VIZIO JV50P 50" Plasma HDTV
Dick De Jong
October 4, 2007
VIZIO has dubbed its new JV50P HDTV as "Jive" because you will be jumping and jiving to this all-in-one home theater package. This 50" Plasma comes bundled with a wireless subwoofer and two rear surround speakers. When you add in the TV's three integrated speakers, (left, center, and right), you have a complete 5.1 channel surround system.
For me the attraction of VIZIO is how they deliver on their tagline, "Where Vision Meets Value." Their strategy has been to make competitively priced products that may not be on the cutting edge of technology but are solid performers.
The JV50P is a prime example of that tactic. With a native resolution of 1366 x 768, this unit does not rival the newest class of 1080p plasmas. Even though it accepts 1080p and 1080i sources, they will be downscaled to 720p. If you like to toss numbers around, this VIZIO states a 15,000:1 Contrast Ratio, which does push it to the front of the line.
Of course, I am not a staunch proponent of "resolution trumps all." Picture quality is still my measuring stick. I will admit that I have seen other HDTVs with better image quality, but 50" plasmas in this price range and with this feature set are few and far between.
(Editor's Note: We have posted a video review of this VIZIO HDTV. You can see it here.)
As for the speaker system, we recently returned from CEDIA, where companies were exhibiting foot tall A/V receivers and sculptural speakers for ten times the price of the whole JV50P kit and caboodle. So don't expect high end home theater audio performance out of this VIZIO system. What you will receive is a little extra surround sound oomph to liven up a medium sized viewing room.
Out of the Box
When you lift open the box, you'll find the subwoofer and rear speakers neatly packed around the 120 pound TV, which comes with its stand attached. (The base can be removed if you wish to wall mount the unit.)
The screen is rimmed with a two inch black frame with the front and center speakers encased in the silver grille below. The control buttons are indented on the right side of the bezel. The only marking on the front is the VIZIO logo that lights up when the TV is plugged in. Also, when this HDTV senses that it is receiving a true 5.1 audio source, a red 5.1 illuminates inside the center channel grille.
Perhaps the best part of this all-in-one setup is the wireless subwoofer. In this case, wireless means that the subwoofer communicates with the TV in the 5.8GHz transmission range, which is the same as some cordless telephones. So you don't need to run one of those hard to conceal speakers wires from the TV.
Now the system is not totally wireless. You do need to plug the subwoofer into an electrical outlet and the pair of baby (6 x 4 x 3") rear speakers must be connected to the subwoofer. Each speaker is attached to twenty feet of wire with easily inserted ends that are color coded to match the inputs on the subwoofer. No banana plugs or twisting wires to fit into screw down terminals. Simply plug and play.
If you don't yearn to run wire all over hither and yon, then I would suggest that you place the 9 x 14 x 14" silver and black subwoofer near where you plan on positioning the rear satellites.
VIZIO provides easy to follow setup directions on a large illustrated poster. The three step process to establish the wireless link to the TV did not go quite like it was described. But after holding the button on the subwoofer down for too long, while I was waiting for the blinking light to go off, I let it go and the light went off, the link was made and the surround sound emanated.
The connection panel on the back does not stint on inputs with three HDMIs with a stereo pair of Audio inputs, (which are linked to the HDMIs), two Component inputs (YPbPr) with matching stereo Audio Ins, two Composite (with Audio), one VGA (15 pin D-Sub) with a stereo Audio In mini-plug, and a Service port. Interestingly, S-Video inputs are nowhere to be found. In addition, an SPDIF (optical) digital Audio In and a separate SPDIF Out are provided.
Once again, the connectors are facing downward, which makes them much harder to view and access. I will admit that the color coded strip above the connectors does make the job easier.
The one RF connector links to the internal NTSC/ATSC/QAM tuner. Unlike the VM60P that we reviewed, the JV50P tuners are more tightly integrated functionally. When setting up the tuners, you scan for the digital (ATSC) and analog (NTSC) channels at the same time. And you can surf from analog to digital channels by simply hitting the Up and Down Channel buttons. Since the tuner system is also Clear QAM compatible, you can attach your cable TV signal directly into the RF connector and tune in unscrambled cable stations.
VIZIO's PIP and POP features are some of the most comprehensive we have seen. You can choose where to place the small picture on the PIP screen. Considering the size of this 50" plasma, if you had an antenna hooked up and a cable box that has its own PIP function, you could comfortably watch three football games at once. Of course, you'd need to be a nimble two fisted remote control gunslinger.
With its brushed silver accent, the backlit, black remote looks elegant and the layout is sensible. For example, separate buttons are provided for different Input categories, (HDMI, TV, AV, Component).
If you program your remote to run your cable box, the A, B, C, and D buttons correspond to the ones of the cable remote. Some of the labels are hard to read, especially on the smaller buttons, (for example, Component stenciled on a 3/8" wide space).
Our basic setup procedure remains the same. We're using the Oppo DV981HD DVD player and the Digital Video Essentials DVD, (the SD version), to calibrate the monitor. We attached the Oppo's HDMI out to the HDMI input on the VIZIO and used test patterns to adjust black level, white level, and color bias.
