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The Big Game HDTV Round-Up
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The Big Game HDTV Round-Up

By JLawson - Posted Jan 31, 2007


The Big Game HDTV Roundup

Posted by: JLawson on Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

You've waited patiently all year long and given every excuse possible as to why you have not made the leap to HDTV, but now IS the time to make that leap...why, you ask?

'Cause THE BIG GAME is this weekend!

That's right, if not to watch the pigskin battle unfold in glorious high-definition, then for the amazing prices on some HDTVs.

With that in mind, we have grabbed some of the hottest HDTVs that you may...or...may not have heard of, but can have in your living room for under $2,000.

Specifically, we are taking a look at the 37-inch VIZIO VX37L, the 37-inch Viewsonic N3751w, the 42-inch Olevia 542i and the 47-inch VIZIO GV47LF.

All of these TV's are HD and capable of displaying everything from the standard 480p to 1080i, with the exception that the VIZIO GV47LF can hit the 1080p sweet spot. So now the big question...which ones score the touchdowns and which ones ride the pine?

Hooking them up to an HD signal and as many sources of HD content we could get our hands on, these HDTVs took the best the Xbox 360 with HD-DVD external player and PS3 could pump out.

Ready for the kickoff?  Here we go:

The VIZIO VX37L 37" LCD HDTV >>>


VIZIO VX37L 37" LCD HDTV
Price: $899 (Available at CostCo, Sam's Club, BJ's)

SPECIFICATIONS:
Size: 37-inch (1366 x 768) High Resolution Display
Tuner: Integrated NTSC/QAM HDTV tuner
HD Capability: Supports 480i, 480p, 720i, 720p and 1080i
Response Time: 8ms
Brightness: 500 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio: 1000:1
Inputs: 2 HDMI with HDCP, 2 Component YPbPr plus Stereo Audio, 2 Composite, 1 S-Video, 1 RGB plus Stereo Audio, 1 RF, 1 Analog Stereo Audio for HDMI
Outputs: 1 Analog Audio Out (RCA), 1 5.1 SPDIF Digital optical Audio
Weight: 42.2lbs. With Stand / 40.7lbs. Without
Dimensions: 36.2" W x 26" H x 10.4" D With Stand and Speakers

PROS:
VIZIO's design of the VX37L is very easy on the eyes. Beautiful gloss casing resembles that of other companies that price their HDTV's at a much higher cost. What really stands out immediately is the way that the orange colored VIZIO logo draws you in with a comfortable glow, replaced by a soft white once fully powered up. The styling is not only easy on the eyes, but is also very compact.  When positioned next to Viewsonic's N3751w, the VIZIO has a much smaller profile despite the same screen size.

While the colors out of the box needed some fine tuning, the VX37L was very capable of presenting a fantastic 1080i picture on both the 360 and PS3. Using Gears of War on the Xbox 360, we tested the VIZIO's contrast ratio to see how it would hold up when presented with a wide range of colors and, more specifically, the shadows and nuances that this game exemplifies. Let's just say...it ROCKED! This was to be the same when using the 360's HD-DVD external player with the movie, King Kong.

Using a color-coded input guide on the rear of the TV, the inputs were placed in a well-thought-out position. For example, the component inputs are placed directly next to the appropriate audio inputs, thereby eliminating the guesswork as to which audio goes with which video.

In addition to an eye-pleasing TV, the VX37L's remote was very intuitive and easy to control when switching between the various inputs. Once pressed, you just need to continue to press "Input" till it gets to the appropriate selection. Sounds simple, right? It was.

CONS:
While VIZIO gives you a beautiful facade to keep you smiling while looking at the front of the television, the rear is somewhat in need of an update. Don't get me wrong, the layout of the inputs and the addition of a side composite input are fantastic, but no one, and I mean no one, likes to see your cords run wild. With only a small piece of plastic to wrangle the plethora of cords that will be sprawling out of the back of your TV, it wouldn't hurt to include clips or a clasp to keep the cords in one place.

The only other issue that we became aware of while testing was the HDMI connection. Whether playing Madden 2007 or the PS3s built-in Blu-ray player with Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the HDMI connection seemed to have issues processing the signal on this VIZIO. Mind you, the VX37L is not a 1080p HDTV, so this may have contributed to this fault.

