Which is better: a mammoth TV with a mediocre picture, or a smaller TV with a great picture? If you’re in the camp that believes size trumps all, Vizio has just the LCD. The Vizio E601I-A3 spans a whopping 60 inches, yet sells for under a grand. Your budget wins, even though your eyes will wish you’d spent a bit more.
The E601I-A3 is your basic glossy-back rectangle, pretty but not showy, with an impressively thin outer bezel and equally svelte profile. As with most lower-cost TVs, its base doesn’t swivel. Vizio cleverly provides two down-facing and two side-facing HDMI ports, along with the prerequisite other connectivity options, all clearly labeled.
Your budget wins, even though your eyes will wish you’d spent a bit more.
The best design feature by far: the remote. It’s shorter than most, with small, slightly crowded buttons, but the feel and layout are nearly perfect. Near the top you’ll find shortcut keys for Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and the forthcoming DreamWorks-owned M-Go service, which at press time showed only a “Coming soon” screen.
Those are just the tip of Vizio’s app iceberg, which includes Hulu Plus, YouTube, Pandora, Vudu, Facebook, Twitter, and various Yahoo widgets. Of course, the hassle with most TV apps is entering data, whether it’s to search for content or just activate your account. Flip over the E601I-A3’s remote and you’ll find a recessed, rubberized QWERTY keyboard that greatly simplifies text input. Like the top side, it’s not backlit, and it lacks a dedicated row of number keys even though there’s room for one. But it’s still a killer extra.
Vizio’s edge-lit LED panel, which refreshes at 120Hz, produced a hint of light-leak when displaying dark images, but nothing too distracting. Thanks in part to its matte finish, the screen managed decent black levels, on par with some LCDs costing a lot more. However, I found that colors, while reasonably accurate, failed to pop, and images lacked the razor-edge crispness I’ve enjoyed in other big TVs. Even my wife, who rarely notices any differences in the TVs I review, said immediately, “That doesn’t look very good.”
Thankfully, it can get better. Vizio lets you tweak nearly every aspect of the display, though it lacks the color-management system found in higher-end panels. Assuming you care to venture beyond its bountiful presets — which cover everything from the usual game and movie modes to individual sports like football and golf — it’s possible to bring out more color and sharpness. You can also eliminate at least some of the soap-opera effect that’s visible out of the box, the result of motion-smoothing settings enabled by default.
Its few foibles notwithstanding, the E601I-A3 makes a pretty sweet addition to the living room. After I massaged the settings to my liking, I stopped noticing any minor image defects and started enjoying everything I watched, from the World Series to Once Upon a Time to a Blu-ray of Prometheus. That’s the beauty of any big TV: As long as it exhibits no glaring image problems, you get accustomed to its picture. Plus, with the equivalent of a Roku box built right into the menu system, I didn’t have to teach family members how to change inputs — always a plus.
I also think it’s necessary to reiterate that this is a well-appointed 60-inch television for only $1,000. Even if the picture quality isn’t stellar, it’s easy to love this mammoth TV because it’s such a freakin’ good deal.
UPDATE Wednesday, November 28: Updated to include support for DLNA streaming.