Well here we go again, another article on yet another defective product that I purchased a while ago. Today I talk about the Vizio VA370M LCD TV and why I will not buy another Vizio TV for as long as I live or deal with the store TigerDirect ever again.

This little journey started in December of 2010 when a friend of mine needed to get his wife a new cpu / motherboard. Since most of the stores in the city I live in are a joke when it comes to computer parts, we decided to drive to Burlington that’s about an hour’s drive away. The reason we went to Burlington is, this is where the closest TigerDirect retail store was located. For anyone that’s not familiar with TigerDirect they used to be a web based computer parts store only and in the last few years they decided to branch out and get some retail stores open to go along with their web based business.

Once we arrived at the store my friend went off to look for the computer parts he needed and I was checking out the TV’s. The reason for checking out the TV’s was, I was tired of playing my Xbox360 on a 20 inch Samsung LCD TV that had a 4:3 display aspect ratio. As I was checking the TV’s out that were on display in the store I come across the Vizio VA370M LCD TV. The VA370M was a 37 inch display and it also come equipped with a lot of connection options, such as 4 HDMI ports. The price of the VA370M was $499.99 Canadian and I thought this was quite the deal for the money.

One thing I was iffy about was the maker of the TV Vizio. Since I have never owned anything made by Vizio I wasn’t sure if I would end up with a lemon or not as far as the VA370M goes. On the flip side there have been many a times that I have purchased products from companies like Sony and in time these products would also end up not working and being a waste of money. I was also thinking that if something ended up going wrong with the TV I would have to come back to this store in Burlington to do the exchange and the thought of that I didn’t like to much since it’s a hour drive in each direction. Despite my reservations, I decided I would take a chance and purchase the Vizio VA370M and hopefully it would be issue free and I would end up with a TV that would last for years to come.

For the first six months the VA370M worked fine however, there were times I would notice the audio and video going out of sync when playing the Xbox360 over the HDMI ports. The way I fixed the sync problem was to reselect the video input on the TV and things would go back to normal. The sync problem was forgotten about when one day I went to play a DVD on the Xbox360 and I noticed these thin lines running up and down the left and right hand sides of the screen.

When I seen where the lines were on the TV it became clear they were caused by the TV displaying standard definition cable TV. When you put a standard definition signal into the VA370M you get the image displayed on the center of the screen but because the incoming signal is not high definition you end up with these black bars on the sides of the image and you can see that in picture below.

I normally had the VA370M on every day all day long and would turn it off when I go to sleep. The fact that I had standard definition content being displayed for so long on the TV is no doubt why I ended up with these lines. The VA370M did have different screen format modes that you could use on the standard definition signal but the problem was, all the modes except the expanded mode were garbage in terms of how much they would distort the outer edges of the image on screen.

The expanded mode on the VA370M would display the standard definition signal in its standard 4:3 aspect ratio with the big black bars on the either side of the image and that was the only mode that would not distort the image and so that was the mode I left it in.

Below are the pictures I took of the lines that ended up on the display. The yellow arrows in the pictures are pointing at the lines. These lines are somewhat hard to see in the pictures but in person you could see them as clear as day when you had a 16:9 / high definition signal going into the VA370M.

Before I took the VA370M back for exchange I wanted to get a hold of Vizio and see if there was some way to rectify the problem here. The only advice I was given from the Vizio rep was the following.

Please follow the steps in this order:

1- Power off TV
2- Unplug TV from outlet
3- Press and hold in the power button on the TV for 30 seconds (while it is unplugged from the wall)
4- Release the power button
5- Plug in the TV into a different outlet
6- Power the TV back on

There is also a factory reset option in your menu under the SETUP section. It will say either “reset all settings” or “system reset”. I would recommend this option as well.

I did everything the rep said to do above and as I thought, it didn’t do anything at all in regards to the lines that were on the screen.

The most amusing thing about all this is, the reps for Vizio don’t seem to know that if you display a standard definition signal and have the black bars on your screen over a long period of time that you will in fact develop image retention / burn in on the screen. You would think Vizo would have at some point tested for this and had a big warning sticker on the front of the TV so that you don’t damage the screen. The flip side here is, if they did have such a warning on the TV I would have brought the TV back to the store the same day I purchased it do to how bad a standard definition signal looks when you use their other screen format options other than the expanded mode that caused the issue in the first place.

