VIZIO XVT473SV Review
47" 1080p Full-Array LED LCD HDTV, $1569
For the moment, the XVT series is the top of VIZIO's line, and deservedly so.
XVT stands for Extreme VIZIO Technology and the XVT473SV is definitely packed with almost all of the whiz bang features that a videophile would drool over.
I say "almost" because this series does not have the ability to play 3D content. VIZIO has not yet released a 3D-ready TV. Then again, I'm not sure if I'm 3D-ready.
What the XVT473SV does supply is a 240Hz SPS (Scenes Per Second) LCD 1080p display that is backlit by a full array of LEDs with Smart Dimming.
I realize that is a mouthful of techno-jargon, which I will describe in a bit more detail later. For now, the bottom line is that this TV delivers superior picture quality.
Add to that, VIZIO includes built-in WiFi capability, a strong lineup of streaming Internet content providers and a cool customized Bluetooth Universal Remote Control with a slide out QWERTY keypad.
Wrap all of these goodies up into an easy to use and competitively priced package and you can begin to understand why I give the VIZIO XVT473SV our Highly Recommended rating.
(Editor's Note: VIZIO makes the 55" XVT553SV and the 42" XVT423SV. Though these two models have 120 LED control zones, [the 47" has 160], the rest of their specifications are similar and this review of the XVT473SV can apply to all three.)
Our Star Ratings
The superior video performance from the 240Hz SPS LCD 1080p display, backlit by a full array of LEDs with Smart Dimming, pushes the VIZIO XVT473SV into the top echelon of 2010 models. Its audio quality also sets it apart from most TVs.
With a WiFi connection built-in and a host of Internet content partners, this HDTV is chock full of goodies. Though at this time, you cannot plug in a USB drive or access files on your home network. And if you are looking for a 3D-ready VIZIO TV, you will have to wait a while longer.
Ease of Use: 4.5
VIZIO does a good job of guiding you through the setup process. Though to explore all of the features on the XVT473SV will take some time.
At an MSRP of $1569 for a direct-lit LED 1080p HDTV with local dimming, VIZIO has thrown down the gaunlet to other manufacturers. You may be able to find other 47" TVs for less, but none with the list of features and more importantly, the picture quality. And to make the proposition even move compelling, I'm seeing this model offered online for over $100 less.
Star Ratings Description
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. We have given only a precious few 5 Star ratings, which we reserve for truly outstanding accomplishment.
Out of the Box
With its two inch glossy black bezel and its three inch depth, the XVT473SV would not be the sveltest model on Project Runway. Though I remember just a couple of years ago when three inches was considered super thin.
I blame some of that bulge on the space requirements of the TruLED backlight system. And I'm more than willing to trade an inch or two of depth for the picture quality gained.
Many of the TVs that I have reviewed in the last year are packaged in their boxes with their stands detached, which may be convenient if you are planning to wall mount the TV. But I always have to attach the screen to the stand and the process of lying the TV flat while screwing on the stand is disconcerting.
VIZIO decided to box the XVT473SV with its stand attached which saved me probably a good half hour of angst and backache.
The TV does not swivel on its stand, but the viewing angle is as good and wide as I have seen from an LCD.
When the TV is turned off, you can see that the glass on the front of the screen employs some sort of glare filter, which reduces the effect of any direct reflections. When the TV is on, glare is really not a problem for me.
The VIZIO designers have combined all of the usual operational buttons (Power, Channels, Input Source, Volume) into one silver Jag wheel located along the back of left edge of the TV.
By pressing or turning the wheel, you can handle all the basic functions. To navigate deeper into the menus, you still need the remote control, which I will discuss later.
Above the Jag wheel on the left side is a convenience panel with one HDMI input and three USB ports.
These three inputs are a bit of a mystery. The manual only says that they are "Reserved for future functions." I've been informed that they will be activated with a firmware update, but I was not told what those functions will be.
The major omission is that, at this time, the USB ports will not accept a USB flash drive containing music, photos or videos. Many of the VIZIO TVs that I have reviewed lately have included this capability. Why this top of the line series does not is puzzling.
