At a Glance
Vizio P42 HDTV
A bright screen helps this budget model achieve competitive image quality at a cost that trounces rivals' prices.
Never mind the unfamiliar name; check out the Vizio P42HDTV in person. You may be shocked by its impressive picture, particularly its surprisingly bright screen. Then take a look at the price tag of $1599 (as of 6/6/06); you'll have a hard time finding better image quality at this price level.
Our jury found the Vizio's image quality on a par with, and occasionally superior to, other recent 42-inch plasmas in most respects. Both high-definition and standard-definition content got middle-of-the-road scores, while DVD-viewing scores were a bit higher. The Vizio garnered most of its praise for its bright screen and impressive contrast, ranking only slightly behind the LG 42PC1DA on these scores. If you frequently watch TV in a bright room, the P42 would be a very good choice. Color quality was less impressive, skewing toward oversaturated green tones.
If you require simplicity, the P42HDTV won't disappoint. The remote and the menu system have few frills, and the set offers only a limited set of customization options. In addition to giving up some deep-tweaking features, you'll find working through the on-screen menus slow-going, as the menu display and refresh are poky and unresponsive. Making matters worse, the remote requires near-perfect aim in order to register on the TV.
The P42HDTV covers the basics, though. The set offers multiple picture-in-picture viewing formats, and the internal speakers are loud and clear--a rarity on a set this size. Note, however, that the set has no CableCard slot (so you'll need to use an external tuner box) or DVI input (for use with a PC). But unlike Vizio's P50 HDM, this is a full-fledged HDTV, with both analog NTSC and digital ATSC tuners, instead of a stripped-down monitor with key features missing. The Vizio is the real deal, despite its low price.
Setting up the TV can be tricky, as accessing the cable ports is difficult: They're lined up in a row along the bottom of a panel sticking out from the rear of the TV: Access requires some serious crawling around and fumbling for ports, which face downward. Fortunately, ports are color coded and the manual is written in plain English.
Fans of this set's display aren't likely to mind the extra headache and scraped knuckles that come with setting up the TV: At such a fantastic price and with generally above-average image quality, a few headaches are to be expected. While we take some issue with the color performance, we otherwise have few serious concerns to keep us from recommending the Vizio P42HDTV.