Jeremy's almost but not quite entirely moribund blog

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Vizio VO37LF 37" 1080p LCD TV

Last week I bought and returned a 37" Toshiba HDTV due to unacceptable lag when gaming. Since that time I've searched the web a lot, but I haven't really found any credible information on the amount of lag found in other models - so I figured I'd just have to spin the wheel again and hope for the best. So I spent the store credit I got for returning the Toshiba on another 37" LCD - this time the Vizio VO37LF. It cost $40 more than the Toshiba ($690 total), but it's 1080p.

And I'm happy to say, despite not having a Game Mode per se, the Vizio is worlds better than the Toshiba for gaming. Rock Band 2 (Wii, 480p over component) lag calibration worked out to 30ms video / 20ms audio (vs 50ms video / 100ms audio on the Toshiba in Game Mode).

I played a couple of songs in DDR Supernova (PS2, 480i over Component) and got a AA on Difficult, beating my old record I got on the 20" CRT! Not a bad first impression.

As far as picture quality goes - upscaled SD is sharp, maybe a little too sharp (text looks great and is much more legible than the 20" tube; some graphics look blocky, though). OTA HD looks pretty nice too, maybe not quite as nice as the Toshiba, but I haven't played around with the settings much (and the quality of the feed has a big impact, I'm sure).

Things I have not yet tried: Watching DVDs (the PS2 can allegedly do this in 480p; if it doesn't I might have to grab an upscaling HDMI player). Connecting a computer (it can supposedly do 1080p over VGA).

Update: I watched a few minutes of Apollo 13 on the new TV. The PS2 does indeed play DVDs in progressive-scan, and it looks great. Very detailed - you can read the labels on the spacecraft buttons and probably count the actors' eyelashes in close-up shots. From a normal viewing distance on the couch, it looked almost indistinguishable in quality from OTA HD. I have no need for an upconverting DVD player - from a 480p signal over component, the TV does a good enough job of it on its own.

Update 2: I plugged a MythTV box into the VO37L via the VGA port. It works beautifully at 1920x1080. My Tux Racer framerate at this resolution is poor (GeForce 6150 integrated video isn't up to HD gaming), but HD content in MythTV look great and plays back smoothly at a little over 50% CPU utilization (Athlon 64 3200+). Note: You can perform an auto-adjust with the remote control (top item in the on-screen menu) to get the TV to re-sync to the analog video signal. I had to do this while displaying a test pattern to get the picture lined up exactly with the edges of the screen.

Update 3: The TV resolves pixel-perfect 1920x1080 from my laptop via both VGA and HDMI inputs. (I had to play with my video driver's underscan setting to get it to do this over HDMI, but this is the computer's fault, not the TV's.)

Also, I've noticed a few defects with the display:
  • Two dead pixels (dark, not bright, so they're not covered by Vizio's "no bright pixels" promise). These are, however, not noticeable from a normal viewing distance (and not noticeable at all unless there's a bright background).
  • A bright spot at the top of the screen, just left of center. It's only visible when the screen is black, and looks like a reflection - except it's there even when the room lights are off.
  • Brightness falls off a bit on the extreme left and right sides of the display. Not noticeable while watching TV, but a slight distraction while using the TV as a computer monitor.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Toshiba 37AV52U - bought and returned

I've been wanting to upgrade my 20" tube TV for quite awhile now. Lately my wife has been expressing a desire for a bigger screen too, mostly to improve Wii gaming with friends over. So I decided to take the plunge. I picked up a Toshiba 37AV52U (37" 720p LCD) for $650 at Costco. Then returned it hours later. Here's why.

I'm into rhythm games (DDR, Rock Band). These are sensitive to lag--if the TV delays the picture or sound, the game suffers. I picked this model specifically because it has a game mode, intended to minimize lag. Well... even in game mode, this TV's lag is unacceptable.

Rock Band 2's auto-calibration (using the sensors on the guitar) measured about 50ms of video lag, and 100ms (yes, a full tenth of a second!) of audio lag. In game mode. This is on a Wii connected via component cables, running in progressive-scan mode. That amount of video lag is passable, but not great, especially for a "game mode"... but a triple-digit audio delay is just plain unacceptable. That would mean during drum fills in Rock Band, the sound would come out like a third of a beat behind.

I tried DDR too, and got a D on a song that just yesterday I got a AAA on using my tube TV. Clearly Toshiba's game mode is not as effective as Sharp's. Actually, game mode had zero effect with progressive scan video. With 480i video, it made the picture flickery and unwatchable, and probably decreased lag to the same miserable 50ms that you get in any case with 480p.

It's a shame, really ... because other than for rhythm games, this TV would be great. Discounting lag, it does a fantastic job deinterlacing and cleaning up SD signals, and over-the-air HD channels looked simply jaw-dropping.