Vizio P2ui-B series review:

Price-busting 4K TV updates for an improved picture

In side-by-side testing, the P55's black levels and contrast were clearly inferior to the P65's. It showed other differences as noted below, including better fidelity from off-angle and less over-accentuation of bright areas, for what might charitably be called a more balanced picture. All told, I preferred the P65's picture, and I assume the other sizes in the series will perform similarly.

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The video-processing issues we noticed at first have largely been eliminated by the firmware update. The exception is with 4K sources, whether streaming or delivered to the 4K inputs; they still trigger the additional edge enhancement. See Video processing below for more information. Note that I did not retest any other aspect of the P series picture quality, only its video processing related to the over-enhancement issues I noticed during my initial review.

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.

Software version information:Vizio says the new software update, version 1.1.14, has been rolling out over the last couple weeks, and by now most P series owners should have it. To verify your software version, hit the Menu key on the remote and select System, then System Information. The "Version" line is third from the top. If it doesn't read 1.1.6 (or later), you can try forcing the TV to check for an update (click here for details). Unfortunately Vizio's software update system isn't as transparent as most other TV makers', but worst-case-scenario, you can call customer service at 800-849-4623.

Black level: The 65-inch P series is capable of delivering a very deep level of black and superb contrast for an LCD TV. In most of the demanding dark scenes from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," it was neck-and-neck with the Samsung PNF8500 plasma (and often surpassed it) for second-deepest blacks in the lineup, trailing only the exceedingly expensive Sony.

One of my favorite such scenes is the Room of Requirement (Chapter 14, 57:29) which shows mostly shadows and dark areas punctuated by brighter highlights of the objects in the room. The P65's letterbox bars and black areas were inky and true, much like the plasma's, and visibly deeper than those of the HU8550 -- which roughly tied the M series at depth of black. The Sony was easily the deepest and best-looking, however.

Meanwhile the two worst sets in the room for black level were the 55-inch P series with its IPS panel and the LG, which uses the same panel type. Despite both sets employing local dimming, the need to generate highlights in this scene meant they couldn't dim the black areas enough, and as a result the letterbox bars and deep shadows were cloudy and significantly less-realistic than the others.

In terms of contrast, the P65's biggest weakness was brighter highlights than any of the other displays -- too bright, in fact. The glints from the Room's brighter bric-a-brac in that scene were markedly more brilliant than any of the others, including our reference plasma, which looked very similar to the Sony. This extra pop actually made the scene look less realistic, and it was an issue the P55 didn't suffer from. The P65 still looked better than its smaller brother overall, but I preferred the more balanced look of the Samsung plasma and the Sony.

The P65's issue with pumped-up highlights appeared in other scenes too. The face of Voldemort on the hilltop, and the clothing of his minions (46:28) seemed a bit too bright compared to the other displays. Again, highlights on the P55 appeared tamer and shadows more in line with the plasma and the Sony, but again, I preferred the larger Vizio.

Shadow detail on both Vizios was very good for the most part, with no obscured sections and little of the extra brightness that plagued those sets prior to calibration (a major issue with the default picture settings; see here for details). That said, the P65 showed a darker cast in midtones than the others in the lineup, a result of sacrifices I had to make during calibration.

The story was similar in "Gravity," another high-contrast, challenging Blu-ray. During the scene in Chapter 2 where Stone tumbles into space against a background of stars, the P65 maintained the deepest black after the Sony, beating out the plasma, while the P55 and the LG brought up the rear again. And once again the highlights, in this case the starfield, looked too bright on the P65 compared to the others

Blooming, where stray light from an illuminated backlight zone contaminates an adjacent dark area, wasn't a major issue on both P series sets, but at times it was still noticeable and distracting. The P65's worst performance in this area was during the extremely challenging Creation sequence from "Tree of Life" -- at times (20:39, 21:58) I could actually watch individual zones of the backlight illuminate, while on the other local dimmers (including the P55) the effects were much more subtle. I also noticed similar backlight flashes during a dark scene from Netflix's "House of Cards."

By far the more common instance of blooming were caused by graphical elements, for example the display overlays from by Blu-ray players or white credits on a dark screen. The HU8550 was the best of the LCDs at controlling blooming overall, and the Sony and the P series Vizios were very similar in most scenes. The lesser number of zones on the M series was noticeable as more widespread, albeit dimmer, blooming than the P series models.

