Vizio VM60P 60-inch Plasma HDTV 
Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs Plasma HDTVs
Written by Andrew Robinson   
Sunday, 01 July 2007

Perhaps not since the industrial revolution has rapid technological growth been as commonplace as it is in today’s red-hot flat-panel HDTV marketplace. Less than five years ago, a 42-inch plasma was a $20,000 toy only for the wealthiest. Today, seemingly anyone and everyone with a club is heading down to Costco, Sam’s Club and any number of mass market retailers to buy a big, beautiful, flat HDTV for prices that seem impossibly low. Leading this “video for the people” movement is, without question, Vizio.

Vizio as a brand is working on becoming a household name, like Sony, Panasonic or even Kirkland, continuing to release plasma and LCD displays that seem to defy the laws of economics. Take, for instance, their former top dog, the P50, released less than two years ago for what was at the time an amazingly reasonable $2,500 retail price. Now, in 2007, the same P50 sells direct from Vizio’s own website for a stellar $1,499. More impressive still is that those figures continue to drop at local retailers nationwide. Vizio has released yet another wolf in sheep’s clothing, the all new VM60P, which is the largest display Vizio has made to date, at 60 inches diagonal, with a retail price of a mere $2,499, sold retail as well as online. Incredible, you say? Not if you’re Vizio.

The VM60P is an all-new design for Vizio. Gone is the piano black and silver façade that we’ve grown accustomed to. The VM60P sports a much more streamlined or, dare I say, more elegant design, with its bronze-toned, brushed aluminum frame and Samsung-esqe hidden speaker. To me, the VM60P represents a major improvement in Vizio’s ever-changing industrial design. There isn’t much that gets in the way of its looks, for on the front of the TV itself, you’ll find only Vizio’s logo, which glows amber when in standby and a pale blue when powered on. Along the left side of the VM60P are the TV’s manual controls, which will allow you to toggle between inputs, change channel and volume, as well as access the onscreen menus and power the unit on and off.

Turn your attention to the back of the VM60P and you’ll find a host of connectivity options that include not one but four HDCP-compliant HDMI inputs (yes, I said four HDMI inputs). The VM60P also has your standard analog audio video inputs, which include two component video inputs, two composite or RCA inputs and two S-Video inputs, as well as RGB computer input and coaxial input. Each of the VM60P’s video inputs is complimented with a pair of analog audio inputs. The VM60P has a single analog audio out, as well as an optical audio out (capable of 5.1 multi-channel audio output) and a headphone output via its mini-jack.

On the surface, the VM60P has a lot going for it, especially when it comes to accommodating a wide variety components, especially those equipped with HDMI outputs. Inside, or should I say technologically, the VM60P doesn’t disappoint, either. For starters, the VM60P, with its native 1366 x 768 resolution, can display all of the standard-definition resolutions, as well as high definition up to 1080i. While the VM60P can accept a 1080p signal, it cannot display a native 1080p image. Therefore, HD DVD and Blu-ray users will find their images scaled down to 1080i, assuming the disc being played is actually a 1080p native disc, as many of the early HD discs were 1080i. The VM60P has a stated brightness of 1,200 cd/m2, with a contrast ratio of 7000:1 and a 178-degree viewing angle. The VM60P also features an integrated NTSC/ATSC/QAM HDTV tuner. You can take full advantage of the VM60P’s screen size by watching multiple programs at one time with its Picture-in-Picture feature, as well as its Picture-outside-Picture option. You can even view multiple sources at one time via these options. For instance, I can have my television program simultaneously share the screen with a DVD; the volume defaults to the larger of the two images. The VM60P features DCDi de-interlacing from Faroudja, as well as being equipped with 3:2 or 2:2 reverse pull-down. The last of the VM60P’s most notable features is the inclusion of two built-in 20-watt speakers that remain hidden from view, a new design idea for Vizio (although Samsung has been experimenting with similar technology for a little while now) and a welcomed aesthetic choice.

Lastly, there’s the remote. The VM60P’s remote is nearly identical to the rest of the remotes in the Vizio lineup of televisions, save one important enhancement. The remote’s buttons, while still insanely small, are now thankfully backlit. Besides backlighting and the change in color from silver to black, the old P50 remote is identical to the newer VM60P. While the VM60P’s remote is still a bit tedious to use at times, I do appreciate the fact that it is improving with every new model.

