Vizio XVT553SV Is an HDTV Bargain
At a Glance
XVT553SV 55-Inch LCD TV
The Vizio XVT553SV delivers solid image quality and a good collection of Internet features at an outstanding price.
Vizio has built a reputation for manufacturing flat-screen TVs that deliver great value for the money, and the company's top-of-the-line 55-inch LED-backlit LCD TV, the XVT553SV, does not disappoint. Its suggested retail price of $2200 (as of October 1), is about two-thirds that of the top-rated model on our Top 5 50-, 52-, and 55-Inch HDTVs chart, which it almost matches in features and image quality--and outperforms in energy efficiency.
One nice Vizio accessory is a Bluetooth remote with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Roughly the size of a smartphone (but thicker than most), this remote doesn't require line-of-site proximity to communicate with the set (no more worrying that your soft drink or your pet may interfere with your channel surfing)--and the keyboard comes in handy if you use any VIA (Vizio Internet Applications) features that require data entry. The keyboard's keys aren't that large, and holding down the function key while typing can be awkward--but using it sure beats relying on a conventional remote's arrow keypad to navigate an on-screen software keyboard, which is what most sets require.
The XVT553SV's full-array LED-backlit display held its own in our juried image-quality tests. Despite falling short of the superlative quality achieved by the the Samsung UN55C8000 (which earned a high ranking in our Best of 2010 list), the Vizio set collected good to very good ratings across the board. Its minor weaknesses were in details and sharpness, and it also evinced a slight flicker in our motion tests. This isn't too surprising for a set with a native refresh rate of 120Hz. (Vizio bills its refresh technology as "240Hz SPS," but the fine print explains that the set displays 240 scenes per second by combining "advanced 120Hz technology" with a scanning backlight.
In any event, the set's image quality ratings put it in the top quarter of those we've looked at during the past few months. Its audio quality was fairly good, too, pumped out by two 15-watt speakers that use convincing surround-sound simulation technology. It's also one of the greenest sets we've tested, consuming just 66 watts of electricity per hour on average. Disappointingly, its power-off consumption was 0.9 watt, compared with 0 for many LED-backlit sets, but you can correct this fault by hooking the set up via a power-surge strip that you disconnect when not in use.
Vizio's attention to HDTV setup continues to raise the bar for competing vendors. With the XVT553SV, its first-time setup wizard starts by having you set up your Internet connection, via ethernet or either 2.4GHz or 5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi. Having the 5GHz option available can be quite helpful: It supports many more connections, so it's less prone to interference. (Of course, a wired connection is generally better if you plan to stream media over the Internet--for example, by using Netflix on Demand.)
Once you've set up your network connection, the wizard walks you through setting up inputs and scanning for channels (if you're using a coaxial hookup to receive programs via an antenna or a conventional cable).
As usual, Vizio's on-screen menus provide tons of customization options: presets for optimizing video quality based on content type, advanced image adjustments, picture-in-picture mode, specialized functions like automatically adjusting volume levels, and more. All are readily accessible through nicely designed menus that offer explanations for features as you navigate through them. For additional help, the set comes with an excellent quick-start guide--a poster-size sheet in glossy color that clearly identifies available connections and what they're for. The owner's manual is equally slick, handsome, and helpful.
Vizo's VIA services doesn't offer as many Internet apps as Sony and Samsung, but they include a number of big guns (such as Facebook, Flickr, Netflix, Pandora, Twitter, and Yahoo Widgets). They're easily accessible, too, via a pop-up dock that you can customize by adding the services and content that interest you. Different household members can create their own docks tied to the profiles they create on the set.
The one puzzling aspect of the XVT553SV is its lack of support, as shipped, for playing media on a USB drive. Clearly the set's designers expected it to handle this task: It has three USB ports, and though the owner's manual merely says that the ports are reserved for future use, the troubleshooting section devotes a few sentences to media player problems.
A Vizio spokesperson told us that media player functionality would be added via a firmware upgrade, but it's annoying that Vizio is shipping a product that lacks such an important feature.
Aside from this oddity, the XVT553SV shapes up as new proof of Vizio's oft-stated commitment to delivering high-end quality at low prices. But we recommend waiting for that firmware upgrade before running to the store.