Picture settings: For 2014, Vizio has made a lot of changes in this department. The E series gets a number of preset picture modes that don't allow any adjustment; changing a parameter like Brightness in one of these modes immediately changes the picture mode to Custom.
Normally I don't like that kind of arrangement, since it's a bit confusing and can lead to inadvertent changes of your custom settings, but Vizio has a cool solution. Not only can you lock the Custom modes, preventing any changes, but you can also create and even name entirely new modes.
Beyond modes, Vizio has added some additional controls, namely a full color-management system and an 11-point grayscale control. The 48-inch and larger sets also get a "Motion Blur Reduction" setting, the main manifestation of Vizio's "Clear Action 180" feature. It engages backlight scanning to improve motion resolution, although it also introduces some visible flicker. See Video processing for details.
Connectivity: One major difference between the 55-inch and 42-inch samples we reviewed is in number of HDMI inputs. The 42-inch E series has three HDMI, while the 55-inch has four. Among the myriad E series sizes available, that number varies from two (at 39 inches and lower) to four (in the 50- and 55-inch sizes, although the 60-incher has three) so be sure to double-check the number of HDMI if it's important to you.
The rest of the input selection seems to be identical throughout the series. It includes a combined composite/component-video port, a single USB jack, and an Ethernet port, as well as stereo analog and digital audio. The smaller sizes (sub-32-inch) also get analog PC inputs.
As I mentioned in the Editors' Note at the top, the E series originally received a 7 ("very good") in this ratings category. I vacillated between that score and an 8, however, and now that I've seen the , I think both deserve the same 8 ("excellent") I've awarded to the best-performing LED LCDs of 2013. They're both that good.
Black levels, thanks to the E series' local dimming, are superb for any LCD, and especially great for this price. Color accuracy and video processing are more of a mixed bag, but neither are deal-killers for all but the most persnickety videophiles. Add in superb bright-room performance and great uniformity for an LED LCD, and the E series is easily good enough for everyone else.
Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.
Black level: The E series performed extremely well in this area, coming close to matching the far more-expensive Sony W900A -- the best-performing LED LCD of last year -- and eclipsing other TVs that cost a lot more, including the 2013 Vizio M series and the other non-Vizio sets.
Watching "Gravity," a black-level torture test, both 2014 E sets achieved a deeper shade of black than any of the others, aside from the W900A, during the darkest sequences. One example came at 13:00 when Stone spins off the shuttle's arm into space; the darkness of the void looked inky and true, and the letterbox bars barely brighter than the black walls of my testing room. The 2013 E series matched its predecessors in black level in this scene, the W850B appeared a bit brighter (worse), and the other sets significantly brighter still.
Compared to any of the others, however, the E series models didn't achieve the same brightness in highlights. Ryan in her bright space suit, the white icons from my PS3, the broken arm of the shuttle; all appeared dimmer than on the other sets. So as a result in very dark scenes, both Sonys delivered better overall contrast than the 2014 E series models. Despite this issue, the 2014 E models still looked better than the rest of the lineup due to their superior black levels.
The 2014 E series was able to maintain better contrast than its 2013 predecessor, however, particularly in even darker scenes such as the second Ryan tumble through space (16:23). The 2014 E models also didn't turn their backlight off after long pauses during the darkest sections.
Blooming, or stray backlight illumination, wasn't a major issue on the E series despite a relative paucity of dimming zones. When the pair of astronauts reach the derelict shuttle, for example, the lights from their flashlights remain contained amid the otherwise shadowed interior and the letterbox bars. The 2013 M series, for what it's worth, showed much worse blooming and black-level fluctuation, especially in the bars.
Shadow detail wasn't a major issue for either set, although due to differences in calibration the 42-incher performed slightly better than the 55-incher in this area. The Sony W900A was the best of the bunch, but the E models kept pace with the W850A and the Sharp, and also beat the 2013 M series, again.