The VM60P is physically huge. With a net weight of 179 pounds, measuring in at 56 inches wide by 37 inches tall and almost five inches deep (13 inches deep with the stand), moving the VM60P is a job for two ore more people. If you plan on wall-mounting the VM60P, and you can, I would seek the help of at least four rather strong individuals. I unfortunately didn’t have such help, as the delivery person simply unboxed the VM60P and left it in my living room, which was a whole flight of stairs short of where it was ultimately going: my bedroom. With the help of my girlfriend, we were able to slowly and carefully march the VM60P upstairs and into the bedroom, where it sat on a credenza designed for plasma televisions – at least, that’s what the brochure said. Needless to say, the VM60P was a bit too large for the furniture, so an alternate installation option had to be found. This ended up with me buying a different piece of furniture. My bedroom system is somewhat in flux at the moment, so instead of opting for my usual surround sound receiver set-up, I decided to connect my sources directly to the VM60P and use its internal speakers for all of the audio for the duration of the review, which is something I never do. That being said, I connected my Dish Network DVR to the VM60P, as well as my Toshiba HD-A20 HD DVD player, and accessed AppleTV via their HDMI outputs.

I then proceeded to calibrate the VM60P using my new Digital Video Essentials disc on HD DVD. The VM60P’s menus are superb, as is the amount of control you have over the image in terms of brightness, contrast, saturation, etc., but the ability to adjust the individual colors as well is something you just don’t find with displays in the VM60P price bracket. I found the VM60P extremely easy to calibrate. I felt I had achieved a well-balanced and acceptable image in about 20 minutes. I must point out that, out of the box, the VM60P’s cinema or movie picture setting is pretty close to the results I achieved in my own calibration, with an ever-so-slight warm shift in color, which can be remedied simply by setting the VM60P’s temperature controls to either neutral or custom.

Movies And Television
I kicked things off with some standard-definition DVD fare, opting for I, Robot (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) starring the ever-charismatic Will Smith. I, Robot, with its futuristic steely blue sets, warm skin tones and copious amounts of CG action, proved to be a formidable test for the VM60P. The first thing I noticed was the VM60P’s black levels, which were very deep, bordering on inky black and extremely well-defined. Even during the scene in the storage yard, the VM60P had little trouble with differentiating the varying levels of absolute black on up through the middle grays displayed in the endless rows of shipping containers. The stark vertical and horizontal lines presented by the hundreds of containers also proved easy for the VM60P, as I could not detect any stair-stepping or “jaggies” as the camera panned over the vast expanse. The VM60P did have a bit of trouble, however, when the camera stopped moving and held the stationary texture of an apartment wall. During the few static shots in the film, pixilation and noise could be detected in the simplest, most static forms in the frame. However, I found that as I moved my viewing distance back, these effects were less noticeable. Skin tones were rich and wonderfully saturated. I, Robot is an extremely dense film in terms of the image (or plot, depending on how you look at it) and it can be easy for a display to “plug up” on the skin tones, making the actors look a little too one-dimensional. The VM60P didn’t seem to suffer from this at all in my system, as all of the actors remained incredibly lifelike in their presentation. The NS-5’s semi-translucent “skin” was beautifully rendered and showed no signs of blooming, even when presented with harsh daylight. Overall detail was rather good for a set of its size and edge fidelity was as good as I’ve seen in or around the VM60P’s price range. Obviously, the VM60P can offer a lot more in terms of resolution, but I was pleased with how well it did with more standard-definition material, provided that I adhered to a proper viewing distance, as well as minor calibration.

Next, I cued up an episode of House (Fox Television) in 720p high definition. The VM60P’s image clearly improved across the board with the added bump in resolution provided by Fox’s superb high-definition feed in my area. The sets were extremely well detailed and the overall sense of depth to the image was incredible. Again, the often kinetic camera movements were no problem for the VM60P’s internal hardware, as it always kicked back a seamless, smooth image, with very few signs of digital compression. Even on static shots, the pixilation and noise I noticed with the SD material had all but vanished. The skin tones looked better still, with an added boost in surface detail and roundness, which helped in allowing the actors to seemingly pop off the screen. Black levels were very good and transitioned nicely into the middle values without excess noise, an area I’ve been rather critical of with prior Vizio plasmas. While the issue isn’t fully resolved, Vizio is getting better with each new display. The whites were crisp and clear but, at least with House, they did appear tinted ever so slightly blue, despite my calibrations.

