At a Glance
Easy-to-understand documents and well-designed remote make this bare-bones TV easy to use; plastic finishes look low-budget.
The Vizio L32HDTV has more going for it than a very logical name. This 32-inch LCD TV delivers good image quality in an easy-to-understand package, and it's priced at a very low $1000 (on 3/24/06).
In our image-quality tests, the L32HDTV did well for itself. In fact, its overall performance score edged out those of TVs from better-known--and more expensive--brands such as the Sharp Aquos LC-32D6U and the Sony Bravia KDL-V32XBR1. It ably handled the skin tones and rich colors on our test DVDs, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Seabiscuit. Our test jury liked its color balance on standard-definition and HDTV quality. When tested at defaults, the L32HDTV earned its lowest marks on our TV brightness and contrast tests; its picture generally looked somewhat dark at default settings. (Vizio recommends using the Vivid 3 screen mode for watching under bright lights.) Its audio didn't thrill us; you'll almost certainly want to crank the bass up from the default, and even so, it doesn't provide a rich surround-sound experience.
Nobody wants to drop a thousand bucks on a TV they can't connect properly. Vizio seems to understand that. Not only are the inputs clearly labeled, but the accompanying documents help you make sense of them. A large, full-color poster depicts all the inputs and their uses, and the manual offers up a wealth of detail in both words and images. Both poster and manual flog Vizio's own installation plans, but at least neither implies that these plans are required.
Once past the installation stage, the L32HDTV gets even easier to use. The remote is unusually intuitive, requiring no knowledge of esoteric TV terms. Its on-screen menu is basic, but functional. My only real complaint about this model's usability is that your hand covers the button labels when you press the buttons, which sit underneath the bezel.
This Vizio includes an over-the-air ATSC tuner, but no CableCard slot. If your high-definition TV signal comes from a cable or satellite content provider, you'll need to use a set-top box. Its sole S-Video input sits on the side of the bezel, next to a headphone jack and one of three composite inputs. Its one HDMI input lives on the back of the unit with the other inputs. Though well-labeled, those inputs are mounted at about 90 degrees--parallel to the floor--making it a little difficult to plug in devices.
With a wide black bezel, a silvery stand, and silvery speakers, the L32HDTV appears pretty ordinary. The finishes look plastic and unexciting, but that's to be expected for a budget model.
Given the low price and the pleasing image quality, it seems nitpicky to call the Vizio L32HDTV anything but a steal.