(Editor's update: VIZIO has given me a target date of mid November for USB support. They say that "several codecs for USB playback are being worked on and at this moment we don't have the exact list of what will be included in the release. But, minimally we will support MP3 and JPEG. Additional codecs can be rolled out in Firmware updates as they are confirmed working.")
On the back of the TV are two groups of connections. The top collection is facing out and includes one set of Component video (YPbPr) Ins (with one matching stereo Audio In), and one Composite video In (with one matching stereo Audio In). (As always, I recommend using Composite only for troubleshooting.)
If you want to feed the audio out to a sound bar or another speaker system, VIZIO provides one stereo analog Audio Out and one optical digital Audio Out.
The LAN port is for connecting to the Internet with an Ethernet cable. The XVT473SV also has an integrated WiFi 802.11n dual-band wireless connection.
Below that group, with their connections facing down are four more HDMI inputs, one RGB PC In (with a matching stereo minijack Audio out above it), and one RF antenna connector, which links to integrated ATSC/QAM tuners.
Since the tuner system is Clear QAM compatible, you can attach your cable TV signal directly into the RF connector and tune in unscrambled cable stations.
With the ATSC tuner and the proper antenna, you also will be able to tune in digital signals broadcast over-the-air.
As more TV owners are looking to double purpose their big screen for viewing less traditional programming, streaming Internet content is becoming a popular alternative.
To access VIZIO's content providers, you press the VIA (VIZIO Internet Apps) button on the remote.
VIZIO has teamed up with many of the big names for streaming movies and TV programs, Netflix, Vudu, and Amazon on Demand.
I will continue to repeat the following piece of advice because I believe it will make your streaming experience more pleasurable. If you are serious about obtaining good streaming video picture quality, you will need fast and robust bandwidth from your Internet provider, ideally around 10Mbps.
Some sites suggest as low as 2.5Mbps, but if anyone else in your house is accessing the network, the video playback will deteriorate. At least try to have around 5Mbps.
One last point, I know wireless is the craze and I hate running Ethernet cables from here to kingdom come, but a wired connection is still the best bet, especially when you are streaming HD content. Even the VIZIO manual states, "A wired connection may provide a more consistent connection depending on the conditions in your home environment."
But if you are set on going wireless, I suggest that you opt for a 802.11n router to feed the dual band wireless adapter that VIZIO has built in to the XVT473SV.
Beyond the streaming movie widgets, VIZIO provides other video streaming apps. For a wider range of programs, I particularly like the 40 channels that are aggregated under the Web Videos widget. Major outlets like CBS, Fox, WB and PBS usually offer only clips from their programs.
The real fun comes in exploring offerings from sites like Atom (comedy) or crunchyroll (Japanese anime). Occasionally, you'll find a gem like the TED channel's (Technology, Entertainment, Design - ideas worth spreading) presentation by Carter Emmart demoing the 3D Atlas of the Universe.
Or you can pig out watching DeliciousTV, then feel fat after viewing Ford Models Fashion, and finally slim back down with ExerciseTV.
For the social butterflies among you, VIZIO furnishes both Facebook and Twitter widgets.
Music lovers will revel in the choices from Rhapsody and Pandora. Photo freaks can feast on Flickr.
And the list goes on. I counted 39 widgets including the basic News, Business and Sports from Yahoo and your city's temperature and forecast from AccuWeather.
The one obvious MIA VIA is YouTube. It is currently not offered.
The other major feature that is not provided is the ability to connect the XVT473SV to your home network. Add that to the lack of USB support for flash drives and you cannot directly playback your stash of music, photos or video files on to your TV.
You may wonder how I can give a Highly Recommended rating to a TV that doesn't provide these abilities. The answer is two-fold. As a TV, the XVT473SV's picture quality and its other features are strong enough to overshadow this one shortcoming.
And if you really want USB playback and YouTube, you can find any number of Blu-ray players or standalone media servers that supply these capabilities.
This 47" TV does include both PIP (Picture-in-Picture) and POP (Picture-outside-picture) modes. But as with most TVs, the combination of sources is limited. For example, you cannot mix two HDMI sources at once.
The non-backlit remote control is stubbier than usual, but the buttons are well laid out and the labels are easy to read.
The real surprise is when you slide the bottom of the remote out to reveal a QWERTY keyboard, which makes tweeting so much easier.
