If I were writing this review in 2010 or 1983 or 1953, I'd begin with how 3D will revolutionize how you watch movies (and TV)...forever! Of course, 3D today is still caught in the starting blocks when it comes to home use, relegating the importance of 3D capability on Vizio's M3D550SR to "featurette" rather than "feature presentation." While the TV's 3D effect isn't very well-implemented here, at least you get four pairs of glasses in the box, so watching an occasional 3D movie as a family doesn't require any additional outlay or effort on your part.
Meanwhile, the Vizio's 2D picture quality was very good for the price overall compared with other edge-lit LED TVs, highlighted by deep black levels and well-rendered shadows. I did experience problems with the overactive Smart Dimming system and the TV's video processing, but they didn't spoil the positive impression. Vizio's VIA apps are plentiful, the QWERTY keyboard takes more than a few (beneficial) cues from smartphones, and while the TV's look is nothing special, its features are among the best available. In fact, with Vizio's failure so far to release any of the higher-end models it teased at CES in January, this is the company's flagship TV for 2011. The M3D550SR isn't our favorite edge-lit LED of the year, but it still makes a strong showing against stiff competition.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch M3D550SR, but due to physical differences between the models in the series, I can't apply the results gathered here to the other sizes. The 46-inch version, for example, has a glossy screen and my quick look at its picture quality put it a step below that of the 55-incher. I never saw the 42-incher, but I can't assume it behaves the same as the 55-inch model. For more on the different models in the series, you can follow the links below.
|Models in series (details)|
|Vizio Razor M3D420SR||42 inches|
|Vizio Razor M3D460SR||46 inches|
|Vizio Razor M3D550SR (reviewed)||55 inches|
|Panel depth||1.5 inches||Bezel width||1.5 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
It's been said before, and unless something radical happens at CES 2012, it'll be said again: TVs look the same. Take the manufacturer's name off a product and it can be hard to tell your low-end Samsung from your Toshiba from your LG. In this fashion, the M3D550SR is another black, rectangular box with a screen in the middle. The rectangle around the edge is piano-black on the 55-inch model, while the 46-incher is "rose-black," meaning black with a red tint in direct light. The bottom edge is a little different in that the speakers jut angularly out from the bezel in a not-unattractive way. Being an edge-lit LED, the television is slim, and the swivel stand gives it some flexibility.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||2.2x6 inches||QWERTY keyboard||Yes|
|Illuminated keys||No||IR device control||No|
|Menu item explanations||Yes||Onscreen manual||No|
|Other: Bluetooth remote|
The remote control, identical to the one found with the 2010 Vizio XVT3SV, not the 2011 Vizio E3D0VX's flipper--is one of the better features of the M3D550SR. Not only does it sport a slide-out QWERTY keyboard but it's also got Bluetooth, so you don't need line-of-sight to control the TV. The keys on the keyboard are a little rubbery, though.
The Settings Menu is sensibly laid out and easily navigable. The menu is left-aligned and can take a little getting used to, as the highlighted option isn't immediately obvious. The Smart TV portion of the interface capability favors the "ticker" method, appearing at the bottom of your screen.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit with local dimming|
|3D technology||Passive||3D glasses included||4 pairs|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||240Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
Vizio traditionally offers an excellent feature set for the price and the M3D550SR packs them in, with passive 3D being the most prominent. Despite its picture-quality problems, it's quite likely that passive 3D will become more prevalent next year--people don't like paying lots of money for 3D glasses and they find cross-talk distracting. The cheap glasses make more sense for consumers who only watch 3D movies on special occasions.
The television is an edge-lit LED featuring local dimming that behaves similarly to LG's LW5600. It uses a series of LEDs along the edge of the TV and dynamically lights them in zones across the screen in response to light and dark content. The only drawback to this kind of technology is that it can cause blooming when trying to illuminate light areas surrounded by black.
|Streaming and apps|
|Amazon Instant||Yes||Hulu Plus||Yes|
|Other: Blockbuster, Rhapsody, and other Yahoo apps|
In terms of content, current superstars Neflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant are present and accounted for, while other services such as Blockbuster, Facebook, and Pandora are also available. The only missing major contenders are CinemaNow and YouTube. Apart from adding new services, the VIA system is largely the same as we've seen in previous years, and the design feels dated compared with most of the big-name competitors' designs.
|Adjustable picture modes||9||Fine dejudder control||No|
|Color temperature presets||4||Fine color temperature control||2 points|
|Gamma presets||0||Color management system||No|
The M3D550SR offers a plethora of picture modes, including sports-specific ones like baseball and golf, but if you're looking for even more advanced tweakery, you'll find the TV only offers a 2-point grayscale system, as opposed to the 10 points found on LG and Samsung TVs.
|HDMI inputs||4 back||Component video inputs||1 back|
|Composite video input(s)||1 back||VGA-style PC input(s)||1|
|USB port||2 side||Ethernet (LAN) port||Yes|
Nothing major is missing from Vizio's connectivity array, although the rare user who needs more than one component-video input will be disappointed.