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 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 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.
|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|
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.
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.
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."
Connectivity: No complaints are warranted here. The TV has five HDMI ports in addition to a component input, composite, Ethernet, RGB, and two USB ports.
The Vizio is a solid performer among LED TVs, scoring the same 7 in picture quality that we awarded the much less expensive Sharp LC-LE640U. Its local dimming helps elevate it in terms of picture quality above some of contrast-deficient TVs out there, like Samsung's UNES8000, but it can't match any of the better plasmas or LED models in its price range. Color accuracy was quite good, off-axis viewing and 3D have some issues, and bright-room picture quality is abysmal.
Before I tackle the standard CNET litany of tests in depth, however, I figured I'd talk here about how the XVT3D580CM handled the various types of content I threw at its wide screen. While it usually worked well, the automatic scaling to eliminate black bars was disappointing at times. Unfortunately there's no manual 21:9 mode that can force ultra-wide-screen content to fill the screen horizontally -- you'll usually have to stick with auto on this model.
One of the first problems I noticed is that presenting just the material between the black bars can severely hamper usability. I found using the menus on Blu-rays can be problematic as they often appear in the bottom of the screen in the letterboxing. As a result this meant changing the Wide Mode to Normal so I could see them.
Another issue I found was that the TV could "lose" hold of the signal and revert back to presenting it in a 1:1 ratio -- which would mean black bars around all of the movie. This usually occurred when changing aspect ratio, but on a couple of occasions (and ones I could not replicate with further testing) it happened during normal 21:9 material. After a a couple of seconds it would then revert to full-screen, but the effect was quite jarring and pulled you out of the movie you were watching. This happened a couple of times during our testing, but it's hard to say what the cause of this was -- the PS3, the HDMI switcher, or the TV itself. Suffice to say that a dedicated 21:9 mode would fix this potential issue.
When presented with a 480i source -- such as Warner Bros. cartoons-- I was quite surprised to see that the Vizio was the only TV that correctly displayed it in 4:3, whereas all of the other TVs in my lineup stretched the cartoons to fit the screen.
With the advent of 3D has come another potential trap for this TV: movies with changing aspect ratios also designed to be shown in Imax theaters. Examples I tested included "Tron: Legacy" and "The Dark Knight." During "Tron Legacy" at the 23:50 mark, as the Recognizer comes down, the movie changes to 16:9, which is quite jarring. At 26:50 the movie switches back to 21:9, and the TV took several seconds to recognize the change and then adapt. By contrast the change was subtler on a normal wide-screen TV and much less jarring.
Next, I checked how the TV would deal with aspect ratios larger than 2:4, which is a consideration if you're a fan of Hollywood golden-age blockbusters like "Ben-Hur" and the "Ten Commandments." I figured that the TV would stretch the 2.7:1 aspect of "Ben-Hur" to fill the screen; it didn't even try, making it sit in a small rectangle in the middle of the screen. "Smaller than Ben-Hur" doesn't really have the same ring about it.
And while the TV has a native resolution of 2,520x1,080 pixels, unfortunately you can't use this to display a wide desktop from your PC. While it would accept a signal at that resolution, I found it scaled it back to 1,920x1,080. Pushing the Auto Stretch button ended up with noticeable text artifacts, which made it unusable for general computing -- but gaming was a lot of fun!
And now, on to the regular tests.
|Samsung PN60E8000||60 inch plasma|
|Sharp LC-60LE640U||60 inch edge-lit LED|
|Samsung UN55ES8000||55 inch edge-lit LED|
|Sony KDL-55HX850||55 inch edge-lit LED with local dimming|
|Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference)||65-inch plasma|
Black level: With no black bars to worry about, the apparent contrast of the panel is boosted when showing screen-filling 21:9 content. The net effect is that the TV appears to have better contrast, even when compared against TVs with deeper black levels. Blacks are relatively good for an edge-lit LCD, with the local dimming doing a fine job of providing a balanced picture without crushing dark areas. In practice though, in terms of contrast its picture looks almost identical to the Sharp LE640U's, and if you're not concerned with the width of your screen then you can pick up quite a discount by getting that one instead.
At the start of chapter 4 of "Star Trek," the evil Romulan ship glides past the camera, and the Vizio was able to make sense of what was happening with all of the flying buttresses and spiny parts of the craft. There was a sense of depth, although the Sony HX850 was able to depict the dark image in more detail.
Color accuracy: During my testing I found that the XVT3D580CM's color reproduction was accomplished and fairly consistent with that of the Sony HX850 I had placed alongside it. While neither TV is "studio-accurate," both will give you fairly rich colors for an LCD. If you're looking for deep, saturated colors, though, both the Samsung E8000 and Panasonic VT50 exhibited more vivid tones than the Vizio.
Video processing: As the TV is always doing some kind of processing on 21:9 content to fill the screen, I was interested to see if there was any difference between its unscaled competitors and the Vizio. Based on my selection of program material -- including artificial benchmarks -- it appears the onboard scaler is quite good without jaggies or blockiness, even close up.
The TV was able to handle 24p sources beautifully with absolutely no judder during our "I Am Legend" test scene. Similarly, it was able to perform well with 1080i content with no loss of detail in our synthetic tests.
Uniformity: As an edge-lit LCD the TV did show fewer uniformity problems than competitive models, though there was still a touch of light leakage at sides during some dark scenes. But compared against the Samsung ES8000 in particular, the trade-off with better blacks overall is worth it.
While blooming was not very visible on-axis, the TV was susceptible to blooming effects off-axis, with white areas of the picture being surrounded by a gray cloud on dark backgrounds. The blacks also tended to look purpler from the sides. Due to the wide nature of this TV, it's possible to be both in front of it and slightly off-axis.
One other interesting thing I noted during 16:9 viewing was that the black bars at the sides would appear darker than a "black" section on the screen, a side effect of local dimming no doubt, and not particularly troubling.
Bright lighting: It's been a few years since I've seen a TV as reflective as the Vizio XVT3D580CM, and in a bright room during a dark scene I could easily see myself reflected back. As a result I'd recommend using the TV in a dim-to-dark room, where the local dimming switch will at least give usable blacks.
3D: Despite the supposed benefits of passive 3D in regard to brightness, the 3D mode is quite dim. In comparison the Samsung ES8000 had greater contrast and therefore more pop, and as a result onscreen detail seemed better on the Samsung. Both TVs were able to deal with the "ghostly hand" from the 4:55 mark in "Hugo" without any crosstalk. But the Vizio does exhibit a tendency to show interlacing effects, and if this is distracting I'd say the Samsung is the better choice if 3D playback is your main concern.
Editor's note: The review has been updated with further testing on the Auto mode for 21:9 movies. No change has been made to the product's score.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0026||Good|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.3044/0.3267||Good|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3115/0.3307||Good|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3123/0.3268||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||5791.8701||Poor|
|After avg. color temp.||6551.3627||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||3.6748||Poor|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||5.5239||Poor|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||6.8114||Poor|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2271/0.3253||Good|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3213/0.1423||Average|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4177/0.5165||Average|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i Deinterlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||600||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||310||Poor|