Color accuracy: While this category isn't a deal-breaker by any means, both Vizios failed to match the accuracy of either Samsung or the Sony. During "Tree of Life," the P55's palette lacked a touch of the punch and and saturation of most of the others -- perhaps a function of its lighter blacks -- while the conversely green of its grass was a bit too green, an issue the P65 shared. For its part the 65-incher delivered better saturation than the P55 but its darker look seemed to skew a bit blue at times, robbing skin tones of like the pregnant belly and hand of Mrs. and Mr. O'Brien (37:41) of some warmth.

All told however, color was very good on both sets, as evinced by very low grayscale and color error measurements shown below. All of the issues I saw in comparison would be very difficult to notice in isolation. It's also worth noting that perhaps improvements could be made in calibration.

Video processing: Once I had reduced the Sharpness control to zero, the video processing issues I noticed the prior to the software update were pretty much gone. I checked out Sharpness patterns in both 1080p and 4K resolution from two separate test pattern generators, and the faint outlines I'd seen before around the edges of the patterns' lines--known as edge enhancement--were no longer there, and detail was comparable to the other 4K sets in my lineup.

I also re-watched the moving video material I'd used during the first test. The guard from the beginning of Chapter 20 of "Samsara" looked as well-detailed on the Vizios as on the other sets in my lineup, and the crisp, too-hard edges I noticed at first on her face and uniform weren't there anymore. The artifacts noticed in program material, for example the crawling lines and twitchiness in the window frames from Chapter 20, as well as similar artifacts in Chapter 22, were also no longer evident.

I did experience a significant glitch, however. When I fed the TV a 4K source, whether from Netflix 4K streaming, by switching to an input connected to a 4K signal, or by turning on the TV to such an input directly, the extra processing would appear again in the picture even though I had reduced Sharpness to zero. To make the processing go away, I had to go into the menu and tweak Sharpness up (to 1 or higher) and then down to zero again. This wasn't an issue with 1080i or 1080p sources, but it occur with 4K on all of the inputs on both review samples.

The net result is that with 4K on the Vizio P series, you'll need to remember to manually disable the processing by tweaking Sharpness (unless Vizio decides to update its software yet again to fix this issue...a man can dream, right?).

All of the P series other processing characteristics were par for the course. It passed our test for 1080p/24 cadence as long as I disabled the Clear Action and Smooth Motion Effect settings. Its motion resolution behaved similarly to that of most other 120Hz sets -- 300 lines when smoothing (aka the Soap Opera Effect, or SOE) was disabled, and higher with it turned on. For film-based material, including most TV shows and movies, I preferred to keep that effect turned off despite the loss in motion resolution.

Smooth Motion Effect is what controls SOE, and even in its Low setting the smoothing was obvious and extreme; much more so than Sony's Standard setting, for example. In that setting, the P55 delivered 800 lines and the P65 1,000, while both garnered about 1,100 lines of resolution in the two settings (Medium and High). Interestingly, engaging Clear Action backlight scanning did nothing to improve motion resolution in our test, and as usual dimmed the image, so we left it turned off.

Unlike the E and M series, the P was unable to pass our standard test for 1080i de-interlacing, so it might introduce some minor artifacts in 1080i film-based sources.

Input lag on the P series was excellent whenever I engaged the Game Low Latency setting, which is on by default in the Game picture mode and can be enabled and disabled in any mode. I did notice one tradeoff in picture quality in doing so, however: on the 55-inch set, a break in the image appeared along the top quarter of the screen, creating a strange doubling effect. The artifact disappeared when I turned off Low Latency and switched it back on again. While I couldn't replicate it again during repeated switch-ins and outs, I nonetheless wouldn't be surprised to see it or similar issues appear again, perhaps regularly, on any Vizio P series set.

That issue aside, Game Low Latency delivered among the best lag scores I've ever measured as long as I was using HDMI Input 5. On both sets I measured around 19ms with GLL engaged on HDMI 5, and at certain times I measured even lower: 2.5ms, with an unprecedented 0.0ms lag at the top of the screen (!). This last result was achieved only after I immediately remeasured a second time, so I'm more apt to trust the higher number (and report it in the Geek Box, below), but either way, the P series was still superb. Turning off GLL in default Calibrated Dark mode on the HDMI 5 yielded lag of around 63ms on the P55 and 65ms on the P65.

