Vizio E420i 42-inch LED/LCD Smart TV - Review

Smart TV at a Budget Price

Vizio E420i 1080p Smart LED/LCD TV
Vizio E420i 1080p Smart LED/LCD TV. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Original Post Date: 02/25/2013
Updated: 06/13/15

In just a few short years, Vizio has emerged in the U.S. as a major TV brand that delivers practical features at very affordable price points, and the 42-inch E-420i is another entry that is designed to continue in that tradition.

The Vizio E420i is a stylish-looking, thin bezel, 42-inch TV that incorporates everything you need to watch over-the-air or cable TV, provide connectivity for your other video components, as well as adding Smart TV functions that provide access to a host of internet streaming content services.

For details on the features and specifications of this TV, as well my personal observations on its setup, use, and performance, keep reading this review.

Vizio E420i Product Overview

Features of the Vizio E420i include:

1. 42-Inch LED/LCD Television with 1920x1080 (1080p) native pixel resolution, and 60Hz refresh rate augmented by backlight scanning to obtain a 120Hz-like effect.

2. 1080p video upscaling/processing for all non-1080p input sources.

3. Direct LED Back-Lighting System with Smart Dimming.

4. Inputs: Three HDMI and One shared Component and Composite composite video input.

5. Analog stereo inputs (paired with the component and composite video inputs).

7 Audio Outputs: One Digital Optical and one set of analog audio outputs. Also, HDMI input is also Audio Return Channel enabled.

9. Built-in stereo speaker system (8 watts x 2) for use in lieu of outputting audio to an external audio system.

However, connecting to an external audio system is highly recommended.

10. 1 USB port for access to flash drive stored audio, video, and still image files.

11. The E420i provides both Ethernet and WiFi connectivity options for internet access (router required).

12. Access to, and management of,  internet streaming content via Vizio Internet Apps feature.

13. ATSC/NTSC/QAM tuners for reception of over-the-air and unscrambled high definition/standard definition digital cable signals.

14. HDMI-CEC remote control link for compatible devices.

15. Wireless Infrared Remote Control included.

16. Energy Star 5.3 rated.

For a closer look at the features and operation of the E420i, also check out my supplementary Photo Profile

Video Performance

To start, the Vizio E420i's screen has a matte surface, instead of an additional glass overlay. This design reduces glare from ambient light sources, such as lamps or open windows.

The TV is an overall good performer, with some caveats. Incorporating a direct LED backlight instead of LED edge lighting, the black levels were pretty even across the screen. However, with Smart Dimming engaged, the black level, although deeper, sometimes gives extremely dark scenes a muddy look and also has the unexpected result of making the TV look like it is momentarily turned off during certain transitions, such as between the end of a movie and the beginning of the ending credits.

On the other hand, I found that color saturation, detail, and contrast range were all very good with high definition source material, especially Blu-ray Discs, but E420i doesn't quite have the richness you would see on a higher-end (and, of course, higher-priced) set.

Also, I didn't think that the E420i faired as well with standard definition sources, such as analog cable and internet streaming content.

When I conducted a series of tests to find out how well the E420i processes and scales standard definition source content, the E420i only did a fair job extracting detail and suppressing video noise, and also had some difficulty recognizing differing film and video frame cadences.

However, the E420i did a good job of deinterlacing and minimizing motion artifacts, and exhibited an overall smooth motion response, considering that its "120Hz" refresh rate is obtained via blacklight scanning in combination with an actual 60Hz true screen refresh rate.

Another interesting thing about the E420i is that, for a budget price, this TV provides a lot of picture adjustment options that include both basic presets and additional custom settings (see menu example).

However, to take advantage of the TV's setting options, it is advisable to at least use a calibration test disc, such as DVE HD Basics Blu-ray Edition, or the THX Optimizer, which can be found as a supplementary feature on any THX Certified Blu-ray Disc movie release, or the new THX Tune-Up App for iPhone/iPad.

To dig deeper into the video processing capabilities of the Vizio E420i, check out a sampling of Video Performance Test Results.

Audio Performance

The Vizio E420i provides minimal audio settings, but does include both SRS StudioSound HD and SRS TruVolume.

StudioSound creates as wider sound field, which improves the depth and spaciousness of the reproduced by the TV's speakers, while TruVolume compensates for level changes within a program or when changing between sources, but the actual sound quality (especially the lack of any real bass) of the E420i is much like the sound quality from most TVs I have reviewed.

