Let Me Count the Ways I Love My New TV

The cobbler's kids always go unshod. I know nearly as much about video as I do about audio, but for a Sound & Vision editor—even a mere Audio Editor—I have been subsisting on a shockingly old and small TV. My 10-year-old Sharp LCD set was only a 32-inch because it was originally intended to supplement a front-projection display. But since then it has become my only video display. For that and a long list of other reasons, it was due for replacement.

The biggest TV I can shoehorn into the available space is 43 inches, which would be about 38 inches wide. Yes, that's on the small side by today's standards, but anything larger would force me to rearrange the whole room, ejecting at least one tall shelf full of musical treasures. That is not going to happen. This is a hard-working room: It is my home theater, media library, home office, living room, and at night my roommate's bedroom. It is really packed. So a 43-inch set is as high as I can go.

The challenge I faced is that the most desirable videophile features are hard to find in a 43-inch TV. If you want the latest and greatest video technology, you should be looking at models 49 inches and up. Better yet, 55 inches and up. I looked far and wide for the one exception to the rule, a high-performing 43-inch set, and what I came up with was the Vizio E43-F1.

How do I love it? Let me count the ways:

Full-array local dimming. Virtually all LCD TVs use backlighting to shine light through all those tiny liquid-crystal light valves and nowadays that means LED backlighting. Sets in my screen size almost invariably use edge backlighting. But the Vizio uses full-array local dimming, with LEDs evenly spread behind the screen. That should improve contrast ratio. It is hard to find among 43-inch displays and I'm pleased that mine is (at this writing, to my knowledge) the only exception to the rule.

Dolby Vision HDR. Most LCD sets now have HDR, or high dynamic range, a form of metadata added to the video data stream to improve dynamic range from black to a higher peak white with better color saturation. Like most of them, mine has HDR10, which operates at a single setting for the duration of a movie or TV show. But mine adds Dolby Vision, a form of dynamic HDR that can vary the metadata from shot to shot. That is another feature hard to find in a 43-inch, making the Vizio special.

VA panel. LCD panels can use VA (vertical alignment) or IPS (in-plane switching). Frankly this is beyond my expertise, but VA is generally believed better for black level, and IPS for viewing angle. My set is unlikely to be viewed off-angle—I'm a sweet-spot kind of guy, perpetually rooted in front of the center channel—so the better picture quality of VA is the right choice for me. Most other people seem to prefer it.

60 Hz refresh rate. I'm grouping this item among the video features but it is not an advantage. It is unlikely that the four hundred bucks I paid for the Vizio will get me a true 120 Hz panel, despite the manufacturer's claim of "120 Hz effective refresh rate" on the spec sheet. So its motion performance won't be among the best; it might be no better than that of the old set. But that is the price I'm willing to pay to get local dimming, Dolby Vision, and an otherwise good panel. I would gladly have paid a lot more for a higher performing, no compromise OLED display. But they are not available as 43-inchers. Size is the real limitation for me, not cost.

Variable analog audio output. The thinning of flat-panel TVs has reduced their built-in speakers to junk. My solution has been a pair of Audioengine 2 powered speakers. They sound great and their top-end rolloff makes blaring fast-food commercials easier to bear. As I shopped, I was disappointed to find that many sets have only a digital optical output. That would have required me to use a optical-to-analog adapter—with its own awkward power connection—or give up the AE2. The Vizio has both analog and optical audio-outs. Problem solved.

Google Chromecast. Though the monitor has Netflix and a few other apps built in, this is Vizio's adopted streaming solution for most other things. It will be a new adventure for me. If I don't like it, I can use the Roku Express HD I just bought for $30, or upgrade to its 4K equivalent. But with my current internet service, video streams sometimes waver between high-def and standard-def and worse, so going ultra-high-def probably isn't going to help, whether I do it with the 4K Vizio set or a 4K Roku box. One of the highest-quality forms of HDTV, the airwaves, is unfortunately unavailable because my apartment does not receive a usable broadcast TV signal.

Remote, app, and voice control. Mine is not among the higher-end Vizios that come with deluxe touchscreen remote controls. However, the supplied traditional remote is attractive and well designed. And I can always install the Vizio app on my phone and tablets. Over the past few years I've become a "second screen" viewer, surfing on a tablet during the 11 o'clock news. With the tab already in my hands, I might as well use it to control the TV. My new set is also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and an Echo Dot is sitting on my desk across the room, so I might use that to control the TV too.

It took me a week of desultory surfing, followed by a full day of intense comparison shopping, to zero in on the Vizio E43-F1. It is a 2018 model and, at this writing, has not found its way onto Amazon or any other retail site. The Vizio website was the only way I could order it as well as the only source of detailed information about it. I bought it sight unseen, figuring that if it wasn't available on the web, it wouldn't be at the local Best Buy either.

I also bought it without the benefit of reviews. Reviewers prefer sizes of 55 inches and up because they offer the most desirable display technologies and feature sets, especially where picture quality is concerned. I don't blame my fellow reviewers for going where the action is but their work wasn't of much help. The only Vizio E Series reviews that were remotely relevant were of last year's models in larger sizes.

Wish me luck. And if you've found a better TV in a smallish screen size, let your fellow readers know about it.

Audio Editor Mark Fleischmann is the author of Practical Home Theater: A Guide to Video and Audio Systems, available in both print and Kindle editions.

John Sully's picture

I'm thinking about moving my planned TV purchase up by about a year. My choice? A Vizio P65-E1. That is the biggest screen I can fit in my living room, which is pretty small, but nobody regretted getting a TV which is too big and this one is pushing the limits.

bsher's picture

I also think a 43-inch set is my maximum size for the time being. Since I don't have cable, and the Vizio set you discuss doesn't have a built-in tuner, I am waiting for the TCL 5-series, which should be fairly similar (not sure about local dimming or backlighting). TCL sets have been hailed lately as amazing bargains, but if Trump decides to extend his tariff policy to electronics from China, that could change drastically.

Tommy Lee's picture

..just buy a tuner. They're cheap, and based on my experience the Vizio is a better display than any TCL I have seen.

Mark Fleischmann's picture
Vizio has added the broadcast tuner back into this model, so you can use it with an antenna.
bsher's picture

Thanks for this info! Now, if TCL can release the 5-series before a trade war erupts, I can comparison shop the TCL and the Vizio. Built-in Roku is tempting, but picture quality remains the top priority, of course.

Michaelde's picture

Thanks for this info! Now, if TCL can leave go of the 5-series ahead of a operate war lose your temper, I can association shop the TCL and the Vizio. Built-in Roku is persuasive, but picture superiority leftovers the top precedence, of course. https://fullessayhelp.co.uk/ this one is alsao very appreciated your work keep doing.

janthenat's picture

Since I've not seen one in person... looking at the specs for this 43" model I'm told only 3 HDMI ports (2 rear, 1 side), yet all images show 4 HDMI ports (3 rear, 1 side). Can you confirm which is correct? Are they just showing us images of the larger models that have 4 HDMI ports? Thanks!