VIZIO is a company which has become a dominant player in the television market by providing budget offerings without the huge features ets that some of their competitors have. This makes the Vizio E420d-A0 an unusual product for them – at around the same price point as their more typical offerings, it boasts a full-fledged 3D mode and smart TV features. So, let’s look at how a budget television with a premium feature set works out.
Smart TV Functionality
With so much importance placed on the Vizio E420d-A0 smart TV features in advertising, it’s critical that they live up to expectations. The feature set is solid, at least on paper – built-in internet connectivity over Wi-Fi or ethernet cable, alongside a long list of streaming video providers, means that the television covers most smart TV usage cases nicely, and at a price which is almost unheard of. In actual use, though, there are issues. It’s certainly worth having, but a TV this cheap will necessitate some amount of corner-cutting.
The Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon apps work just fine once you’re viewing a video, but the menus are somewhat clunky and unresponsive. It’s not crippling, but it can be a bit of an annoyance to deal with the awkward menu design. The list of providers is also padded by things like the Yahoo apps. These are nice to have on the back of the box, but realistically you’re never going to use them; they’re just kind of there. Social media functionality in the form of Twitter and Facebook is present, but without any sort of keyboard or keypad input, its utility is questionable. The smart TV functions are present and functional, but don’t expect anything comparable to televisions that run closer to $1000 than $500.
In terms of inputs, the Vizio E420d-A0 isn’t going to give you any problems at all. You’ve got three HDMI ports, which is enough for most home theater systems. In terms of legacy connections, you have a single RCA component/composite port and a VGA port; that’s not much, but it’s enough if you don’t plan on using a ton of legacy equipment. (Besides, if you’re that picky about legacy inputs, you’re really best served using a CRT for your old standard-def or sub-standard-def equipment anyway.) There’s also the standard RF antenna jack – though that almost goes without saying.
There aren’t that many of the fancy software features that are present on more expensive TVs; those that exist are mostly good, with some exceptions. One nice thing to have is the ambient light sensor – by monitoring the light level of the environment, the Vizio E420d-A0 can automatically adjust its picture brightness for the best results. This actually works really, really well; it’s downright weird that it’s not more common on other, higher-end models. The automatic 2D to 3D conversion is less impressive. It needs a lot of manual configuration to produce results that are even serviceable, and even then the depth is very understated and slightly inconsistent.
Vizio E420d-A0 Image Quality
In terms of pure image quality, the Vizio E420d-A0 is much, much better than it has any right to be at this price tag. It’s a 42-inch 1080p LCD panel, edge-lit with LEDs, and boasting a 120Hz refresh rate. Those qualities have become standard in this size bracket, but what’s surprising is just how well this panel compares to more expensive ones. Black levels are fantastic for an edge-lit LCD display; they’re not on par with a plasma television or an array-lit LED-LCD panel, of course, but they’re much deeper than many much pricier televisions. Colors are reasonably accurate in tone and temperature; the picture is very sharp and well-defined. There are better televisions on the market, but they certainly aren’t this cheap.
Of course, there are technological limitations which restrict this display. Most notable is the fact that it is edge-lit, and so doesn’t have any real local dimming. This really hinders the picture’s contrast; while decent blacks or whites can be achieved in scenes which tends toward those tones, sharp distinctions between light and dark tones are crippled by the backlighting technology. That’s not unexpected, even in televisions which run for hundreds of dollars more than this one – but you should be aware of what you’re in for.
3D Image Quality
VIZIO has put together a good television with 3D capabilities for just north of $500, and that’s impressive. However, there’s no shortage of similar televisions which fall flat on their face when you activate the 3D mode; it’s refreshing, then, that the Vizio E420d-A0 is still perfectly serviceable when you’ve enabled its 3D effects.
The key here is in VIZIO’s decision to go with passive 3D glasses, as opposed to active ones. Regardless of the small issues with picture quality that passive 3D technology has, it’s far more sensible for a budget offering like this than an attempt to use active shutter glasses would be. Active shutter glasses are rather pricy in themselves; including them in a package that sells for $520 would kneecap the television’s image quality and/or feature set by cutting into the margins.
Allowing for the flaws and artifacts introduced by passive 3D as a technology, the E420d-A0′s 3D mode is just as good as its 2D mode. It’s a convincing sensation of depth, and passive 3D artifacts are kept minimal enough. Combined with a decent surround sound system, this can be a fantastic way to watch 3D movies. The lack of a good 2D to 3D conversion solution is the only real flaw with the 3D functionality; it limits you to the fairly small selection of 3D content available.
The Vizio E420d-A0 42-inch LED SMART 3D TV is not the best television on the market. It has real flaws that can’t be ignored, and its picture quality – while good – isn’t exceptional. However, what it does offer is incredible value for money. While it’s not fantastic, the E420d-A0 is still a very good choice, and is incredibly affordable at prices of around $520 on average. If you don’t have the ability to spend several hundred dollars more on a better television, you really can’t produce many choices that look nicer than this.