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Vizio CT14

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What's hot: Very good display, Microsoft Signature clean OS install.

What's not: Trackpad, slow SSD, no WiDi.


Reviewed August 7, 2012 by , 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.

Vizio CT14

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 CT14

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).

Vizio CT14

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.


Deals and Shopping:


Vizio CT14 Thin + Light Video Review


The Vizio CT14 and CT15 run on ULV (ultra low voltage) Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs. As noted, we have the Core i3 model, but you can get it with Core i5 and i7 CPUs. The Core i3 runs at 1.8GHz (clocked slightly higher than the 1.7GHz Core i5), but it lacks Turbo Boost. The CPU has 2 cores and 4 threads, just like the i5. If you don't do heavy lifting with your portable and primarily use MS Office, web browsers with multiple tabs, email, social networking and video playback, the Core i3 will do the job fine. If photo and video editing or development are part of your weekly routine, opt for the faster CPUs: you will notice the lack of Turbo Boost with the Core i3 ULV.

The machine has 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM soldered to the motherboard, and thus it's not upgradable. Vizio offers 128 and 256 gig SSDs (in what looks like standard mSATA format), and our 128 gig SSD in the base model was made by Toshiba. The SSD didn't fare impressively in our benchmark tests and is moderately faster than a conventional hard drive but slower than the SSD used in competing laptops. The SSD drive speed and Core i3 landed the Vizio CT14 a low spot in our comparison table.


PCMark Vantage:

PCMarks 6961
PCMarksMemories 4780
TV and Movies 3573
Gaming 7039
Music 8543
Communications 5244
Productivity 9918
HDD 19426

3DMark Vantage: 3042

CPU 6129, GPU 2604

Windows Experience Index:

Processor: 6.2
RAM: 5.9
Graphics (for Aero): 5.7
Gaming Graphics: 6.4
HDD: 7.5

Benchmark Comparison Table

PCMark Vantage
Vizio CT14 Think + Light 6961
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A (Core i5) 12,272
Sony Vaio T (Core i7 ULV Ivy Bridge Ultrabook) 12,120
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 (Core i5 Ivy Bridge) 8152
Sony Vaio S 13.3 (Core i5, NVidia GT640M LE) 7575
HP Folio 13 (Core i5, Sandy Bridge) 8936

Keyboard and Trackpad

Chiclet keyboards are all the rage, but Vizio didn't get the memo. They went with the now less popular design where keys are separated by only the thinnest of divides and are nearly flush with each other and the keyboard deck. That does allow for larger keys and the Vizio actually isn't that bad when typing longer documents like this review. Vizio worked on the keyboard for months and we do like the key travel and key size, but there's little tactile and auditory feedback and no backlighting. Gone are dedicated page down and up keys (holding Fn while pressing the arrow keys will move the cursor several lines at once) but we do like the symmetrical and oversized shift keys, and the big enter, left Ctrl and backspace keys. The keyboard is firm with very little play or unwanted bounce.

The decently sized Sentelic trackpad is another story. It seems Sentelic is behind nearly every trackpad we dislike. The trackpad's multi-touch behavior is hit and miss and even simple finger tracking was erratic out of the box. We visited Vizio's website and hunted down a trackpad driver update that made the trackpad livable but not stellar.

Battery Life

Like most Ultrabooks, the CT14's battery is sealed inside and takes up much of the internal space. Vizio claims up to 7 hours of battery life for the 51 Wh Lithium Ion cell. In our tests simulating everyday productivity and video playback use, the notebook lasted just under 6 hours on a charge, which is on par with other Ultrabooks.


We're impressed that Vizio's first notebook computer gets most things right the first time. The design is clean if a little plain, casing materials are good and the specs are competitive. The display is markedly better than many Ultrabooks on the market and that's important since the screen is your window to the computing experience. The clean Signature install means you won't spend hours removing speed and space-robbing bloatware. We would like to see a driver update utility pre-loaded, a better trackpad and faster SSD drives. The competition is fierce in the computer space, and a few tweaks would help Vizio establish themselves as a notebook maker worth checking out.

Price: Starting at $899 for Core i3 + 128 gig SSD, $949 for Core i5 + 128 gig SSD and $1,199 for Core i7 with 256 gig SSD.



Vizio CT14


Vizio CT14


Vizio CT14


Vizio CT14


Vizio CT14


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Display: 14", 1600 x 900 LED backlit gloss display. Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. HDMI ports.

Battery: 51 Wh Lithium Ion rechargeable, sealed inside.

Performance: Available with 3rd gen Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs. 4 gigs DDR3 1333MHz RAM soldered onto motherboard, 128 and 256 gig SSD drives.

Size: 13.3 x 9.2 x 0.67 inches. Weight: 3.39 pounds.

Camera: 1.3MP 720p webcam.

Audio: Built in stereo 1.5 watt speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard 3.5mm headphone jack. SRS Premium Sound HD.

Networking: Integrated Atheros dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0.

Software: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit. Microsoft Signature Edition (clean OS install with no bloatware).

Expansion and Ports: 2 USB 3.0 ports, 3.5mm audio jack and HDMI.



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