A TV doesn’t have to be huge to be worth watching. Case in point: VIZIO’s E320i 32” Smart LED TV. It’s bigger than a monitor at 32-inches, but sized small enough to fit in areas where a bigger screen would crowd out the surroundings. That doesn’t mean the E320i is lacking in features — but for sure it can mean that the quality of the image is appealing. You can thank a LED panel for that.
The first thing you’ll notice, as I did, is how lightweight the VIZIO E320i 32” Smart LED TV is; that’s because you’ll need to lift it out of the box and attach the base so it can stand up (should you want to affix it to a wall, you’ll need conventional wall mounting supplies and a wall mount). The base fits into slots in the VIZIO’s back and then into the stand provided and screws and the included wrench takes care of the fitting. From the front, the E320i has a really slender frame design; one that hides the depth that is needed for the electronics placed inside (making it much thicker than that of a similarly sized LED monitor).
Of course the screen itself deserves some attention too. It is LED, which by its very nature means richer colors with more depth and clarity. The screen’s high-resolution (720p) makes for a bright and vibrant image that saves energy over that of a conventional LCD panel — although most will find that not adjusting the contrast between television viewing and watching “canned” content (i.e., a Blu-ray disc) is a disservice. But before we take a look at those controls, a word about the resolution.
As noted, it’s 720p, not 1080p. But realistically, the size of the VIZIO E320i 32” Smart LED TV dictates that you are closer to it than you would be if the screen was 46-inches or greater. The good thing about the screen size relative to the 720p resolution is that at the viewing distance, the quality of the image doesn’t suffer a bit from not being 1080p — it’s still HD and looks every inch that, especially when you’re watching sports that are often broadcast in this resolution anyway. The bad is that a screen that does not have quality production capabilities will more easily display artifact issues when you’re close up. The VIZIO E320i 32” Smart LED TV doesn’t, so remove another negative from your bucket list as regards this TV. And again, the LED screen provides a far superior image when viewing streaming content than a LCD panel could — granted the smaller screen helps to hide any errors in the transmission, but the overall “look” is as good as that of a stable broadcast TV image.
Now you have the choice of using the side mounted buttons on the TV or the remote. Most will opt for the remote — you access the controls, be they the menu to the right of the direction pad or the dedicated “Amazon Instant Video” or “Netflix” button. Three’s also a dedicated button to bring up the “App” menu, which runs along the button of the screen and from which you can select additional apps besides those that have been pre-loaded for use. Most will find the remote’s slightly shortened length convenient for gripping. Besides expected buttons for volume control and channel switching, you get dedicated ones for closed capturing, the Guide and display modes. Plus for controlling the media player (which takes its content from the drive that’s been plugged into the USB port). The lack of any backlighting or “glow in the dark” is lamentable though, since that makes switching between controls a guessing game until you develop “muscle memory” as to where the buttons are located.
The basic setup is extremely easy as it “talks” you through making the necessary connections for the TV input, wireless connectivity (unless using wired) among other setup requirements. Figure about 10 minutes tops to take care of this. Most likely you will have already connected your devices to the E320i (I’m using satellite for TV and a Blu-ray player for recorded video), so now’s a good time to look at the back, where you’ll find the Ethernet cable, the TV coaxial antenna connection and Component and analog audio RCA inputs. To the side is where the two HDMI inputs and the analog (for stereo output) and digital audio (for multi-channel) outputs can be found. The USB input is also found here.
Speaking of audio, the pair of stereo speakers are powered by 5 watts of power each. Realistically you won’t get the kind of volume that causes your butt to move off the seat, but for average viewing in most normal environments, the volume will be adequate for hearing any special effects mixed in amidst the music. As there’s no dedicated subwoofer, the bass is handled by the speakers along with the other frequencies and, overall, provides better than decent sound output.
The control you have over the image is pretty standard: there’s color temperature control to make the picture more or less “warm” to your eye; there are display aspect modes that can be changed to accommodate standard and high-def content; Picture Settings gives you the means to alter the color, contrast, tint and other areas to your personal liking (being able to modify the backlighting is a nice touch). Adjustments to the video image, through noise reduction, color enhancements, etc. are also available. But of course whether to use this or no is up to the viewer, as are modes that affect the image for genre use: for example the Gaming mode.
Two kinds of audio enhancements are offered: SRS TruVolume, which controls the audio peaks that occur when a TV commercial comes on late at night to try and get your attention, and SRS StudioSound, which creates an illusion of surround speakers and acts to augment the levels of bass if “Surround” is chosen over “Standard” which works better for enhancement of dialogue. Both work as they are designed, with the effect of the “surround” coming from beyond the sides of the TV affected by the content playing. It can not take the place of a true surround system of course (you can easily hook the E320i up through its optical audio output), but is useful in those situations where the lack of space has precluded the use of a separate audio system.
For the HD content, I went with black and white and color — specifically Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection and RESIDENT EVIL DAMNATION. These lie at opposite ends of the spectrum and so I felt they would work well in seeing how the VIZIO E320i 32” Smart LED TV reproduced black and white content (digital remastered) from a film over 50 years old (Frankenstein) and a most-recent color animation (computer generated obviously). What I found out wasn’t as shocking as seeing Karloff in his iconic role, but it was still pretty cool — the E320i reproduces the grey tones that proliferate a black and white film cleanly and with no visible artifact issues. I confess that I “tweaked” the settings a bit — color temperature made a difference in that I didn’t want it “warm.” In fact I ended up watching Bride afterwards and yes, even Dracula, if only to hear him muse on those “Children of the night.” The E320i is excellent for watching black and white content, is pretty much what I’m getting at here.
RESIDENT EVIL DAMNATION was a jarring change of pace, and the purer color palette that an animation can offer is well handled by the LED’s superior handling of color. I often feel that high-resolution is lost on an animated feature viewed at home, but here you need to see detail because there’s a lot of disgusting stuff that otherwise won’t make the cut. I’m sure My Little Pony would also benefit from being watched here, but gore and guts is more my kind of thing.
As for TV, you won’t find anything to complain about when using the VIZIO E320i 32” Smart LED TV for viewing broadcasts, especially if it’s in high-definition.
Now a quick word about the USB input — first having it on the side of the TV makes it not only easy to get to, but more likely to be used. A thumb drive is what connects here, but the content can be still imaging (i.e., JPEG photos) as well as MP3 audio. The menu is competent and filled with information — file size and resolution is displayed as a matter of course. Of course viewing a slideshow or an individual photo or playing a tune can be done quickly.
Bottom line: Due to its size, the VIZIO E320i 32” Smart LED TV is best suited for single or small gatherings — a group gathering around to watch a football game would be ludicrous, even if the viewable angle of the set allows you to be at an extreme angle and only lose a bit of the overall brightness and contrast. But for a person watching a game alone, a Mom and daughter sharing a cooking show or reality program or a kid blasting away at the latest video game — it’s hard to beat the inherent quality that the E320i‘s LED screen provides. The sub-$400 price tag ($369 retail) only sweetens the deal.
- Ambient light sensor adjusts for environment
- Internet applications connectivity
- TV video chat camera accessory available
- No 3D capabilities
- No lateral/vertical adjustments on the stand
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.