Since the line issue with the VA370M I have been talking to friends of mine and they have talked to various people who work in large retail outlets and even some TV repair men and it turns out image retention / burn in isn’t that un common for LCD TV’s. I also did some digging around on google and found quite a few articles talking about image retention / burn in on LCD’s as well as seeing a lot of user comments on forums about people seeing this happen on their LCD TV”s.

So with no way to fix my VA370M here it was time to bring the TV back to the store for exchange. It turns out the Burlington store didn’t have any more Vizio VA370M TV’s in stock so they had to get one shipped from a store in Toronto. So with the old TV in hand I went back to the store in Burlington and picked up the new Vizio VA370M.  

While I was in the store in Burlington I also picked up a WD TV Live Plus box so that I could play movies from a file server that I have setup here. So with all my new gear in hand I head back home and get everything all unpacked and hooked up and low and behold I run into another huge problem with the new VA370M.

In the beginning of this article I mentioned about how the first VA370M had issues with the audio and video syncing over the HDMI ports. Over time if you were playing the Xbox360 the audio and video would slowly go out of sync. This was something that wouldn’t happen right away, you may have to be playing for an hour more but give it enough time and it would happen. With the second Vizo VA370M I also noticed this audio and video sync issue happening with it however, with the second VA370M the audio and video were not only out of sync but the audio would also end up all garbled sounding as well and this time I wasn’t using the Xbox360 but instead I was using the WD TV Live Plus via the HDMI port.

Here is a link to an audio file I recorded of the audio that was coming out of the second VA370M when this syncing issue would occur. Note this audio recording is not processed at all, the recording was made with the Zoom H1 Digital recorder held about a 6 inches from the TV.

Note: The audio file is in two parts, the first part is with the audio messed up and then there is a five second gap of no audio and then you hear the audio the way it’s supposed to sound after I reselect the HDMI input on the TV. I put the five second gap in to separate the two audio recordings.

So again I hop onto google and do some searching and low and behold, other people are having the same syncing issue across all the HDMI ports of this specific model of TV. Some of the people had their TV’s sent in for repair multiple times and the TV would come back with the exact same syncing issue. It was at this point I nearly lost it, I couldn’t believe that yet again I would have to go back to Burlington with another defective TV.

Before I went back to the store with the second VA370M I wanted to see what kind of deal I could get on a replacement TV. So like previous times before I sent the TigerDirect product manager an email stating the situation and she gave me three choices for direct replacement TV’s and they were the following..

Vizio 42" refurb - 1080p, 120Hz LED .:$549.97
Toshiba 40E210U 1080p LCD ………..:$589.99
Westinghouse 42" 120Hz LED ……….:$549.97

When I seen the three options she gave me I laughed because option number one was another Vizio and it was a refurb. Needless to say I wasn’t even going to consider that option at all based on my other two TV’s that were Vizio and both defective. Another option I had was to get my money back however that two was a problem since no one locally had anything I would want in the $500.00 price range and I needed a TV no matter what, so I was stuck with the TigerDirect store.

So my choice was narrowed down to the other two TV’s and out of those two I wanted to get the Toshiba except the Toshiba only had two HDMI ports and that was a no go for me. I had to have at least 3 HDMI ports or it would mean that I would have to go out and get a HDMI switcher and that wasn’t going to happen. Ironically enough, out of the three options I was presented only one, the Vizio had four HDMI ports even the Westinghouse only had two HDMI ports.

So once again I got in touch with the TigerDirect product manager and asked if she would give me a deal on another Toshiba that was at the Burlington store that did have three HDMI ports and she would not. The Toshiba I wanted was going to be on sale for $649.99 Canadian and if I wanted it I would have to come up with the extra $150.00 to put on top of the second Vizio which was $499.99.

What really pissed me off here was the fact that TigerDirect was willing to take off $89.99 on the Toshiba they offered me for the direct replacement of the VA370M however, when I stated the fact that it didn’t have enough HDMI ports and there for I needed something that was more similar to the VA370M TigerDirect wouldn’t budge on the price and so there for I had to come up with the extra $150.00 for the Toshiba I wanted that had 3 HDMI ports.

I wasn’t expecting TigerDirect to take off the whole $150.00 for the Toshiba I wanted but on the same hand, I think they could have at least taken $89.99 off the price since they were willing to do that for the Toshiba they offered me on the direct exchange that only had two HDMI ports.

