Vizio E601i-A3 LED TV review: Best 70-inch LED TV value

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: The E701i-A3 has Vizio's trademark list of picture modes named after sports -- Football, Golf, Baseball, and Basketball -- that have little to do with improving image quality when watching those sports. Advanced settings include two-point color temperature and a couple of dejudder settings, along with the option to adjust the ambient light sensor and global dimming on the backlight.

It doesn't have a color management system, gamma presets, or more-involved grayscale controls, so the set isn't as friendly to picture-tweakers as sets from LG and Samsung. It's about as tweakable as Sharp's sets, and is more so than Panasonic's.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: The back presents a strength for the E701i-A3, with four HDMI ports, one component-video port (shared with the single composite video port), a PC input, and two USB ports.

Picture quality
Vizio told us that the 70-inch size improved upon the picture quality of its 60-inch brother, but to our eyes and tests they're basically identical. Both can produce a workmanlike picture, albeit one roughly as good as you see on many LED TVs that cost a lot more. Neither quite matches the level of picture quality seen on its chief LED competitor from Sharp, let alone on Panasonic's excellent plasmas, such as the 65-inch ST50. The Vizio's black levels were relatively unconvincing and it showed some uniformity and off-angle-viewing issues. On the other hand, it still warrants a score of "good" in this category, mainly by virtue of accurate color and solid performance in bright rooms.

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.

Comparison models (details)
Sharp LC-60LE640U 60-inch edge-lit LED
Vizio E601i-A3 60-inch edge-lit LED
Vizio M3D651SV 65-inch edge-lit LED
Vizio M3D550KD 55-inch edge-lit LED
Panasonic TC-P55ST50 55-inch plasma

Black level: Both 60- and 70-inch Vizios tied for the least impressive sets in our lineup at reproducing a deep shade of black. Between the two the 70-incher appeared very slightly darker in its letterbox bars, but the 60-incher measured very slightly darker to my meter. No matter; any difference would be almost impossible to discern outside a side-by-side comparison on calibrated TVs in a completely dark room.

Viewed next to the Sharp, its natural competitor, the E701i-A3 showed more washed-out and less punchy dark areas, like the nighttime ship scenes in chapter 5 of "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." The letterbox bars and dark objects, like Will's shirt as he approaches Elizabeth (29:39), were lighter in our dark room, robbing them of some impact. The 65-inch Vizio wasn't much better in terms of black level, but the 55-inch Vizio along with the Panasonic plasma were both superior in this area.

Details in shadows, such as the clothing of the crew (30:52), looked good, with few traces of murkiness or too-bright transitions from dark to light areas. The 65-inch Vizio looked significantly worse, with plenty of crushed, detail-free shadows.

Color accuracy: Again both sizes of E1i-A3 Vizio looked largely identical, and color accuracy in all but the darkest areas was a major strength. The face of Elizabeth in the moonlight came closer to the excellent ST50 than on any of the other TVs, and in particular I appreciated the lack of bluish tinge seen on the other LCD sets. The Sharp was also quite close, however. Later on the beach under bright sunlight (40:18) Elizabeth's skin tone again looked better than on the other sets. For what it's worth the 70-incher also showed less greenish tint in the sky behind Jack (40:37) then did the 60-incher, but that's an extremely minor advantage.

More obvious was the E1i-A3 series' discoloration, specifically bluish tinge, in black areas like the letterbox bars. It was more obvious than on the Sharp or the Vizio 55-incher, and as usual the plasma didn't have this problem. That said, both the 65-inch Vizio showed even more discolored blacks.

Video processing: The E701i-A3 acquitted itself well and even managed to outperform the M3D0KD in this category, primarily because it rendered 1080p/24 sources with the proper film cadence. When I watched the helicopter flyover from chapter 7 of "I Am Legend," for example, the E701i-A3 delivered the smooth but not soap-opera-like look of film, while the Sharps, for example, evinced the stuttering cadence indicative of 3:2 pull-down.

The Vizio has two settings that affect cadence/smoothness, named Smooth Motion Effect (SME) and Real Cinema Mode (RCM), and each has three positions. Among the possible combinations, the only one that rendered behavior as described above was Off/Off for both.

The other SME settings introduce some level of artificial-looking smoothing/dejudder to film-based sources. As usual the Low/Medium/High options got progressively smoother. Meanwhile Real Cinema Mode (RCM) -- disabled when you turn off SME -- has Precision, Smooth, and Off settings of its own. Off introduced the least smoothing while Precision and Smooth, which introduced excessive smoothing again, looked basically the same to my eyes.

As usual, there's a trade-off: if you minimize smoothing by using Off/Off, the E701i-A3 scores basically the same as a 60Hz TV on our motion resolution test. Engaging any of the smoothing modes causes that score to improve. I'll personally take a smoothing-free image over a better motion resolution score any day because for me it's quite difficult to see any blurring in program material, even when the E701i-A3 is set to Off/Off.

Uniformity: The screen of my 70-inch review sample was indeed a bit more uniform, with fewer bright spots in dark areas, the the 60-inch sample (these issues can vary widely from sample to sample). That said it wasn't great. The most obvious issue was a "flashlight" in the bottom right corner that was visible in the letterbox bars of movies; the edges were slightly brighter too, but a lot less visible. Aside from the 60-inch Vizio, all of the other sets had superior uniformity.

The E701i-A3 also lost black-level fidelity when seen from off-angle faster than the M3D0KD or the Sharp. I did appreciate that its color stayed relatively true, however, instead of dipping into blue or red as I saw on a few of the other sets. As usual both sizes performed the same from off-angle.

Bright lighting: Although not quite as aggressively matte as the Sharp's screen, the Vizio E701i-A3's screen did a similarly superb job under the lights. It outdid the Panasonic, the M3D550KD and of course the mirrorlike M3D651SV at deadening reflections, and preserved black level well.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0104 Average
Avg. gamma 2.31 Average
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.292/0.2959 Average
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3117/0.3261 Average
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3126/0.3292 Good
Before avg. color temp. 6280 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6576 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 1.4549 Good
Green lum. error (de94_L) 0.4211 Good
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 0.097 Good
Cyan hue x/y 0.2213/0.3313 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3165/0.1574 Good
Yellow hue x/y 0.4231/0.5136 Average
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 300 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 600 Average

Vizio E701i-A3 CNET review calibration results

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Quick Specifications See All

  • LED Backlight Type Edge-lit
  • Display Format 1080p
  • Energy Star Qualified EPA Energy Star
  • Diagonal Size 60 in
  • Type LED-LCD
  • Network connectivity Wi-Fi
    Ethernet
  • SmartTV Yes
About The Author

Section Editor David Katzmaier has reviewed TVs at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com.