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Review: Vizio's VX32L HDTV a good value

Story Highlights

• Cheap for a 32-inch LCD -- $699.99 (manufacturer's price)
• Decent picture quality; produces a deep shade of black
• Poor off-angle viewing characteristics; funky styling
By David Katzmaier
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(CNET.comexternal link) -- Vizio's VX32L HDTV may not be the least-expensive 32-inch flat-panel LCD on the market, but it's still quite affordable.

Unlike most bargain-basement LCDs, however, this model provides a well-rounded feature set, including two HDMI inputs and a PC input along with plenty of picture controls.

Those features, combined with perfectly acceptable picture quality, earn the VX32L HDTV our commendation as one of the best values at this screen size.


Vizio HDTVs have always been basic silver and black, but the 32-inch VX32L HDTV adds a few accents to complement the glossy black screen frame.

The middle of the silver speaker bar below the screen curves in softly in an indentation reminiscent of the cable guy's backside.

The back and sides of the panel are actually white, not silver, and there's a thin white border around the speakers. And the Vizio logo lights up white when the TV is on, then turns orange when it's turned off.

Set atop the included matching silver-and-chrome stand, the Vizio VX32L HDTV measures 31.4x23.3x10.4 inches (width/height/depth) and weighs 40.8 pounds. Remove that stand--the speakers are fixed -- and the panel shrinks to 31.4x22.1x3.9 inches.

The remote control will be familiar to anyone who's ever operated a Vizio TV. It's crowded with buttons, many of which serve more than one purpose, and while we liked the direct access to input types and picture-in-picture controls, the sheer number and similarity of the keys will take some getting used to.

Unlike with Vizio's larger sets, the remote included with the 32-inch VX32L HDTV lacks backlighting.

The menu system has a new look, however, with a friendlier blue font and slightly more advanced-looking icons. It offers the same options as most other HDTVs, Vizio or otherwise, and the layout is generally intuitive.

We liked that the picture controls receded to the bottom of the screen during adjustment.


The Vizio has everything we could want in an inexpensive LCD. Like all 32-inch LCD HDTVs, the Vizio VX32L HDTV has a native resolution of 1,366x768, which is enough pixels to display every line of 720p HDTV content. All sources, whether HDTV, standard def, or computers, are scaled to fit the pixels.

A built-in ATSC tuner anchors the VX32L HDTV's list of conveniences, allowing it to tune over-the-air channels with the addition of an antenna.

It also can receive digital cable channels courtesy of a QAM tuner, so if your cable provider happens to have a few unscrambled HDTV channels it might pick them up. Vizio also includes picture-in-picture with a versatile array of combinations, along with a freeze-frame option.

The Vizio VX32L HDTV also offers more picture controls than your average 32-inch LCD. Three preset picture modes are on tap, in addition to a fourth mode that allows you to change the picture parameters, such as contrast and color independently for each input.

In addition to the three color temperature presets, you can fine-tune color temp using red, green, and blue controls. There's also a range of advanced video features we mostly left off for critical viewing.

We also were impressed by the good deal of connectivity around back. There are two HDMI inputs, two component-video inputs, one AV input with composite video, one RF input for antenna or cable, an optical digital output, and a VGA-style PC input that can handle resolutions up to the full 1,366x768.


All things considered, the Vizio VX32L HDTV delivered a perfectly decent picture, and in some areas exceeded our expectations at this price point.

The smallest HDTV size we're currently reviewing is 32 inches, and we don't expect many users to demand the ultimate in home theater picture quality from this kind of set. Nonetheless, we put it through our standard battery of tests, and the results were mostly good.

We began as usual by adjusting the VX32L HDTV for use in our darkened room. Again, we expect most users' rooms to have more ambient light, but we still do our evaluations in the dark to provide a level playing field and to test televisions in the most-demanding environment.

The VX32L HDTV's range of picture controls served well during calibration, allowing us to attenuate the backlight to achieve a peak light output of around 40 FTL. We also appreciated the custom color temperature adjustments, which after being set caused the VX32L to display much more accurate color.

We were able to compare the Vizio directly to a few other displays we had on hand, namely a pair of larger Vizios (the 47-inch GV47LFHDTV and the 37-inch VX37L HDTV), another inexpensive 32-inch LCD, the Hanspree Xv, and our reference 50-inch Pioneer PDP-5070HD plasma. We chose "Constantine" on HD DVD for this viewing session.

The Vizio VX32L HDTV handled darker scenes relatively well for an LCD, delivering deeper blacks than any of the other LCDs in the room, although the difference between it and the 37-inch version was fairly slight.

Shadow detail was a bit below-average however; shots that included Keanu Reeve's hair, for example, seemed a bit murky, and when he stands in the doorway of the church with Rachel Weisz, details in the woodwork were less apparent than on the 37-inch model.

We also noticed that very dark areas got noticeably redder than with some other LCDs we've seen, including the 37-inch Vizio.

Aside from those reddish dark areas, the VX32L HDTV acquits itself well on the color accuracy front. Its gray scale remained linear from dark to light, and stayed relatively close to the 6,500K standard.

We also noted nearly perfect color decoding. These two factors came across in skin tones, for example, such as when Reeves looks at himself in the mirror. His skin appeared suitably pallid without the red push evinced by the Hanspree or the greenish tinge we saw on the 47-inch Vizio.

Flat-panel HDTVs usually have minor uniformity issues, but the Vizio VX32L HDTV sample we reviewed was mostly free of the uneven backlighting that causes brighter areas in a dark screen--it was just slightly brighter on the upper left. Its off-angle viewing performance, however, left something to be desired. When seen from not very far off center (about 45 degrees), the dark areas of the image, such as the letterbox bars, became noticeably redder, and the red tinge increased as we moved further off angle.

The rest of the LCDs in the room didn't have this problem although, like the Vizio 32-incher, they all washed out to some degree when seen from off angle.

The Vizio's ability to handle standard-def video was about average for a small-screen LCD. It showed every detail of the 480i format in our component-video tests using the HQV disc, and it also engaged 2:3 pulldown quickly and showed plenty of sharpness in the stone bridge and other highly detailed areas. On the other hand, it had a hard time smoothing out jaggies from moving diagonal lines, such as a waving American flag.

The Vizio's noise-reduction circuit did an OK job squelching out unwanted video "snow" in some of then more difficult sky and sunset scenes, but we did find ourselves wishing for more powerful noise reduction at times.

We also checked out the Vizio as a PC monitor, and according to DisplayMate, it resolved every line of a 1,366x768 computer signal. Black-on-white text was nice and sharp, and overscan was not an issue.

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