Next I opted for The Bourne Supremacy (Universal Studios Home Video) on HD DVD. Again, as the source material improved, so did the VM60P’s picture quality. Honestly, if you’re going to buy a set as large as the VM60P, you’re going to want to feed it the very best, for anything less would simply be uncivilized. Across the board, the VM60P’s image improved dramatically with The Bourne Supremacy. Black levels were deeper, more richly defined and, above all, noise-free in the transitions. Static shots showed no signs of compression or excess grain. Skin tones, especially in the sunlight during the film’s opening few minutes, were incredibly lifelike and natural. Even when the mood of the film turned dark and cold, the skin tones remained accurately affected by the lighting, instead of appearing strangely de-saturated and pasty. The white values were crisp and clear and were extremely impressive during the kitchen fight scene. The mini-blinds’ stark contrast with the outside sun proved of little worry for the VM60P, as it rendered the entire chaotic scene virtually free of from motion artifacts. The entire film felt film-like and natural, without any of the added glossiness or over-saturation usually found in more budget-conscious HD displays.

I ended my time with the VM60P with another great HD DVD transfer, Ron Howard’s boxing biopic Cinderella Man (Universal Studios Home Video) starring Russell Crowe. The film overall has an intentional sepia tone to it, almost as if the film was shot on parchment. While I’ve seen this coloring done right in the past, all too often, with budget plasmas (and some LCDs), the image is way too yellow as the frame and everything in it appears rather jaundiced. While the VM60P’s image wasn’t quite as accurate color-wise as the most expensive plasmas on the market today, it was exceptionally better than its direct competition, foregoing the tendency to shift way yellow for a more de-saturated approach. Needless to say, it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the film by any means. There are a few scenes in Cinderella Man that don’t share its overall sepia tint, mainly the scenes having to deal with the Depression-era Hoovervilles. The stark contrast and cold hues of the makeshift cardboard town was wonderfully detailed and rife with texture through the VM60P. Again, the harsh, contrasting lines of the tattered dwellings were no problem for the VM60P from my viewing position, although if I sat closer to the screen, I could make out some stair-stepping and noise in the furthest reaches of the image. The color red was incredibly punchy and stood out in stark contrast to the film’s all but monochromatic color scheme. I found nothing overtly objectionable about the VM60P’s image as I finished my evaluation with Cinderella Man. I’d like to point out that, while I never advocate the use of a display’s internal speakers as your primary audio device, the VM60P’s internal speakers are exceptionally good, providing surprisingly strong bass response and virtual surround sound decoding.

The Downside
The VM60P is a large display and I must insist that you be honest with yourself when it comes to deciding if it’s right for you and your room. Proper viewing distances must be adhered to with any display, be it small or large, but this is more the case with the VM60P. Sit too close, especially with standard-definition material, and you’ll quickly see image compression and video noise.

The VM60P’s image responds best when presented with the best, so unless you own some sort of high-definition source. you’re not going to get all that the VM60P has to offer. Then again, with the VM60P’s price being what it is, you can take the money you saved and finally invest in an HD DVD or Blu-ray player.

There is a lot of talk about1080p these days, with good reason. 1080p is the best video currently available today, especially when it comes to displays as large as the VM60P. This said, the VM60P is not a full 1080p display, so you’ll have to weigh the cost-to-ultimate performance ratio when deciding if the VM60P is best for your current and future needs. If you want a higher-resolution 60-inch plasma, expect to pay a lot more. It will get you an even better picture and make you more ready for HD DVD and Blu-ray. It is important to note, however, that just because this set isn’t 1080p doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make one hell of a fine picture for 1080p sources.

With a retail price just shy of $2,500, the VM60P represents another monumental achievement in both image quality and value for both the consumer and Vizio. Nowhere else are you going to be able to enjoy, and afford, the sort of big-screen bliss you get from the VM60P without spending some serious cash. Not to mention the fact that the VM60P features not one but four HDMI inputs, which actually work when you need them to, a feat even its costlier competition can’t claim without some fine print. While the VM60P may not be the best with older, more standard-definition content, its high-definition capabilities, especially with formats such as HD DVD and Blu-ray, are simply stunning. Invest in a bit of calibration and a decent source or two, and you’ll find the VM60P to be not just a good plasma display for the money, but a very good plasma at any price. And since content is king, you might just consider taking the money you saved from a different 60-inch plasma and getting both HD DVD and Blu-ray players, so that you have high-octane sources to run into your new set.
Manufacturer Vizio
Model VM60P 60-inch Plasma HDTV
Reviewer Andrew Robinson
Diagonal Screen Size More than 56-inches

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