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Vizio M3D651SV review: Vizio's bargain 65-inch 3D leaves us feeling flat

If you must have a 3D LCD on a beer budget, this value-priced 65-inch from Vizio might be your only option. If only it had as much giant-killing power as its 55-inch sibling.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
8 min read

If you're looking to buy a TV with good bang-for-buck, then Vizio is often a good choice. The Vizio M3D550, for example, offers a picture that rivals that of the excellent Sony HX850, but for half the price. But despite having a similar name, the 65-inch M3D651SV doesn't share the 55-incher's giant-killing traits.


Vizio M3D651SV

The Good

The <b>Vizio M3D651SV</b> is one of the cheapest 65-inch 3D TVs available. Its picture offers a fair amount of contrast punch, colors are vibrant, and 3D is very good. There's a full complement of features including a QWERTY remote, and the Smart TV interface is responsive and simple to use.

The Bad

The big screen is almost unbearably reflective in a bright room. The TV suffers from a blue cast that can't be corrected, and shadow detail is murky.

The Bottom Line

The Vizio M3D651SV offers a lot of screen for comparatively little money, but unless you really want 3D, there are better big-screen values.

The 2D picture quality of the M3D651SV is inferior to TVs of a similar price and size. While color is acceptable, black levels aren't as good, shadow detail is slightly crushed, and the screen is one of the most reflective we've ever tested.

That said, the picture isn't terrible, and for people seeking 3D in a huge screen there are few other choices in this price range; the Samsung PN64E550 plasma is the closest worthy recommendation we've seen. For people who can live without 3D and don't want plasma, the 60- and 70-inch members of the Vizio E1i-A3 and Sharp LE640 series are better values.

Vizio M3D651SV (pictures)

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A few of Vizio's TV's from late 2012 are undoubtedly the best-looking TVs the company has ever released, with very thin bezels and a decidedly non-budget finish. Sadly, the M3D651SV is not one of these.

The Vizio's bezel is piano-black and quite thick in comparison to many LCD TVs. The bottom of the Vizio's bezel is even thicker, although it holds a pair of front-firing speakers at either side but is also saddled with a weird piece of plastic in the middle. I once heard an LG designer describe his, quite frankly, ugly TV as "inspired by clouds"; if I was feeling similarly poetic about this Vizio, I could describe the middle protuberance as a "lamp sconce" or an "eyelash straightener."

Sarah Tew/CNET

The M3D651SV comes with the same "flipper" remote that my colleague David Katzmaier reviewed on models like the E601i-A3 and the E3D0VX. At the time, he mentioned the difficulty involved with having to point the remote at the screen when using the keyboard, but for the most part he liked it. I agree with him that the device could use a backlight, as while it is fairly logically arranged, there are a lot of buttons. Further, it's not as easy to control as many TV clickers.

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit with local dimming
Screen finish Glossy Remote QWERTY
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Passive 3D glasses included Four pairs
Refresh rate 120Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video

No matter the price point, Vizio tends to offer more features than do its competitors, and unlike the feature-rich but picture-poor output of many LED TVs we've tested this year, Vizio's add-ons are usually not to the detriment of performance.

The TV is an edge-lit LED with what Vizio claims uses local dimming. However, during my testing I saw little evidence that said dimming worked. It comes with a 240Hz refresh rate and dejudder processing for those who, unlike myself, want action that's smoother than James Bond walking away from an explosion while adjusting his cufflinks.

The M3D651SV comes with the usual gamut of Smart TV, peripherals, and 3D features. The QWERTY remote is a particular boon, especially as it's something that other manufacturers have shied away from in 2012.

Smart TV
One of the biggest problems facing Smart TV interfaces is that they can be slow to load. Vizio avoids this issue by offering a more basic interface that pops up like a news ticker and is almost instantaneous. Switching between apps is fairly seamless and doesn't distract from the program you are watching, unlike, say, the Samsung Smart TV with its busy interface and typically longer loading times.

The Smart TV interface appears along the bottom of the screen like a news ticker. Sarah Tew/CNET

Looking at the remote, you'll find buttons for Netflix, Amazon Instant, and a service called M-Go. While anyone interested in Smart TV should be familiar with how the first two services work, M-Go is yet to be launched. It's billed as providing "effortless entertainment through seamless access to your favorite movies, music, and television," but I'll have no idea what that means until I can test it.

For a look at all of the services the Vizio offers, check out our Smart TV comparison chart.

Picture setting
Vizio offers a crazy number of picture presets with its televisions: "Golf" mode, anyone? I've found it's usually best to stick with Cinema mode for most content, and historically this will give you the best picture. But as I found if you check the calibration notes, this mode had some obvious defects in dark areas, so I had to switch to Custom mode. While the two-part grayscale helped make the TV look less blue, the controls aren't as sophisticated as competitor LG's, for example. Vizio lacks both advanced Color Management System controls and selectable gamma.