This remote can be operated in either IR or Bluetooth mode. IR (infrared) is the traditional method, but it requires you to point the remote at the TV.
Bluetooth has a similar range of around 30 feet, but you do not have to aim the remote at the TV for it to work.
If you want the convenience of the Bluetooth mode, you will need to pair it with the television. During the initial power-up of the XVT473SV, the Setup App will lead you through the simple procedure.
If you want to activate Bluetooth later, the manual is well written with photos and screen shots that guide you through setting up and using all aspects of the TV.
To its credit, the manual does a better than average job of explaining items like the Advanced Picture options.
On May 1, 2010, the EPA implemented Version 4.1 of the ENERGY STAR Program Requirements for TVs. They are now publishing a list of TVs that that meet this stricter standard. (You can find it here.) The VIZIO XVT473SV is on the list.
The EPA states that this VIZIO's On Mode Power is 104W and Standby Power Consumption is .09W. Based on the formula that the TV is on five hours a day and in Standby for the other 19, the Estimated Annual Energy Use is 196.04 kWh/year.
You need to check your electric bill to see how much you are paying for a kWh. The rate that I have been using in previous reviews is 10.4 cents. Doing the multiplication, at that rate, the yearly energy cost is $20.39.
Since manufacturers are not attaching those yellow ENERGY STAR tags that you find on air conditioners and refrigerators, you will have to study the ENERGY STAR list to see how the XVT473SV compares to other 47" TVs.
From a quick perusal, this VIZIO is competitive. (The Maximum On Mode Power for Energy Star Qualification is 138W for 47" screens.)
The first time that you ever turn on this TV, the Setup App will walk you through procedures like turning on the Bluetooth feature on your remote and more importantly, on connecting your TV to the Internet.
To calibrate the TV, we use two discs, the Blu-ray version of the Digital Video Essentials DVD called HD Basics and the Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark Blu-ray DVD. We are playing the DVDs on the Sony BDP-S570 Blu-ray player connected to the HDTV with an HDMI cable.
We use the test patterns to adjust black level, white level, and color bias. The player is set to output a 1080p signal, which is the native resolution of the XVT473SV.
I always suggest that you test drive the Picture modes provided by the TV. If you find one that you like, then you can either pick it and quit or use it as a reference to guide your own setup.
VIZIO offers a long list of Picture modes: Standard, Movie, Game, Vivid, Football, Golf, Basketball, Baseball, and Custom.
Cruising through them, you can be educated by examining what adjustments were made to achieve a certain quality. For example, Basketball pumps up the color by changing the Color Enhancement setting to Rich Color.
Take a long, hard look at the Movie default, which is closest to a "proper" calibration setting. Though I realize that Movie may be too muted for some of you, especially if you are watching sports.
I chose Custom and went into the Advanced Picture Settings and turned Off everything like Color Enhancement, Adaptive Luma, and Ambient Light Sensor.
I like to adjust initial settings without the interference of these options. For example, if Ambient Light Sensor is On, then you have no control over the Backlight setting.
There is one exception with the XVT473SV, I left Smart Dimming turned On. I really like this feature and therefore I figured that I should have it engaged when I am setting up the display.
Then, I began with Color Temperature. The choices are Cool, Computer, Normal and Custom. Notice that Warm isn't an option.
I picked Normal, which tends to be a little Warm. (For the geeks, Normal sets the White Point to 6500K.)
If you really want to tweak, you can individually adjust the Gain and Offset for Red, Green and Blue.
Next I worked my way down the Picture Settings menu. I moved Backlight to its midpoint of 50. Your number may vary depending on the lighting conditions in your room.
Of course, if the light really varies, then you might consider turning on the Ambient Light Sensor and letting it adjust the Backlight according to the light in the room.
Moving on, according to the test patterns, Brightness was 51, Contrast dropped to 40, and Color to 46.
Any setting over 3 for Sharpness started to create fringing on the edges of lines. I left it at 3.
This initial process was quick and easy. Better yet, the results were quite satisfactory. With other TVs, often I have to go back and turn Color down even more because skin tones look too red. But with the XVT473SV, skin tones looked natural after the initial adjustments.
