|Vizio GV46L 46-inch LCD HDTV|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs LCD HDTVs|
|Written by Adrienne Maxwell|
|Friday, 01 December 2006|
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LCDs are stereotypically known to exhibit certain performance characteristics, and the GV46L is no exception. The main issues, from a picture-quality standpoint, are viewing angle and black level. When you move off-axis, the black level doesn’t just increase, but it shifts unevenly, so image quality takes a hit in saturation and accuracy. Even when you view the TV straight on, the black level isn’t very deep, and the LCD backlight makes itself known around the edges of the screen. Of particular concern were two obvious screen-uniformity problems along the right side of the screen. These issues are less problematic in a brighter room with bright content, like sporting events; however, they were distracting when I watched darker film material in a completely dark room. I also missed the fine black details in my favorite black-level demos: the opening sequence of The Bourne Supremacy (Universal Studios Home Video), the nighttime exteriors in The Jacket (Warner Home Video), and the “Cell Block Tango” sequence from Chicago (Buena Vista Home Entertainment). Several new LCD technologies have emerged to help address these black-level and screen issues, but it’s unrealistic to expect them in a TV at this price point. As a result, the GV46L is better suited for a casual, daytime viewing environment than a darkened theater space.
Digital noise is my personal pet peeve. The GV46L uses eight-bit processing, which is better than some earlier-generation panels, but not as good as the 10- to 14-bit processing you’ll find with higher-end, more expansive displays. The test pattern in title 18, chapter seven of Video Essentials revealed that, through both the component and HDMI inputs, the TV struggles to reproduce all of the steps between black and white, which leads to noise in grays and dark colors. Images look cleaner through component than HDMI, but neither did a great job with my demo scenes. The smoke that hangs over the rescue sequence in chapter 10 of Ladder 49 (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) tended to look more like pixels than smoke. In “The Whole Truth,” episode 12 of Lost: The Complete Second Season, as Ana Lucia and Sayid sit in front of a fire, with darkness all around them, noise and dithering are clearly apparent in their fire-lit faces. With the GV46L, I was never able to forget that I was watching a digital display, but the noise wasn’t excessive enough to prevent me from enjoying the TV’s positive attributes: namely, its color, detail, and processing.
We return to the original question: do you get what you pay for with the GV46L? In terms of performance, the picture quality is without question respectable and enjoyable, yet the discerning eye of a video enthusiast may want for what the more expensive sets can offer. That extra percent or two of performance comes with a price that is likely in the four figures, so you delve quickly into the world of diminishing returns on your investment. In some ways, the difference in price might be better invested in an HD DVD or Blu-ray player in order to feed this fine set higher-octane video fuel.
If your budget is limited and your heart is set on a beefy 46-inch HDTV, the GV46L won’t disappoint. It is big, bright and beautiful. The sacrifices that Vizio made to reach the below $2,000 price point are certainly there, but in no way a deal breaker. In fact, if price is a concern, their 42-inch LCD is possibly an even better value at $1,299, but size matters in HDTV. Whether you are a sports buff or a movie enthusiast, for a modest price, you can have one hell of an HDTV hanging on your wall.