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Vizio is the little company that could. Founded only six years ago, it has risen to be ranked number two in US flat-panel sales. How can this be? A combination of good performance and low prices, that's how.

Case in point—the VF550XVT. This 55-inch, 1080p LCD TV has a lot going for it, including a price tag of only $2000, far less than most LCDs of this size. But what about features and performance? Let's take a look...

The bezel is fairly nondescript black, which is fine by me. Not so fine by me is the silver soundbar below the screen, which is pretty reflective. Of particular note are five HDMI inputs, which is more than most TVs provide these days.

Perhaps the most important feature is 120Hz operation—frames are flashed on the screen at a rate of 120 per second, twice the normal video rate of 60Hz and five times the film frame rate of 24fps. In conjunction with Vizio's frame-interpolation algorithm, this is intended to reduce the motion blur that has plagued LCD TVs since their introduction. It also reduces the judder—a slight herky-jerky quality in any onscreen movement—often associated with film-based video sources.

Frame interpolation creates new frames to insert between the actual frames in a video signal, calculating where moving objects should be in those new frames to smooth out the motion and sharpen the image. However, this process can introduce artifacts of its own. The VF550XVT provides two controls—Smooth Motion and Real Cinema—that determine the amount and type of interpolation, respectively, allowing you to balance the increased sharpness with any artifacts that might intrude.

The calibration controls consist of only one set of red, green, and blue parameters, not two sets, which is the minimum required to perform a complete calibration. Also missing is a color-management system (CMS), which would let a trained technician alter the primary (red, green, blue) and secondary (yellow, cyan, magenta) colors to conform with the HD specification. Fortunately, this wasn't a big problem for me, since the set's colors were very close to correct out of the box.

Two audio features from SRS are intended to enhance the sound of this TV. TruSurround HD is said to create a simulated surround experience, while TruVolume tames the sometimes wildly disparate volume levels between programs and commercials and even between channels.

One of the nicest features of all Vizio TVs is the company's free 1-year, in-home warranty. In addition, for all LCD TVs measuring 30 inches and larger, the company’s Zero Bright-Pixel Defect Guarantee replaces the entire TV if even one pixel is stuck on. Vizio also offers free lifetime technical support by e-mail or phone. Such dedication to customer service is rare and laudable in today's consumer marketplace.

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