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Vizio M3D0KD review:

Vizio M3D0KD

Connectivity: The back presents a strength for the M3D0KD, with four HDMI ports, one component-video (shared with the single composite video port), a PC input, and two USB ports.

Picture quality
Simply put, the Vizio is the second-best-performing LED TV we've tested so far this year, falling short of the superb Sony KDL-HX850 and beating the other contenders by a greater or lesser margin.

Its strengths include black-level performance and color accuracy, as well as solid screen uniformity, 3D picture quality, and bright-room performance. Variable black levels, blooming, and an inability to properly handle 1080p/24 sources are flies in the ointment, but not enough to seriously contaminate the Vizio's overall picture.

Comparison models (details)
Sony KDL-55HX850 55-inch edge-lit LED
Samsung UN46EH6000 46-inch full-array LED
Toshiba 50L5200 50-inch edge-lit LED
Sharp LC-60LE640U 60-inch edge-lit LED
Panasonic TC-P50UT50 50-inch plasma
Vizio M3D550SR 55-inch edge-lit LED
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference) 65-inch plasma

Black level: The Vizio M3D0KD delivered very good overall black-level performance for an LED/LCD TV, generally outperforming the Samsung and Toshiba we tested as well as its predecessor, the Vizio M3D0SR. Its depth of black was the most highly variable in the lineup, however, and I saw significant blooming, where bright areas spilled over into adjacent ones, like the letterbox bars. These issues, a result of aggressive edge-lit local dimming, make it a worse overall black-level performer than the Sony or the two Panasonics we compared it with, although I'd still give it the black-level nod over the Sharp for videophiles who can stomach those variations.

The Room of Requirement from Chapter 14 of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" provided examples of the Vizio KD's strengths and weaknesses. The very dark establishing shot over the cluttered chamber (57:26) looked better on the Vizio than any of the other TVs in the room aside from the VT50 and the Sony, with inky blacks and lots of contrast. Most of the following scenes showed more bright areas, though, and in these the UT50 also looked better, and in some, for example the frame in the foreground as Dobby watches Harry (58:02), the Sharp was darker.

The basic rule was that the more bright elements were shown in the scene, the lighter the Vizio's blacks became. In other words, its dimming did a worse job of maintaining steadily dark black levels throughout than the Sony's dimming did.

In brighter scenes the Vizio KD didn't keep its letterbox bars any darker than the Sharp's, and in some cases they were lighter. Harry's exploration of Snape's memory in Chapter 19 for example (1:16:05) brightened the Vizio's bars considerably, making the Sharp (as well as the better sets, namely the Sony and the Panasonics) appear slightly punchier at times with better contrast. That said, the Vizio still looked very good in bright scenes, and still outperformed its predecessor as well as the Samsung and the Toshiba.

Throughout this dark movie I also noticed minor blooming that was nonetheless more obvious than on the Sony or Vizio SR (the only other local-dimmers in the lineup). In the memory scene, for example, the upper corner of the letterbox bar brightened and darkened when a shot of the tree came and went (1:16:40). As usual, bright onscreen elements on dark backgrounds, for example the PS3 icons in the letterbox bars or the credits against the black screen, showed the most blooming.

In the worst cases blooming was quite distracting. As the camera moves up over a section of wall at Hogwarts (1:13:01), the black areas flashed brighter as the sections of backlight turned on and off. In one of my favorite fade-to-black tests, the opening credits from "Watchmen," the black screen seethed with brighter areas between fade-ups. These instances were rare, but again the Sony handled them much better than the Vizio.

Color accuracy: My charts pointed to a superb showing in this area and the Vizio M3D0KD didn't disappoint with program material. In the memory scene the faces of young Snape and Lily looked as accurate as on our reference VT50 and better than on any of the others. Primary and secondary colors also looked great, from the sky to the grass to Lily's fiery hair. Saturation, owing to the Vizio's solid black levels, was punchy yet well-balanced.

Like many LEDs, the Vizio KD can get quite blue near black, which turned out to be its main color weakness. In Dumbledore's talk with Snape for example (1:17:56), the entire scene looked too blue, particularly the robes and the mist in the background. I suspect this issue is made more visible because of the dimming backlight in semidark areas, although conversely those deep blacks also helped mask the slight blue tinge at and near black.

Video processing: The M3D0KD didn't perform as well as many sets in this category, mainly because it failed to render proper film cadence with 1080p/24 sources. When I disabled smoothing via the Smooth Motion Effect (SME) setting, the image looked choppier than on sets with proper cadence, like the Sony and the Samsung LEDs or the Panasonic plasmas.

