A large TV with a very aggressive price tag is sure to turn some heads. This is what VIZIO sets out to do with its recent refresh of entry-level TVs for 2014. When there is a large TV like the VIZIO E480i-B2 that is priced at under $600, it is possible for people to get the impression that competing models are charging higher for possibly unnecessary features or making the brand seem more important. VIZIO has a pretty strong brand of its own but the more critical person will wonder if some corners had to be cut to achieve that $549 price. Compromises always have to be made and the ones that VIZIO made shouldn’t bother customers that really care about rock bottom prices.
It is easy to conclude that low-priced TVs have uninspired designs but the E480i-B2 has a nice take to silence those critics. The TV surprisingly feels light and has very thin bezels. Like past recent models, VIZIO is also very clever with the branding. The bottom bezel is understandably thicker than the other sides but the VIZIO logo is creatively placed on the lower-right corner. It looks more out of the way but it is still easy to tell that this is a VIZIO TV. Compared to the previous generation models, VIZIO has trimmed down various aspects of the TV. It is 30% thinner and the base is a lot slimmer.
The branding is carried over to the back of the VIZIO E480i-B2 too where you can find the VIZIO symbol right on the center of the spot reserved for mounting. The back of the TV also shows VIZIO’s dedication to make it easy to setup for beginners. The ports are hidden but there are clear indicators on where the ports are located. Beginners that are not familiar with things like component, HDMI and composite also get a small dose of education without the need of reading the manual. VIZIO refers to the HDMI ports as the “Best” while the component and composite ports are labeled “Better” and “Good” respectively. There are a total of 3 HDMI ports (1 supporting ARC) and a single USB port.
The E480i-B2 is probably the smartest TV of the sub-$600 block. It features an impressive selection of apps including the common ones like Facebook, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Spotify, YouTube and Vudu to some other key services including eBay, Fantasy Football and numerous Yahoo! services. What makes this experience even smarter is the way VIZIO executed the interface. Pressing the “V” logo button on the remote does not bring up a full screen interface. Instead, you get a small dock on the bottom containing tiles that resembles the Windows 8 design. These tiles represent your favorite apps so you can customize the list to your liking. When properly customized, it is really easy to launch an app and it pretty much defeats the need for a multi-core processor since the interface is so minimal.
Pressing the “V” logo button again brings up the main VIZIO Internet Apps (V.I.A.) Plus interface in full screen. It makes more use of the screen real estate to show up more tiles. The different tabs allow you to browse and install more apps. There are no widgets so you won’t be spoiled with a lot of data on a home screen but the minimalistic approach really makes this Smart TV experience an enjoyable one. The remote control also has shortcuts to common apps like Amazon and Netflix. You can also assign custom buttons to other apps for even faster launching. Wi-Fi is built right into the VIZIO E480i-B2 so getting connected to the Internet is pretty simple. While there is a PDF manual on VIZIO’s product page, you can also read the manual right on the TV’s screen.
The mobile integration is pretty good too. Android and iOS devices can service as a second screen for the Netflix and YouTube apps. Basically, the mobile device can control the playback and get other information like the rating.
The only USB port on the E480i-B2 can read any USB thumb drives that were formatted as FAT32. File extension support is pretty basic but it should be able to handle the common music, picture and video file types. Selecting a file on the USB drive is pretty easy and it comes with a couple of sorting options.
The image quality of the VIZIO E480i-B2 may leave a bad impression for those that are used to seeing pricier TVs. The main problem is on the default settings where the colors appear too saturated and the black levels are on the flat side. But the various picture settings and black level settings available give you the opportunity to make the picture quality considerably better. Increasing the Black Detail setting also improves the viewing angles.
While the E480i-B2 is a bit dim, there is an ambient light sensor that tries to adjust the backlight sensor to match the room environment. This is a great energy saving feature and it contributes nicely to the Energy Star 6.0 compliance. DTS Studio Sound is also integrated so you get decent virtual surround sound audio with a hint of bass.
The VIZIO E480i-B2 is also a pretty good display for gaming. The effective refresh rate clocks in at 120Hz to optimize quick action scenes and there is a dedicated “Game” picture mode which brings down the input lag to 40 milliseconds. For a budget TV, this is pretty good.
The E480i-B2 has room for improvement on the image quality side but it can stand tall as a winner of the $550 category. 48 inches is pretty big for an average living room and watching HD on it will most likely make the average viewer forgive the rest of the minor flaws. The VIZIO Internet Apps Plus is just icing on the cake and can make for great online living room entertainment without the need for a separate media box or HTPC.
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