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Vizio SmartCast TVs can now stream Amazon, join modern world

Owners of late-model Vizio TVs have had to resort to external streaming devices to watch Amazon video. Until now.

David Katzmaier/CNET

Vizio is the second-best selling TV brand in the US after Samsung, and Amazon Video is the second most popular TV and movie streaming service after Netflix. But it took until today for Amazon to be available on Vizio's best TVs.

The TV maker has rolled out a software upgrade for its 2017 SmartCast TVs that allows direct access to something just about every other TV and streaming device has had for years: Amazon's massive collection of Prime and paid video content. Now you don't need to connect a Roku or Fire TV to your Vizio to watch "Manchester by the Sea" or "The Man in the High Castle."

The upgrade arrives first to Vizio's 2017 P series and M series TVs, and later this summer to the 2017 E series. Vizio previously told CNET that the upgrade would also make its way to the 2016 versions of those series as well, but has yet to specify timing.

Along with Amazon comes an actual on-screen interface for apps access, long a staple of smart TVs but missing until now on those Vizios. I tested an early version of the interface in my 2017 E-series review and it mostly worked as advertised, and similar to other smart TVs:

Selecting the SmartCast "input" causes the new app home screen to appear, with icons for a handful of major apps along the bottom (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle, iHeart Radio, Xumo, Vudu, Pluto, and "USB") as well as tiles for TV shows and movies along the top. Amazon and the others worked just as I expected, complete with 4K and HDR streaming where available. Unfortunately response times weren't the fastest and screens took a bit longer than I'd like to load, but in my book it's (a lot) better than nothing. In no way is it better than Roku, however.

The SmartCast sets still work with the "Chromecast built-in" functionality, where you use the Netflix (or whatever) app on your phone as a sort of remote control to "Cast" stuff to the TV. They're also compatible with Google Home speakers. See my E-series writeup for more details.

Vizio is shipping a new remote with a direct-access button for the new interface and shortcut buttons to apps like Amazon, and for a limited time is offering to ship it to existing qualified Vizio owners "for free or for a nominal fee."

Vizio SmartCast TVs have not been offered for sale at Amazon and as of press time that's still the case. Perhaps with the addition of Amazon Video, that will change.