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Podcast #440: Vizio XVT553SV LCD HDTV Review

With football season just around the corner you may be in the market for a new HDTV to watch your favorite team try and make it to the Superbowl. We’ve seen a few technologies come and go and each of them try to produce a picture that’s as good as plasma. The latest is LED. The Vizio XVT553SV will run you about $1900 for the 55 inch version and its loaded with all kinds of goodies that we can finally say that Plasma may have finally met its match.

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Vizio XVT553SV LCD HDTV Review

Order Now, $1900
With football season just around the corner you may be in the market for a new HDTV to watch your favorite team try and make it to the Superbowl. We’ve seen a few technologies come and go and each of them try to produce a picture that’s as good as plasma. The latest is LED. The Vizio XVT553SV will run you about $1900 for the 55 inch version and its loaded with all kinds of goodies that we can finally say that Plasma may have finally met its match.


  • VIA – VIZIO Internet Apps™
  • Built-in Wi-Fi 802.11n Simultaneous Dual-Band Wireless
  • Customized Bluetooth Universal Remote Control
  • TRULED™ Full Array LCD HDTV with Smart Dimming
  • 240Hz Refresh Rate
  • 1080p Full HD
  • SRS TruVolume
  • EcoHD

The Vizio XVT553SV is a beautiful TV. Fit and finish is quite good. Vizio has come a long way in this area. Its gloss black finish will look good in any room that its placed in. Its a direct back lit LED so its a bit thicker than some of the slim edge lit TVs you can get on the market. Don’t let that affect your decision, the TV is just under 3 inches (~7.6 CM) thick.  Because the TV is direct lit it can use local dimming to increase contrast ratio and create deeper blacks. The LED array is comprised of 120 zones.  Vizio has done a great job with the connectivity aspect of the TV as well. More on that later.


HDTVs are more complicated to setup when compared to their old analog counterparts but Vizio has made setting up the 553 simple. The first time your TV fires up as setup application is automatically launched takes you through the setup procedure for the Bluetooth remote control, how to connect to the Internet, add channels (if applicable) through its built-in tuner, and connect source components and program the remote control to operate those components. All told plan on an hour here. No so much for actually performing the tasks but to play around once you get it up and running. By the way, having a full QWERTY keyboard makes tasks like joing a wifi network much easier!

Our TV was connected to a switching receiver for Blu Ray, Sat TV, and a Mac Mini. With the Internet connection the 553 had access to Vudu, Netflix, and web based videos as well.


This was another area where we were pleasantly surprised. Out of the box the TV produced a beautiful picture when on standard or movie modes. But when we calibrated it (see settings at the end of the review) it really shined. Colors were vibrant and daylight scenes were exceptional. It was like looking through a window to the world. If you like sports this TV will produce a clear sharp picture that will bring out all the subtle details of anything you are watching.

Dark scenes that usually lose detail were no problem for this TV either. ViZio use the useless Dynamic Contrast Ratio in their specs so we won’t quote that here. What we found was that the TV could reproduce subtle differences in the picture that our DLPs couldn't. The screen is less reflective than glass we still found it necessary to limit the light in the room to enhance the darker scene detail. You will want to make sure to use local dimming. Local dimming is what allows the TV to produce deep blacks. We wonder why the option to turn it off even exists.

Blu Ray movies looked spectacular. Vibrant colors sharp deatil and natural looking skin tones made the experience better than going to a theater.  We watched in both 24 fps and 60 fps modes and found video to be smooth regardless. It could have been a function of the content we were watching (Band Of Brothers, Spider Man, and Close Encounters) but we didn’t see any real difference between the two modes. If you can see judder and you have a Blu Ray player that outputs 24 fps you will be pleased with watching Blu Ray movies on this TV.

The TV produces a uniform brightness across the screen. This is something that edge lit LEDs have trouble with. With edge lit screens the luminance is brighter at the edges. Because of the direct LED array the Vizio can produce better contrast and thus more detail especially in the darker scenes. We did not see any blooming while watching regular HDTV programming however, while watching letter boxed content there we a minor amount of light bleeding into the black at the top and bottom of the screen. Not really an issue for normal viewing. Off angle viewing is good and close to plasma performance.

