920x1,080 source via both VGA and HDMI, with no overscan or edge enhancement. At this size and resolution, it would make a very good computer monitor.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7323/7092||Poor|
|After color temp||6513/6515||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||654.9||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||96.2||Good|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.639/0.335||Good|
|Color of green||0.286/0.606||Good|
|Color of blue||0.145/0.062||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
|Vizio VO32LF||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||121.58||69||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. in)||0.28||0.16||N/A|
|Cost per year||$26.29||$14.92||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Fair|