OVERALL:
Looking for a 37-inch that exemplifies beauty without you having to break the piggy bank, this TV gives you a lot of bang for the buck. Whether it is the small profile or the side inputs, this TV has what it takes to run with the big boys.

At the end of first quarter, we're moving on to:

The Viewsonic N3751W 37" LCD HDTV >>>


Viewsonic N3751w 37" LCD HDTV
Price: $799 After $200 Rebate Ends 1/31; Normally $999
(Available at MacMall, Buy.com, ZipZoomFly.com, Newegg.com, Mwave.com, OnSale.com, PC Nation, PC Mall, PC Connection and other e-tailers)

SPECIFICATIONS:
Size: 37-inch (1366 x 768) High Resolution Display
Tuner: Integrated ATSC/NTSC HDTV tuner
HD Capability: Supports 480i, 480p, 720i, 720p and 1080i
Response Time: 8ms
Brightness: 500 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio: 1000:1
Inputs: 3 HDMI, 1 Component YPbPr, 1 Composite, 1 S-Video, 1 VGA/D-Sub port, 1 RF, 2 RCA Inputs, 1 Headphone jack
Outputs: 1 RCA Out, 1 Optical Digital Audio
Weight: 68.6lbs. With Stand
Dimensions: 37.1" W x 28.6" H x 11.6" D With Stand

PROS:
Viewsonic may not be known in the world of televisions, more so in the land of LCD monitors, but this one is nothing to turn a blind eye towards. Packing by far the most forward thinking connections with 3 HDMI inputs, the N3751w gives you versatility that competitors are charging almost an additional $100 per extra HDMI. Why is this important you ask? Well, component inputs may be the present, but if you are planning on adding multiple HD sources to your TV, the future will require that you have as many ways to connect them. That is a given.

Here's what else is a given: Viewsonic knows how to pull the most out of their LCD monitor's contrast ratio. This rings true with the N3751w. Right from the get-go the quality and depth of blacks on sources ranging from the Xbox 360 to the PS3s Blu-ray, the Viewsonic had everyone's eye. The whites were white and the blacks were black. It did require a little bit of changing some settings, but in a side-by-side with VIZIO's VX37L, the Viewsonic definitely had a crisp quality to its picture. While the VIZIO was much softer, it pointed out the sharpness of the N3751w.

If the casing of the TV may not get you that excited, the functionality behind the TV was a mixed bag. The plus side...a streamlined environment for cord management. Plug in all of your components and snap the rear panel on to hide and corral the cords. That's a nice feature for those that are not willing or wanting to put out the extra expense to hang it on the wall. Keep in mind though that you wouldn't want the cover if you needed to constantly connect or disconnect components.

Finally, the speakers that Viewsonic pumped into the N3751w were surprisingly great. Pumping out 20 watts of Dolby Digital Audio, the bullets were zipping by in Gears of War and Madden 2007 had me on the field getting laid out by Brian Urlacher.

CONS:
What was somewhat surprising is that the N3751w's casing did not look up to par. I'm hoping that the well-received and awarded ViewDock series will rub off some of its glossy, black action to the big boys. With function over form establishing the looks on the front, it seemed to be the reverse on the back.

Normally inputs are located near each other for a reason, but in this case the N3751w totally favored the HDMI inputs and forgot about those Xbox 360 users by placing the component input far from the audio input. This could be a problem if you don't feel like shelling out extra dough on a longer optical cable.

While the casing and the input placement are both minor details, the one that was slightly frustrating was the remote. The buttons that are used most frequently, including the process of switching between inputs was rather tedious. I know that Viewsonic may be used to people pressing buttons on their monitor to change settings, but people LOVE their remotes and this one needs to go back to the drawing board.

OVERALL:
The Viewsonic N3751w is a pumped-up TV that looks to grab attention if not for its looks, for its potential. The option of inputting three HDMI sources along with the sharp picture it produces should have most of you hitting up the e-tailers right now. If that isn't enough for you, this was the only TV that came not only with a VGA cable, but also a composite cable, an S-video cable AND a component cable.