Color accuracy: This category was a sort of mixed bag for both Vizios. As my measurements indicate, the 55-inch set suffered from a less-accurate grayscale (that pesky calibration again) while the 42-incher showed a desaturated red. The 55-incher tended toward blue at the extreme dark and bright ends of the scale, an issue visible as the astronauts' space suits swung alternately into shadow and bright sunlight.
The 42-inch set, on the other hand, showed a bit less impact in some red areas like the flames around the debris during re-entry (1:17:31). Skin tones were slightly paler than on the reference Sony at times, for example Ryan's face in the capsule (58:09), but more often, for example when Ryan emerges from the lake at the end, they looked relatively accurate. That said, the differences were subtle -- the red/orange stripes on the big parachute (30:33) looked very similar there compared to the other sets.
The depth of black on both E series TVs also helped them avoid the kind of bluer-looking letterbox bars I saw on sets like the Samsung and the Sharp.
Video processing: Although neither of my review samples was particularly stellar, especially for a "120Hz" TV, the 55-incher showed better performance in two areas of processing. Most importantly, it handledproperly, delivering true film cadence compared to the slight halting stutter seen on the 42-inch set.
Less important but still worth mentioning, the 55-incher evinced slightly better motion resolution. When I engaged the Motion Blur Reduction (MBR), toggle blur did decrease slightly, improving motion resolution to around 400 lines compared to the 300 I tested on the 42-inch set.
That slight difference was visible in the demanding motion footage from the FPD Benchmark disc. On the 55-incher, the lines of the hammock and the stripes on the shirt of the swinging girl, as well as the numbers in passing license plates, all appeared somewhat clearer on the 55-inch set. On the other hand none of these tests looked as clear as I saw on the Samsung or the Sharp, both of which have true 120Hz refresh rates.
Despite the slight increase in motion resolution, I ended up turning off MBR because it tended to introduce flicker in some areas, particularly white fields. I was happy to note that the 55-incher handled 1080p/24 properly regardless of its MBR setting.
There was some instability in the test pattern I use for 1080i de-interlacing, but the Vizios did technically pass the test.
Uniformity: Neither E series review sample evinced any major issues in this area, thanks in part to their full-array LED schemes. Both showed better uniformity than the 2013 E series set, with its slightly splotchy white fields, and outdid the edge-lit models, in particular the Samsung and the Vizio M series, at maintaining even lighting in dark areas. From off-angle, the 55-inch set maintained fidelity a bit better than the 42, but neither was significantly better than the others in this regard.
Bright lighting: Both sizes have the same matte finish, which results in excellent reflection reduction in bright rooms. They also maintained black levels very well when the lights were up, albeit not as well as the glossier Sony W900A.
Sound quality: Neither Vizio sounded good, even for a TV. All of the other sets in our lineup delivered superior audio to some extent, and the H6350 and W850B in particular trounced the Vizios. On my music test, "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave, the 55-incher produced wavering, somewhat unclear vocals, impact-free percussion, and an overall distorted sound when I put the volume to low-medium (40 or higher). The 42-incher sounded even worse; thinner with less bass and more distortion. With "Mission: Impossible 3" it was more of the same; the effects and explosions from the bridge scene lacking impact and causing the sound to break apart at times.
Geek Box (E550i-B2)
|Black luminance (0%)||0.001||Good|
|Avg. gamma (10-100%)||2.21||Average|
|Avg. grayscale error (10-100%)||2.566||Good|
|Dark gray error (20%)||1.187||Good|
|Bright gray error (70%)||3.042||Average|
|Avg. color error||1.102||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i De-interlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||400||Poor|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||400||Poor|
|Input lag (Game mode)||27.47||Good|
Geek Box (E420i-B0)
|Black luminance (0%)||0.001||Good|
|Avg. gamma (10-100%)||2.36||Good|
|Avg. grayscale error (10-100%)||0.829||Good|
|Dark gray error (20%)||0.69||Good|
|Bright gray error (70%)||1.126||Good|
|Avg. color error||2.155||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Fail||Poor|
|1080i De-interlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||300||Poor|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||300||Poor|
|Input lag (Game mode)||43.43||Average|