Vizio E500i-A0 Review

Those looking to move into the 1080p Smart TV arena without breaking the bank will find the Vizio E500i-A0 a formidable contender.
Those looking to move into the 1080p Smart TV arena without breaking the bank will find the Vizio E500i-A0 a formidable contender.
Those looking to move into the 1080p Smart TV arena without breaking the bank will find the Vizio E500i-A0 a formidable contender.

Highs

  • Good picture quality
  • Relatively slim design
  • Excellent Smart TV platform
  • Great feature set
  • Affordable

Lows

  • Minor white washout on select mediums
  • Occasional jitter in fast-paced scenes
  • Smart Dimming feature lowers picture quality

Vizio E0i series information: The review below is based on our time spent with the 42-inch E420i-A0 TV. However, the observations made also apply to the nine other models in this series. Samsung says that sets offer identical features (save weight and dimensions) and should offer similar performances.

Models in Vizio E0i Series Size
Vizio E320i-A0 32 inches
Vizio E420i-A0 (reviewed) 42 inches
Vizio E470i-A0 47 inches
Vizio E500i-A0 50 inches
Vizio E550i-A0 55 inches
Vizio E650i-A0 65 inches

It’s no secret that “Smart” technology has revolutionized the way we live and work. Since the release of the first iPhone a mere 6 years ago, most of us have adapted almost every aspect of our daily routine to include smartphones.

Less ubiquitous (and, arguably, less essential) however, is the Smart TV. Though convenient, Smart TVs have had less of an impact, likely because game consoles, Blu-Ray players and OTT boxes like the Roku offer the same functionality. As a result, the inclusion of Smart TV platforms and the price premium that comes with them seem unnecessary when considering entry to mid-level televisions.

Rising star, Vizio, is striving to change that perception with models like its E420i-A0 (E420i). At $500, the E420i offers convenient WiFi connection, a bevy of streaming video and media apps, and specs in line with similarly priced “dumb” TVs from competitors like Samsung and LG. Still, we wondered whether Vizio could incorporate all those bells and whistles at bargain pricing and still bring a quality experience to your living room. After some extensive testing of the E420i-A0, here’s what we found.

Out of the box

While toting the E420i around is no one-handed affair, it’s still very light for its size – just 23.15 lbs. with stand attached. One person can get the TV home and set up with relative ease. Pulling the E420i from its box revealed a fairly slim bezel with a gloss-black finish. The set’s 3.23 inch depth isn’t razor thin, but it’s still decent for a backlit LED display at this price point and unobtrusive enough whether wall mounted or atop a TV stand.

Features

The E420i has a respectable selection of inputs for a TV in its class, the majority of which are clustered at the rear. Nestled inside a recessed bay we found 2 HDMI inputs, a Component/Composite hybrid input, an Ethernet port, and a standard Coaxial cable input. Though the small cubby allows for flush wall mounting with multiple components connected, we found it pretty difficult to get our hands in there, and connecting bulkier HDMI cables was a chore.

Positioned at the much more accessible side bay is a single HDMI input, a USB 2.0 input for photos and other media, and the TV’s digital optical and analog RCA audio outputs. Next to the array of inputs is a multi-button control panel for onboard navigation of the E420i’s settings, including power, menu, volume, and channel control.

Vizio’s remote control gets points for style, but it is otherwise standard fare. We don’t like that it can’t be programmed to control other components, and at times we felt like the buttons were unresponsive, but we found general navigation to be intuitive. We especially liked the metallic “V” button in the center, which is easy to distinguish by touch and calls up the scroll bar at the base of the screen for access to the E420i’s app collection. At the top of the remote is a series of buttons for controlling pause, play, and search, which we found extremely fluid in operation with streaming video. More notable is the inclusion of not just a Netflix button for instant access to that app, but one for Amazon and M-GO as well.