Coming up after the half:

The Olevia 542i 42" LCD HDTV >>>


Olevia 542i 42" LCD HDTV
Price: $1099 (Available at J&R, BuyDig.com, Buy.com, Mwave.com and other e-tailers)

SPECIFICATIONS:
Size: 42-inch (1366 x 768) High Resolution Display
Tuner: ATSC/NTSC Combo tuner
HD Capability: Supports 480i, 480p, 720i, 720p and 1080i
Response Time: 8ms
Brightness: N/A
Contrast Ratio: 1600:1
Inputs: 1 HDMI with HDCP, 3 Component YPbPr, 2 Composite, 2 S-Video, 1 VGA/D-Sub port, 2 RCA Inputs, 1 Headphone jack
Outputs: 1 RCA Out, 1 Optical digital audio
Weight: 96lbs. With Stand and Speakers
Dimensions: 43.3" W x 34.7" H x 14.2" D With Stand and Speakers


(inputs are aligned vertically, image has been rotated for space)

PROS:
Olevia takes on the challenge of supplying you, the consumer, with more bang for your buck by leaving out the frills and showing you that mind does indeed win over matter...sometimes. By no means the prettiest of the TVs being reviewed, the Olevia was the biggest surprise. Not for the enormous size or weight, which I'll talk about in the "CONS," but for its ability to produce a stunning picture. To be fair, the 542i has a higher contrast ratio than two of the other TVs being reviewed and it made sure to show it off.

Right out of the box, the look on some faces in the review room appeared to have the question "Is that an LCD or a rear-projection?" Its size is rather large and its look not so impressive, but man can this TV show you a good time. Using the 360s HD-DVD player and the PS3s Blu-ray player, this TV let it shine. The depth of color and the intricate blacks seen in King Kong were a sight to see. This was only topped off by the range of purple hues that are seen throughout the movie, Kung-Fu Hustle.

While going for the minimal expectations in an LCD, Olevia knows that the end consumer who spends money on a TV, like the 542i, does not need for the speakers to be a permanent attraction. Don't take this wrong way...these speakers have plenty of power. Pumping out 40 watts between its two speakers located below the screen, Gears of War had me flinching every time you hear the Screechers announcing their arrival. Plus, they are removable! That's right, if you already have your surround sound take 'em off and you instantly slim down the profile and reduce the weight of the 542i.

CONS:
Like stated in the "PROS," the size, weight and look of the TV may not be for all. It is a bulky TV that requires a lot of space, both for its footprint if being placed on an entertainment unit and if being placed on a wall.

In addition, the front of the TV is generically laid out, but the rear has some issues. Diverting from the norm of placing the inputs/outputs in the rear center of the TV, the 542i moves that panel to the right rear section. Convenient for having the ability to attach and detach components on the fly, but not so convenient for those that might have their home theater system set up on the opposite side of the TV. No one is looking at purchasing longer cables than those they already own, and unfortunately this might lead to some "oh snap" comments while being hooked up.

Taking into account the price on this 42-inch at a reasonable $1099, it wouldn't hurt for Olevia to add one thing that it lacked....cables. Straight out of the box this TV came with a User Manual DVD and a remote.....that was it. Come on now, is it that hard to give up a component cable...how about an S-video...a composite??

OVERALL:
All in all, the Olevia was the surprise of the bunch. It definitely did not have the looks of the VIZIO's or the HDMI inputs of the Viewsonic, but it stood its own ground with a genuine picture quality that should receive its due credit. Just be sure to not try lifting this TV on your own or you'll be grabbing your groin and looking for a hernia surgery faster than you can say Olevia.

The whistle signals the two-minute warning and:

The VIZIO GV47LF 47" LCD HDTV >>>


VIZIO GV47LF 47" LCD HDTV
Price: $1899 (Available at CostCo)

SPECIFICATIONS:
Size: 47-inch (1920 x 1080) High Resolution Display
Tuner: Integrated NTSC/ATSC/QAM HDTV Tuner
HD Capability: Supports 480i, 480p, 720i, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Response Time: 8ms
Brightness: 500 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio: 1600:1
Inputs: 2 HDMI with HDCP, 2 Component YPbPr plus Stereo Audio, 2 Composite, 1 S-Video, 1 RGB plus Stereo Audio, 1 RF, 1 Analog Stereo Audio for HDMI
Outputs: 1 Analog Audio Out (RCA), 1 5.1 SPDIF Digital optical Audio
Weight: 88.7lbs. With Stand / 77.7lbs. Without Stand / 70.6lbs. Without Speakers
Dimensions: 44.5" W x 31.4" H x 10.6" D With Stand and Speakers

PROS:
Let's just start with the obvious...VIZIOs 47-inch Gallevia GV47LF LCD HDTV is not only a bargain for a 47-inch, but this puppy is 1080p! Don't get me wrong, the hype in the world of HDTV makes the consumer believe that 1080p is the must-buy, but in reality it is the must-buy if the price is right. And in this case, Bob Barker definitely says it best....THE PRICE IS RIGHT!

