Vizio P50 HDM
At a Glance
Vizio P50 HDM
Easy setup (and so-so TV picture quality) make this plasma HD monitor an acceptable choice for budget-aware businesses.
The first thing to understand about the Vizio 50-inch P50 HDM is that it's a plasma HD monitor, not a full-fledged plasma HDTV. This means that it forgos an analog NTSC tuner and a digital ATSC tuner, instead requiring an external tuner to display any kind of TV content. Priced at $2500 on 4/17/2006, the P50 HDM costs considerably less than an actual HDTV. However, PC World found better image quality in another plasma HDTV monitor at the same cost.
Our jury found the Vizio's image quality adequate on high-definition and standard-definition TV content, with a few caveats. Color looked good on PC World's test, but the P50 HDM's picture appeared dark and lacking in detail on both high-def and standard-def content. These problems became even more apparent on our DVD test of a shady scene in The Lord of the Ring: The Return of the King. Though it wasn't unwatchable, we saw better performance from other plasmas. Samsung's $4000 HP-S5053 HDTV and Maxent's $2500 MX-50X3 HDTV monitor (all pricing as of 4/17/2006) both beat the Vizio on image quality.
The P50 HDM's strength lies in its ease of use. Like Vizio's L32HDTV LCD TV, the P50 HDM comes with a setup poster as well as a very detailed manual. Color-coding makes it easy to match inputs to the poster. Finding the inputs on the back of the monitor is a snap, but plugging devices into them is a bit awkward. The inputs face down, so you have to feel for them when inserting connectors. The monitor also lacks a CableCard slot, which would be handy.
The glossy black P50 HDM looks attractive. I found the remote control comfortable and its layout easy to navigate. The onscreen menus were easy to master, too. The picture-in-picture function was especially simple to use, and it's flexible to boot: You can set the PIP window in four different positions and three sizes.
To my ears, audio sounded fine (but not fantastic) coming through the built-in speakers with SRS TruSurround XT. The P50 HDM offers one RCA audio output, but no digital audio output.
Vizio's 50-inch P50 HDM plasma HDTV monitor doesn't require the same cash outlay as a full-fledged plasma HDTV. However, if you're on a budget and don't mind messing with external tuners, check out Maxent's MX-50X3. Like the Vizio, the Maxent 50-inch plasma HDTV monitor sells for $2500--but on most kinds of content, the Maxent's picture looks nearly as good as that of a pricey HDTV.