capsule review

Vizio VMB070 Portable TV

At a Glance
  • Vizio VMB070 7-inch LED LCD Portable TV

    Macworld Rating

    This 7-inch TV offers impressive quality for the size, but a few glaring shortcomings and a high price hold it back.

Whether you’re tailgating or you just live in a really small apartment, you might have plenty of reasons to want a 7-inch TV. Such small sets aren’t a common category for major TV manufacturers, however. As a result, Vizio stands out with its 7-inch LED LCD TV, the Vizio VMB070 ($150 as of December 2, 2010).

Make no mistake: Vizio’s strengths as a TV manufacturer shine through in the VMB070. But there’s a huge difference between making a TV for a controlled living-room setting and making a portable TV meant to be used indoors and outdoors, and that’s evident in the device’s poor showing outside.

Don’t expect the VMB070’s feature selection to match that of its full-size HDTV siblings (such as the XVT423SV). It has one composite input, one RF input, and a built-in antenna for over-the-air broadcasts; that might be enough for keeping up on sports or soaps, but you won’t be able to use any of your HDMI devices with the set. The antenna won’t keep a signal while you’re moving, either, so you won’t be able to watch over-the-air broadcasts in a car.

In case you were looking for a digital photo frame as well, the VMB070’s USB port allows it to pull double duty, but it supports only JPEG files—no audio or video playback here, unfortunately. I had a few problems getting some JPEG files to work, as well. After a bit of investigating, I discovered that the images I pulled straight from my camera were at too high a resolution for the VMB070 to scale down and display. You may have to capture images at a lower resolution or scale your photos down before you can use them with the VMB070, which is a pain—especially considering that ordinary digital photo frames at half the price typically have no issues with scaling images down.

You can control the VMB070 with the included remote or with the set of touch-sensitive buttons underneath the display. The remote has a directional pad for navigating the menu system at the top, volume/channel/mute controls in the middle, and a number pad at the bottom. Although you probably won’t be sitting far enough from the TV to ever really need the remote, it’s much easier to use than the buttons on the TV, which sometimes don’t respond well.

Under ideal indoor conditions, the VMB070 looks very good: Its LED lighting keeps the image bright, its not-quite-high-def 800-by-480-pixel resolution is enough to handle over-the-air broadcasts fairly well, and the viewing angles are impressive. As noted earlier, though, once you take the set outdoors, the glossy display coating reflects too much light and makes seeing anything other than your reflection fairly hard. We compared it with the glossy display of the Apple iPad, and we found the two roughly equivalent in outdoor visibility. Simply put, don’t expect the bright, shiny screen to look quite as good outdoors as it does on store shelves.

The battery lasted for 3 hours, 20 minutes, just barely under the 3.5-hour advertised battery life—better than comparable 7-inch TVs, which typically advertise a 2.5-hour battery life.

The built-in speakers aren’t bad, but they aren’t great either. Don’t expect a wall of sound—most phone ringtones at maximum volume are significantly louder than the VMB070 at top volume, and the sound quality is rather tinny. The set has a headphone jack, so you can supply your own speakers or use earphones.

Macworld’s buying advice

Overall, the Vizio VMB070 is a solid portable TV with good image quality and battery life, but the poor photo support and the display’s glare and light-reflection problems mean it isn’t ideal for people who want a full-featured digital photo frame or a dedicated outdoor TV.

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    This 7-inch TV offers impressive quality for the size, but a few glaring shortcomings and a high price hold it back.

    Pros

    • Small and light
    • LED display looks great indoors, at various angles
    • Good battery life

    Cons

    • No HDMI connector
    • Glossy screen is hard to see outdoors
    • Supports only JPEG viewing over USB
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