|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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Keeping up with LCD’s evolution hasn’t been easy. It’s hard to believe that, just a few short years ago, the big-screen LCD was confined to the drawing board. It arrived on the HDTV scene with a bang and an explosive price tag, to boot. Some speculated LCD wouldn’t be able to compete with plasma, cost-wise, in the big-screen market. So far, that has proven true in the 55-inch-and-above realm. However, in the 40- to 50-inch range, LCD is coming on strong, and prices are dropping … fast.
One of the companies that has helped usher in the era of affordable big-screen LCD is Vizio, also known as V, Inc. Just as it did with plasma several years ago, Vizio has introduced a line of LCDs with solid performance and a nice complement of features, for a price that makes them impossible for flat-panel-hungry consumers to ignore. At the top of the line is the GV46L, a 46-inch HDTV that costs just $2,000. That’s more than competitive with similarly-sized plasma panels. But the question is, do you get what you pay for with the GV46L, or is its performance as attractive as its asking price?
One thing that is attractive is the GV46L’s appearance, a simple but elegant design that features a glossy black frame, silver body and base, mirrored side panels and rounded base. I’ve seen far more expensive panels that look a lot cheaper in terms of build quality. The only aesthetic elements I don’t like are the backlit Vizio logo that rests front and center on the frame (you can’t turn it off), and the silver speakers that run along the bottom panel, which stick out like sore thumbs next to the black frame. Instead of incorporating the speakers into the cabinet the way many manufacturers do, Vizio chose to make them removable. Those of us who feed our audio into an A/V receiver can easily unplug the pair and slide them off, creating an even sleeker look. If you wish to wall-mount the display, it measures just five-and-two-fifths inches deep and weighs 68 pounds when the speakers and stand are removed.
Vizio’s literature shows a nice understanding of its target audience, the average consumers who know that they badly want HDTV but likely aren’t reading up every high-end home theater forum or print magazine for the latest in HDMI 1.3 vaporware connectivity. Included in the GV46L’s box is a thorough owner’s manual that contains a lot of explanation and color photos, plus an almost comically large QuickStart Guide to get you up and running. One side explains the GV46L’s different connection options; the other tells you how to tune in TV channels and program the Vizio remote to control a cable or satellite box. Vizio’s diagrams and explanations are better than you’ll find with many HDTVs, but I wouldn’t call them clear. Let’s face it, there’s no easy way to explain HDTV connection options, but I applaud Vizio for making a sincere attempt to do so.
The GV46L includes ATSC, NTSC and Clear-QAM tuners, all of which share one RF input, so you must choose between over-the-air and cable signals. I began by connecting my Terk HDTVi indoor antenna and running a scan for HDTV and NTSC signals. The scan is fairly quick, and the onscreen menu tells you how many channels it finds during the process. In my case, the tuner picked up all of the major HD channels in my area and did a good job of holding on to the signal. Deleting unwanted channels is simple, and an optical digital audio output is on board to send the audio signal to your A/V receiver. The onscreen program guide offers channel, resolution and program info, plus the ability to look ahead at the next five shows on that channel. My only complaint is that the program guide doesn’t ignore the channels you’ve deleted, so you have to scroll through content you don’t want.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with a Clear-QAM tuner, it allows you to tune in both analog and digital cable signals, including the HD versions of major network channels like CBS and NBC. When I fed my Time Warner digital cable signal directly into the RF input, bypassing the cable box, the Clear-QAM tuner picked up my basic cable channels numbered between 1 and 99, as well as my Music Choice digital music channels, the digital version of some cable channels, and the HD versions of PBS, Fox, NBC, CBS and ABC. What’s interesting about the GV46L is that it divides the analog and digital channels between the TV and DTV inputs, respectively, instead of grouping them together they way I’ve usually seen it done. A Clear-QAM tuner would be especially handy for someone who can’t or doesn’t want to use an antenna to tune in HDTV channels or someone who wants to place this TV in a secondary room and access most of the channel lineup without ordering another cable box – although the picture quality of SD signals is nowhere near as good as you’ll get when feeding the cable box signal into the TV’s higher-quality inputs.