Smart TV

The E420i comes loaded with an impressive array of apps. The default collection includes familiar names like Facebook, Twitter, Rhapsody, and Skype, and there are even more apps available from the online Yahoo store. Yahoo is Vizio’s preferred search partner, and there are several widgets included like Yahoo weather, news, and sports.

vizio e420i a0 smart tv

As for streaming video, the E420i is packed with all the major players including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, Hulu Plus, and Vudu. In addition to those familiar names are some more unique entries. The “Web Videos” app is a sort of YouTube clone, stacked with random videos, as well as categories like “Channels”, and “Popular”. Browsing through the catalog, we found everything from short clips to full length movies, even stumbling on a Rolling Stones documentary called Under Review that was pretty great, and had only one commercial at startup.

Setup

Straight out of the box, the E420i’s picture needs some help. Even on the fairly tame Standard setting, colors appeared inaccurate and oversaturated, contrast was askew, and the display was a bit bright, even in moderate lighting. Confounding the issue for the novice is the fact that the E420i comes with 9 different picture modes, with iterations including multiple sports modes, a gaming mode, and the eye scorching Vivid mode. None of them looked right to us with default settings, but thankfully, some very basic adjustments made vast improvements.

… we noticed more jitter than we would have expected from the TV’s claimed 120Hz refresh rate.

Our first directive was to navigate straight to the “Advanced Picture” setting and turn off overt options like Adaptive Luma, Color Enhancement and the extremely annoying Ambient Light Sensor. These very simple changes made a huge difference in the set’s picture quality. After that, thanks to help from our Spyder4 calibrating device and THX calibration Blu-Ray, we were able to get a solid picture with some key tweaks. Our preferred settings are available at the end of this review.

While there was no global picture setting on the E420i for multiple components, we were excited to find that a single adjustment worked across all of the streaming video apps. It’s a simple feature, but a nice time saver for streaming video once you have settings in the sweet spot.

Picture performance

With the settings dialed in, we found the E420i delivered a good picture, especially for a 42-inch model priced this low. The set’s LED backlighting did a fine job of supporting crisp, brilliant images on our more dazzling test selections like the Planet Earth series. Colors were generally well rendered, with especially deep blues and reds. We did notice the very brightest whites got washed out in some cases, but, generally we have few complaints.

For the vast majority of our viewing we experienced little to no motion blur with this TV. However, while watching the fast paced action and jerky cinematography of The Hunger Games, we noticed more jitter than we would have expected from the TV’s claimed 120Hz refresh rate. Some of the more chaotic scenes like the first melee for weapons were blurry, and a bit of a chore to follow. To be honest, this TV performs more like a 60Hz set than a 120Hz set.

vizio e420i a0 display macro

We had a chance to try out Vizio’s form of local dimming (called “Smart Dimming”) while taking a journey into deep space with Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. As we watched the movie in a darkened room with Smart Dimming off, we noticed the black levels weren’t as dark as we’d like, with the edges of the widescreen image glowing slightly. With Smart Dimming engaged, however, we noted a striking improvement in black levels. Unfortunately, we also noticed that the image as a whole was affected, looking duller and less vibrant than before with much less shadow detail. Some brightness adjustment helped a bit, but the image never looked as vivid with dimming engaged. Though the issue isn’t enough to put us off of the E420i, we felt it worth mentioning.

Smart performance

Perhaps the best thing the E420i has going for it is its Smart TV interface. As mentioned earlier, we’ve scoffed a bit at the need for Smart TVs, since many of the apps can be operated from a component already connected to the TV. However, after living with the E420i for a decent amount of time, we pretty much fell in love with its convenient interface. Launching apps took mere seconds, about half as long as our aging Xbox 360, and navigation was smooth and simple.

vizio e420i a0 netflix

Netflix addicts that we are, we discovered our favorite Smart feature there. While binge watching Mad Men and Arrested Development, we were delighted to find Vizio’s Netflix app cuts off the intro of the next episode on autoplay, showing only the final screen clip and heading right into the show. It’s the little things that get us, and that kind of user-centric feature is indicative of a company that is paying attention.

Audio performance

The E420i’s sound was decent, with little adjustment necessary. While that’s not a glowing compliment, we’ve noticed a serious degradation in the sound quality offered by many of the flat panel TVs we’ve tested recently. If the audio doesn’t immediately make us cringe, we basically count it as a win. Though the E420i’s bass response was expectantly weak, midrange and treble were clean and clear, easily filling the room.

