Mostly on the strength of aggressive pricing, Vizio in the last several years has taken the flat-panel HDTV market--both LCD and plasma--by storm, rocketing past better-known brands and becoming one of the best-selling names in the country. The company has also introduced some unique products, among them the VP322, which is currently the smallest plasma screen size available at 32 inches. The VP322 is not a particularly good performer, evincing inaccurate color and lighter black levels, although it does avoid the uniformity and off-angle problems of similar-size LCDs. With that said, at just more than $500, I find it hard to complain too much about its picture quality. It still produces a watchable picture for noncritical viewing applications like a bedroom, and for now it's one of the least expensive HDTVs at its size, period.
The VP322 sports a glossy black finish on most of the panel's frame, augmented by a flat black finish on the lower speaker grilles and on the sides and top of the outside bezel. As with its 42-inch plasma sibling, the VP422, the VP322 has a bright Vizio logo located just below the center of the screen that glows orange when in standby, and changes to white when powered up. The overall look is nothing to write home about, but attractive enough for an entry-level HDTV.
As you'd expect, this little Vizio plasma has about the same dimensions as a 32-inch LCD. It measures 32.5 inches wide by 22.6 inches high by 8 inches deep including the stand, and 32.5 by 21.1 by 3.5 inches without it. At 39.1 pounds it is substantially heavier than most 32-inch LCDs however, such as the company's own VO32L, which weighs 27.6 pounds. Chalk most of that difference up to the plasma's glass screen.
The remote is exactly the same as the one included with the VP422. On the small side and a bit chubby or squat, it is oddly shaped yet fits comfortably in the hand. Black keys with white lettering are easy enough to read with the lights on, but unfortunately the keys do not glow, which would be a help in a darkened environment. The remote is also universal and capable of controlling a wide variety of other AV components.
Unlike most budget 32-inch LCDs, which have a 1,366x768 native resolution, the Vizio VP322 plasma has 1,024x720 pixels. The difference will be invisible to just about everyone, however, and the set still has enough pixels to qualify as an HDTV.
I appreciated the relatively wide range of picture controls on this budget panel. Picture modes include Standard, Movie, Game, and Custom, and as usual you can adjust Custom independently per input. Selectable color temperatures are Warm, Cool, Normal, and unlike with most budget sets there's another Custom setting to allow adjustment of the grayscale. That's a good thing because as with the VP422, the 322's Warm color temperature was way too red (minus blue) to use. I opted to start with the Normal color temperature, which was a bit closer to the broadcast standard, although still quite warm on the top and bottom of the spectrum.
With one exception, all of the features in the Advanced menu are best turned off for optimum picture quality. They include: DNR, Black Level Extender, CTI, Fleshtone, and Adaptive Luma. The Peak White Limiter can be left on, as it will theoretically limit the peak light output, which is desirable considering the excessive brightness of this panel.
The Vizio VP322 offers ample connections, all of which reside on a vertical column on the rear panel. There are a generous three HDMI inputs, one set of component video inputs, one A/V input with a choice of either S-Video or composite video, one 15-pin VGA input for computers (1,366x768 maximum resolution), one RF input, an optical digital audio output, and a set of stereo analog audio outputs. We'd like to see a set of front- or side-panel inputs for easy access to temporary hookups, but none is available.