Speaking of inputs, the GV46L doesn’t skimp on HD-capable ones, offering two HDMI, two component video and one RGB, all of which have corresponding analog audio inputs. There are two sets of composite/S-video inputs to accommodate older VCRs, camcorders and the like. Vizio follows the new trend of running the connections along the underside of TV; this may help with wall-mounting, but it’s harder to make the physical connection. The GV46L includes five picture modes: Movie, Vivid, Game, Sport and Custom. In the Custom mode, you can adjust brightness, contrast, color (called saturation), hue and sharpness for each input. This TV will crush blacks and whites if the brightness and contrast controls aren’t set correctly, and none of the presets are ideal. Through the component input, edge enhancement is also a concern when the sharpness is set too high. I recommend you select the Custom mode and use a DVD like Video Essentials (DVD International) to tweak the picture adjustments; at the very least, you’ll want to turn up the brightness and turn down the contrast and sharpness. The edge enhancement doesn’t go away completely, but its effects are minimized. Surprisingly absent from the features list for the component and HDMI inputs are color temperature settings for warm, normal and cool (these are available through RGB); all you get are dedicated red, green and blue controls to adjust the default color temperature. Perhaps Vizio feels that the average consumer isn’t going to adjust color temperature anyhow and decided only to offer precise R/G/B adjustments for the advanced user, who might also appreciate the inclusion of advanced picture controls like flesh tone adjustment, dynamic contrast and noise reduction for motion and digital signals. For my review, I left these off. Like most LCDs, this TV is extremely bright, and it has three adjustable backlight settings (low, medium, high) to tailor light output to your viewing environment. The high setting might be necessary if you plan to watch this TV outdoors; otherwise, the low setting provides ample light output in moderate lighting conditions without being painfully bright in a dark room.
Both the onscreen menu and the remote control are laid out in a logical way that makes them easy to navigate. You can program the remote to control three additional devices, and it boasts two welcome and all-too-uncommon perks: backlighting and direct access to each type of input (TV, A/V, component, HDMI and RGB). One final feature deserving a mention is the GV46L’s picture-in-picture functionality: You get three viewing options (small window, medium window, split screen), and you can view any combination of inputs via PIP, which is not the case with many TVs on the market. All in all, the GV46L offers a well-rounded complement of controls and features, especially considering its budget price.
Television and Movies
The GV46L succeeds in the two important areas of color and detail. It has good color decoders, and I didn’t feel the need to adjust the default color temperature using those red, green and blue controls. Flesh tones looked natural, with no red push, and colors were vibrant. Demo scenes from Kill Bill Volume 1 (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) and Lost: The Complete Second Season (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) showed greens to be somewhat over-saturated, leaning too much toward the neon end of the spectrum, but the overall color balance is good.
The GV46L has a 1366x768 resolution, and the many facial close-ups and dense landscapes of Lost showed off the TV’s good detail with DVD sources. High-definition is this TV’s forte, and its detail obviously became even more evident when I moved to the ABC 720p broadcast of Lost. High-def NBA games looked wonderfully sharp, and I could easily make out facial details on fans in the background, although motion blur diminished detail when the camera panned quickly across the court. Add in all of that light output, and HDTV images certainly pop, especially during the day.
The GV46L uses Faroudja’s DCDi processing. Through the component video input, the deinterlacer did a very good with both film- and video-based sources. It struggled momentarily to pick up the 3:2 sequence in my demo scene from chapter 12 of Gladiator (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) but, once it locked on, the TV showed only hints of shimmer in rooftops. Likewise, it created minimal artifacts with my video-based demo scene from a Pilates exercise DVD. This may sound like a strange test, but people’s bodies create a lot of diagonal lines when they do Pilates, and that’s a real torture test for a video processor. My Motorola cable box allows me to choose multiple output resolutions; when I ask it to deinterlace 480i signals and scale them up to 720p or 1080i, it creates a lot stair-stepping artifacts, so SDTV channels don’t look nearly as good as HDTV. When I let the Vizio handle this process, it created smoother diagonals and fewer artifacts, so SDTV channels looked more than respectable. The HDMI input also accepts 480i signals, but I saw more artifacts and shimmer with video material through this input. If you plan on using both component video and HDMI, I recommend HDMI for DVD and component video for TV, as it does a better job handling lesser-quality standard-definition signals.