Conclusion

A few minor quirks aside, we think this Vizio TV provides real value. The E420i-A0’s solid picture quality, useable on-board audio and impressive Smart TV interface make it a product we’d be happy to have at the center of our home theater. Those looking to move into the 1080p Smart TV arena without breaking the bank will find the Vizio E420i-A0 a formidable contender.

Highs

  • Good picture quality
  • Relatively slim design
  • Excellent Smart TV platform
  • Great feature set
  • Affordable

Lows

  • Minor white washout on select mediums
  • Occasional jitter in fast-paced scenes
  • Smart Dimming feature lowers picture quality

Digital Trends Picture Settings

The following settings were arrived at through a process of manual adjustment and further adjusted for preference. As indicated in our How we test televisions article, processing such as noise reduction and dynamic contrast are disabled for picture and testing purposes. They may or may not be re-engaged based on subjective preferences gained from observation during real-world performance scenarios. Though we arrived at these settings with a specific TV size, these settings can be used for any of the sizes in this TV series with consistent results.

Preferred Settings

Backlight: 75

Contrast: 69 

Brightness: 49 

Sharpness: 8 

Color: 55

Tint: -2 

Color Temperature – Normal

Advanced Settings

Noise Reduction – Low

MPEG NR – Low

Color Enhancement – Off

Adaptive Luma – Off

Film Mode – Off

Smart Dimming – Off

Ambient Light Sensor – Off

Smart Home

Power on and off: Kasa Outdoor Smart Plug by TP-Link brings weatherproof smarts

The Kasa Outdoor Wi-Fi Smart Plug grants remote control of two outlets in an IP-64 weather resistant housing. Simple and straightforward, this smart plug is a great fit for summer lighting.
Buying Guides

Want a home command center? These smart displays put you in charge

Which smart display is best for you? A lot of smart speakers with a screen have been released lately. Whether it's Alexa or Google Assistant, here are a few of our favorites available now.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Deals

Take a gander at the best deals on 4K TVs for April 2019

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.
Home Theater

Beats Powerbeats Pro: Everything you need to know about the earphones

Apple will release a fully wireless pair of earphones in May from its Beats brand. The Powerbeats Pro earphones have impressive features to compete with the AirPods, along with a litany of other options. Here's everything we know.
Home Theater

Don’t cash in that 401(k)! These are the best 4K TVs you can get for under $500

These days, you can land a pretty epic 4K TV for under $500. Still, sorting through the litany of options online can be both time-consuming and overwhelming. Check out our list of the best 4K TVs under $500 to cut through the clutter.
Product Review

Sony’s Z9G paints a bright, beautiful future for 8K TVs

The Sony Z9G 85-inch 8K TV is majestic to behold. No doubt, this TV is a looker, and you’ll know what we mean when you see it. Does this TV make sense, though? Should you buy it? We have the answers.
Home Theater

Roland’s Amazon-exclusive BTM-1 Bluetooth speaker doubles as a guitar amp

Roland, long known for its many digital instruments, has made an Amazon-exclusive Bluetooth speaker for musicians on the go. With a guitar cable input and overdrive effect, it might be the perfect portable rig for guitarists.
Home Theater

The best noise-canceling headphones paint your music on a cleaner canvas

Drowning out the sound of babies, jet engines, and the outside world isn't as difficult as it seems. Here are the best noise-canceling headphones, whether you're concerned with style, comfort, or sound.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Home Theater

5 gorgeous turntables that spin stacks of wax in style for less than $500

Vinyl records are awesome, but they're also finicky. To get the best out of your stacks of wax, it's best to play them on a quality turntable. Here are the best turntables to be had for under $500.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Six sensational subwoofers that will shake any room on any budget

Whether you're a film buff or a music junkie, sometimes you just need to go lower. Luckily, we've put together a guide to the best subwoofers, so you can feel your favorite movies instead of just hearing them.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Alexa knows where you live, lab-grown meat, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss how Amazon Alexa's audit team has access to locations, additions to Verizon's 5G road map, the future of food technology, a review of Sony's 8K TV, and more.