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Review: VIZIO P50HDM

You can buy a lot of TV for little money -- if you can live with a few inconveniences.

InformationWeek Staff

November 14, 2005

3 Min Read

High definition TV is cool, and when it comes to HDTV, the bigger the better. But like all new technologies, early adopters paid a dear price for every inch of display, especially once you got into the lofty 50” and above territory.

Thankfully, prices have dropped steeply, and you can now consider sticking an envy-inducing display on your wall without sacrificing your children’s college educations. Still, it’s rare to find a 50” set priced under four grand, so when I heard about an HDTV plasma set with a list price of $2,699, I had to take a gander.

The VIZIO P50HDM features 1366 x 768 of native resolution packed into your typical flat panel footprint. Unpacking the 128 lb unit solo threatened the potential of permanent lower back damage, but to be fair, it is in line with other units of a similar size as far as weight goes. Take my word for it: When the manual suggests that two, and preferably three, people set it up, they’re not exaggerating.

The P50HDM offers a cornucopia of connection possibilities. To start, you get two bleeding edge HDMI jacks for pure digital to digital throughput. Then you get two sets of component video inputs, a DVI input for talking to computers, and an S-Video and composite input. You also get audio inputs for each of the video inputs to drive the two speakers built into the base (although most people installing one of these monsters is probably going to use their own 5.1 setup instead.)

The picture is everything you’d want in an HDTV monitor, although you’ll want to play with the settings a bit, the defaults are a bit dark. The unit will display 4:3 material in a variety of ways, either letterboxed, stretched, zoomed or panaranomically stretched (which leaves the center relatively undistorted while stretching out the edges.) It performed well, even in a well-lit room, putting out an impressive amount of image power.

There are only a few dings I can make against the unit. First, the remote makes you toggle between the doubled up inputs (HD1, then HD2, for example.) This is a pet peeve of mine, because it means you can’t program a remote with macro capabilities to set up your home theatre for a given setup. If you’re already on HD1, sending the command again is going to switch you to HD2. In other words, the remote is state-dependent. Also, the connectors are a bit awkward to get at (one of the downsides of wall-mounted displays.)

My biggest problem is with the nature of plasma displays themselves. The manual for the TV goes on at some length about how you shouldn’t watch too much of the same type of TV (news channels with crawling text on the bottom, 4:3 content in letterbox mode) because it can lead to burn-in. It is also made very clear that this kind of behavior constitutes abuse and is not covered under the warrantee. So, if you like to watch CNN for 8 hours a day, this TV is not for you. Or, if you watch a lot of non-HD content. Personally, when I have to consciously think about how much of what kind of content I’m “allowed” to watch, I get a bit nervous. On the other hand, when you’re getting that much TV for that low a price, maybe it’s something I could learn to live with.

Vizio P50HDM, http://www.vizioce.com/, $2,699

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