If the projector in your class gets washed out by sunlight or the room’s overhead lights, think about using a big – make that a really big – TV. Vizio’s latest effort, the VF551XVT is about as perfect a classroom monitor and TV as I’ve seen. Despite having every technological advance, at $2,000 it is one of the least expensive for its size.
At 51.5- by 33.9- by 5-inches, the black and silver VF551XVT is about as big as a TV gets these days. Plan on having a few people around to unpack and install it so it doesn’t get accidentally dropped and make sure the wall mounting hardware you’re using can handle its 86-pound heft.
With 54.5-inches of viewing space available, it can’t compete with any budget classroom projector on image size or price, but it is the brightest display I’ve ever seen. It has 80 blocks of 12 backlight LEDs behind the LCD panel that pump out the lumens and keeps it from being overwhelmed by overhead lights or sunlight. These LEDs can be automatically dimmed in groups of 12 to suit the programming so that the display’s black and grayscale levels are nothing short of excellent.
The screen displays everything from the traditional interlaced 640-by-480 resolution programming through standard PC and Mac resolutions all the way to 1,920 by 1,080 resolution and full high-definition programming. Regardless of whether it’s showing an online game, a Discovery channel show about NASA or a Blu-ray nature movie disc, the VF551XVT looks great with incredible sharpness and excellent color balance.
Its 240-hertz imaging engine delivers smooth motion but, there are several lighted icons in the lower left corner that tout its tech credentials. Happily, they can be turned off.
As good as it is, the VF551XVT can be difficult to adjust. It’s partly the result of the fact that there’s so much to adjust, but it’s also because the small bar of items on the left of the screen that are controlled by the remote control make it a tad awkward. Even worse, while I like that the remote control is backlit, it is as complex as a new cell phone and takes some getting used to and studying.
Sound is high tech as well with SRS Surround Sound and Tru Volume, which keeps the audio level at roughly the same level. The TV has stereo speakers built into the silver bar below the screen that get loud enough for most classroom uses. If that’s not enough, Vizio has two different stand-alone speaker sets that sell for $200 and $350.
With a combined digital and analog TV tuner, the set can tune in local programming via an antenna or cable box, although it lacks a slot for a Cable card. Its tuning was sharp and reliable, but be warned that it takes 7 seconds to start the set up and 6 seconds to change channels, more than enough time for the class to get fidgety in the digital age.
The VF551XVT is connection city with more than enough audio visual jacks to satisfy even the most demanding teacher or IT coordinator. The back panel has 4 HDMI, Component, S- and Composite video as well as an antenna connector as well as digital and analog audio. The side panel adds another HDMI connector along with a Component and Composite Video jack and a USB slot for playing MPEGs, MP3s or JPEGs.
Not only is the VF551XVT an exceptional performer but it can save on power as well. It consumes 142-watts when it’s in use, less than what the typical 42-inch set consumes, and will cost an estimated $10.53 for 4 hours of use a day during the school year, a 50-percent savings compared to a 47-inch display.
At a time when most districts are scrapping for funds to pay for the basics, it’s hard to believe that they can afford a high-end TV-monitor for classrooms, but the Vizio VF551XVT is priced $800 less than a comparable LG set and over $1,000 less than a similar Samsung set. This makes it as close to a high tech bargain as it gets today.
+ Huge screen
+ Very bright with excellent color
+ Low power use
+ Variety of connections
+ Excellent price
- Physically large and heavy
- Complicated remote control
- Less viewable space than typical projector