I was very pleased with the results. If you wish to fiddle, then proceed back to the Advanced Picture menu and experiment with Adaptive Luma and Color Enhancement.
Before we leave this menu, we should cover the Smooth Motion Effect and Real Cinema mode features. This VIZIO LCD is a 240Hz SPS (scenes per second) display.
I have often discussed the MEMC (motion estimation, motion compensation) technology that interpolates 60 frame per second content (60Hz) and creates 240 scenes per second (240Hz). You can read a lengthy description of the process in my earlier review of the VIZIO SV471XVT.
Let me cut to the chase. Basically, you should be fine with Smooth Motion at Medium and Real Cinema at Smooth.
Even at these settings, if you are a traditionalist, you may think that MEMC makes the image appear too sharp and video-like, which can be discomforting when watching movies. If you yearn for a softer, more film-like image, try turning off Real Cinema and Smooth Motion.
Finally, before you can enjoy many of the Internet apps, you must initialize them. Some, like Netflix, require a subscription and then you activate your TV on the Netflix site. Others, like Facebook or Pandora, simply require you to enter your ID and password.
Before I rhapsodize about the picture quality of the XVT473SV, I want to describe the foundation of this display's sterling performance. VIZIO brands it as full-array TruLED™ backlighting with Smart Dimming.
One integral element of LCD displays is their backlight. In the past, CCFLs (cold cathode fluorescent lights) were the common backlights. In the last couple of years, LEDs (light emitting diodes) have gained more prominence.
TV designers are placing the LEDs in two different locations. One method is to position the LEDs around the outer edge of the LCD screen, often called edge-lit. The second method places an array of LEDs behind the LCD panel, often termed direct-lit, or in VIZIO's lingo, Full-Array.
Because of their orientation, edge-lit LEDs allow manufacturers to make thinner TVs, currently as slim as 1". But the problem with edge-lighting a display is achieving an even dispersal of light across the whole screen. As you can imagine, edge-lit TVs often exhibit more brightness, or hot spots, along the edges.
Therefore, one of the advantages of a direct lit TV, like the XVT473SV, is a more even dispersal of light. Basically, you see no hot spots.
Placing hundreds of tiny LEDs behind the screen is only one part of the formula for great picture quality. The other is local dimming or Smart Dimming.
On the XVT473SV, VIZIO has grouped the LEDs into 160 control zones. The brightness of the LEDs in each zone can be adjusted frame by frame according to the image.
If you are watching a movie and part of the scene is in shadows, then the TV lowers the brightness of the backlights in that area accordingly.
If part of the image is in deep shadow or totally black, the dimming will reinforce the darkness. Basically, the TV can produce darker darks, which makes colors seem richer.
If a TV can create truly bright whites and deep blacks, then its dynamic contrast ratio increases. I'm not a big believer in judging a TV by contrast ratio numbers, but VIZIO states that the dynamic contrast of the XVT473SV is 10,000,000 to 1. Yes, that is ten million.
Considering that our eyes probably can't see much difference between 50,000 to 1 and 10,000,000 to 1, let me just say that the full-array TruLED™ backlighting with Smart Dimming looks damn fine.
Beyond all this tech-speak, the picture quality was consistently excellent. Consistency is important, especially if you just want to turn of your TV and not think about retuning it every time you change the channel or play a new Blu-ray.
Of course, if you love to fine tune, the XVT473SV's picture controls are responsive and you can really explore different looks just by changing the Picture Modes.
The audio quality emanating from the integrated pair of 15W speakers is quite good and well above average for TV sound.
The speakers handle the midrange well, but seem to strain with the high range. And the sonority of the low range notes is weakened by the lack of a subwoofer.
VIZIO does offer a few audio enhancements like SRS TruSurround HD (that expands the sound) and SRS TruVolume (that smooths out spikes in volume).
If you turn off TruSurround, you can adjust the audio with a five band equalizer.
No matter how much audio tweaking you do on this TV, you will still be much better served with a dedicated 5.1 or 7.1 channel audio system.
With the XVT473SV, VIZIO earns our Highly Recommended rating by combining state of the art video technology with a long list of must-have features. And the bow on this winning package is a highly competitive price.