While the other TVs in this review are only capable of 1080i, they each take advantage of the content that we tested. HDTV through cable or satellite is only being seen in 720p and aside from those who have taken the dive on purchasing the PS3 or a standalone Blu-ray or HD-DVD player, you really won't notice the difference. That's not to take away anything from this TV. Hooking up a PS3 through one of its two HDMI inputs was a cinch. Once up and running, games like NBA 07 in 1080p were stunning. The crisp quality of the picture and the depth of color that the GV47LF was pumping out was visually delicious.

To make the GV47LF that much more appealing, it is versatile. The speakers, attached attractively, can be removed if you would like to save some space on the wall, thus reducing the weight of the TV while not taking away from the intentions of its creator.

The last thing that was such a superficial pleasure, but unique to this TV, was its illuminated touch-panel. Located on the lower right hand side of the screen, one just needs to touch the glass to light up the controls.

CONS:
Once again, for all of the bang for your buck and the marketing of this upscale VIZIO, why is the wire management so poor? It's easier to forgive this problem on the 37-inch VX37L when it costs less than half the price of the 47-inch GV47LF. With that in mind though, how could VIZIO not have made a better wire management system for almost $1000 more? Maybe VIZIO felt they were saving a penny or two, but I think most people would rather pay a couple bucks more to have something that keeps a thing of beauty from looking like it just grew dreadlocks.

If the wires don't bother you, the only thing that might would be the speakers. Not really the winner of the bunch on audio levels, the speakers are probably meant to be removed as it seems to point that out numerous times all over the packaging. I'd rather just leave them on for the aesthetics and do what I already do with my TV speakers....switch them off.

In addition, VIZIO might want to follow the lead of Viewsonic by adding a component, or dare I say, an HDMI cable to a TV that costs $1899.

OVERALL:
The VIZIO GV47LF Gallevia is a sight to see. To think that only a year ago other companies would be charging close to $4000 for a TV with the same capabilities is a credit to not only price reductions, but to the competitive nature of companies like VIZIO that make these features affordable. If you are looking for size, this is the one you want to go for. In the end, if you are looking to spend that extra hard earned cash you will not be sorry.

Don't hit the showers yet! Stick around for:

The Post-Game Wrap-Up >>>


POST GAME WRAP-UP:

Are you ready to run out to the store and grab that HDTV to show off to your friends this weekend?

If anything, the VIZIOs, Viewsonic and Olevia all are capable of taking you to the world of HD. Some may have more inputs, like the Viewsonic 37-inch N3751w's three HDMI inputs, while others like the Olevia 42-inch 542i may give you a no-frills aesthetic, but great picture. At the end of the day, these HDTVs are a bargain.

What IS important is making sure that the HDTV you choose is suitable for your needs. If you are planning on watching the big game this weekend, all of these HDTVs can make a 720p HD signal look amazing. If screen size matters to you, then the VIZIO 47-inch GV47LF is the way to go. If you are looking to save some money and don't have the space for the larger sized Olevia 42-inch 542i and the VIZIO 47-inch GV47LF, then the VIZIO 37-inch VX37L and the Viewsonic 37-inch N3751w are a perfect match.

When it comes to the world of gaming, some of these HDTVs performed better than others. As stated in the reviews, be prepared to play with the colors on the VIZIOs as they tended to lean towards the yellows. The Viewsonic definitely brought one of the best pictures to both the Xbox 360 and the PS3, but some might look at the abundance of HDMI inputs (3) and the lack of component inputs (1) as a drawback. Overall, they all handled the muted colors of Gears of War and the vibrant football fields of Madden 2007 with aplomb. They sucked in anyone and everyone that entered the review room all stating they would stay for just a second.......and leave 20 minutes later.

So, you are probably wondering which is the winner, right?

Well, YOU are....

All of these HDTVs have qualities that may suit your financial, functional or spatial needs. Regardless of the name on the packaging, your place will be THE place to see the big game or play some Gears of War with your friends.

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