Review: Vizio VF551XVT LED-Backlit LCD

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Vizio’s bargain VF551XVT and VF552XVT LED LCD HDTVs are A-OK.


Nov. 13, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Want an LCD HDTV with the latest advances that costs hundreds of dollars less than comparable models? Look to Vizio and its XVT Series LED-backlit VF551XVT.

The 55-inch XVT VF551XVT (XVT stands for Extreme Vizio Technology) offers the two primary features found in today’s top-of-the-line HDTVs. There’s a full HD 1080p display utilizing the company’s proprietary 240Hz SPS (Scenes Per Second) Smooth Motion technology, along with TruLED (light-emitting diode) illumination. The full array of LED backlighting is composed of 960 tiny LEDs in clusters with local dimming. This model offers a 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and response time of 5 milliseconds (ms).

The LED illumination provides very consistent brightness and contrast across the entire screen. And Vizio’s Smart Dimming allows for clusters of LEDs to be turned off, which produces improved blacks and higher contrast. The 240Hz refresh rate means that the images are refreshed 240 times per second. The Smooth Motion Effect option activates Motion Estimation/Motion Compensation (ME/MC) circuitry that, in turn, helps to suppress motion judder or “stuttering” of the image when the camera pans across a scene, or if there is horizontal motion in the scene. 

The VF551XVT also includes SRS TruVolume and SRS TruSurround. When the programming switches to a loud commercial or when changing channel results in a volume fluctuation, SRS TruVolume provides a comfortable and consistent sound level. The SRS TruSurround offers a pleasant surround-like effect.

A 49-button remote control is included, which is programmable and supports up to three more devices: a DVD player, a home theater system or audio amplifier, and a cable or set-top box. It even has a handy HDMI button to access satellite/cable receivers or Blu-ray players.

December will bring the VF552XVT with Vizio Internet Apps (or VIA), for the same price of $2,199. The 552 will be identical to the 551, except for the additional Internet-access utilizing a Yahoo’s Widget Engine and built-in wireless (802.11n dual-band) network capability, so you won’t need a wired connection in your family room. 

The VIA feature will include Accedo Broadband, Amazon Video On Demand, Blockbuster On Demand, Flickr, Netflix, Pandora, Rhapsody, eBay, Facebook, RadioTime, Revisions3, Rallypoint Sports, Showtime, Twitter and Vudu.

It also supports Adobe Flash, and future apps will be added via firmware updates. 

The remote for the 552 will have embedded Bluetooth (for easy paring of Bluetooth devices) and a sliding QWERTY keyboard hidden beneath the primary keypad. It was pretty neat and easy to operate.

So how did the VF551XVT stand up to seemingly superior TVs? Pretty darned well. I had low expectations, as I normally review top-of-the-line models from Toshiba, Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Pioneer and the like.  The black levels on the Vizio were good and provided better-than-average contrast for most filmed Blu-ray content such as The Dark Knight, and including the recently released Gladiator (Extended Version), The Deep, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Extended Version).

And thanks to the 240Hz SPS feature, film judder in fast-motion scenes was negligible, especially in the opening high-speed sequence in Quantum of Solace. DISH Network’s 1080i signals from HBO’s True Blood, Fox’s Fringe, and HD-NET’s InFocus travelogues looked clean, crisp and clear, offering very little video noise.

The sound quality of the integrated 30-watt soundbar was better than many sets, though a home theater audio system is always recommended.

Is the VF551XVT the best LCD HDTV I’ve reviewed? No, but it performs admirably and it is very reasonably priced, costing hundreds of dollars less than a comparable Toshiba or over a $1,000 less for a comparable Samsung. And the 552 model adds Wi-Fi network capability and Internet access, all for a little more than $2,000, to make it a winning combination. 


AT A GLANCE
Specs:
> Full HD 1080p panel (1920x1080)
> TruLED (full-array) backlighting with local dimming
> 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast
> 240 Hz refresh rate
> 5 ms response time
> 500 cd/m brightness
> SRS Labs TruSurround HD with TruVolume
> Bottom-mounted Soundbar-type speaker (2x15W)
> 5 HDMI 1.3 (4 rear, 1 side)
> USB multimedia port (side)
> Internet-access via Yahoo’s Widget Engine (VF552XVT)
> 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi (VF552XVT)
> 35.9 inches high x 51.5 wide x 13.5 deep (with stand)
> 90.25 pounds (with stand)
> $2,200

Pros:
> 1920x1080p screen resolution
> Full Array LED backlighting with local dimming
> 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast
> 240Hz refresh rate
> Built-in Wi-Fi (VF552XVT)
> Improved TV sound
> Great price

Cons:
> Not a long-standing brand



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