Vizio E0i-A1 Series Review: A Good LCD TV Despite Unfulfilled Specs

The good: The Vizio E0i-A1 shows relatively deep black levels, a uniform screen, and commendable bright-room performance, making it a solid midlevel LCD TV. The Smart content selection is excellent. With its thin bezel, the set has a more compact, sleeker look than many competitors.

The bad: The set's local-dimming LED backlight and so-called 120Hz refresh rate do nothing to improve picture quality, making the E-Series a less impressive value than it might first appear.

The bottom line: Despite being unable to fulfill the expectations raised by its specification sheet, the Vizio E-Series remains a good choice if you value its Smarts and styling.

When Vizio told me many sizes in its mainstream E-Series would get the benefits of local dimming, I was intrigued. That feature, designed to dim the backlight in discrete sections to enhance black levels and contrast, is rare on today's LCD TVs and positively unheard of at the E-Series' price level. Sad to say, it doesn't work all that well in this TV's case. Sure, black levels get darker, but the trade-off in shadow detail is one I'm not willing to make.

Meanwhile, the E-Series' other big picture-quality specification is a 120Hz refresh rate that, as far as I can discern in my testing, is a claim invented from whole cloth. The E0i-A1 behaves in every way like a 60Hz TV, and if it walks like a duck, I'm calling it Donald. Or maybe Howard. And while I'm at it, there's no benefit to its direct LED backlight compared with that of a standard (non-LED) LCD TV.

Once I overcame my disappointment over unfulfilled expectations, I came to the conclusion that the Vizio E0i-A1 isn't a bad TV after all. It competes well against the picture quality of other LCD TVs in its price class while delivering plenty of Smart TV content and sleek minimalist style. Its price isn't as aggressive as some E-Series Vizios', though, like the 60- and 70-inch E1i-A3 or the E320i-A0. I have a feeling Vizio will drop that price quite a bit over the rest of 2013, making the E0i-A1 an increasingly appealing value.

Series information : I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 42-inch Vizio E420i-A1, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series listed below. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality. As of press time, the 39- and 47-inch models were not yet available for sale, but Vizio says they're coming soon. Other sizes and models in the E-Series have different-enough components that this review doesn't apply to them.

When I reviewed the 60-inch E-Series last year I called it the nicest-looking Vizio TV in memory, and this smaller example looks almost exactly the same. Its black plastic frame measures just over half an inch thick on the top and sides, although black masking on the panel between the frame and the picture adds another quarter-inch. Vizio's subtle right-offset logo is a welcome change of pace from the prominent center logos on most TVs.

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