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Vizio CT14-A0 Notebook Review

A good first step. The TV maker makes a good first effort in its foray into the notebook market. Find out what we liked and didn't like about this early Ultrabook from the fast-growing electronics company.

Vizio entered the laptop world in 2012 with its 14-inch and 15-inch CT models that didn't quite shakeup the laptop industry as the company did to the TV industry years prior. Since then, the California-based electronics manufacturer has been quiet about any new updates, hardware, or configurations. It's quite unlikely that Vizio will relaunch a new series due to the poor sales performance of its first CT models.

The model in review today is the CT14-A0, which is one of the very first to come from Vizio. We'll take a closer look at what worked and what didn't in our short overview of the model and series in general.

Vizio CT14-A0
Graphics adapter
Intel HD Graphics 4000, Core: 350 MHz, Memory: 667 MHz, 10.18.10.3958
Memory
4096 MB 
, DDR3 SDRAM, PC3-10600
Display
14 inch 16:9, 1600 x 900 pixel, LG Philips LGD0366, ID: LGD0366, TN LED, glossy: yes
Mainboard
Intel HM67
Storage
Toshiba THNSNW128GMCP, 128 GB 
Soundcard
Intel Panther Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
2 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 HDMI, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm headphone
Networking
Atheros AR5BWB222 Wireless Network Adapter (b/g/n), Bluetooth Yes
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 17 x 337.8 x 233.7 ( = 0.67 x 13.3 x 9.2 in)
Battery
51 Wh Lithium-Polymer
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: 1.3 MP, 720p
Additional features
Speakers: 1.5 W stereo, Keyboard: Beveled, Keyboard Light: no, Quick Start Guide, 12 Months Warranty
Weight
1.54 kg ( = 54.32 oz / 3.4 pounds), Power Supply: 410 g ( = 14.46 oz / 0.9 pounds)
Price
530 Euro
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Case

The CT14 utilizes a unibody anodized aluminum design that looks very good even when up against more recent Ultrabooks. Corners and edges are sharp and distinct and surfaces are smooth to the touch. Fingerprints do not accumulate or show very easily on the aluminum surfaces. The belly of the notebook is aluminum as well, but its surface includes a rubberized layer that attracts dust and grease quite easily. It's not all metal, however, as the inner display bezel has a hard plastic feel. 

Case quality is good considering this is Vizio's first shot at a notebook. The base and lid are quite rigid with no major weak areas to speak of. Pushing down on the outer lid only produces a very slight depression, though applying that same pressure on the center of the keyboard causes a more noticeable depression, so improvements could still be made. The single bar hinge is taut up to its 135 degree angle and the lid shows better than average resistance to twisting.

Compared to many other 14-inch notebooks, the CT14 is both smaller and thinner. Whereas most other notebooks in our comparison below are 2 kg or heavier, the Vizio is much closer to 1.5 kg. Its thickness of 17 mm is also even thinner than the Dell Inspiron 14. Definitely not a bad start from a company who started off selling TVs.

346 mm / 13.6 inch 244.5 mm / 9.63 inch 28.6 mm / 1.126 inch 2.1 kg4.55 lbs348 mm / 13.7 inch 242 mm / 9.53 inch 22 mm / 0.866 inch 2.2 kg4.85 lbs343 mm / 13.5 inch 255 mm / 10 inch 22.4 mm / 0.882 inch 1.9 kg4.27 lbs331 mm / 13 inch 226 mm / 8.9 inch 34 mm / 1.339 inch 1.8 kg3.92 lbs345 mm / 13.6 inch 240 mm / 9.45 inch 16.1 mm / 0.634 inch 1.7 kg3.75 lbs337.8 mm / 13.3 inch 233.7 mm / 9.2 inch 17 mm / 0.669 inch 1.5 kg3.4 lbs

Connectivity

Available ports include two USB 3.0 ports and a full-size HDMI port, all of which are standard and expected from Ultrabooks. What is overtly missing, however, is a card reader. Users will need to rely on dongles for commonly used features like SD cards and Ethernet.