The M3D651SV offers four HDMI ports, a component/composite input, PC connector, Ethernet, and two USB ports. There's also an 802.11n wireless adapter on board for connecting to the Internet.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture quality

The Vizio M3D651SV is a middle-of-the-road LED performer in a dark room, but when the lights come up it has more problems than usual. The extremely glossy coating on its big screen serves to cause reflections -- such as the one in the photo leading this review -- rather than adding to the perception of contrast. Black levels were relatively light, and the TV simply didn't have the guts to portray shadow detail convincingly, leading to flatter pictures overall. Colors were acceptable though a little too blue, but at least saturation was well accounted for with bold-yet-natural colors.

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 LCD
Panasonic TC-P55ST50 55-inch plasma
LG 47LM7600 47-inch edge-lit LCD
Vizio M3D550 55-inch edge-lit LCD
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference) 65-inch plasma

Black level
LCD TVs are generally creatures of the light. Despite everything TV makers do to try to present inky blacks, there's essentially a ruddy big flashlight behind the picture. The Vizio M3D651SV doesn't even try here, and its difficulties with black portions of the picture were evident no matter what I tried. The best-case scenario was a crushing of low-level blacks compared with its competition, but this led to a much less lifelike image. It also had the lightest blacks of any of the five televisions in the room.

When viewing the mining-ship fly-by in "Star Trek," the 65-inch Vizio demonstrated the least amount of detail of the lineup. This shot from the movie has a lot of colored shadow detail, and on some TVs the image looks very spiky and foreboding. Via the Vizio, I couldn't see any detail on the ship due to low-level black crushing.

However, in the next scene, as Nero lies on a green table, there was some detail available in the shadow next to his head, and while this was better than on the 55-inch Vizio, it was the only instance I saw where the smaller set didn't trounce the larger. This was especially true of the very-dark "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II," where the 55-incher looked more dynamic and was able to give form to more of the murk. While the 65-inch was able to add more punch to light areas of the picture in the two bright scenes toward the end, it came at the detriment of shadow detail. A gray, withered tree set against the sky (Chapter 19) looked like a stark black-and-white render on the 65, while it looked like an actual tree with knots and branches visible in the shadows on the 55.

Color accuracy
Color, despite what the graphs might say, was actually pretty good in a "sort of bluish" way. Color saturation is half the battle, and images had fully fleshed-out colors with intense blues and greens. Only the deepest had a tendency towards purple, but at least skin tones were natural.

The blue cast couldn't be corrected, unfortunately and it was particularly noticeable in darker colors. In the Creation sequence from "The Tree of Life" there is a shot of cells forming. On the other TVs -- Sharp, Panasonic LG, and 55-inch Vizio -- the cells were a flat gray, but on the 65-inch Vizio they were bright blue!

Video processing
While color banding or "false contouring" is not a problem we specifically test for anymore, it's worth noting that the Vizio 65-inch dealt well with the bands that can appear in "The Tree of Life's" Creation scene. Its smaller 55-inch sibling and the Panasonic ST-50, for example, couldn't cope, displaying distinct bands in the many light-filled explosions appearing onscreen.

However, the 65-inch Vizio wasn't able to do all that well in our formal image processing tests, with judder in the 24p test and moire appearing in the stands of the 1080i film test. What this means is that the TV isn't as capable of replaying movies as it could be, and for a TV that costs almost two grand, that's disappointing.

Lastly, motion resolution was about average for a 240Hz TV, with a result of 330 lines without processing and 1080 lines when dejudder (smoothing) was enabled.

For an edge-lit screen, the uniformity of the Vizio was fairly impressive. There was only a slightly lighter patch in the top-left corner, and this was much better than the otherwise-superior Sharp LE640.

Off-axis viewing was actually fairly good, with only a faint purple to black and a dulling of colors.

Bright lighting
Ready for the bad news? This has to be one of the glossiest screens I have seen in years. Years! It is truly mirror-like, and in a well-lit room it can become very distracting, particularly due to its sheer size. If you plan on buying one of these make sure to use it in a light-controlled environment; otherwise, the ensuing reflections could result in significant eyestrain.

The 3D performance of the TV was one of its best attributes, due to the lack of superficial pop-out effects and an absence of crosstalk. The only negative -- and this is amplified by its size -- is that there is noticeable interlacing-like artifacts in light areas of the picture. For the low cost of entry and the one or two movies you'll probably end up watching, it's entirely acceptable. Light output was also good, as it was much brighter than the other Vizio, and on a par with LG LM7600. It should be noted that line structure was also visible on these two TVs as well.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0052 Good
Avg. gamma 2.2695 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.256/0.254 Poor
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3117/0.3292 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3108/0.3277 Good
Before avg. color temp. 6416.4695 Good
After avg. color temp. 6754.2695 Poor
Red lum. error (de94_L) 9.3126 Poor
Green lum. error (de94_L) 10.014 Poor
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 5.6115 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.2282/0.3285 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3091/0.1386 Poor
Yellow hue x/y 0.4157/0.5193 Average
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Fail Poor
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Fail Poor
Motion resolution (max) 1080 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 330 Poor
Vizio M3D651SV calibration

Vizio M3D651SV

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 6Value 6