2018-vizio-p-series-quantum-angled

Vizio

Sony, LG, Samsung and even TCL are now putting one of my favorite picture-enhancing technologies — full array local dimming — into their highest-end LCD TVs. But nobody does local dimming like Vizio.

The company’s onslaught of 2018 TVs, spread across five series and 19 models announced today, includes a whopping 13 with full array local dimming. No other manufacturer has more than 6 FALD TVs in its 2018 lineup, and for the most part they’re a lot more expensive than these Vizios.

Full-array local dimming allows a TV to brighten and dim different areas of the screen independently, which greatly improves contrast. It’s crucial to better high dynamic range (HDR) images on LCD TVs, and HDR provides the best in-home video quality available today. In CNET’s previous tests Vizio sets performed extremely well, especially for the money, and the 2018 versions look like similarly strong values.

While many of its budget sets can also do local dimming, Vizio reserves its best image quality features for the mainstream-priced M- and P-series. It also introduced a new flagship TV in just one size, the 65-inch P-series Quantum. Here’s how they break down.

Vizio P- and M- series models and prices

Series Size Model Price
P-series Quantum 65-inch PQ65-F1 $2,200
P-series 75-inch P75-F1 $2,500
P-series 65-inch P65-F1 $1,300
P-series 55-inch P55-F1 $900
M-series 70-inch M70-F3 $1,500
M-series 65-inch M65-F0 $1,000
M-series 55-inch M55-F0 $700

Vizio 2018 P- and M-series picture-enhancing features

Series Nits (peak) Dimming zones Refresh rate Color
P-series Quantum 2,000 192 120Hz Quantum Dot
P-series 1,000 120 120Hz Ultra Color Spectrum
M-series 600 48 60Hz standard

Quantum leap

Judging from its specifications, the P-series Quantum should deliver the best image quality of any Vizio TV to date. I doubt it can beat OLED TVs from LG and Sony, but they’re a lot more expensive.

The company claims a searing 2,000 nits of peak brightness, which, if true, would make it the brightest TV we’ve ever measured. Equally important to video quality buffs is its prodigious number of local dimming zones, which should allow it to minimize blooming and maximize local contrast. Finally, its quantum dots likely achieve a wider color gamut, which has been a relative weakness of past Vizio sets we’ve reviewed.

The standard M- and P-series look very similar to last year’s versions, and that’s not a bad thing. Our favorite TV for the money in 2017 was the M-series, and while the 2018 version has more zones (48 vs. 32), I don’t expect that to create a massive difference in picture quality. I measured a peak of more than 800 nits last year, substantially higher than the peak claimed for 2018, but not as bright as the 2018 P series. Just like in past years, they’re all compatible with both Dolby Vision and HDR10 high dynamic range.

Vizio also detailed its step-down E- and D-series sets. The E-series is also FALD-equipped, with up to 16 zones, and unlike the 2017 E series it’s also compatible with Dolby Vision HDR. The entry-level D-series, meanwhile, loses local dimming and Dolby Vision, but can work with HDR10.

2018-vizio-smartcast-tv-jumanji-04082018-v1-3000

We didn’t love Vizio’s SmartCast system last year. Hopefully the 2018 version is an improvement.


Vizio

Welcome back, TV tuner. Howdy, YouTube TV.

Vizio has addressed another glaring omission in past TVs: all of its 2018 sets include a built-in TV tuner, just like those of competitors. Now I can finally go back to calling them “TVs” instead of “tuner-free displays.” (Just kidding, I always called them TVs anyway.) The tuner has real value to people who don’t subscribe to cable or satellite TV.

Another weakness last year was Vizio’s SmartCast suite of smart TV extras, but Vizio again claims some improvements. You still have to use your phone to Cast most apps to the TV, but on-screen options at least include a new universal search. The TVs also work with both Alexa and Google Assistant, the latter allowing users to stream content to the TV with voice controls. Vizio says an app for YouTube TV is coming soon, along with another, unnamed new streaming service aimed at cord cutters. We’ll provide more details when we have them.

Vizio says owners of 2016 and 2017 SmartCast TVs will get the 2018 software soon via a free upgrade, a nice perk that’s uncommon in the TV industry (with the notable exception of Roku TVs, which also enjoy constant updates).

Tough competition

The M- and E-series received good marks from CNET last year, but even with the picture quality improvements and affordable price points of 2018, it faces a couple of stiff challenges. 

The TCL 6 series looks like the M-series’ main nemesis, with more dimming zones and the awesomeness of Roku’s cord-cutting prowess for a similar price. Meanwhile Sony’s X900F costs a bit less than the P-series Quantum at 65-inches, and comes in both larger and smaller sizes to provide a credible step-up to the standard P series. Somewhat more expensive is Samsung’s cheapest FALD TV, the Q8, but it could also appeal to Vizio-averse video quality fans who don’t want to step up to an OLED.

All of Vizio’s new TVs are available today at its web site and in the coming weeks at other retailers. We’re looking forward to testing these sets and more as they become available. We’ll also be updating our coverage of Vizio’s new TVs as we learn more. Stay tuned.



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