Anyone who claims the launch of 3D has gone well is lying. While 3D may be virtually everywhere that doesn't mean consumers have been buying, but that hasn't stopped manufacturers from trying to sell 3D at seemingly every turn. 3D HDTVs are now in their second generation (or possibly third depending on who you ask) and unlike first gen 3D displays, the second coming features a host of - wait for it - passive 3D displays. Yay. Early 3D sets were costly and required a host of specialty equipment to function properly, not to mention they introduced consumers to the world of active shutter glasses. Cumbersome and expensive, active shutter glasses became a punch line during 3D's initial offering.
Well, that was then and this is now and many manufacturers are over active 3D and are trying to make amends with consumers by offering passive 3D displays, complete with 3D glasses, that are not only easier on the eyes but far easier on their wallets as well. Case in point: the 42-inch Vizio E Series Class Theater 3D LCD HDTV (E3D420VX) reviewed here. At $729.99 retail, the 42-inch E Series HDTV is one of, if not the most affordable, 3D HDTV currently available.
The E3D420VX looks decidedly KURO-esq with its shiny, piano black bezel and matte black speakers mounted below. I must say that Vizio has stepped up their industrial design with each product cycle and the E3D420VX is one of the more minimal yet attractive displays out there. Measuring a little over 40-inches wide by 26 inches tall and three inches deep without the stand, the E3D420VX is compact but by no means Kate Moss thin; however for a traditional LCD it's far from bulky. Using the E3D420VX's included tabletop stand adds a little more than an inch to the display's height and a full six inches to its depth. I should point out that the E3D420VX's stand does not allow for any kind of movement or tilt but more on that later. Surprisingly the E3D420VX has an LED-like weight, tipping the scales at a scant 33 pounds.
The E3D420VX is, as its name implies, a 42-inch, passive 3D, 1080p display that uses 3D CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps) back lighting over of the increasingly popular LED back or edge lighting, no doubt a cost saving measure, for Vizio's LED-based 3D sets start at $1,399.99. The E3D420VX is the first of Vizio's newest passive 3D HDTV lineup, featuring Vizio's own Theater 3D technology. The E3D420VX comes with two pairs of polarized glasses. If you need more than two pairs of polarized 3D glasses Vizio sells additional glasses starting at $29.99 (polarized) and topping out at $129.99 (active) on their website. Of course, if you've seen a 3D film in theaters recently you can hang onto those glasses and use them at home for the E3D420VX is RealD compatible. For more on 3D please visit Home Theater Review's, The ABCs of 3D: Key Terms You Need to Know.
Vizio states that the E3D420VX can display 16.7 million colors and has a dynamic contrast ratio of 200,000:1. The E3D420VX is a 120Hz display with a five-millisecond response time and a viewable angle of 178-degrees. The E3D420VX features two internal, 10-Watt loudspeakers with SRS StudioSound, SRS TruSound HD and SRS TruVolume DSP support. In terms of inputs or connection options the E3D420VX does have quite a few including three HDCP and 3D compliant HDMI inputs (two on the back and one on the side); one component input, one composite input, a single RGB computer input, analog audio input, RF input for the internal tuner and a 10/100 Base - TX Ethernet port. The E3D420VX features 802.11 Single Band WiFi capability is built in, meaning if you have a wireless network setup in your home the E3D420VX will be able to access it without any additional dongles or wires. Built in WiFi is not only handy but a benefit when it comes to utilizing the preloaded Internet Apps such as Netflix, Vudu, Blockbuster, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Yahoo, Pandora and more. Surprisingly the E3D420VX does not have any sort of Bluetooth support. E3D420VX has two USB 2.0 inputs with MP3 and JPEG support located along the left side of the display and below the set's hard controls. As far as outputs go the E3D420VX has a single optical digital out and an analog audio out.
Which brings me to the E3D420VX's remote: a small, non-backlit affair that is double sided with one containing all the necessary controls for the HDTV's various functions and the other a small qwerty keyboard for use with the various Internet Apps.
Installing the E3D420VX is an easy enough job for a single person unless you're wall mounting it, in which case I would recommend employing the help of a friend. Making the requisite connections between my 3D enabled Sony BDP-S580 was also a breeze thanks to the E3D420VX's well laid out and cleanly labeled back panel. I also connected my Dish Network HD DVR and Apple TV to the E3D420VX, which utilized all of its three HDMI inputs. I connected all my sources using two-meter length, High Speed, 3D compliant HDMI cables from Planet Waves, including one with a 90-degree termination for use on the E3D420VX's side mounted HDMI input.
Because I didn't have a very long evaluation period with the E3D420VX I didn't bother connecting it to the rest of my reference system, which meant I relied on it for both picture and sound.
Calibrating the E3D420VX was a breeze thanks in part to its wonderful menu with controls for virtually every picture parameter one could think of. Out of the box the E3D420VX isn't what I'd call calibrated though it's far from obnoxious. I used two calibration discs to dial in the E3D420VX's image: first Monster/ISF's HDTV Calibration Wizard on DVD and second, Digital Video Essentials on Blu-ray. I used two different discs because I felt that at the E3D420VX's asking price consumers would be willing to pop for the less expensive, less in-depth HDTV Calibration Wizard. However I also wanted to see how zeroed in the E3D420VX could be when using a far more professional disc such as DVE. Surprisingly, the less expensive HDTV Calibration Wizard produced a very pleasing image and one that wasn't far off from the calibration figures obtained using the Digital Video Essentials disc. I say surprisingly because I've owned a number of Vizio HDTVs over the years and the E3D420VX is the first I've encountered that included such a "professional" level of control when it came to calibration. I went ahead and disabled all of the E3D420VX's picture gimmicks such as its Ambient Light Sensor, dynamic contrast modes and motion processing for their presence was detrimental to the image and with regards to the Ambient Light Sensor completely noticeable and distracting. After about 30 minutes futzing around with the various on-screen menus and making my way through two different calibration discs, I had the E3D420VX pretty much dialed in and ready to rock and roll.
Once the image was calibrated I went ahead and connected the E3D420VX to my home wireless network. Connecting the E3D420VX to my wireless network was a breeze and within two minutes of entering my router's password I was changing my facebook status, reading my latest tweets and watching Netflix streaming content all while watching an episode of Fringe on Fox. Pretty cool - but a bit A.D.D.
I began my evaluation of the E3D420VX with some good ol' 2D material by way of the sci-fi cult classic Fringe (Fox) on Fox. Broadcast in HD (1080i), Fringe looked positively cinematic when viewed through the E3D420VX's matte finish screen. I'm a huge fan of matte finish screens on HDTVs for I find images appear more natural, though I know high gloss sells better for it allows for colors to "pop" and brightness to reign supreme. Still, there was plenty to be excited about when watching Fringe via the E3D420VX, for the colors all appeared natural and the black levels were solid and possessed excellent texture and detail. Highlights in the image, especially near the edges of the screen, showcased the E3D420VX's lack of backlight uniformity resulting in a subtle vignette effect. Artifacts were kept to a minimum and largely the result of the compression used in the broadcast and not due to lackluster performance on the E3D420VX's part.
Read more about the E3D420VX passive 3D HDTV's performance on Page 2.