- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 05 December 2007
To say that VIZIO owns the flat panel display market right now would be an understatement. And, the reason is simple: the price.
Only a couple of years ago, to get a 50" plasma HDTV, you would have had to shell out about $5,000, even at Costco. Nobody had heard of VIZIO at that time, and the flat panel TVs were all big name brands.
Oh, how things have changed.
VIZIO, a huge company that is based out of Irvine, California, makes their flat panels in Asia, and let's face it, nobody will spend extra money just for the name VIZIO. That is not what they are selling.
Also, I don't know anyone who claims VIZIO makes the best quality HDTVs in terms of the picture. While a Pioneer or Sony is "excellent", the VIZIO is "very good".
But, the average consumer is perfectly happy to purchase "very good" for less than $1,500 instead of paying one or two thousand dollars more for "excellent". That value is why stores are having difficulty keeping VIZIO HDTVs on the shelves, because they are flying off those shelves into consumers' homes. Every week I go to Costco, the TVs seem to be $100 cheaper.
So, with that in mind, let's take a look at the VIZIO VP50 50" Plasma HDTV.
- Design: 50" Plasma HDTV
- Resolution: 1,365 x 768
- Brightness: 1,500 cd/m2
- Contrast: 15,000:1
- Inputs: Three HDMI, Two Component Video, One S-Video, Two Composite Video, One RGB
- Dimensions: 34.2" H x 48.8" W x 12.2" D (3.9" D without stand)
- Weight: 120 Pounds
- MSRP: $1,299.99 USA
The VP50 has a native resolution of 1,365 x 768 pixels. It is a heavy TV, at 120 pounds (including the stand). I guess that is the only drawback of bigger and bigger flat panels, and this thing was a real monster to move around. Definitely ask your neighbor or son to help you put it on a TV table. Don't do it by yourself. I still have aches and pains from a torn rotator cuff in my shoulder from moving a 1,200 watt monoblock power amplifier on my own.
Finally, HDTV manufacturers are putting several HDMI inputs on their models, and this one has three (the version I received for review was an early run, and had only two). Of course, there are component video, S-Video, and composite video inputs as well, but even component video is now considered a "legacy" input, at least as far as I am concerned. And, DVI is history.
Another thing I like about the latest crop of flat panels (and projectors too), is that they look great right out of the box. The VP50 is no exception. I connected the HDMI out from my satellite box (DirecTV) to one of the HDMI inputs on the VIZIO, turned it on, selected HDMI 1, and started watching football games.
The image is bright (31.3 foot-Lamberts), like plasmas tend to be, and the menu allows full control of all variables, such as brightness, contrast, tint, and saturation. You can select a dynamic contrast mode if you like, and I did like it. I used it all the time after trying it out. The image had a lot more snap to it. There are also a number of picture modes to choose from, such as Movie and Game. However, with those modes, menu items like tint and color are not adjustable. In other words, you can only adjust those things in the Custom picture mode, so that is the one I used for all viewing and calibration. This includes the Color Temperature, for adjusting Red, Green, and Blue.
The remote control is the same one that I had for the previous VIZIO HDTV that we reviewed, which was a 47" LCD.
I had no problem setting up the TV. Menus were very easy to understand. I tweaked the tint a bit for various channels and changed the brightness and contrast, but other than that, it did not need much alteration. After calibration, I could see that it was improved, but it was still quite nice even without calibration.
Picture-in-Picture (PiP) and Picture-on-Picture (PoP) are there, but DirecTV has its own built-in PiP when you use the program guide. If you want to have two programs in PiP, you need two tuners in your satellite box.
The built-in amplifier and speakers were among the best I have ever tested, so you don't need to connect the analog audio out to a receiver for listening to most programs. However, for watching movies, of course, you want to use your 5.1 receiver for the surround sound.
On the Bench
As I said, HDTVs these days tend to be pretty good out of the box. The uncalibrated color temperature graph is shown below, with the calibrated color temperature graph following. The TV tended to be a bit warm (reddish) in the dark regions before and after calibration.
Brightness measured at 31.3 foot-Lamberts, which is about twice as bright as a commercial movie theater. So, there is plenty of brightness for viewing anytime. I measured a contrast ratio of only 300:1, which is way below the specification. The problem appears to be the background illumination (the black level), which measured 0.1 foot-Lambert. However, because the screen is so bright, it still looked great.
Here you see the RGB graphs before and after calibration. Although I could get the RGB lines closer together for IREs above 30, the spread increased below that brightness value. This is a good reason why manufacturers need to add more calibration menu items in future models, including the ability to vary RGB values at different IRE levels, such as 10-30, 31-60, and 61-100.
Gamma before and after calibration was about the same. Again, perhaps some menu additions to the calibration capabilities would be helpful, with individual adjustments for 10-30, 31-60, and 61-100 IRE.
The CIE Chromaticity graph indicates that it has enough red capability, more than enough green (although slightly blueish), and not enough blue capability.
The VIZIO VP50 50" Plasma HDTV display, although not as terrific as one of the much more expensive models from other big name companies, is still a very good product, and well worth considering if your budget is limited, or if you just don't want to spend in the $2k and up market. It has the digital connections necessary (HDMI) for that new high def DVD player you bought, as well as high def programming from satellite. It's a snap to set up, looks fine without having to calibrate it, and has great sound without having to connect it to a receiver.