For an edge-lit LED-based LCD TV, the Vizio performed very well overall. It showed relatively deep blacks and accurate color, and was admirable in its ability to distinguish shadow detail--an important aspect of any TV's performance as it gives a picture depth. On the downside, I did notice some blooming and uniformity issues along with improper handling of 1080p/24 content.
While Smart Dimming provided better picture quality, it played merry hell with calibration since the TV wasn't sensitive enough to distinguish near black from actual black and would turn off completely during some measurements. The dimming also affects color in the lower parts of the spectrum and I wasn't able to get a stable RGB reading at the 20 percent level. While "MythBusters" proved that you can actually polish a you-know-what, in this case it almost wasn't worth the elbow grease. Nevertheless I persevered despite the dimming issues and the fairly insensitive two-point system, and the resulting picture was noticeably better than the default in Movie mode.
Note that I also tried calibrating the TV with dimming off, but the pictures looked terrible, with blacks resembling a Nordic ash cloud.
My suspicions that the 55-inch and 46-inch models have different panels were more or less confirmed when I plugged the calibration settings in from the 55-inch TV, and the 46-inch TV looked and tested terribly. As a result we can say that the posted settings can only be used on the 55-inch.
|Comparison models (details)|
|LG 47LW5600||47-inch, LED-edgelit|
|Samsung UN46D6400||46-inch, LED|
|Panasonic TC-P50ST30||50-inch plasma|
|Sony Bravia KDL-46EX523||46-inch, LED-edgelit|
|Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference)||50-inch plasma|
Black level: The Vizio could throw its weight around in this group with a depth of black that beat the LG and the Sony, although it wasn't quite as deep as the ST30 or the Samsung could manage. Compared with the Sony EX523, the Vizio was able to conjure up much more detail in darker areas, and even rivaled the ST30 in this regard. The Vizio's deeper blacks weren't to the detriment of dynamic range; bright and complex scenes looked punchy--only a little bit of blooming in dark regions spoiled the plasmalike effect.
When the Smart Dimming feature detects a completely black screen, the backlight switches off, causing problems at times. The detection is apparently laggy enough that you may lose really quick fade-in fade-out cuts, the type you might find in trailers or action movies. It happened during a trailer for "The Transformers," for example, as well as when I was measuring the TV's everyday (5 percent) test pattern; I had to turn the menu on to make sure the picture showed.
Color accuracy: Compared with the color-accuracy king of the edge-lit LCD world, the LG LW5600, the Vizio isn't quite there, and this is partly due to the lack of fine-tuning options. Skin tones were natural after calibration and there was only a faint lack of cyan-green colors in comparison with the LG's picture.
Actor Chris Pine wanders around in his underpants at one point in the 2009 "Star Trek" movie, and sexiness aside, this scene is actually a good tester for skin tones. The Vizio was able to make the actor's bronzed shoulders look fairly natural, though the LG was noticeably better.
Video processing: This was one of the areas where the M3D550SR could use some improvement. As with Vizio's E3D420VX before it, the film mode was quite lacking. In my lineup of comparison TVs, it gave the worst judder performance with a hiccupping detectable in smooth pans with 1080p/24 content.
On the plus side, its ability to replay content without jaggies was admirable. Employing Smooth Cinema mode at "high" I was able to get the motion resolution all the way to 1,200 lines, but the TV languished at only 350 lines without it. Since you'd need to put up with significant haloing artifacts if you left Smooth on, we still recommend disabling it and taking the motion resolution hit, which is hardly visible in most program material.
Uniformity: Consistency across the screen is the bane of every edge-lit LCD screen, and things are no different for the Vizio. I noticed brighter green "spotlights" in the corners during bright scenes, especially on letterbox bars. While discoloration of the letterboxes shouldn't trouble most people, it is the No. 1 cause of complaints from videophiles about plasmas like the VT30 with its "rising blacks" issue. If this troubles you, too, then the Vizio isn't for you.
Bright lighting: The 55-inch and 42-inch are the two models in this range that have a matte coating on the screen, and when viewed in a bright room, reflections don't prove to be too distracting. Based on brief testing with the 46-inch I can say that the screen is as overly glossy as the top-shelf LG LW9800--not a good thing.
3D: When 3D TVs emerged in 2010, the 3D effects were mind-bogglingly strong, and Vizio has chosen to continue in this vein. In comparison, this year Sony in particular has dialed down the strength of the "Z-axis" that gives the screen depth. Unfortunately there is no "3D strength control" on the Vizio, only a 2D/3D switch.
The 3D effect is quite overpowering, with exaggerated depth and an inability to place some background elements correctly in the frame. Compared with the active 3D on the Samsung UND6400, there was no crosstalk at all, but curiously the image seemed more distorted, as if it were wrapped around a globe. As a result, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" was quite difficult to watch. Even a simple scene with a scientist sitting in front of a landscape was warped and proved much easier to view on the Samsung.
Power consumption: Unless a manufacturer bungs a nuclear power plant in behind your TV (look for the distinctive twin cooling towers!) most LED-backlit LCDs are fairly conservative when it comes to energy usage. The same goes for the Vizio: even when uncalibrated it uses only a little more energy than a 60-watt light bulb (71W).
|Black luminance (0%)||0.004||Good|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.3132/0.3378||Good|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3138/0.3316||Good|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3129/0.3285||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||6943.6152||Poor|
|After avg. color temp.||6479.6518||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||2.9337||Average|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||1.3041||Good|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||0.142||Good|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2299/0.3305||Good|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3245/0.156||Good|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4263/0.5096||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Fail||Poor|
|1080i Deinterlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||900||Good|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||400||Poor|
|PC input resolution (VGA)||1,920x1,080||Good|
|Vizio M3D550SR||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||73.105||59.018||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.06||0.05||N/A|
|Cost per year||$16.06||$12.98||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Good|