Below are my thoughts, opinions and observations of 3 solid days with the Vizio VF551XVT 55″ LED-LCD HDTV purchased from Costco.
I am not a certified TV calibrator. I don’t own spectrometers or colorometers or flux capacitors. I’m just a dude that more or less started this blog 4 years ago to catalog and educated folks about my own research and adventures in building my own home theater.
Not from the perspective of “I’m going to build $20k insanity in my living room” but always from the perspective of “I’m a discerning consumer that really favors quality but doesn’t want to blow tons of $$$ on everything”.
I’m also a gamer (Xbox 360, PS3 and PC — don’t care much for the Wii) so having a strong high-definition setup was important to me for more than just movies and television.
Why The Vizio VF551XVT?
Over the last 2 years Costco (and I think Sam’s Club) have sort of become the goto places when wanting to get your hands on the latest Vizio offering. They always carry them in stock and seem to prominently display their highest end models in the stores as well as online.
I recently setup the 55″ VF551XVT for my parents after reading more about the 55″ VF552XVT (note the ’552′ model change) and seeing that there were no changes to the display panel, just the addition of internet-enabled applications (e.g. Netflix streaming, YouTube, etc.) directly into the TV with Wireless-N connectivity.
Going into this purchase a spent a few months following the Vizio AVS Forum owners thread as well as the Samsung UNxx owners thread as well. Samsung (along with Sony) seem to carry the industries reputations as having the nicest panels. For the higher end sets from both vendors you are looking at $3-3,500 so it’s so no surprise they are beautiful.
The most common comparison in these threads for new buyers seemed to be “Should I get the Samsung/Sony OR the Vizio blah-blah XVT“. After months of reading these threads and seeing these sets in person I can tell you two things:
- If you are fanatical about quality (e.g. written specs on paper are really important to you) and you don’t mind spending more, get the highest end Samsung LED-LCD panel you can get ($3k from Amazon).
- If you want a beautiful HD picture but paying for the ‘utter best’ so you can brag to friends isn’t very important, get an Vizio XVT-series television (I would recommend the 55″ 551 or 552 right now).
In August this year, Vizio is launching their “PRO” line of televisions which will include a 60″, 65″ and 72″ LED-LCD TV as well as a 21:9 widescreen ratio television (perfectly matched to movie-media, so no more black bars when you watch movies). While I’m personally waiting for that series (for the 65″ size) my recommendations in the previous list are for anyone buying right now, or in the next few months.
So How Does the VF551XVT Look?
In a word, beautiful.
I’m saying that as someone who has seen a lot of HDTVs over the last 4 years – DLP, Plasma and LCD.
DISCLAIMER: Professional picture calibration seems to prefer relatively dim brightness settings on a television in order to maintain the “proper” colors and levels to the picture. I DO NOT like professionally calibrated sets. I much prefer a very bright, sharp and high-contrast picture to watch. I like it when vivid images “pop” on the screen.
As mentioned above, I love vivid/clear/high-contrast images on an HDTV. I hate it when something looks “soft” or “gray” on a HDTV. I want my picture to pop.
When we got the 551 installed and setup and turned it on the picture did not pop on the Vizio. Even when I dialed Contrast all the way up, it was certainly brighter, but still no “pop” — defined as that “OH WOW” factor when someone does a double take when they walk by a TV.
Turning up Brightness washed out the picture less than I expected, but I didn’t like solving the ‘pop’ issue with that, so I turned Brightness back down.
It wasn’t until I found the Backlight setting in one of the menus and maxed it out that the picture was finally “popping” bright and beautiful.
After going into the DirecTV’s receiver settings and telling it to only output 1080p and then waiting for prime-time HD broadcasts to come on, we were finally seeing HD that was “Oh shit” worthy.
Multiple times while watching TLC, Monday night, from 6pm until 10pm did I actually say “Holy shit…” when watching an HD commercial that would come on so sharp and pop so loud with vivid colors that I was floored.
We watched a bit of National Geographic’s study of the planets, specifically this episode was on Uranus (pronounced: yur-ah-nus).
Over the next few days I did little in the way of visual tweaks to the TV. I turned on Smoothing (the 240hz interpolation technology) down to Low so it didn’t make movies look too weird (NOTE: A big reason movies look like ‘movies’ is because they are filmed at 24fps and your eye comes to relate the mild jerkiness with a ‘movie’, it’s crazy) in addition to turning Noise Correction to Low and a few other tweaks that were ‘best of both worlds’ for my parents watching movies, news or sports.
As I mentioned, I’m not a professional TV reviewer like Robert Heron. I’m just a technical guy that loves a nice crisp HD picture and I wanted to take the time to write that the Vizio VF551XVT delivers that well when you give it a nice signal.
My parents picked it up from Costco for $1499 in Phoenix and I imagine as the 552 becomes more prevalent that the price on the 551 will continue to drop.
I was impressed enough with that TV that coming home to my Mitsubishi WD-65831 has had me depressed for a few weeks now — which is why I’m eagerly waiting for the “PRO” lineup from Vizio in August to see what they have planned for consumers wanting sets bigger than 55″.
I hope this writeup has helped give folks a bit more info about a fairly popular HDTV choice and let you know that even though Vizio has historically been so popular because of it’s value, I didn’t see any shortcomings with my eyes from the 551 that would imply I was giving up anything.