If you’ve been waiting for a full-featured, big-screen LCD TV (and by big, I mean 5-feet-plus on the diagonal) that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, the Vizio XVT3D650SV may well be the answer to your prayers. For $3700, this 65-inch LED-backlit set delivers good image quality and 3D support, plus tons of user controls and great connected-TV features, all easily accessible via Vizio’s usual first-rate user interface and a nifty Bluetooth remote with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.
Okay, $3700 isn’t dirt cheap, but only a few years ago an LCD TV this size would easily have set you back more than $5000. Plus, there’s so much to like about this set and relatively little to complain about.
It is not, however, the greenest set around—in our tests, average hourly power consumption ran 123.6 watts when in use and 0.8 watt even when turned off, which is high for an LED-backlit set. The audio is just adequate, but otherwise its only real flaw is the lack of media playback support, despite having three (!) USB 2.0 ports. Vizio promises to deliver this functionality via a firmware upgrade in the not-too-distant future. (This seems to be a recurring issue with Vizio sets: I had the same experience with a previous model, and the firmware upgrade did eventually arrive.)
With a screen this big, flaws in image quality can be magnified when you’re seated up close, but in our juried picture quality tests, the XVT3D650SV earned generally good scores, especially for handling motion; it ran our panning clip nearly flawlessly. Judges found colors to be bright without being oversaturated, although at least one judge remarked on a greenish cast compared to others in its test group. The Vizio’s scores may not have been the highest, but it generally held its own in a strong field that included sets from top-tier vendors LG, Samsung, and Sharp.
Audio played through the set’s two 15-watt speakers with Vizio’s simulated surround sound technology is unremarkable at best. However, I suspect that many people who buy a set this large with 3D support will bypass the speakers in favor of a home theater audio setup to enjoy true surround sound.
Our juried test clips don’t yet include 3D content, but in my hands-on evaluation I was impressed by the 3D effects in a Blu-ray Disc of The Last Airbender. Even better was the set’s ability to recognize the presence of 3D content on a Blu-ray disc with both 2D and 3D versions, and then ask whether I wanted to don special 3D glasses or stick with the 2D version. The set lets you toggle between three types of 3D content technology (and according to Vizio’s spec sheet, it supports a couple more), but I never had to actually choose a 3D mode: When I clicked the option for viewing The Last Airbender on Blu-ray in 3D, the set automatically chose the right 3D setting. Vizio includes four sets of polarized glasses with the set. (It’s worth noting, however, that the smart-dimming technology Vizio uses to help improve contrast and overall image quality works only for 2D video.)
As usual, Vizio provides a wealth of on-screen controls for tweaking images to your liking, as well as preset adjustments intended to optimize the image for different types of content such as sports, movies, and gaming. The on-screen options (which also include the usual parental controls, channel lineup options, and picture-within-picture features) are easy to access via the remote, and as you scroll through them, explanations appear at the bottom of the screen.
The remote itself is shorter than most, about the height of a cordless phone, so it has fewer controls than the longer, skinnier remote you get with many sets; this offloads a lot of options to the on-screen display, but also makes for a less formidable and potentially less confusing remote (although a light would have been nice to help in dark rooms).
Out of the box, the remote communicates with the set via a conventional infrared sensor, and you can continue to use it that way. But if you follow the manual’s clear instructions for using the remote in Bluetooth mode (including pairing the remote with the set), you won’t have to worry about the line-of-site access that infrared requires. As usual, Vizio’s documentation is second to none, with both a printed manual and a quick-start guide that are also available online as PDFs.
The slide-out QWERTY keyboard can be helpful when using any of the Vizio Internet applications (VIA) that require user input: Even though the rubbery keys are small, they beat clicking through a software keyboard. Vizio does its usual good job of presenting the apps via a customizable dock that appears at the bottom of the display when you press the VIA button on the remote; you can create different profiles for different users and populate each user’s dock with up to 17 different apps. Vizio also lets you determine which users can customize their docks, and which only you can control.
Vizio may not have the largest collection of Internet apps, but it covers the key bases, with Yahoo widgets, Vudu’s HD movie rental service, Flickr, Rhapsody, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon on Demand.
In appearance, the XVT3D650SV adheres to the general aesthetic for large sets, with a shiny black bezel. Vizio’s logo underneath the screen lights up white (but not too annoyingly so) when the set is on, and orange when it’s in standby mode. (You can’t, alas, turn it off completely while watching.) The port configuration is a bit skimpy in some respects—the TV has no composite or S-video support, and only one set of component inputs—but you do get five HDMI ports (most sets stop at four) and an RGB port for PC hookups. There’s also a standard 1/8-inch mini-stereo input (for PC audio) as well as analog stereo and optical audio outputs.
The HDMI ports, the audio outputs, and the aforementioned three USB ports are sideways-facing and slightly recessed on the left back side of the set; the rest of the ports, including the ethernet and coax ports, face downwards. In general, the position of the ports isn’t ideal: Because the side-facing HDMI inputs are recessed, you have to wiggle the cable a bit to line it up properly, and the downward-facing ports are tough to see, but this is a problem only during setup.
Although the ethernet hookup is optimal for streaming media apps, Vizio generously outfits the XVT3D650SV with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi support, a real plus (although I had some difficulty setting up the lab’s test network; the set repeatedly refused to recognize the password). Many sets support only 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, but 5GHz Wi-Fi, if your network router supports it, typically provides better multimedia support since it has more channels and is therefore less subject to interference than the narrower 2.4GHz band (which also competes with Bluetooth, microwave ovens, some cordless phones, and the many neighboring 2.4GHz networks you typically find in cities these days).
Macworld’s buying advice
I wish Vizio would stop shipping its TVs without multimedia playback support (it shouldn’t be that hard, right?), but overall, the XVT3D650SV delivers the company’s usual solid bundle of good image quality and current technology extras at a competitive price. If you’re in the market for a supersized Smart TV with future-proofing in the form of 3D support, this set is definitely worth considering.