VIZIO Internet Apps (VIA)

We’ve talked about Internet enabled TVs for about a year. We’ve not been too keen on any implementations however. That has changed with Vizio Internet Apps. The main reason for the change is the remote control. With the slide out full QWERTY keyboard, entering data becomes straight forward. The keyboard connects with the TV via Bluetooth and takes a little getting used to but it works well. In fact this remote is the first one that we recommend over the Harmony. I think we see a new model in Harmony’s future. Until Harmony come out with a compatible remote you’ll need to keep this around.

The apps are where this TV really adds value. Netflix works well and we found the picture to be as good as the Xbox 360, which we thought had the best Netflix picture. Amazon HD looks and sounds great as well. Same for Vudu. But what we thought was incredible was that all this content was coming to us via wifi. Many look at Internet connected TVs and say big deal, I don’t have a network connection near my TV. With the Vizio its not a problem. We had a solid connection and did not see any skipping due to network congestion.

Apps loaded quickly and were usable. The Facebook and Twitter implementation looked like it belonged on the screen, not just an afterthought. If you have a computer phobic loved one in your family this might be the easiest way to get them on Facebook. If you like looking at pictures of friends and family this TV is a great way to view them in a family format. The apps include:

  • Netflix
  • NBA Game Time
  • Amazon Video On Demand
  • WikiTV Encyclopedia
  • Ebay
  • Flickr
  • Pandora
  • Rhapsody
  • Twitter
  • Vudu
  • Yahoo Widgets


Bottom Line

Vizio has come a long way since the early days of HDTV. Ara was set on buying a Plasma before he spent some time with 553. The performance is almost what you would expect from a plasma without the issues of degrading black levels. Throw in functional and more importantly usable Internet Apps in a 55 inch package for less than $2,000, we feel buying this TV is a no brainer!

Calibration Settings:
Picture Mode - Move
Backlight  - 15
Brightness - 50
Contrast - 49
Color - 47
Tint - 0
Sharpness - 3
Color Temperature - Normal
Red Gain - 125
Green Gain - 128
Blue Gain - 120
Red Offset - 123
Green Offset - 128
Blue Offset - 125
Smooth Motion Effect - off
Real Cinema - off
Noise Reduction - off
Color Enhancement - off
Adaptive Luma - off
Film Mode - Auto
Smart Dimming On
Ambient Light Sensor - off



Download Episode #440

Reader Comments (16)

If the remote is bluetooth does that mean the TV can't accept IR commands through a Harmony or other universal remote? Also could the bluetooth remote control the PS3?

August 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIKaden

IKaden, I believe that only the keyboard is Bluetooth. I do not think its compatible with the PS3 either.


August 27, 2010 | Registered CommenterHT Guys

This is very encouraging news since I've been planning on a Panny plasma pretty soon. The review mentions the Vizio being nearly as good as plasma. Thing is, plasma quality is not monolithic. Samsung or Panasonic? If Panasonic, S2, G25 or VT25? There are big differences in picture quality.

August 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterzsoltan

Re: the Vizio XVT553SV - something that doesn't get enough praise, IMO, is how quiet the display is and how little heat it produces. My one and only complaint about my Kuro plasma is that it produces an audible operational buzz from the PDP itself. The Kuro also puts out quite a bit of heat. One other thing worth mentioning is how good a matte-screen, full-array, local-dimming LED backlit LCD is for heavy gaming. All three of my plasmas that I've owned have eventually started to show signs of burn-in from HUDs that are static on-screen for many hours while I play certain videogames. After my Kuro started to show the first, faintest signs of image retention, I resolved then and there to get an LCD for gaming! I brought home and returned 4 LCD displays before finally settling on the LG 55LH90, which is quite similar to this Vizio. Only the matte-screen, full-array, local-dimming LED backlighting created a good enough image to satisfy my standards! I tried CCFL, edge-lit LED and edge-lit LED w/ pseudo local-dimming, but all of them produced uneven illumination and other errors like a blue or purple tinge or really poor off-angle viewing.

So I'm very pleased that Vizio is delivering high quality images. And they're doing it at a very reasonable price point! Frankly, I find it hard to believe that so many people tolerate or even laud the poor image quality of almost all other LCDs!

August 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob H.


The keyboard is bluetooth only. The TV will accept the usual remote commands through either IR or bluetooth.
That means you can still use a harmony remote for all the "normal" stuff.

August 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterikeg

Will it accept a third party blue tooth keyboard?

