As Vizio continues to prove itself capable of competing in sales against the Sonys and Samsungs of the world, the company keeps tweaking its formula of offering plenty of bang for the buck, especially in the features department. The newly designed VO47LF, a 47-inch flat-panel LCD, has four HDMI inputs and plenty of picture adjustments in addition to the now all-but-standard 1080p resolution (for what that's worth). Its image quality stands solidly in the middle of the road, with those lighter black levels and subpar off-angle viewing characteristics seen on many other budget LCDs, but balanced by good color accuracy, at least after adjustment. You can still find numerous larger, 50-inch plasmas available for around the same price, but if you must have LCD and want a big screen for smaller money, the VO47LF deserves strong consideration.
Vizio's HDTVs have, for the last two years, embraced a Chevy Monte Carlo-style two-tone paint job, with black glossy bodies above silver speakers. The VO47LF breaks that trend to fall in line with most of the other HDTVs available today, dressing itself entirely in black. The edge around the screen is glossy, framed in perforated matte black, and the entire cabinet is slimmer than previous Vizios and, to our eye, marginally better-looking. The company kept its trademark light-up, er, trademark, which glows white when the TV's turned on and orange when it's off. It's a good thing the glow is dim, because there's no way to turn it off.
The unusually comprehensive, well-written manual unfortunately lacks a specifications page, so we turned to the Vizio Web site to discover that the VO47LF measures 44.5 inches wide by 29.8 inches tall by 10.5 inches deep with the stand and 44.5 inches wide by 28.5 inches tall by 4.5 inches deep without. That's more compact than the company's previous generation of panels although, unlike some previous Vizio models, the VO47LF doesn't let users detach the speakers.
The remote control for the VO47LF is quite good, with backlighting behind just about every key, plenty of room between buttons, and a sensible layout that should be easy to learn for most users. Many of the keys along the bottom double-up on different functions, and they can be hard to differentiate at times, but we did appreciate the array of keys that provide direct access to each input type (TV, AV, component, and HDMI). The clicker can command three other pieces of gear.
A native resolution of 1920x1080, or 1080p, tops the VO47LF's spec sheet. It's the highest pixel count currently available and lets the display show every detail of the highest-resolution HDTV material. That's all well and good, although at this screen size you'll be hard-pressed to appreciate the extra detail. No matter; everybody's going 1080p these days, especially in LCD, so it's almost a nonissue at this point.
Picture-adjustment features, however, are an issue, and the VO47LF has a solid palette to choose from. The three color temperature presets are augmented by a "Custom" mode with individual controls for red, green, and blue. You can also customize the standard picture controls independently per input, and we were happy to note the presence of a backlight control. The set also has a variety of settings in the Advanced menu that are generally best left turned off, with the exception of the noise-reduction control, which despite its relative ineffectiveness should be engaged for noisy sources.
Unlike many HDTVs these days, the VO47LF still includes a picture-in-picture option that allows you to watch two programs at once. The set offers a choice of just two aspect ratio modes with HD sources and four with standard-definition. The Wide mode with 1080i and 1080p material results in zero overscan, but we would have liked a mode that overscanned a bit, so the occasional interference visible at the extreme edges of some HD channels could be eliminated.
We loved that the back panel of the VO47LF was equipped with enough HDMI jacks--four in all--to outfit the most console-heavy entertainment system. We also appreciated the VGA-style PC input for analog computer connections (1920x1080 maximum resolution). There are also two standard AV inputs, one with composite video and one with S-Video; an RF input for antenna and/or cable; an optical digital audio output and a stereo analog audio output. This set is missing easy-access front- or side-panel connections.