Home > Ultrabook Reviews and Notebook Reviews > Vizio CT14
What's hot: Very good display, Microsoft Signature clean OS install.
What's not: Trackpad, slow SSD, no WiDi.
Reviewed August 7, 2012 by Lisa Gade, Editor
in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)
Vizio, they make HD TVs, right? No, wait--they make Android tablets too (remember the Vizio 8" Android Tablet?). And drum roll: enter Vizio computers. All in One models and notebooks that fall into two categories, the Ultrabook-ish "Thin and Light" line of 14" and 15.6" notebooks and a full size 15.6" laptop. Their new notebooks are slim with an unabashed Samsung Series 9 side profile. They have anodized aluminum casings and are nice looking pieces with Vizio's usual less than you'd expect price tag.
Today we're looking at the Vizio CT14, specifically the A0 version that's available from Walmart for $898. Though it has a 14" display rather than the usual 13.3" screen, it's pure Ultrabook. It runs on third generation Ivy Bridge Intel ULV CPUs with Intel HD4000 graphics and it has an SSD drive. It weighs 3.4 pounds and is 0.67" thin. Vizio claims up to 7 hours of battery life, and like most Ultrabooks, the battery is sealed inside.
The Vizio CT14-A0 runs on a 1.8GHz Intel Core i3-3217U with 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM and a 128 gig SSD drive. The CT14-A1 has a Core i5 ULV with 128 gig SSD and the CT14-A2 has a 1.9GHz Core i7 and a 256 gig SSD. RAM is soldered onto the motherboard, so 4 gigs is the maximum. The machine has two USB 3.0 ports, a full size HDMI port and a headphone jack. It has no SD card slot and no wired Ethernet. The Vizio CT14 and CT15 have Atheros WiFi and Bluetooth, and that means no Intel WiDi (WiDi requires Intel wireless).
Vizio has done surprisingly well with their first attempt at making personal computers. The 14" Thin + Light is cleanly designed and well put together. Despite the elegant materials, the design is a bit plain other than the embarrassingly Samsung-ish sides. The basics are here in terms of ports and specs and we absolutely love that Vizio's laptops are Microsoft Signature models, which means there's absolutely no bloatware and has a very clean Windows 7 Home Premium Install with just MS Office 2010 Starter Edition and Microsoft Security Essentials pre-loaded (our pick for lightweight, free anti-virus protection).
The CT14 has an anodized aluminum keyboard deck and lid that are finished in matte gray. It's a little battleship dull, but it in no way looks cheap. The bottom has a comfy black rubberized finish over aluminum and the sides are strongly tapered except the port areas which are straight. There's a USB 3.0 port on each side and the charger and headphone ports are on the left. The full size HDMI port is on the right.
The 1.5 watt stereo speakers fire from the top grille and they're decent but not impressive in terms of fullness and volume. The machine's surface temperatures (bottom and keyboard) remain comfortable even when the CPU is working hard. Temperatures were in the 80's to 96F at the hottest point on the bottom.
The real show stealer is the 1600 x 900 gloss IPS display. Most Ultrabooks have mediocre TN panels with limited viewing angles and contrast that's miserable if you don't angle the display just right. Vizio certainly knows how to make display panels, and the CT14's display is a big step up in quality and resolution from other Ultrabooks. The only Ultrabooks that compete are the Asus Zenbook Prime series (1080p IPS) and the 13" Samsung Series 9 (1600 x 900 PLS). Lenovo will soon release the X1 Carbon with a 1600 x 900 IPS display, but that notebook is much more expensive ($1,399-$1,849).
Though the Vizio CT14's display is one of the best among Ultrabooks (that isn't so hard), it's not as good as Asus's Zenbook Prime models when it comes to contrast, brightness and black levels. The Vizio is quite bright, but not insanely bright like the Zenbook Prime UX31A, and the Vizio's blacks aren't as rich. We noted the difference in contrast when viewing documents and web pages that use dark gray rather than black text: the text was easier to read on the Zenbook and it stood out more from light backgrounds. While the Prime line is prone to some light bleed along the bottom edge, the Vizio has only the slightest bit (you probably wouldn't notice it). Viewing angles are near 180 degrees on the Vizio CT14, and overall we give it a big thumb's up.