“Those looking to move into the 1080p Smart TV arena without breaking the bank will find the Vizio E390i-A1 a formidable opponent.”
Good image quality
Relatively thin design
An excellent Smart TV platform
Great feature set
Minor whitewash on select media
Occasional juddering in fast scenes
The Smart Dimming feature reduces picture quality
Information about the Vizio E0i series: The review below is based on our time with the 42-inch E420i-A0 TV. However, the observations also apply to the other nine models in this series. Samsung says the sets offer identical features (saving weight and dimensions) and should offer similar performance.
It’s no secret that “smart” technology has revolutionized the way we live and work. Since the release of the first iPhone just 6 years ago, most of us have adapted almost every aspect of our daily routine to include smartphones.
However, less ubiquitous (and, arguably, less important) is the Smart TV. Although practical, smart TVs have had less of an impact, probably because game consoles, Blu-Ray players and OTT boxes like Roku offer the same functionality. As a result, the inclusion of Smart TV platforms and the price premium that comes with them seem unnecessary when considering entry into mid-range TVs.
Rising star Vizio is looking to change that perception with models like its E420i-A0 (E420i). Priced at $500, the E420i offers handy Wi-Fi connectivity, plenty of video and media streaming apps, and specs in line with similarly priced “dumb” TVs from competitors like Samsung and LG. Still, we wondered if Vizio could pack in all those bells and whistles at affordable prices and still bring a quality experience to your living room. After extensive testing of the E420i-A0, here’s what we found.
Out of the box
While carrying the E420i isn’t a one-handed job, it’s still very light for its size – just 23.15 lbs. with attached stand. One person can bring a television home and set it up with relative ease. Pulling the E420i out of the box revealed a fairly thin bezel with a gloss-black finish. The device’s 3.23-inch depth isn’t razor-sharp, but it’s still decent for an LED-backlit display in this price range, and unobtrusive enough whether it’s mounted on a wall or on a TV stand.
The E420i has a respectable selection of TV inputs in its class, most of which are grouped at the back. Inside the recessed compartment we found 2 HDMI inputs, a component/composite hybrid input, an Ethernet port and a standard coaxial cable input. Although the tiny box allows for flush-mounting with multiple connected components, we found it quite difficult to get inside, and hooking up bulkier HDMI cables was a chore.
On the much more accessible side part there is one HDMI input, a USB 2.0 input for photos and other media, and digital optical and analog RCA audio outputs of the TV. Next to the array of inputs is a multi-button control panel for navigating the E420i’s built-in settings, including power, menu, volume and channel controls.
Vizio’s remote gets style points, but otherwise it’s standard fare. We don’t like that it can’t be programmed to control other components, and at times we felt like the buttons were unresponsive, but we found general navigation to be intuitive. We especially liked the metal “V” button in the center, which is easily distinguished by touch and calls up a scroll bar at the bottom of the screen to access the E420i’s collection of apps. At the top of the remote is a row of buttons to control pause, play and search, which we found to be very mobile when working with streaming video. More significant is the inclusion of not only a Netflix button for instant access to that app, but also a button for Amazon and M-GO.
The E420i comes with an impressive array of applications. The default collection includes familiar names like Facebook, Twitter, Rhapsody and Skype, and there are even more apps available in the online Yahoo store. Yahoo is Vizio’s preferred search partner, and several widgets are included such as Yahoo Weather, News and Sports.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder
In terms of video streaming, the E420i is packed with all the major players including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, Hulu Plus and Vudu. Along with these famous names there are some other unique entries. The “Web Videos” app is sort of a YouTube clone, stacked with random videos as well as categories like “Channels” and “Popular”. Browsing through the catalog, we found everything from short clips to full-length films, we even came across a Rolling Stones documentary called Under review it was pretty awesome and only had one ad at launch.
Right out of the box, the E420i’s picture needs help. Even on the fairly modest Standard setting, colors seemed imprecise and oversaturated, contrast was off, and the screen was a bit bright, even in moderate lighting. A confusing issue for beginners is the fact that the E420i comes with 9 different picture modes, with iterations including multiple sports modes, a gaming mode and an eye-searing Vivid mode. None of them looked good to us with the default settings, but luckily some very basic tweaks made big improvements.
