At a Glance
Easy-to-use HDTV offers a pleasing design and satisfying image quality, without breaking the bank.
Vizio, a brand that often appears in discount club warehouses such as Costco, hits the price/performance sweet spot with this 37-inch LCD TV. The black-and-silver L37HDTV model offers many basic features and a fair number of connections, while excelling in our TV viewing tests. With a street price of $1000 (as of September 8, 2006), it's one of the least-expensive sets of this size we've seen
Overall our jurors were satisfied with the set's performance in our standard-definition and high-definition tests. The TV produced nicely saturated reds and greens in high definition. In a scene of a showroom of antique cars, the color of the red automobiles achieved a nice balance--bright without being unnatural. Hi-def TV broadcasts fared well, too. Skin tones in a George Lopez sequence provided natural-looking skin tones. The L37HDTV avoided the cakey tones that a few competing units exhibited, showing lighter-skinned actors in a more natural light. One juror commented on noticeable artifacts on red plaid curtains in the background, but another expressed satisfaction at the "smooth pan" when the camera moved from left to right to follow one of the actors.
The panel of judges rated a scene of a moving train as Good, though a few commented on "some striation" and an "exaggerated rainbow effect" in background clouds. Green tones were pleasing, showing an attractive contrast between the lighter foreground vines and the darker background trees. Shimmering on the silvery surface of the moving train was minimal, though average for this class of TVs. Notably, the L37HDTV received one of the highest scores--an average mark of Very Good--in our bright-lights test, where jurors viewed TV sequences with all the lights in the room turned on.
This model's design is quite pleasing. A black bezel borders the HDTV's glass, and thin silver metal accents the left, right, and top of the TV. Silver speakers occupy the bottom of the unit; they're curved at the top, so they seem to emerge from the bottom of the black bezel. An oblong silver base provides a visual break from the set's generally straight lines.
The built-in 10-watt speakers speakers produced adequate sound, but home-theater buffs should not expect anything spectacular. In the final horse-racing scene in Seabiscuit, dialogue was sufficiently audible, but the pounding hoofs from the horse race sounded unexpectedly dull. The speakers handled the simultaneous swelling soundtrack, dialogue, and horse-racing sound effects adequately, without muffling a single element. The overall sound lacked oomph, however.
The TV's on-screen display menu takes some getting used to, but it appears to be well thought out. Big icons top a translucent blue menu. You'll appreciate the descriptive text that appears below when you navigate to an ambiguous icon; for instance, the TV uses a camera icon for picture adjustments. You may get stuck in the Parental Control menu (signified by a slightly more logical padlock icon), since the TV won't let you leave it--even if you got there by mistake--unless you enter four numbers. Still, the OSD menu deserves praise for its overall simplicity and (hiccups aside) easy navigability. The remote includes programmable codes listed in the user's manual to control other devices, such as DVD players. It incorporates playback controls, too. Though a little on the heavy side, it is useful and easy to like.
Vizio's low-priced LCD TV provides a great introduction to the world of digital and high-definition TV. It shows good images that have pleasing color and saturation, and it won't drain your wallet. You can buy it directly from Vizio, too--no warehouse club membership required.