So after I forked out the $150.00 and exchanged the second Vizio VA370M I finally ended up with the Toshiba 40SL412U and so far this TV hasn’t given me any issues at all. The other thing I like about the 40SL412U is that unlike the Vizio VA370M and its awful screen format modes it had for standard definition signals, the 40SL412U has similar modes but there is nowhere near the same amount of distortion in the image when looking at the left and right hand sides of the screen. With the 40SL412U I can watch standard definition signals full screen on the 40” display with no black bars on the sides and that’s a good thing in terms of not messing up the display.

Another thing I should point out is on the first defective Vizio I was dealing with Vizio directly and at one point I thought they may replace the VA370M however, once they found out that I purchased the TV from TigerDirect, the Vizio rep told me that “TigerDirect was not an authorized Vizio dealer” and so there for I had to deal with TigerDirect on this and not Vizo despite the fact it was a Vizio TV.

So at the end of the day what all did I learning from this you might ask? Well two things, first if you have black bars on your LCD screen there is a good chance you will end up with the image retention / burn in that I run into (if  you have the black bars on the screen all the time). The second thing I learned was not to do business with TigerDirect. The fact TigerDirect wouldn’t come down on the price of the Toshiba 40SL412U after the shit I went through with the two defective Vizio’s blows my mind. It makes me laugh how stores will go out their way to try and get more customers but yet on the same hand once you are a customer they’re not willing to make sure you continue to be “valued customer” by making sure that your looked after. If TigerDirect would have dropped the $89.99 off the Toshiba 40SL412U I would have left the store satisfied. I spent a lot of time and money traveling back and forth with these defective TV’s and yet when TigerDirect has to spend some money to make it right with a customer that doesn’t happen.

Update June 6 2011

Well it only took two days from the time this article was published on the web site until I got a response from System Max the Parent company of TigerDirect. It seems one of the product managers there had read this article and wanted to make it up to me for having such a bad time with TigerDirect / Vizio on the exchange of the defective Vizio VA370M Tv’s.

Since the product manager wanted to make it up to me, he was going to send me a sound bar which is an external speaker for the TV that also comes with its own sub woofer. What didn’t impress me about what he was offering me was the fact the sound bar was made by Vizio and even worse it was another refurbished product that I would end up getting since that’s all they had on the TigerDirect Web store. The cost of this sound bar was $169.97 Canadian

After a few e-mails between us, and me asking him why it takes an article on a web site like mine to get their attention he then changed his mind and decided he would refund me the entire $150.00 I had spent to make up the difference for the second Toshiba I ended up getting instead of sending me the Vizio sound bar. Before he refunded me the $150.00 he had a chat with some of his colleagues and at this point they come to the conclusion that I have my “Facts” wrong. After they come to this conclusion the product manager I was dealing with said he wouldn’t be able to refund the $150.00 at all.

So to make this clear, now I won’t be getting the Vizio sound bar or getting the $150.00 refunded.

What amazes me to no end here is the fact that TigerDirect seems to think they done me a favour by first putting the TV on sale to drop it down to $699.99 and then the retail store I was at had yet another sale that dropped the price down to $649.99. TigerDirect tries to make it sound like they did me a favour when in fact these sales were planned long before I even showed up with the first Vizio TV.  So when it comes right down to it in terms of doing something for me alone (and not just anyone who walks in the store) like dropping another $89.99 off the price of the second Toshiba for the hassle I had to put up with for the Vizio’s they wouldn’t budge on that and that’s the FACTS.

I have since sent the product manager from System Max e-mail disputing his claim that my “FACTS” are wrong and surprise, surprise, I haven’t heard anything back as of yet, not that I really expect to hear back from him.

There is one thing I do need to change about the above article and that is, TigerDirect is an Authorized Vizio Dealer in the U.S but not in Canada. This was brought to my attention after I had published this article and no one in the e-mails I had mentioned this fact before I published the article. The fact TigerDirect is an Authorized Dealer in the U.S has no bearing on me since I was dealing with a product that was purchased from the store in Burlington which is located in Canada.

My position that I will not purchase another Vizio Product or deal with TigerDirect again still stands. If I need any electronics / computer parts in the future I will be sticking with or