Front: No connectivity
Front: No connectivity
Right: HDMI-out, USB 3.0
Right: HDMI-out, USB 3.0
Rear: No connectivity
Rear: No connectivity
Left: AC adapter, USB 3.0, 3.5 mm audio
Left: AC adapter, USB 3.0, 3.5 mm audio

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Communication

The Atheros AR5BWB222 half-mini PCIe card provides 802.11n and Bluetooth connectivity. Transfer rates of up to 300 mbps are supported and we experienced no issues connecting to a standard home network. There is no built-in support for WWAN or GPS.

Accessories

There are no dedicated extras for the CT14. Vizio offers HDMI cables at most with no sleeves, mice, or even dongles to make up for the missing SD reader and Ethernet port.

Maintenance

The panel underneath pops out easily after removing a set of 7 small Torx screws. Expandability options are low, however, as there are no addition storage slots and RAM is soldered directly onto the board.

Warranty

The standard one-year warranty applies for new purchases or 90 days for refurbished purchases. Vizio also offers a zero dead pixel policy that applies for both its TVs and PCs.

Easily accessible internals
Easily accessible internals

Input Devices

Keyboard

The beveled keyboard is adequately sized (29 x 10.5 cm), but its keys have horrible feedback and very shallow travel. The keys feel soft and almost uncomfortable to type on, so it will likely take some time for the user to become accustomed to. The bright side is that clatter and noise are very low as a result of the light feedback. 

Two of the four Arrow keys are reduced in size as is common on smaller notebooks. This makes feedback even worse and more difficult to use. The Lenovo Flex 2 14 avoids this problem by having four full-size Arrow keys.

Touchpad

The touchpad feels a bit more comfortable to use than the keyboard, though not by much. It suffers from the same shallow travel with soft feedback. Tapping the pad to enter a mouse click results in a very annoying lag time where it takes a split second before the action appears onscreen when it should be immediate. Otherwise, both scrolling and glide are smooth with no cursor issues. Its size (10 x 6 cm) is adequate and multi-touch gestures are supported via the Sentelic software.

Keys provide very poor travel and feedback
Keys provide very poor travel and feedback

Display

Vizio made its name by selling great screens at affordable prices, so it's unsurprising that the display here is very good considering the price. The glossy 900p screen is crisp with no noise or grains and has an excellent contrast of about 1000:1. A slight screen-door effect is noticeable if looking up-close, though this may be attributed to the sub-1080p resolution. Especially compared to budget 1366 x 768 displays, the Vizio here offers a cleaner look.

Brightness is also above average at 300 nits. This is much brighter than competing 14-inch models like the Lenovo Z40 or Dell Inspiron 14. The strong backlight helps in overcoming the super glossy screen as much as possible.

306.4
cd/m²
328.2
cd/m²
309.8
cd/m²
324.9
cd/m²
332.7
cd/m²
291.6
cd/m²
299.7
cd/m²
308.4
cd/m²
262.1
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro Basic 2
Maximum: 332.7 cd/m² Average: 307.1 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 79 %
Center on Battery: 332.7 cd/m²
Contrast: 1002:1 (Black: 0.332 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 9.14 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.2
ΔE Greyscale 10.03 | 0.64-98 Ø6.4
62.9% sRGB (Argyll 3D) 39.9% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 2.3
Vizio CT14-A0Lenovo IdeaPad Z40-59422614Asus VivoBook S451LB-CA072HLenovo Flex 2 14Dell Inspiron 14-7437
Screen
-28%
8%
12%
-16%
Brightness middle
332.7
239.9
-28%
208
-37%
216
-35%
197
-41%
Brightness
307
225
-27%
197
-36%
215
-30%
190
-38%
Brightness Distribution
79
87
10%
91
15%
88
11%
82
4%
Black Level *
0.332
0.676
-104%
0.25
25%
0.21
37%
0.28
16%
Contrast
1002
355
-65%
832
-17%
1029
3%
704
-30%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
9.14
9.47
-4%
4.11
55%
4.56
50%
10.51
-15%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
10.03
10.04
-0%
4.05
60%
3.51
65%
11.46
-14%
Gamma
2.3 96%
2.01 109%
2.31 95%
2.53 87%
2.32 95%
CCT
11558 56%
12000 54%
6968 93%
6401 102%
7116 91%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
39.9
37.7
-6%
38
-5%
37
-7%
37.6
-6%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
62.9

* ... smaller is better

Color coverage is about 40 percent and 63 percent of AdobeRGB and sRGB, respectively. These values are typical of budget-mainstream notebooks and comparable to models like the Lenovo Flex 2 and Asus Vivobooks.