The other HDMI inputs introduced worse lag. With GLL engaged or in Game mode, both sizes of P series measured around 46ms, on the happy side of "Average" (between 40 and 70ms) on our scale but not spectacular. Turning off GLL in calibrated mode on the other inputs yielded lag of 97ms on the P55 and 104 on the P65.

PC gamers: It's worth remembering that my input lag tests were conducted only at 1080p/60Hz. Higher resolutions and/or refresh rates might yield different results.

Uniformity: Compared to the edge-lit H8550 I expected the Vizios to have better uniformity, but in fact the reverse was true. The screens of the P series were slightly brighter in the middle than along the edges, although not badly enough to be noticeable in most program material. No major clouding was visible that wasn't caused by backlight blooming.

I did notice a bit of backlight structure during pans. For example, as the camera sweeps over the sheets and blue walls during Chapter 5 of "Tree of Life" (38:22), slightly brighter vertical bars were visible on both P series sets. This structure also appeared, albeit more faintly, on the other LCDs, with the exception of the HU8550.

From off-angle, the P65 and P55 has different characteristics, as expected with their different panel types. The P55 maintained color and, unlike most IPS panels I've seen (including the LG), black-level fidelity very well, making it one of the best LED LCDs I've seen for wide-angle viewing. The P65, on the other hand, showed the typical loss of color fidelity -- straying toward blueish-red from the sides and top -- and also washed out somewhat, albeit not as quickly as the HU8550. All of the LED LCDs in the lineup betrayed more blooming from off-angle, although again the HU8550 controlled ts blooming best.

Bright lighting: Under the lights the semi-matte screen of the P series performed well, reducing the intensity of reflections better than most of the other displays, with the exception of the M series (which has an identical screen finish to the P65) and the plasma. Between the two P series sets, the P65 deadened reflections better, but on the flipside the P55 was slightly better at maintaining black levels and contrast under the lights. In that area, the Sony and the Samsung were the best, while the others (with the exception of the LG) were all relatively close.

Sound quality: I didn't test the sound of the P series, but since it has the same specifications and essentially the same cabinet design as the M series, they should sound very similar. See the M series review for details.

4K performance: According to my 4K signal generator, both Vizios resolved every line of a 3,840x2,160 source, and neither showed any major issues with the other 4K patterns. Demo material in 4K also looked as good as on the other 4K sets in my lineup, but no better in terms of detail, as long as I had manually adjusted out the additional edge enhancement.

And that's the rub. As I described above, when watching Netflix 4K the additional edge enhancement would appear even if Sharpness had been reduced to zero, making details appear too sharp and unrealistic compared to the other 4K sets in my lineup. To make it go away I had to "tweak" Sharpness again manually.

Beyond that, the Netflix app worked well, delivering what the on-screen menus said was a steady 4K stream, a testament to the new souped-up Internet connection at CNET's TV lab (your mileage may vary at home). I didn't test any other 4K apps on the P series.

As usual, it was tough to tell the difference between the 4K and 1080p streams. I set up a quickie comparison for four CNET co-workers, with two TVs streaming 4K from native Netflix apps and two streaming 1080p from a PS3 -- all synced to the same episode of "House of Cards" -- and asked them to pick out the two 4K sets. None of them guessed correctly.

Of course none of that is Vizio's fault; the differences between 4K and 1080p are small on any TV, especially via streaming.

Geek Box (P552ui-B2)

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.001 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.27 Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.932 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.417 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 3.053 Average
Avg. color error 2.881 Good
Red error 4.824 Average
Green error 4.123 Average
Blue error 1.543 Good
Cyan error 2.927 Good
Magenta error 1.494 Good
Yellow error 2.373 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Fail Poor
Motion resolution (max) 1100 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300 Poor
Input lag (Game mode, HDMI 5) 18.87 Good

Geek Box (P652ui-B2)

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.003 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.12 Poor
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 2.850 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.871 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.602 Good
Avg. color error 1.813 Good
Red error 2.846 Poor
Green error 1.574 Good
Blue error 2.751 Good
Cyan error 2.236 Good
Magenta error 1.076 Good
Yellow error 1.428 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Fail Poor
Motion resolution (max) 1100 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300 Poor
Input lag (Game mode, HDMI 5) 19.33 Good

Vizio P552ui-B2 CNET review calibration report

Vizio P652ui-B2 CNET review calibration report

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