… we noticed more judder than we would expect given the TV’s 120Hz refresh rate.
Our first directive was to go straight to the “Advanced Picture” setting and turn off open options like Adaptive Luma, Color Enhancement, and the extremely annoying Ambient Light Sensor. These very simple changes made a huge difference to the picture quality on set. After that, with the help of our Spyder4 calibrator and Blu-Ray THX calibration, we were able to get a solid picture with some key tweaks. Our preferences are available at the end of this review.
While there was no global picture setting on the E420i for multiple components, we were excited to find that one adjustment worked across all video streaming applications. It’s a simple feature, but a nice time saver for streaming video once you’ve got your settings in place.
With the settings selected, we found the E420i produced a good picture, especially for a 42-inch model priced this low. The kit’s LED backlighting did a good job of supporting sharp, brilliant images on our brighter test picks like the Planet Earth series. Colors are generally well represented, with particularly deep blues and reds. We noticed that the brightest whites were washed out in some cases, but overall we have few complaints.
For the vast majority of our viewing, we experienced little to no blurring with this TV. However, as you watch the fast-paced action and jerky cinematography Hunger Games, we noticed more judder than we’d expect given the TV’s 120Hz refresh rate. Some of the more chaotic scenes, like the first gunfight, were blurry and a bit of a struggle to follow. To be honest, this TV performs more like a 60Hz set than a 120Hz set.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder
We had the chance to try out Vizio’s form of local dimming (dubbed “Smart Dimming”) while traveling into deep space with Ridley Scott Prometheus. While watching a movie in a darkened room with Smart Dimming turned off, we noticed that black levels weren’t as dark as we’d like, with the edges of the widescreen image slightly glowing. With Smart Dimming turned on, however, we noticed a stunning improvement in black levels. Unfortunately, we also noticed that the image as a whole took a hit, looking duller and less vibrant than before with much less shadow detail. Some brightness adjustments helped a bit, but the picture never looked as vibrant with dimming on. While the issue isn’t enough to turn us away from the E420i, we thought it was worth mentioning.
Perhaps the best thing about the E420i is its Smart TV interface. As mentioned earlier, we’ve mocked the need for Smart TVs a bit, since many apps can be controlled from a component already connected to the TV. However, after living with the E420i for quite some time, we’ve grown quite fond of its practical interface. Launching apps took just a few seconds, about half the time of our old Xbox 360, and navigation was smooth and easy.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder
Netflix addicts that we are, we discovered our favorite Smart feature there. While binge watching Crazy people and Arrested development, we were delighted to find that Vizio’s Netflix app cuts the intro to the next episode on autoplay, shows just the last screen clip, and jumps right into the show. It’s the little things that get us, and that kind of user-centric feature shows that a company is paying attention.
The E420i’s sound was decent, with little tweaking needed. While that’s not a great compliment, we’ve noticed a serious degradation in sound quality offered by many of the flat-screen TVs we’ve tested recently. If the sound doesn’t immediately make us cringe, we basically count it as a win. Although the E420i’s bass response was expectedly weak, the mids and highs were clean and clear, easily filling the room.
A few niggles aside, we think this Vizio TV offers real value. The E420i-A0’s solid picture quality, usable built-in audio and impressive Smart TV interface make it a product we’d love to have at the center of our home theater. Those looking to move into the 1080p Smart TV arena without breaking the bank will find the Vizio E420i-A0 a formidable opponent.
- Good image quality
- Relatively thin design
- An excellent Smart TV platform
- Great feature set
- Minor whitewash on select media
- Occasional juddering in fast scenes
- The Smart Dimming feature reduces picture quality
Digital Trends Image Settings
The following settings are achieved by the manual adjustment process and further adjusted as desired. As noted in our How We Test TVs article, processing such as noise reduction and dynamic contrast is disabled for picture and testing purposes. They may or may not be re-engaged based on subjective preferences gained from observation during real-world performance scenarios. Although we came up with these settings with a specific size of TV, these settings can be used for any size in this TV series with consistent results.
Color temperature – normal
Noise reduction – low
MPEG NR – Low
Color Enhancement – Off
Adaptive Luma – off
Movie mode – Off
Smart Dimming – Off
Ambient light sensor – off