vs. sRGB
vs. sRGB
vs. AdobeRGB
vs. AdobeRGB
vs. Asus S451
vs. Asus S451
vs. Lenovo Flex 2 14
vs. Lenovo Flex 2 14

Further color analyses with a spectrophotometer reveal inaccurate colors and grayscale out-of-the-box. The Lenovo Flex 2 and Asus Vivobook S451 both ship with more accurate displays in comparison. A quick calibration will improve grayscale and colors dramatically on the Vizio. Otherwise, color temperature is overly cool by default. Colors will still become relatively more inaccurate at higher saturation levels since sRGB coverage is limited.

Grayscale pre-calibration
Grayscale pre-calibration
Saturation Sweeps pre-calibration
Saturation Sweeps pre-calibration
ColorChecker pre-calibration
ColorChecker pre-calibration
Grayscale post calibration
Grayscale post calibration
Saturation Sweeps post calibration
Saturation Sweeps post calibration
ColorChecker post calibration
ColorChecker post calibration

Outdoor usability is limited despite the high brightness due to the very glossy screen. Texts and images become quickly washed out on an overcast day and users will be constantly adjusting the display to reduce glare and for the best viewing angle.

Viewing angles are again limited because of the TN panel. This is largely a non-issue for the sole user looking straight at the screen. Competing convertibles and detachables are more likely to carry IPS panels in order to accommodate their multiple viewing modes.

Backlight not powerful enough for comfortable use outdoors
Backlight not powerful enough for comfortable use outdoors
Viewing angles limited by TN panel
Viewing angles limited by TN panel

Performance

A lowly Core i3-3217U powers the CT14-A0, though higher options are available on A1, A2, A3, and A4 configurations. This ULV Ivy Bridge CPU runs stable at 1.8 GHz with no Turbo Boost and includes the integrated HD 4000 GPU. More technical specifications and benchmarks on this dual-core processor can be found on our dedicated CPU page here.

System RAM is provided by on-board Elpida modules for a total of 4 GB. As previously mentioned, there is no room for expansion. LatencyMon shows no latency spikes when wireless radios are active.

Processor

Synthetic CPU benchmarks like CineBench place the Vizio alongside other notebooks sporting the same i3-3217U processor, such as the IdeaPad U510 and Aspire E1-470P. General performance is similar to middle-class processors from the Core 2 Duo generation, such as the Core 2 Duo T9550, while drawing half the TDP (35 W vs. 17 W) and two-thirds of the core clock (2600 MHz vs. 1800 MHz). Thus, the Core i3 here excels greatly in performance-per-watt rather than raw performance.

When compared to AMD processors, the i3-3217U is most similar to the A6-5200 and A8-6410 in multi-tasking performance.

CineBench R10 64-bit
CineBench R10 64-bit
CineBench R11.5 64-bit
CineBench R11.5 64-bit
CineBench R15 64-bit
CineBench R15 64-bit
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
4104 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
6972 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
3197 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
3422
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
5573
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
2530
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
13.86 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
1.81 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
0.75 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
144 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
62 Points
Help

System Performance

The Core i3 CPU and its integrated graphics may not be the fastest around, but the primary SSD helps the Vizio excel in everyday tasks like browsing, word processing, and other less intensive applications. PCMark 7 puts the notebook alongside models like the ThinkPad T420s and Dell Inspiron 15R. Subjectively, navigation is quick, mostly lag-free, and almost instantaneous. 

PCMark 7
PCMark 7
PCMark 8 Home Accelerated
PCMark 8 Home Accelerated
PCMark 8 Creative Accelerated
PCMark 8 Creative Accelerated
PCMark 8 Work Accelerated
PCMark 8 Work Accelerated
PCMark 7 Score
3313 points
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
2016 points
PCMark 8 Creative Score Accelerated v2
1703 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
2892 points
Help

Storage Devices

The sole mSATA slot is limited to SATA II speeds, so CrystalDiskMark records a transfer rate of just up to ~250 MB/s at the best of conditions. This is compared to most SATA III SSDs where sequential transfer rates can be as high as 500 MB/s. To see how the Toshiba THNSNW128GMCP SSD performs against other drives, see our comparison table here.