August 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

So you never said what TV you actually decided on. Do I assume that since you're reviewing the Vizio that that's what you bought or are you still making up your mind?

August 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

Hi Stephen,

I still have not made up my mind. The final decision should come around Thanksgiving. But this Vizio has moved way up the list.


August 30, 2010 | Registered CommenterHT Guys

For Ara, the only problem with the Vizio XVT series (or the sister LG models) is that they top out at 55" ! From where I sit - 7.5' away - 55" is fine. But with any distance over 8', you're starting to lose the full detail and immersion with "only" 55". So long as your room is dim or dark, Panasonic's VT25 plasmas still offer the technically better picture. But more importantly, they are available on larger 58" and 65" sizes!

Then again, if you have a dim or a dark room and you sit more than 8' away from your TV, you really should be looking into front projection! ;)

August 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob H.

Great show guys--really impressed with the sound of that TV. Right on. Just gotta say, though, "Mad Men" is anything but click-flick-y. Quite the opposite, in fact--you guys gotta watch it. Plus, it looks INCREDIBLE on blu-ray!!

gotta run!

August 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermike romo

Just to nudge both Ara and Braden even further - did you see the Emmy results? Mad Men takes home Best Drama whilst both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad take home the Lead Actor and Supporting Actor in a Drama series awards!

I know that lots of people don't really care about the Emmys, but it still has to say SOMETHING when a small channel like AMC keeps getting recognized (very deservedly) and its two top shows win out over all of the major networks and all of the much larger cable channels! And that's no knock against the other channels. I really thought that all of the nominees in the Drama categories were very deserving this year. So, to me at least, it really stands for something when Mad Men and Breaking Bad manage to capture the most votes within the Academy when they are in the company of some really great shows and actors.

I know that Ara and Braden said that, "there just aren't enough hours in the day", but they also just wrote about how there isn't anything to watch in the summer! Well both Mad Men and Breaking Bad are summer shows! So there's no excuse, you two!


August 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob H.

$1900 sounds pretty good for what you get, but you can also find Panasonsonic's 65" plasma for < 2k.
The Panasonic doesn't have all the features on the Vizio; if those aren't important to you, it's hard to beat it.

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGene

Sorry for the typos... ^ Panasonsonic's^ ?

Guys, any possibility of adding edit abilities to the comments area? That would be a great help in hiding (some of) my ineptitude.

August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGene

I am with Rob--the Emmy's, actually, are one of the award shows to pay attention to, I think, that unlike the Golden Globes, the nominations and voting are done by the recipient's peers.

I am watching Breaking Bad on blu-ray right now and it's totally deserving of all the hype. The first season was spectacular and I hear the others are just as good.

Mad Men, for me, is one of the best shows I have ever seen, period. Great acting, compelling stories and absolutely incredible to look at.

It's really amazing--it seems the best stuff out there in on TV these days, not in the theaters! (Though I loved Scott Pilgrim!)


August 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermike romo

Thanks for the support, Mike! :D I loved Scott Pilgrim too! As well as Kick-Ass. Very disappointed that neither of them managed to translate their "geek-cred" into big box office though :(

Blu-ray really is the best way to enjoy both Mad Men and Breaking Bad. I simply MUST watch them when they air on AMC HD, but I also pick them up on Blu-ray so that I can revel in the pristine picture and sound!

Season 2 of Breaking Bad is, IMO, where you determine whether you are "all-in" or "out". A lot of people didn't really like Saul when he first shows up. Trust me though, you learn to absolutely love him! The Season 2 penulatimate episode, "Phoenix", absolutely blew my mind. It cemented the show as my absolute favourite and basically made me say, "I don't care what happens from here on out, I am sticking with this show until it ends!"

Season 3 was a little bit more of a mixed bag. There is a sense that the writers were willing to push every angle just a little bit harder and some of it is slightly less believable because of that approach. But when you see the 7th episode of the season, titled, "One Minute", I DARE you to say it is anything less than the most amazing moment of television you've ever seen! It's spec-tac-u-lar.

God I love that show...


August 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob H.

So, is this a 'glossy' black set, that will pick up fingerprints from kids easily, and look dirty in daylight? Or does it have a standard and good looking matte finish?

I haven't bought a TV since they went glossy, because they all look so ugly and dirty all the time ...

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike F

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