As you can see by reading user opinions on CNET, most people who buy an HDTV, any HDTV, are thrilled with their purchase. They cite numerous reasons, but one of the most common, at least for buyers of Vizio TVs and other bargain brands, is value. The VP50HDTV, for example, is a 50-inch plasma that costs hundreds of dollars less than many like-size flat-panel sets, and as with this TV's 60-inch cousin, you get a lot of screen for your dollar. Of course, there's always a trade-off, and in the VP50HDTV's case, you'll sacrifice a good deal of picture quality, both black-level performance and color accuracy, for that sense of having scored a good deal. But like most buyers of new HDTVs, the majority of people who pick up a VP50HDTV will probably be perfectly happy with its price-to-picture quality proposition.
Vizio's standard silver-and-black gloss styling is in full effect with the VP50HDTV. The silver base and speakers below the screen do make the set look a little less modern to our eyes than the current crop of all-black flat-screen HDTVs, but overall, the set is attractive enough. The lone accent consists of a clear plastic block that protrudes somewhat from the middle of the silver speaker, which clearly (ahem) identifies the VP50HDTV as a "PLASMA HDTV." The panel measures 48.8 inches tall by 34.3 inches wide by 12.2 inches deep and weighs 115 pounds when you include the stand, and 48.8 inches tall by 33.5 inches wide by 3.9 inches deep and 102 pounds when you don't.
More so than many HDTVs we've tested, the Vizio was frequently unresponsive to remote control commands. We'd often have to press a remote key two or three times before the television responded. Otherwise the remote is the same as previous Vizio clickers. The VP50HDTV does get the fully backlit, silver-topped version, and as we noted in the past, we found it too cluttered with similar buttons, especially in the lower half. We did appreciate the dedicated keys for input types and PIP controls, but we wished for more differentiation. Vizio's internal menu system is simple and relatively straightforward to navigate.
With a native resolution of 1,366x768, the same as most other 50-inch plasmas, the Vizio can resolve every detail of 720p HDTV material. All sources, whether they're HDTV, standard-def TV or DVD, are scaled to fit the pixels.
The range of picture-affecting features on the VP50HDTV is about average for a current plasma HDTV. It has four picture presets that cannot be adjusted and a fifth "Custom" mode that allows the full range of adjustments and is independent for each input. Among those adjustments is the ability to individually adjust red, green, and blue to arrive at a custom color temperature, but the VP50HDTV is missing the usual color temperature presets. Controls in the advanced menu include Noise Reduction, Flesh Tone (which intensified red, making it look less-realistic) and Dynamic Contrast (which changes the picture on the fly), and we left them all turned off for critical viewing.
Vizio never skimps on conveniences, so the VP50HDTV gets a fully functional PIP with both side-by-side and inset modes as well as a wider-than-usual range of possible input sources for the secondary window. If you don't have a DVR to pause, you might get some use out of the freeze-frame feature. There are three choices of aspect ratio mode for both high-def sources and standard-def sources. We also appreciated the "Image Cleaner," which scrolls a white-and-gray pattern across the screen to remove any temporary burn-in that may occur.
The connectivity of the VP50HDTV begins with two HDMI ports--one fewer than many name-brand 2007 HDTVs. We appreciate the completeness of the rest of the rear-panel jack-pack, which includes two component-video inputs; two AV inputs with S-video and composite video; a VGA-style PC input (recommended resolution 1,360x768), and an RF input for a direct cable connection or for use with an antenna to take advantage of the ATSC tuner. Fans of easy-access side- or front-panel inputs will be disappointed in the VP50HDTV's lack thereof.
Overall, the Vizio VP50HDTV offers decent picture quality, especially considering its price, but compared to most plasmas we've reviewed recently, it falls somewhat short of video Nirvana. Our biggest complaint has to do with its light color of black, but in most other areas it could also stand some improvement. Notable exceptions include its standard-def and PC performance, both of which were above average.
Before staring too intently at the VP50HDTV, we sat down to adjust its picture for optimum performance in a darkened home theater. That meant, as usual, reducing its light output to a comfortable 40 FTL. Since the Vizio lacks color temperature presets, we went straight to correcting its overly blue color temperature (see the Geek Box below) by using the custom controls. The result was a big improvement but still not entirely accurate--the biggest problem was the tendency of the set's grayscale to become warmer (redder) in darker areas. For our complete user-menu picture settings, click here or check out the Tips & Tricks section above. Unfortunately, when we made adjustments, the slider itself would move, but the actual number would not change until it slid three "clicks." As a result, our picture settings are more approximate than usual.