No secondary storage options are available as is common on most Ultrabooks.

CrystalDiskMark
CrystalDiskMark
AS SSD
AS SSD
PCMark 8 Storage
PCMark 8 Storage
Toshiba THNSNW128GMCP
Transfer Rate Minimum: 157.2 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 187.7 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 183.9 MB/s
Access Time: 0.1 ms
Burst Rate: 79.1 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

GPU Performance

The integrated HD 4000 GPU is included with most Ivy Bridge CPUs and is generally on par with the older Nvidia GT 330M. Its 3DMark 11 score of 631 points is similar to other older notebooks sporting the same GPU, such as the Dell XPS 18 and Acer Aspire M3-481.

Gaming performance is limited to the lowest settings on almost all titles. Newer and more demanding titles like Advanced Warfare or Assassin's Creed Unity will not run properly on this notebook or will run at unplayable frame rates at best.

More technical information and benchmarks on the HD 4000 can be found on our dedicated GPU page here.

3DMark 11
3DMark 11
3DMark Ice Storm
3DMark Ice Storm
3DMark Cloud Gate
3DMark Cloud Gate
3DMark Fire Strike
3DMark Fire Strike
3DMark 11 Performance
631 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
29368 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
3354 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
466 points
Help

Stress Test

We use synthetic stress benchmarks to identify any throttling or stability issues on the Vizio CT14. With just Prime95 active to stress the CPU, the i3-3217U runs at a constant 1.8 GHz and plateaus at a cool ~65 C. With just FurMark active to stress the GPU, the HD 4000 runs at a constant 900 MHz with a core temperature reaching above 80 C. Full stress with both Prime95 and FurMark will cause the GPU speed to drop further to just its base 350 MHz after a few minutes. The CPU remains steady at its base 1.8 GHz clock rate, though core temperature plateaus at a much higher ~85 C under these conditions.

While the GPU throttles when under such extreme stress levels, it performs much more consistently under real-world gaming conditions. The HD 4000 runs in the 950 to 1050 MHz range when Unigine Heaven is active and core temperature plateaus at a cooler ~75 C to 80 C. Running on battery power will not reduce CPU or GPU performance.

Prime95 stress
Prime95 stress
FurMark stress
FurMark stress
Maximum stress
Maximum stress

Emissions

System Noise

40 mm system fan
40 mm system fan

The CT14 utilizes a single small fan and heat pipe for the CPU. The system is silent under low loads at around 30 dB(A), but the fan will become audible after a short few minutes of use to around 33 dB(A). It infrequently pulsates between 30 and 33 dB(A), which can still be irksome when watching movies.

Higher synthetic processing loads will steadily bump fan noise up to 41 dB(A), which is a common maximum for Ultrabooks. This maximum is uncommon during everyday tasks, however, so most users will only experience a range of 36 to 38 dB(A) at worst when gaming. More intensive GPU loads appear to initiate higher fan noise more quickly compared to more intensive CPU loads.

Noise Level

Idle
30.6 / 30.7 / 33.3 dB(A)
Load
36.3 / 41.1 dB(A)
  red to green bar
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   BK Precision 732A (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Surface temperature when idling are cool towards the front of the notebook, but it is already quite warm around the rear by up to a 5 degrees difference. When under very high loads, we can see that the surfaces directly above and below the heat pipe experience the highest change in temperature. The front areas and keyboard remain relatively cooler in comparison, but using a flat desk is recommended to avoid the very warm bottom if running more demanding applications.

