Vizio XVT and E Series LCD Televisions
Last updated on 04/05/2010
Though primarily known as a low-cost alternative to big-name brands, Vizio is determined to break out as a provider of high-end technology. The XVT line is aimed at bringing them into the big leagues. Bargain hunters shouldn't fret, however, as the E series models show that Vizio hasn't forgotten its roots in impressive, affordable televisions.
By Michael Patrick Brady
It seems clear that despite their runaway success in the low-end HDTV market, Vizio suffers from something of an inferiority complex. You'd think that being the number one manufacturer of LCD flat-panel televisions in North America (as of Q1 2009) would give them some confidence. Still, Vizio desires to escape the stigma associated with budget brands and wish to have their brand name regarded with the same prestige afforded to Sony and Samsung.
A finer breakdown of sales numbers might help explain their concern. Though Vizio is in first place when it comes to overall LCD sales, they achieve this by dominating the small to mid-sized screens, particularly around 32 inches. In those sizes, Vizio's low prices and in-store displays are very appealing to consumers who are ready to just pick up an HDTV and load it in the car. Larger-sized televisions, those with displays over 40 inches, are still the domain of Sony and Samsung. It can be deduced that when consumers go big, they're looking for a solid, reputable brand, and that when they spend a lot of money, they desire the security that comes with the familiarity of a known brand and its long history.
Thanks to the recession, Vizio is still cleaning up in the small-sizes, but if there's any hope of expanding their dominance into the future, they'll need to make headway with larger-size displays. That's where the all new XVT series comes in. Vizio isn't abandoning low-cost TVs, but they're now just a facet of a larger strategy aimed at strengthening the brand's reputation.
XVT Series: A Luxurious Experiment
The XVT series of Vizio televisions is being trumpeted as their "flagship" line. These televisions are chock full of high-end features and technology that surely put it on par with the top-of-the-line offerings from bigger brands. XVT models are available in sizes between 32 inches and 55 inches, and meet Energy Star 3.0 standards for energy efficiency.
All XVT models have full 1080p resolution, though there is some variance in refresh rate. The 32, 37, and one of the 55 inch models (SV320XVT, SV370XVT, and VF550XVT) have refresh rates of 120Hz, which has quickly become a standard feature on most HDTVs. 120Hz provides significant smoothness, and while the differences between traditional 60Hz sets and 120Hz sets are somewhat in the eye of the beholder, the price tags ($749, $849, and $1,999 respectively) are not so outrageous.
The remaining models feature the new "240Hz" refresh rate, which is the new ridiculous specification for 2009. The value of 240Hz is negligible, and certainly not worth the price premium seen on these XVT models. It's not an essential feature, and consumers looking to save money should feel comfortable avoiding it.
The most intriguing new feature is found on the 55-inch Vizio VF551XVT ($2,199). It's not 240Hz (which it does have) but the LED backlight. If you want to learn more about why LED backlights are important, you can read our guide "What is LED Backlighting?". The VF551XVT is a back-lit LED flat-panel with "local dimming," meaning it can achieve greater color and contrast accuracy with specific tuning of its source of illumination.
E Series: Ecologically and Economically Efficient
If the XVT series is too much for you to handle, you'll probably want to peruse the "E" series. Though Vizio claims that the E stands for the environmentally friendly "EcoHD" technology, it may just as well stand for "economical," as these televisions are very affordable.
Vizio claims that the "EcoHD" technology lowers the energy consumption of the sets 20% further below the already stringent Energy Star 3.0 standards, for additional savings on your monthly electric bill. Other than that, these aren't very remarkable televisions. They'll get the job done, at sizes between 19-inches and 42-inches.
Conclusion: Looking Forward to Less Lean Times
It's hard to look at the XVT line and not think about the economy; these are luxury-style televisions being promoted in a time of significant belt tightening. Smartly, Vizio hasn't gone completely off message, though, as the E series demonstrates. The XVT models are an investment in the future of the brand, building a reputation for quality and high-end gloss that should pay dividents for the company in the future. For now, however, it's reasonable to just save your money and wait for things to clear up before venturing into the deep, more expensive end of the pool.