Showing posts from May, 2021

Vizio E261VA review: input lag, deinterlacing and upscaling using the piLagTesterPRO

This 720p TV from 2012 offers bob deinterlacing as a togglable option for better than average 480i performance, and it's 480i/p upscaling is excellent, but otherwise it's not a great TV.

Image quality

Good upscaling is critical for retro gaming. Ideally, all pixels should appear equally sharp and bright (no aliasing), and angled lines should appear smooth, with no jagged, irregular steps. Also important is that the display shows most or all of the pixels it is sent. Often, this is not the case, with some number of pixels cropped from the bottom or top edges. Shockingly, these tests are relevant for modern gaming as well, because even at their native resolution many TVs have aliasing and cropping.

I attempted to adjust the set to minimize cropping and aliasing, and these were the best results.

resolution aliasing cropping (side, top)
480p/i very little 20, 15
720p some 30,20
960p very little none
1360x768 zero none

480i/p is upscaled very nicely, with just a little aliasing. 960p is also upscaled quite well with even a little less aliasing. And at the panel native resolution, 1360x768, every pixel is shown perfectly. 720p is actually the worst, with more aliasing and cropping than any other mode, though it's very usable.

The display has 2 HDMI, VGA, and 1 yPbPr input. I only tested HDMI.

Input Lag

I used a piLagTesterPRO to measure input lag. This device sends a frame of video over HDMI and measures how long it takes to display it. This display does not have a game mode; just a game 'color' preset that does not impact lag at all. It does have a separate "fast response mode" which seems to reduce total lag by about 3ms, and also enables bob deinterlacing  I toggled all other display quality settings and did not see a consistent effect on lag, however the tests reported are with every "enhancement" set to off, in game mode, with fast response enabled.

It's maximum refresh rate for TV modes is 60hz; if you switch it to computer modes it can accept a 75hz signal at sub-native resolutions. This does not improve lag, however, as the TV continues to draw at 60hz, and just drops all the extra frames.

Input Lag Test Results

I report two kinds of values. 1st response measures how long it takes for the TV to start responding (I use a 5% change in display brightness). This overly optimistic value doesn't tell how long it takes to see anything useful, but matches what other reviewers call input lag. full response is a more realistic measure of lag, and requires the display to reach 80% of full brightness. This combines both input lag and response time, and is closer to what you would actually experience in a game.

Resolution1st (average)full response1st responsefull responsescan out

This TV's response is very consistent across modes, with the 1st response at about 20ms, even in 480i. This is because the TV uses bob deinterlacing (at least when you enable "fast response" in the menus. Not everybody loves the flicker that bob deinterlacing causes, but I find that I quickly stop noticing it, and it's great that you can get this very fast mode without having to buy an expensive OSSC.  The only remaining reason to use an OSSC with this set is if you want scan lines, which can make 480i content look a little sharper.

Interestingly the results for 1360x768, the native resolution of the panel, are not particularly faster than any other resolution. Apparently upscaling is a free image transformation by this era of TV hardware.

Unfortunately, this TV has a serious problem with it's response time. Every pixel change comes in  two steps; first the TV goes half the distance to the final value pretty quickly (about 12ms) and then it repeats this process again after a short pause. Thus the total response time is about 25ms-30ms, and there's more than the average amount of visible ghosting behind moving objects. This design choice might allow them to claim an extra fast response time (their manual says 5ms!) because it does start responding very quickly. But since the full response is both slow, and oddly multi-step, the overall effect is poor. It's a real shame since the fast deinterlacing and the great upscaling would otherwise make this an excellent retro TV.

Results compared to other displays

To allow quick comparison between many displays I've summarized the results across all the displays I've personally tested with the piLagTester Pro. Min lag is the time to the first response, measured where the screen starts drawing (typically, the top); real lag is the time to the full response, measured where drawing finishes (usually the screen bottom), i.e. input lag + scan out + response time. Numbers in red denote average values that can vary by up to 8ms between power cycles.

This list is sorted by each display's 480i real lag, to give this TV its best chance to shine:

DisplayYear made (TV?)Native Resnative min lagnative real lag480i real lag480p real lag720p real lag1080p real lagnative response timenative scan out
Panasonic TH-58PE75U2008720p28.
Panasonic TH-42PX75U2008720p28.
Dell E2211H20141080p3.033.634.734.534.133.815.0015.57
Corprit D157 (hdmi)20211080p3.134.534.934.834.633.916.2515.13
AOC/Envision G19LWK2010900p3.131.239.538.738.437.815.5012.60
sony XBR 43X800D20174k24.544.346.546.044.644.75.0014.83
LG 42LC2D2006720p28.350.654.650.850.46.3015.95
TCL 40S32520211080p6.527.360.629.027.927.76.0014.83
Vizio E261VA2012720p19.359.061.160.459.258.925.0014.67
Samsung LN32B3602010720p37.660.062.161.860.560.18.0014.40
Dell U2410 (game)20101080p4.
Dell U2410 (sRGB)20101080p20.542.862.445.
ACER AT326520121080p19.543.862.745.343.843.88.0016.27
RCA L40FHD4120101080p20.346.665.
Sony 40VL130 (game)20081080p22.847.366.349.047.347.39.0815.43
Toshiba 40L2200U20141080p30.
Polaroid FLM-373B2007720p28.
Samsung LN46B61020121080p53.
Vizio VO370M20101080p2.523.683.
Sharp LC-C3234U2009720p33.064.683.666.664.615.0016.60
Philips 42PFL3603D/F720091080p29.
Sony KDL-46EX40020101080p28.
Toshiba 46L5200U20131080p55.
Sony 40S20L12007720p48.472.090.172.973.49.6014.00
Samsung LN46C63020121080p54.572.190.790.388.572.310.007.63
Vizio VO22L FHDTV10A2008720p28.
Samsung HP-T425420111080p69.775.794.
Vizio VX20L HDTV2007720p28.
GPX TDE3245W2016720p28.051.0102.
SANYO DP507492010720p67.075.0103.
Emprex HD 32022007720p27.050.5126.
Vizio E470VL (hdmi)20111080p69.086.0128.
LG 47LW6500-UA20121080p66.680.7149.7149.081.780.92.2711.83

And indeed, it does pretty well by this measure. Even with its very slow response time, its low input lag and no-lag deinterlacing means that it's near the top of my list, with only 5 TVs and several computer monitors doing better. And recall that it does a very good job of upscaling 480i. Even with the poor response time, this is a decent TV for retro gaming.

But even though its ranking is high, the next 10 sets on the list are only 1-5ms slower, and all have a much better response time, which means that motion would look smoother. So I'd choose one of those over this one, especially if I wanted to play any non 480i content where the fast deinterlacing advantage disappears.

Other models

I tested the E261VA, which is the 26" version. There appears to be two other versions: based similarities in their names, and a shared manual, I suspect that the E221VA and E191VA would perform similarly, just with smaller pixels. However, I've made no efforts to check if their specs exactly match the E261VAso that's only a quick guess. Indeed, the E221VA is actually a 1080p display which hints at some internal differences - though this set shows no sign of slowing down with up scaling (or downscaling).

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