Max. Load
 52.8 °C
127 F
50 °C
122 F
37.2 °C
99 F
 
 36 °C
97 F
34.4 °C
94 F
29.6 °C
85 F
 
 33 °C
91 F
31.2 °C
88 F
29.8 °C
86 F
 
Maximum: 52.8 °C = 127 F
Average: 37.1 °C = 99 F
38.8 °C
102 F
48.6 °C
119 F
50.6 °C
123 F
35.6 °C
96 F
38 °C
100 F
40.4 °C
105 F
31.8 °C
89 F
32.8 °C
91 F
35.2 °C
95 F
Maximum: 50.6 °C = 123 F
Average: 39.1 °C = 102 F
Power Supply (max.)  36.8 °C = 98 F | Room Temperature 21 °C = 70 F | Fluke 62 Mini IR Thermometer
(±) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 37.1 °C / 99 F, compared to the average of 30.7 °C / 87 F for the devices in the class Subnotebook.
(-) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 52.8 °C / 127 F, compared to the average of 35.8 °C / 96 F, ranging from 22 to 57 °C for the class Subnotebook.
(-) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 50.6 °C / 123 F, compared to the average of 40.2 °C / 104 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 29.7 °C / 85 F, compared to the device average of 30.7 °C / 87 F.
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are reaching skin temperature as a maximum (33 °C / 91.4 F) and are therefore not hot.
(-) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 28.6 °C / 83.5 F (-4.4 °C / -7.9 F).

Speakers

The stereo 1.5 Watt speakers provide muffled sounds. Bass is severely lacking, so listening to music is a below average experience. Maximum volume is reasonably loud with enough power to fill a small conference room. However, external 3.5 mm speakers or earphones are highly recommended for movies and music.

Battery Life

The integrated 51 Wh Li-Ion polymer battery is advertised to provide a 7-hour runtime. While the notebook can certainly achieve this, the conditions required must be at minimum brightness with wireless radios disabled and very low processing loads. Instead, users can expect 3.5 hours of constant use under our more realistic WLAN stress conditions, which loops a browser script on a screen brightness of 150 nits (setting 4/10).

Total runtimes are just about average compared to other 14-inch notebooks, if not a little below. We expected a bit longer from the relatively large battery capacity of the Vizio.

Minimum runtime (Classic Test)
Minimum runtime (Classic Test)
Maximum runtime (Reader's Test)
Maximum runtime (Reader's Test)
WLAN runtime
WLAN runtime
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
6h 26min
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3
3h 30min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 42min
Vizio CT14-A0
51 Wh
Lenovo IdeaPad Z40-59422614
41 Wh
Asus VivoBook S451LB-CA072H
46 Wh
Lenovo Flex 2 14
32 Wh
Dell Inspiron 14-7437
58 Wh
Battery Runtime
10%
29%
-9%
33%
Reader / Idle
386
489
27%
484
25%
465
20%
563
46%
WiFi v1.3
210
Load
102
94
-8%
135
32%
63
-38%
121
19%
WiFi
374
325
342
389

Pros

+ Attractive design
+ Relatively strong aluminum chassis
+ Thin and lightweight
+ Primary solid-state drive
+ Easy accessibility
+ Good screen quality
+ Relatively inexpensive

Cons

- Very poor keyboard
- Average touchpad
- Non-removable battery
- Almost no expandability options
- High surface temperatures
- No card reader or Gigabit Ethernet
- No keyboard backlight

Verdict

In Review: Vizio CT14-A0.
In Review: Vizio CT14-A0.

Vizio's first and so far only series of notebooks is a good first effort. The manufacturer gets many of the basics right, including a bright glossy display, an attractive and rigid chassis, and easy maintenance. Such features are becoming more uncommon on Ultrabooks, let alone on a budget offering. We certainly commend Vizio for hitting these marks on its first try.

The most glaring issues don't become obvious until users begin using the notebook. The keyboard is awful in terms of feedback and comfort. Travel is shallow and the keys feel soft. There is annoyingly no card reader, which will inevitably anger owners.

In the end, the CT models don't stand out in neither price or quality. Vizio's lack of experience in this sector is obvious when pit against the likes of Acer, Asus, or Samsung. The manufacturer has yet to announce a series refresh, so it remains to be seen if Vizio will ever return to the notebook market.

Vizio's lack of experience in this sector is obvious when pit against the likes of Acer, Asus, or Samsung.

Vizio CT14-A0 - 06/16/2015 v4(old)
Allen Ngo

Chassis
78 /  98 → 80%
Keyboard
50%
Pointing Device
60%
Connectivity
45 / 80 → 56%
Weight
70 / 35-78 → 81%
Battery
82%
Display
76%
Games Performance
55 / 68 → 81%
Application Performance
75 / 87 → 86%
Temperature
80 / 91 → 88%
Noise
86%
Audio
65 / 91 → 71%
Average
69%
74%
Subnotebook - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Vizio CT14-A0 Notebook Review
Allen Ngo, 2015-06-17 (Update: 2015-06-17)
Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - US Editor in Chief
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.