Next we sat down to compare the Vizio VP50HDTV against other like-size--if significantly more expensive--HDTVs. They included the Samsung HP-T5064 and the Pioneer PRO-FHD1, both 50-inch plasmas, as well as the Samsung LN-T4665Fand the LG 47LB5D, which are 46- and 47-inch 1080p LCDs. We revisited The Usual Suspects on Blu-ray delivered over HDMI by a Samsung BD-P1200 at 1080i resolution.
As we mentioned above, the Vizio VP50HDTV couldn't muster a convincingly deep shade of black. The issue was most noticeable in darker scenes, such as when Gabriel Byrne talks to his lawyer on the stoop the night after the lineup. The letterbox bars above and below the picture, along with dark areas like the shadowed uniform of the guard or Byrne's black hair, were all rendered in visibly lighter shades than any of the other TVs in the room, including the LG LCD. The VP50HDTV's lighter black levels made all images appear somewhat less punchy than we'd like to see, and colors were not as saturated. Details in shadows, like the oily ground next to the fire-lit fuse in the opening scene, were likewise somewhat more difficult to discern on the VP50HDTV compared to most of the other sets, although the Vizio did beat the LG in that department.
We mentioned that the less-than-linear grayscale made dark areas appear a bit too red, and that effect was apparent when we looked at Byrne's overly ruddy skin tone in the shady light of the police station. Afterward in his well-lit apartment, however, his face appeared much more natural, and the same could be said for all colors in lighter scenes. Unfortunately, the Vizio's color also suffered in another area: its primary color of green is among the least accurate we've measured in awhile. It was entirely too yellow, which lent a somewhat yellowish cast to many scenes when compared to sets with an accurate green, like the Samsung and Pioneer plasmas. The cast was most noticeable in green areas, like the grass on the seashore when the Suspects meet Redfoot the fence, but it was apparent in many other colors too, like the sunlit cement and even the afternoon sky.
The Vizio evinced more false contouring than the other displays in the room. When Gabriel Byrne gets punched by the interrogator, for example, we saw a few more concentric lines around the light reflecting off his shoulder on the Vizio than on the Samsung or the Panasonic, and significantly more than the LCDs or the Pioneer. We also noticed that its image had more motes of video noise than any of the other sets, for example in the red walls of Mr. Kobayashi's game room, although the noise wasn't particularly distracting from seating distances larger than about eight feet.
According to test patterns, the Vizio VP50HDTV resolved a bit more detail with 1080i sources than the Samsung plasma. But even after staring hard at the most detailed shots from Suspects, such as the weave in Chazz Palminteri's slacks or the wrinkles in his hand as the camera zooms away during the overhead shot of his coffee cup, we were hard pressed to see any difference in detail. The VP50HDTV is as detailed as we'd expect from any 50-inch plasma, and while it failed the test for proper 1080i deinterlacing, we again had a hard time spotting the evidence in real program material.
When fed standard-definition sources, the VP50HDTV's video processing performed better than that of many HDTVs we've seen recently. The color bar pattern on the HQV disc was resolved perfectly, and in the detail scene, the stone bridge and the grass appeared quite sharp. The Vizio also smoothed out the jagged edges from moving diagonal lines and the stripes in a waving American flag extremely well. We also appreciated the quick 2:3 pulldown detection, which removed the line of moirÃ© from the grandstands. The one disappointing area of its standard-def resume is noise reduction. Despite a pair of 64-step controls labeled "digital" and "motion," the Vizio had a difficult time with the noisiest scenes from the HQV disc, which looked worse than on the other displays despite being increased to the maximum settings.
The Vizio P50HDTV performed very well as a big PC monitor when we connected a PC via VGA. The panel resolved every detail of the maximum 1,360x768 source according to the horizontal and vertical resolution patterns from DisplayMate. After we used the Auto Adjust feature, the desktop lined up perfectly with no overscan, and text appeared crisp with little visible pixel structure--an improvement over the Samsung HP-T5064, for example.
|Before color temp (20/80)||8242/9406K||Poor|
|After color temp||6134/6607K||Average|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 2496K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 163K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.644/0.343||Average|
|Color of green||0.268/0.659||Poor|
|Color of blue||0.150/0.058||Good|
|Black-level retention||No stable pattern||Poor|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Y||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|
|Vizio VP50HDTV||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||317.23||197.48||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.3||0.18||N/A|
|Cost per year||$97.14||$60.78||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Good|