ViewSonic VT4210: A thin, attractive LED HDTV

The ViewSonic VT4210 LED HDTV is simple and unassuming, and it’s a decent choice if you’re shopping for a TV without all the frills common in today’s sets. This 42-inch set sports an antiglare, antireflective TFT active-matrix LCD and 1080p image resolution, but it also has zero Web features, few input ports, and less-than-excellent speakers. The VT4210 (about $750 as of March 18, 2011) is surprisingly thin and light, however, so if it’s a basic TV you’re seeking, this may be the one.

Design-wise, the VT4210 is rather unremarkable. Surrounding the HDTV’s LED screen is a thin, shiny black bezel with sharp, squared-off corners. The bezel has few embellishments save for the mirrored silver ViewSonic logo at the bottom and a small power light on the bottom left. You can wall-mount the HDTV (it weighs just 29.7 pounds) or place it on a sharply rectangular, shiny black stand. The stand weighs an additional 6.6 pounds and is fixed (it does not swivel). That is just as well, since the TV’s off-axis viewing angles are mediocre.

The VT4210 is surprisingly thin–1.4 inches at the thickest point, though the stand widens the footprint to 8.9 inches. That thinness, combined with the light weight of the set, means that you should seriously consider wall-mounting this model. However, if you’re looking for ports that run parallel to the TV (rather than perpendicular, which may limit your wall-mounting options), the VT4210 comes up lacking.

On the back left side of the HDTV, you’ll find physical control buttons–power, channel up/down, volume up/down, menu, and input–as well as a few parallel-running ports, namely a USB 2.0 port, two HDMI-outs, one TV hookup, a headphone jack, and one digital audio-out. On the back of the HDTV, running perpendicular to the set, are composite and component video hookups, a VGA-in, and a VGA/HDMI1 audio-in.

Obviously, wall-mounting means you probably won’t have ready access to the physical buttons located on the side. Luckily, the remote control is small, lightweight, and easy to use.

The buttons are all similarly sized and shaped. That would be a problem if the remote had 60 different buttons, but thankfully it doesn’t. Aside from the basic number buttons, volume and channel controls, and menu navigation controls (arrows, Menu, Exit), the remote has mute and input buttons, as well as dedicated buttons for the TV programming guide, closed captioning, and the sleep timer. The only real issue with the remote is its limited range: The remote sensor is located next to the power light on the bottom-left corner of the HDTV, and the remote will respond only if it’s pointing directly at the sensor.

The on-screen menus are rudimentary (blocky, not terribly attractive, and blue), but straightforward and easy to navigate. The main menu offers picture, sound, preferences, locks, and setup submenus. The preferences, locks, and setup menus are just what they sound like–the first permits you to tweak closed-caption settings, AV input, and menu language; the second allows you to set up a parental PIN-code lock; and the last lets you reset your TV.

You’ll find only three predefined picture modes under the picture menu, and not many advanced options for the average tweaker. The presets include ‘standard’, ‘sports’, and ‘movie’, as well as ‘preference’ or custom. The basic visual controls–contrast, backlight, brightness, colour, tint, and sharpness–are all present. The advanced controls on the main picture menu include colour temperature and dynamic contrast; options to tweak noise reduction and theater settings are also available. Theater settings allow you to change the picture size, adjust the picture scroll, tweak aspect ratio, and go into cinema mode or use motion estimation-motion compensation (MEMC) 120Hz.

In our jury testing, the VT4210 earned average number scores but still landed slightly lower than the other TVs in its testing group. On our 1080i football testing clip, one of our jurors saw a mild halo effect around the players in the first scene. On our 1080i vineyard testing clip, the entire scene looked a bit dark for our tastes–unfortunately, this darkness haunted the rest of the testing as well.

In our Phantom of the Opera DVD clips (which test the HDTV’s internal upconversion), the scenes appeared darker than usual and a bit choppy. Scenes in Blu-ray Disc clips from Mission Impossible III and The Dark Knight also seemed much too black; in one Dark Knight scene, Christian Bale’s tuxedo merely looked like a black blob.

The VT4210 did poorly in our TV motion tests, both horizontal and diagonal. In the horizontal-panning test, the set received a score of 2 out of 5 from four of our jurors, and a score of 1 out of 5 from our most senior juror. The horizontal-panning test shows a blueprint panning across the screen; on this TV the blueprint was so blurry that it was almost impossible to read. In the diagonal-panning test, the VT4210 rated only slightly better, with a unanimous 2 out of 5 from all five of our jurors.Two 10-watt speakers are located on the back of the set. This positioning means that they’re not occupying the front of the set, cluttering up valuable bezel real estate, but it also means that they’re not very good. Although the sound from the speakers is loud enough–I managed to get it to fill a room quite nicely–the quality is very hollow and lacks timbre and fullness, even with the bass setting cranked all the way up. The audio settings are limited, too, as the set offers bass, treble, and balance scales, as well as an audio selector, but that’s it–no attempt at imitation surround sound. In my opinion, the speakers are painful to listen to. This is definitely a set for use with external speakers.

ViewSonic’s VT4210 is not for everyone. At about $800, it’s more expensive than other average-performance, average-quality 42-inch HDTVs on the market. The design is something to note, however.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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