Vizio CinemaWide XVT3D0CM review: Vizio CinemaWide XVT3D0CM

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MSRP: $2,799.00

The Good The unique, ultra-wide-screen Vizio XVT3D580CM would make a great talking point in any living room, and the right movie can look great. The TV has a good mix of features, including passive 3D with four 3D glasses included.

The Bad This Vizio is very expensive. Normal wide-screen 16:9 TV and movies don't fit the 21:9 screen well. The TV lacks a dedicated 21:9 mode and can pop in and out with resolution changes, or make movies that are wider than 21:9 look very tiny, with windowboxing all around. Picture quality is hampered by light black levels and the very glossy screen.

The Bottom Line The Vizio CinemaWide TV embodies an intriguing idea, and it's quite a fun way to watch movies without black bars, but its performance isn't commensurate with the price.

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6.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7
  • Value 5

Editor's note 12/5/12: The Cinemawide was reviewed at a price of $2499 however it can currently be found at the Vizio site for $1329

One look at the Vizio XVT3D580CM is enough to know this isn't your average LED TV. It's very, very wide. Even though Philips has sold similarly shaped TVs overseas for the last couple of years, Vizio's so-called CinemaWide has a wider screen than anything currently available in the U.S. It's a striking piece of tech that easily stands out from the crowd of me-too televisions you can buy today, but different isn't necessarily better.

The main idea of the wider screen, with its 21:9 aspect ratio, is to display ultra-wide-screen movies without letterbox bars above and below the image. Many such movies available now in a variety of formats including Blu-ray and all standard HDTVs -- which have 16:9 aspect ratios -- display them with black bars. The Vizio can hide those bars almost without having to stretch or crop the image. Turn it on, play a movie, and you can't help but be swept away.

Unfortunately there's a massive downside. Anything that's not an ultra-wide-screen movie -- like the vast majority of HDTV programs, games and, yes, many films -- appears tiny, with big black bars to either side, or else must be cropped or stretched to fill the screen.

That limitation is what makes the Vizio a niche, cinephile-centric product, and while that target audience might love the wide screen, they'll be less tolerant of its quirks than most potential buyers.

With a screen this unusual there is bound to be some kind of markup, and given its limitations the 58-inch Vizio is not a good value. If you're a hard-core film buff looking for a statement piece, this TV fits the bill, and movies are a lot of fun. On the other hand the similarly priced 65-inch Panasonic ST50 will give you a bigger picture (even with CinemaScope movies), more versatility, and better video quality all around.

The Vizio XVT3D580CM is framed in a thick slab of aluminum in a world where televisions such as the impossibly tiny-bezeled LG LM9600 should be watched and not seen. It's large for a 58-inch diagonal set, and not exactly subtle-looking. It shares some similarities with LG's own G2 in the finish, but where the LG looks gaudy, the Vizio looks reserved with its matte-black liner. The aluminum continues to the stand, which unfortunately doesn't swivel.

The TV features an aluminum border inset with a thin black line that thickens at the bottom. Sarah Tew/CNET

The profile is quite slim, but there's room for a forward-facing speaker system, which should tick a box for people who don't want to invest in a separate sound system with the implication of better sound.

The remote features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Sarah Tew/CNET

The TV comes with Vizio's standard flip-out QWERTY remote, which operates via Bluetooth so you don't need to aim it at the screen. The remote is sensibly laid out, and the QWERTY keyboard comes in handy when searching in Netflix, for example.

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit with local dimming
Screen finish Glossy Remote QWERTY slider
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Passive 3D glasses included 4 pairs
Refresh rate(s) 120Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: Native 21:9 aspect ratio (2,560x1,080 pixels)

This Vizio TV is a flagship product, and as expected it offers a number of premium features but few of the frivolities of one competitor in particular ("Hi, TV!"). The most intriguing item is the ultrawide screen, which is a 2,560x1,080-pixel display. If you're counting, that's a few hundred horizontal pixels more than a standard 1080p TV at 1,920x1,080 pixels.

The TV effectively squeezes out the black bars on material presented in CinemaScope (2.35:1 and 2.4:1). In other words, it scales the wider image to fit the screen so the bars disappear and the main picture is presented without stretching or cropping. Since there are no native 21:9 Blu-ray discs -- ones that actually send out a 2,560x1,080 image -- the Vizio can't perform the standard dot-for-dot pixel matching that normal 1080p TVs can do with Blu-ray and other 1080i/1080p sources. That's too bad, but on the plus side the TV's scaler performed well (see below).

As I mentioned above, the wide nature of the screen does mean that 16:9 material, such as HD broadcasts, will be presented with black bars to either side. However, you can make use of this wasted screen real estate by engaging one of Vizio's apps -- press the Blue button and the sidebar changes from overlay to side by side in the TV's Viewport mode.

The TV features a number of modes, but in order to get rid of letterbox bars Auto Aspect is the only one you need. Sarah Tew/CNET

When its screen is filled by a 21:9 Cinemascope movie, the 58-inch Vizio will give you roughly the same active picture area as a 60-inch TV showing a 21:9 film with black bars. With 16:9 material, however, that active picture area shrinks to roughly the same as a 46-inch TV. With only about 850 discs listed by Widescreen Review as ultra-wide-screen, most TV viewers will be spending most of their time with what is effectively a much smaller TV.

Aside from the novelty of the 21:9 aspect ratio, the Vizio does have a couple of extra features that make it stand out. The first is that it has five HDMI ports -- still unusual for even a high-end TV. The second is that it features passive 3D and comes with four sets of glasses.

As for picture quality enhancements, the TV comes with an edge-lit LED system with 32 zones of local dimming. By comparison, the Philips 21:9 was full-LED-array, not edge-lit, but it also cost as much as a Sharp Elite.

Look along the bottom: you'll notice there are 5 Smart TV icons; the larger size affords one more icon than a normal-size Vizio TV. Sarah Tew/CNET

Smart TV: There are no surprises in the Smart TV arena from this TV, with its mix of content offerings providing a good spread and very few holes. If you haven't seen the Vizio Smart TV interface before, it works like a stock ticker along the bottom of the screen and doesn't interrupt your viewing while you scroll through the inventory. The wide screen allows five apps to show at once instead of the usual four. If all you want is a bit of Netflix, a bit of Pandora, and an updated Twitter feed (via the switched Viewpoint mode), then the Vizio is for you.

Picture settings: Despite being a flagship, the number of professional-level controls are limited. The main option is a two-point grayscale for adjusting color temperature, and based on my findings it works exceedingly well. Most of the picture controls and all of the preset modes are also available when watching streaming video.

The TV also includes a number of aspect ratio modes designed to complement its 21:9 leanings. There are two Zoom settings (which stretch the image beyond the screen), a Normal mode (which presents material in its native mode with 1:1 pixels, meaning that 16:9 has pillar boxes), auto wide (which is used to hide the black bars), and auto stretch (which stretches the content to fit horizontally). Unfortunately, there is no dedicated 2.35:1 wide mode, which means that you can't keep the correct aspect ratio of many movies that are wider than that. Instead, the image is centered on your screen with a combination of letterboxing and pillar boxes called "windowboxing."

The pillar boxes can be filled with a Smart TV widget, shifting the 16:9 image across and leaving no blank space. Sarah Tew/CNET

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