The DV981HD can upconvert a standard definition DVD to 1080p. Now, all the literature I have read about the JV50P, including the manual, says that it does not accept 1080p sources. But when I feed it 1080p from the OPPO, the screen looks fine and pushing the Info button says 1080p. Go figure. Then again, OPPO suggests inputting the native resolution of the TV, so we set the OPPO to 720p. In reality, in this situation, I cannot discern a difference on screen between the 720p and 1080p inputs.
The Picture Menu on the VIZIO provides the basic controls: Brightness, Contrast, Color (Saturation), Tint (Hue) and Sharpness. Also, you have Picture Mode presets labeled Standard, Movie, Game, and Custom. (Thank you VIZIO for leaving out Vivid.) Since we like to have a full range of adjustments, we always pick Custom and work from there.
The Color Temperature selections are Normal, Warm, Cool or Custom. Cool (9300K) is the default. For added control, Custom includes sliders for Red, Green, and Blue, which default to a midpoint of 127.
Under the Advanced submenu are controls for Dynamic Noise Reduction (DNR), Black Level Extender, White Peak Limiter, Color Transient Improvement (CTI), Flesh Tone, and Adaptive Luma. The factory default turns some of these on. I would suggest that when you are initially dialing in settings that you turn all these off. Once you are pleased with your basic Color and Contrast, then you can read the manual and try the Advanced controls one by one. (A word of warning, the page numbers listed in manual's Index are wrong.) Ultimately, you are the best judge of what tweaks look right.
When I first set up a TV, sometimes I envision myself as one of those dogs looking for a place to lie down. You've seen them. They sniff and walk in circles, sometimes you think they will never stop and lay down. Finally, they plop down and let out a big sigh. I'll circle some TVs more than others. Occasionally, I'll never feel ready to stop.
I looped a couple of laps around this VIZIO, but when I did settle in, I was satisfied. I will admit that my nose flared when watching some standard definition programs. But when HD material was on screen, the picture quality was very good.
Football games broadcast in HD can put you on the 50 yard line. Occasionally, I would see pixelation in fast moving shots, but I put the responsibility for those annoying artifacts more on the content provider and less on the display.
Colors tended to be too saturated to my eye even though I had turned down the Color setting. I seem to be particularly sensitive to skin tones, which makes me a bit itchy for the remote. The JV50P tended to wander a little. But it may be more accurate to say that it wasn't rock solid in compensating for the flesh tone gyrations present in various programs.
Whenever a sniff of doubt entered my mind, I loaded up our current gold standard in HD, The Phantom of the Opera. With superior source material like this, the picture quality on the VIZIO was marvelous. Color was luscious, in part because the plasma's blacks are deep.
Ah, if all content could reproduce as well, we would be in HD heaven. Alas, SD material still presents its own version of video purgatory. As a blessed relief, most non-reality primetime shows this season are being broadcast in HD.
As with all the plasmas I've reviewed, the viewing angle on the JV50P is very wide. Even from a severe angle, the color remains saturated. And I don't find this plasma to be distractingly reflective.
If you are still worried about plasma's reputation for being susceptible to image retention, I never saw a hint of ghosting on the JV50P. VIZIO does provide an Image Cleaner feature, which will remove ghosts. We have never encountered any problems with burn-ins on plasmas.
One of the oddities when playing Phantom was that I could never crank up the 5.1 audio on the Masquerade scene to room rattling levels. Even with the volume pumped to 95, the sound from the surround system was tame. I was ready to chalk it up to VIZIO or the Xbox SPDIF output, but then I loaded up Gears of War and I scrambled to lower the Volume on the remote as I tried to soothe my well beaten ear drums. The VIZIO subwoofer was matching the game controller vibration for vibration. My appreciation for the JV50P just elevated to jive level.
|JV50P Surround Speakers
The TV's internal amplifier still isn't brawny enough to crank up Phantom like the Pioneer VSX-82TXS receiver that we have. And the speakers will never be confused for Thiels. (I just received a press release about JL Audio's 360 pound Gotham subwoofer.) But in a small to medium sized room, the sound system can fill the bill. And the wireless feature makes setup quick, neat, and painless.
Finally, we connected our laptop to the JV50P with a VGA cable and set the computer's resolution to 1366 x 768. The hardest part of this task was finding the Input button on the remote. RGB does not have a dedicated button, so you have to punch the Input until you cycle to RGB. Once accomplished, the quality was great without any adjustments. The aspect ratio was right and the image was clean, clear and bright.
The VIZIO JV50P is a meat and potatoes HDTV. It wouldn't be my first choice for a home theater. But for the price, this 50" plasma, with a 5.1 surround system thrown in, would be a great addition to a game room.
First, realize, that ratings are relative to when the review was written. The obvious example is Value, what you could purchase for $2000 two years ago or even two months ago would seem like a bad value for that price now.
Second, we have given only a precious few 5 Star ratings, which we reserve for truly outstanding accomplishment.
With a 15,000:1 Contrast ratio, the picture quality on the 720p JV50P was consistently strong when displaying HD content. Persnickety videophiles may wish to check out the more expensive new breed of 1080p plasmas.
I like the three HDMI inputs, the extended set of picture adjustments, and the PIP options. The cherry on the top is the integrated 5.1 channel surround sound system.
Ease of Use: 4.5
Starting with the big illustrated poster of setup instructions, VIZIO does a very good job of designing an HDTV that is easy to use.
If this unit was a 1080p plasma, I would definitely consider raising it to a 5. Add in a little more robust surround sound system and it would be a no-brainer.