Vizio P42HDTV 42-inch Plasma HDTV Page 2

The Short Form
$1,500 ($1,800 list) / 30 x 43 x 4.25 in / 85 lbs / / 888-849-4623
•Crisp picture with both HDTV and DVD •Natural out-of-the-box color •Great value for a 42-inch plasma HDTV
•Mild picture noise in dark scenes •Uneven picture centering on HDMI input
Key Features
•1,024 x 768-resolution plasma display •Built-in HDTV tuner •PIP/POP •inputs HDMI, 2 component-video, 2 composite-video, and 1 composite/S-video, all with analog stereo audio; 2 RF cable/antenna; VGA with minijack analog stereo audio •outputs coaxial digital and analog stereo audio
Test Bench
The Vizio P42HDTV's color temperature measured very close to the 6,500-K standard after picture adjustments were made with the set's standard user controls. After calibration, the TV's grayscale tracking was ±100 K from 20 to 90 IRE - excellent performance. Picture centering was noticeably uneven when the HDMI input was used, but Vizio says that will be corrected in production units. And picture overscan on the set's component-video inputs was 5% - a bit higher than usual. The set's resolution was very good, with alternating lines in a 720p-format multiburst test pattern coming through cleanly via its HDMI and component-video inputs. Full Lab Results
PICTURE QUALITY Air travel is unsettling enough, but a thriller that takes place during a turbulent long-distance flight, as directed by horror-master Wes Craven - now that's disturbing! Such is Red Eye, and the Vizio P42HDTV 42-inch plasma HDTV did a good job bringing out the DVD's detail in the passengers' clothes from the gloom of the shadowy airplane cabin. I saw subtle pinstripes in the dark jacket of Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), even in shots where the lights were thoroughly dimmed. But although the P42 had decent shadow detail, deep blacks looked merely dark, falling short of the true inkiness I've seen on the best plasmas. This limits contrast in dark movie scenes, reducing some of the TV's overall visual punch.

In the better-lit images of Red Eye's opening airport scene, the Vizio P42HDTV's spot-on color rendition made the skin tones of characters lining up to board the flight appear completely natural. And bright colors (the blue-and-green uniforms of the flight attendants) looked very rich. Fortunately, the set's vivid color rendition didn't come at the expense of more subtle hues like the icy blue of Rippner's eyes and the pale pinkish-red lips of Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams).

Having recently logged time checking out a bunch of new, ultra-crisp 1080p projection HDTVs, I'm finding it harder to be impressed by the picture detail on high-def plasmas, most of which provide fewer than half as many pixels. Even so, the HDTV programs I watched on the Vizio P42HDTV looked satisfyingly sharp. As I tuned in ABC's sci-fi show Invasion, an overhead shot of the questioning Kira lying on her bed revealed plenty of detail in both the fine silk-screened drawings on her T-shirt and the lacy patterns on her Indian pillow. The fuzzy texture of a nearby stuffed animal in another shot also came across clearly.

But along with good high-def detail, the Vizio P42HDTV displayed a bit of picture noise in the many dark shots from Invasion. In a nighttime scene where a father speaks to his daughter from his tree-house perch (you have to take these strange arrangements for granted with sci-fi), the panels of the screen door next to her showed a slightly coarse gradation of dark to light tones. But this effect was rare in most of the shows I watched on the set. Another problem I detected was that images fed to the Vizio via its HDMI input were shifted noticeably to the right compared with those via its properly centered component-video input. According to Vizio, this problem was peculiar to my test sample and won't appear on production units.

BOTTOM LINE The Vizio P42HDTV 42-inch plasma HDTV performs surprisingly well for a panel that costs as little as $1,500. While its picture isn't perfect, most of the HDTV programs and DVDs I watched on it looked very good, and I often found myself struck by its crisp image, convincing shadow detail, and rich, natural color. And the set's good looks and smart features add quite a bit to its overall appeal, helping make it one of the best overall values in plasma TVs today. So my work is done. Now load those kids into the minivan and get a move on to Costco.

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