I did prefer that choppy look to any of the Vizio's other SME settings, however, which all introduce some level of smoothing/dejudder. As usual the Low/Medium/High options got progressively smoother. There's also a Real Cinema Mode (RCM) -- disabled when you turn off smoothing -- that has Precision, Smooth, and Off settings of its own. Despite Vizio's explanation that RCM is designed for film, none of those options seemed to have any effect I could discern in program material.

As usual engaging SME did improve motion resolution, although to my eye it wasn't worth the trade-off of having to watch the smoothed image. In any of the settings aside from Off I recorded maximum motion resolution in my tests, although engaging the Precision setting in RCM also dropped motion resolution to the 300-line minimum for some reason.

Uniformity: Aside from the blooming mentioned above, the Vizio showed little variation across its screen, even when I disabled local dimming to look for hot spots, making it one of the more uniform LED screens I've seen this year.

From off-angle it was a mediocre performer, losing contrast in muddy shadow details and brighter blacks, and exposing blooming more obviously than ever. That said it did keep its black levels better than the other LEDs aside from the Sony, it bested the Sony at off-angle color fidelity, and from normal angles it still had some punch. As expected the plasmas were universally better in this category.

Bright lighting: The screen finish of the Vizio M3D0KD is unusual in that it appears glossy at first glance, but reflections still have the chief characteristic of a matte screen: fuzzy edges instead of the sharp, mirrorlike look of most glossy displays. It didn't dim or disperse reflections as well as the true matte sets in the lineup -- the Samsung, Toshiba, Sharp, and Vizio SR -- but it did a better job of handling them than either the Sony or especially the Panasonic. It also preserved black levels relatively well, making it one of the better screens for bright rooms we've tested.

3D: The Vizio performed quite well in my 3D tests. Unfortunately I didn't have any LG passive 3D sets on hand anymore to compare it directly against, but based on what I remember the M3D0KD didn't reveal the typical artifacts associated with passive 3D as noticeably as the 55LM6700. I saw fewer jagged edges and moving lines this time around when watching "Hugo," my favorite 3D reference material.

Seating at a distance of 8 feet from the 55-inch screen, I found line structure in the most noticeable areas -- the edge of Hugo's face (13:33) and of Isabel's (17:06) -- was visible but difficult to discern. More noticeable were the rare instances of moving lines, typically when the camera moved over a scene that contained a horizontal edge at a shallow angle, like the bowler hat of Uncle Claude (22:41) and the edge of a low wall outside the station (22:09). I found these artifacts less distracting than I remember from the LG review, perhaps because (from what I remember) the Vizio had a dimmer 3D image in its default mode.

As with the LG, the Vizio's 3D strength was lack of crosstalk. Those ghostly double images, my least favorite artifact of 3D, were less obvious than on any of the active 3D sets in my comparison, including the Samsung UNES8000 (which I subbed into the lineup for 3D testing). Hugo's hand as it reached for the mouse (5:01) and the tuning pegs on the guitar (7:49) provided the best examples early in the movie; the Vizio's 3D image was clean and crosstalk was basically invisible, whereas the active sets all showed some level of ghosting. I did see faint crosstalk on the Vizio in the most challenging of scenes, like the word "Films" from the GK Films logo before the movie starts, and Hugo's face at 13:16 and 21:32, but again it wasn't distracting or nearly as bad as on the active sets.

In other areas the Vizio's 3D image was also good. Its black levels appeared about equal to those of the Sony and the Samsung. That's no small feat since active sets have a large advantage in apparent black level because you're basically wearing sunglasses. The Samsung was markedly brighter however, which made its 3D image overall punchier and higher-contrast. As usual both plasmas were exceedingly dim in comparison, so while the VT50's 3D black levels were superb (unlike the UT50's), the LEDs had much better contrast overall.

As in 2D, the Vizio's color was among the best in the lineup. Skin tones were neutral and not too blue, and while the UNES8000 had better saturation, the Vizio's appeared more neutral and accurate. Note that all of these sets can be calibrated for 3D (an effort I don't make in my TV reviews) so color and perhaps other characteristics can be improved.

I prefer LG's aviator-style passive glasses over the generic-looking ones Vizio includes, which didn't fit as well over my prescription lenses. Both were plenty comfortable, although I wish they'd shut out ambient light better, like Panasonic's active glasses do. Overall Vizio's glasses are fine, especially for the price, and you can always buy other passive glasses for cheap if you don't like the fit.

Geek box: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0095 Average
Avg. gamma 2.0046 Average
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.2724/0.2629 Poor
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3135/0.3294 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3119/0.3278 Good
Before avg. color temp. 6284 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6469 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 1.3908 Good
Green lum. error (de94_L) 2.7405 Average
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 0.2314 Good
Cyan hue x/y 0.223/0.3174 Average
Magenta hue x/y 0.3293/0.1579 Average
Yellow hue x/y 0.4206/0.5136 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300 Poor

Vizio M553D0KD CNET review calibration report

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