|Vizio P42 HDe 42-inch Plasma Display|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs Plasma HDTVs|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Sunday, 01 January 2006|
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During a recent trip to one of my local AV stores, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of plasma screens available on the market today. Being a die-hard fan of front projection, I’ve resisted the urge to pony up the dough and welcome the flat gas into my home, but this trip was different. As I gazed at the countless options, I noticed two things. The image quality had gotten much better over the years, and the prices have gone way down. Instead of talking my way out of the store, I began daydreaming over the possibilities of having one such plasma in my home. Sure, I didn’t really need another television, but that’s never stopped me before.
Not wanting to break the bank, I was immediately drawn to a manufacturer that I had never heard of: Vizio. At a sub-two thousand dollar price tag, the 42-inch 16x9 Vizio P42 HDe plasma screen warranted further investigation. The salesman informed me that Vizio was the brainchild of William Wang, former head of Princeton Graphics and MagInnovision. Launched in 2003 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Vizio has quickly become one of the 10 most prominent manufacturers of plasma screens nationwide. Not bad for a company going into its third year. The salesman continued by telling me that the brand was also behind the highly touted Bravo D1 DVD player, which was the first DVD player to feature a DVI output. A 42-inch, widescreen, high-definition plasma television with DVI capability for less than two grand – okay, I’ll bite. Normally, I don’t shell out the green for a product from such a fledgling company, but this time I thought, why the hell not?
Out of the box, which was well-designed, easy to maneuver and completely structurally sound, the Vizio P42 HDe looks a lot like plasma screens from a few years ago: simple, clean and black. That suited me just fine. Video displays need to wow me with what they’ve got inside and not whether or not they look more at home on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise than in my living room. With a retail price of $1,999, the P42 looks a lot more sophisticated than the competition, even those costing three times as much. Measuring in at a little over 40 inches wide by 25.5 inches tall and five inches deep, it was a less imposing than I had remembered in the store. Weighing in at approximately 85 pounds, it’s not light, but it’s also no 36-inch Sony WEGA CRT set either. With the help of two convenient handles on the back of the set, I was able to move the P42 rather easily by myself. The Vizio P42 comes with removable 15-watt speakers that flank either side of the screen, for those of you without home theater set-ups. The P42 also comes standard with a rather beefy table stand that I’m pleased to announce is rock-solid, without detracting from the P42’s rather sleek appearance. If you’re a bit tight on space, it’s important to note that attaching the speakers will increase the P42’s width to almost 50 inches. I went ahead and installed them on the side for the duration of the review. With the exception of the optional speakers, the only other items that grace the P42’s front are five small silver buttons that control power, inputs, volume and channels. All other controls default to the P42’s remote.
Moving on to the rear of the P42, there are two very convenient handles to help in moving and positioning your plasma screen on a tabletop or wall. The P42’s inputs rest below a small box that protrudes from the rear of the panel. The P42’s inputs all face downward, which will allow for the cleanest cable connections when mounting your screen against a wall. The P42 has two sets of composite audio/video inputs, as well as two S-video inputs. You can also connect a standard-definition TV antenna to the P42’s RF input. While the P42 is high-definition-ready, it does not have a built-in high-definition tuner so a third party set-top box is required. For standard-definition broadcasts, the P42 has a built-in NTSC decoder for over the air programming. It has a pair of RCA audio inputs that rest beside each of its two component inputs. The P42 also has a DVI input with HDCP support for a truly digital transfer from your satellite box, HD tuner or DVD player. For the audio portion of its DVI section, the P42 features a mini-pin to the stereo RCA jack, instead of the usual RCA composite inputs. The P42 can also double as a computer monitor via its DVI or RGB PC input, and is both PC and Mac compatible. The P42’s speakers are connected via its two-pushpin speaker terminals. If you plan on connecting the P42 to a pair of third-party powered speakers, it has a pair of RCA audio outs, as well as subwoofer output. There is a master power switch also on the rear that will completely turn off the P42 or put it into standby mode. To bring the P42 out of standby, you’ll have to press power on the panel’s faceplate. Lastly, there is a standard detachable power cord like those found on most high-end electronics and plasma screens.
The P42 boasts some pretty impressive specs, given its rather modest price tag. Starting with resolution, the P42 has a native resolution of 1024 x 768, which makes it well suited for DVD and 720p high-definition viewing. That’s not to say that standard-definition signals can’t be enjoyed as well. To the contrary, the P42 supports all of the current signal resolutions, such as 480i (standard television), 480p (EDTV), 720p (HDTV) and 1080i (HDTV). The P42 also has progressive scanning through either of its component inputs, as well as through its DVI input. If you’re thinking about using the P42 as a computer monitor, its resolution can be set to 640 x 480, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768 and 1280x1024 through either its VGA or DVI inputs. The P42 is plenty bright for even well-lit rooms, with a brightness rating of 1000cd/m2. Mate that with a manufacturer-stated contrast ratio of 5000:1 and a 160-degree viewing angle, and you’re sure to get a picture that is crisp and clear in almost any environment. The P42 also features 3:2 pull down and has an internal scaler and de-interlacer to assist you in achieving the smoothest image possible. The P42 has picture-in-picture capability, as well as a built-in V-Chip for you concerned parents out there and a 3D comb filter to round out its list of features.
Which brings me to the remote. The P42’s remote is rather typical in size and shape. It’s a little bulky in the hand, but the buttons are large and clearly labeled. The remote is a universal design that can operate other Vizio products or can be programmed to operate other components. Unfortunately, it does not feature any sort of back-lighting, which is a huge red flag for me, but at this price point, I’m not surprised. Needless to say, if you’re planning on operating the P42 via its remote in low light or dark settings, you’ll need a flashlight or a third-party remote, such as the Harmony 880 from Logitech.