Vizio P-Series brings 4K, local dimming for $999 and up (eyes on)

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/ Updated: September 24, 2014 8:38 AM PDT

Big V's first shipping foray into 4K, or Ultra High Definition, the P-Series brings all those extra pixels at a price that challenges the Samsungs, LGs and Sonys of the world.

Pricing was actually revealed many moons ago at CES in January, with the smallest, cheapest 50-inch model going for $999. To its credit Vizio has stuck to that announcement, and the TVs are now available right on schedule from places like Amazon, Best Buy, Costco and Walmart.

We don't have a review sample yet, but Vizio says it will get one out soon. Given the excellent performance of the non-4K E-series and M-series TVs earlier this year, I wouldn't be surprised if the P-series ends up being our favorite bang-for-the-buck 4K TV yet.

While you wait for a review, it's worth comparing prices. Below I've pitted the P-series against the M-series as well as the cheapest 4K models offered by the other big three TV makers. The prices are current at Amazon (including third-party sellers), or if unavailable there, MSRPs per the company.

Vizio M-series (1080p) Vizio P-series (4K) Samsung (4K) LG (4K) Sony (4K)
40/42-inch $498 N/A $998 $999 N/A
49/50-inch $599 $999 $1,398 $1,099 $1,698
55-inch $848 $1,398 $1,598 $1,399 $1,998
60-inch $1,098 $1,699 $2,798 $2,499 N/A
65-inch $1,399 $2,199 $2,998 $2,799 $2,998
70-inch $1,899 $2,499 N/A N/A $4,498

As you can see, Vizio is charging a hefty premium to go from 1080p to 4K resolution, but the P series still manages to undercut the cheapest major-name 4K TVs by hundreds of dollars. That is, until they lower their prices (again).

The P's best feature has nothing to do with resolution, however, and everything to do with contrast, a much more important determinant of picture quality. Alone among the 4K TVs on the market at affordable prices, the P has an actual full-array local dimming LED backlight -- our favorite LCD picture quality augmentation

That the same type of backlight that helped the E- and M-series achieve such good reviews from us. The P-series improved upon those sets with even more dimmable zones: 64 on every size but the 70-incher, which gets 72. Most sizes in the M-series, by way of comparison, get 32 zones, while the E-series has even fewer. More zones typically equal more precise control of dimming for better overall quality.

viziotv04.jpg
Sarah Tew

I had the chance to go eyes-on with a P-series at Vizio's Manhattan launch event, where they'd hung every size in a white-walled art gallery. Happily they also arranged a selection of side-by-side demos in the back rooms too, complete with black walls and blackout curtains.

They unsurprisingly showed the P to great advantage against Samsung's 4K sets with variety of material designed to show differences in video processing, contrast/black level and 1080p upconversion. Like all such demos I took it with a big grain of salt, but for what it's worth the P series looked very good most of the time. I'll wait until I can review and compare one in my lab before I render further judgement.

viziotv02.jpg
Sarah Tew

Vizio also notes some impressive processing specs. A "motion rate of 960" might be inflated, but even so the TV should bust blur well. A quad-core GPU and dual-core CPU power image and graphics processing as well as Smart TV. A pair of dedicated engines handle up-conversion, detail enhancement and gamma control, while simultaneously reducing noise and artifacts. The TV can even display games in 1080p at 120 frames-per-second (a feature main of interest to PC gamers), and film at both 24 and 48 FPS. Now if only New Line would release a compatible HFR version of "The Hobbit."

Connectivity includes five HDMI inputs, but only one of them is blessed with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 compliance. The other four are HDMI 1.4 inputs that can accept 4K, just not at 60 frames per second.

The requisite HEVC decoding, hardware-based, is also on-board for efficient 4K streaming from so-enabled apps like Netflix and, coming soon, Amazon Instant Video and UltraFlix, a new 4K streaming service that launched today. It supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, with "dual-band MIMO support for UHD streaming."

Styling is hauntingly reminiscent of the M series, and that's a good thing, with clean lines and a narrow bezel. It also shares the same Via Plus Smart TV suite and dual-sided Wi-Fi remote with a backlit QWERTY keyboard.

Like all 2014 Vizio TVs, the P series does not offer 3D.

We're looking forward to reviewing the P series as soon as we can.

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Vizio P-Series

Part Number: CNETP-Series
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