If you are planning to use this TV as your main set, I would suggest considering even a modest sound bar, paired with small subwoofer to get a better audio listening result.

Internet Streaming

The E420i also offers internet streaming features. Using the Vizio Internet Apps menu, you can access an abundance of internet streaming content, as well as the ability to add more via the Yahoo Connect TV Store. Some of the accessible services and sites include: Amazon Instant Video, Crackle TV, Vudu, HuluPlus, M-Go, Netflix, Pandora, and YouTube.

USB and Skype - But No DLNA

Access to audio, video, and still image files from direct insertion of USB flash drive-type devices is provided. Also, another device you can connect to the E420i's USB port is the VIZIO XCV100 Internet Apps TV Video Camera which allows you make video phone calls via Skype.

It must also be pointed out that while the E420i can connect to your home network for the purposes of accessing the internet, it is not DLNA compatible. This means that this set cannot be used to access audio, video, or image content stored on network-connected PCs or media servers.

Ease of Use

The E2420i provides an extensive onscreen menu system to make adjustments and access content. The menu system is composed of two parts: a TV and Apps menu that runs along the bottom of the TV screen, which allows short cut access to the setting menus and selected internet and network media content (see supplementary photo), as well as a more comprehensive menu system that can be displayed on the left hand side of the screen (see supplementary photo).

Both menu display options are accessible via the side mounted control or provided IR remote. I found the menu system easy to navigate, including the ability to add new streaming services using the included Yahoo Connected TV Store.

However, although the remote control is compact and fits in an average-size hand well, I did feel that it wasn't always easy to use, especially in a darkened room, as it has very small buttons and is not backlit.

What I Liked About The Vizio E420i

1. Easy to unpack and set-up.

2. Even black level response across screen area.

3. Extensive video setting options.

4. Provides good selection of internet streaming options.

5. Good motion response.

6. Electronic version of complete user manual included in menu selection.

7. Non-glare Matte Screen

8. Input and output connections well-placed, spaced, and labeled.

8. Inclusion of both analog and digital audio outputs.

10. The remote control provides quick access buttons for Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and M-Go internet streaming services.

What I Didn't Like About The Vizio E420i

1. Channel access using direct numerical entry is slow.

2. Long start-up time.

3. Shared component/composite video input. This means you cannot have component and composite video sources connected to the E420i at the same time.

4. No VGA/PC Monitor input

5. No DLNA Support

6. Remote control has very small buttons and is not backlit.

7. External audio system suggested for best listening experience.

Final Take

In summing up my experience with the Vizio E420i, it was easy to unpack and set-up, and the physical styling was very appealing. Although I thought that the provided remote control could have had a better layout and larger buttons, navigating the TV's menu system was not difficult.

Also, the E420i delivered good quality images from high-def sources, and although wasn't perfect when faced with standard def or lower quality input signals, did a more than adequate job providing some image quality correction.

In addition, being equipped with both ethernet and WiFi connection options, reaching out to the internet to access streaming content was easy, with an abundance of content sources available.

On the other hand, not being able to access content stored on other devices connected within a home network was a little disappointing.

Combining all factors, the Vizio E420i is worth consideration for those that are budget conscious, but would still like a decent quality TV with internet streaming capability as their main set, or those looking an additional larger screen TV for a second room - certainly a good value for $499.

For a closer look at, and additional perspective on, the Vizio E420i, also check out my Photo Profile and Video Performance Test Results.

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Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

NOTE: As of May 2015, Vizio has ended the production run for the E420i, to make room for models in the 2015 E-Series - Check out an overview of the Vizio's 2015 E-Series 1080p LED/LCD TVs for screen size options and feature comparisons.

Additional Components Used to Conduct the Review of the Vizio E420i

Home Theater Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR705 (used in 5.1 channel operating mode).

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-103.

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 2 (5.1 channels): EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.

Additional Audio System: AudioXperts 4TV 2112 Audio Entertainment Console (on review loan).

DVDO EDGE Video Scaler used for additional video upscaling comparison.

Audio/Video connections made with Accell Cables High Speed HDMI Cables provided by for this review by Atlona, and NextGen. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used.

Software Used Used to Conduct Review

Blu-ray Discs: Battleship, Ben Hur, Brave (2D version), Cowboys and Aliens, The Hunger Games, Jaws, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Dark Knight Rises.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.