Vizio VF551XVT LCD HDTV Page 3
As usual, I started my real-world tests with chapter 8 of Mission: Impossible III on Blu-ray at 1080i. I saw almost no moiré in the pan across the staircase—in fact, it was the best I’ve seen this shot look in a very long time. Shadow detail in the catacombs wasn’t that great, and the black level seemed fairly high. For example, the letterbox bars were clearly visible in a darkened room. Detail was excellent, and color was very good, except that the fleshtones looked slightly pasty.
Next, I cued up Stargate: Continuum on Blu-ray at 1080p. The black of space in the opening shot wasn’t particularly deep, and there were far fewer stars visible than on most plasmas. Granted, this isn’t just a problem with the Vizio—every LCD I’ve seen obscures many of the stars in this shot. I did see some halos around the white letters that appear over the star field.
Color was good overall, but fleshtones were still on the pasty side. Shadow detail also wasn’t great as the Achilles steams across the Atlantic and in the Russian Stargate facility. Detail was excellent in facial textures and the Achilles captain’s nubby sweater.
The opening sequence of Cars on Blu-ray was very revealing of the Vizio’s LED backlight. In this sequence, the screen is completely black except for momentary bursts of imagery, and the LED backlight immediately dropped to near 0 during the blackouts and just as quickly jumped to the appropriate illumination for the picture bursts. Only after the last blackout, when Lightning McQueen’s truck door starts to slowly open, did I see the black level obviously jump.
Also, this is the first movie where I saw a difference in the Smooth Motion (frame-interpolation) settings. When I set it to High, it looked best in a pan across a big sign in the middle of the racetrack, but it also caused some smudging in the array of bright blue lights behind McQueen as he’s being profiled in a picture inset. There was no smudging in the Medium setting, so that’s where I left it.
Switching to DVD, I looked at Star Wars: Episode VI and found that the letterbox bars weren’t as black as I’d like. Heck, they weren’t even as black as the shots of space! Shadow detail in Darth Vader’s shuttle cockpit was surprisingly good, but it wasn’t in Jabba the Hutt’s dim lair. Detail was good, but the colors looked a bit dull. There were no frame-interpolation artifacts as Vader’s shuttle first approaches the Death Star.
Moulin Rouge on DVD yielded similar results. Shadow detail in Christian’s apartment wasn’t great, but detail was very good. The colors were muted, which helped tame this movie’s riotous palette.
All in all, the VF551XVT is a mixed bag. On the plus side, it provides some of the best video processing I’ve ever seen. Its frame interpolation also works very well—at least if, like me, you don’t object to the video-like appearance it imparts. Likewise, detail is generally superb. The menu system now disappears when you adjust a picture control, and the calibration controls are more complete than in previous models.
Even though I measured an excellent black level with a full-screen black field, the blacks in real-world images don’t appear all that deep, and shadow detail is marginal in most cases. Colors are pretty good overall, but they’re slightly muted, and fleshtones are a bit pasty.
As I was reviewing the Vizio, Tom Norton was reviewing the Samsung UN55B8500, a 55-inch LED-backlit LCD with local dimming, which I watched for a while at his house. The Samsung looked quite a bit better than the Vizio—deeper blacks, better color—but it costs more than twice as much. And I have to say that the VF551XVT looks a lot better than previous Vizio LCD HDTVs. If money’s tight but you want a big LCD with LED local dimming and you can live with the Vizio’s limitations, the VF551XVT certainly deserves your consideration.