Vizio M601d-A3R review review: Vizio as pretty as its picture

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MSRP: $1,399.99

The Good The Vizio M-Series M1d-A3R is an excellent value with great design and a snappy picture; great shadow detail, fairly deep black levels, and excellent video processing.It also offers sleek styling and an improved Smart TV system.

The Bad It doesn't have as deep a black level as a plasma; suffers from more blooming than many LCDs; skin tones appear a little red; similar motion resolution to a 120Hz TV; reflective screen; Yahoo apps seem clunky; remote sensor isn't very responsive.

The Bottom Line The 60-inch Vizio M1d-A3R doesn't quite offer the very best value for money in the company's range, but nevertheless features fine picture quality in a large size.

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7.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Value 8

Like the Vizio M551 before it, the Vizio M01 is a competent budget television with a high level of performance. It forgoes some features -- like MHL and touch-panel remotes -- and sometimes others don't work, like learning remote codes, but what the Vizio doesn't do you don't need.

Picture quality is very good for the cash, with darker black levels than some plasmas, but on the other hand the backlight's local dimming effect can be obvious. There is blooming evident on contrasting images, and it's something that more expensive local dimming TVs like the Samsung F8000 and Sony W900 aren't troubled by.

So why does the 55-inch get four stars while this gets three and a half? Quite simply, there are several competitive screens to the 60-inch -- the Sharp 60LE650 and the Sony 60R520 -- which are as much as $300 cheaper than the Vizio, while the 55-inch has no known peers at its size and price. Further, while both Vizios perform very similarly, the 60-inch is 30 percent more expensive than the 55-inch, yet it's less than 10 percent larger diagonally. In closing, a 55-inch Vizio TV with very similar image quality for less than $1,000? Hard to beat. Yet, make no mistake, the Vizio M601d-A3R is still an excellent television.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the Vizio M601d-A3R, but due to manufacturer-stated differences, it stands apart from other models in the M-series. See our review of the 50- and 55-inch sizes here.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In 2013, Vizio took a good, hard look at its TV design and came up with what is a very streamlined look for the M series. The company's new range is forward-looking and appears more expensive than it is.

The Vizio M601d-A3R features a bezel as thin as a smartphone, finished with a brushed-aluminum cap. The Vizio logo is subtle and appears like a browser tab on the right-hand side. The computer comparisons continue with the monitor-like, nonswiveling stand.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The TV comes with an updated remote control, which now features backlighting. Like the 55-inch M-series before I found the remote sensor to be slow and highly directional as well; you have to point it directly at the sensor for it to work. The menu in particular is sluggish to appear onscreen.

If you ever used the Yahoo apps on previous Vizio TVs, you'll know what the company is going for with its new menu system with its drop-down boxes and smartphone-like notifications. The TV now offers some helpful wizards; they are confined to a left-hand window in most cases but due to the larger size of the screen aren't as hard to read as on the 55-inch.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit with local dimming
Screen finish Glossy Remote Universal
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Passive 3D glasses included Four pairs
Refresh rate(s) 240Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video

With the addition of two new 4K ranges at CES 2014, the M-series is now the middle of Vizio's offering, and it remains the company's best 1080p displays. The Vizio M601d-A3R is still a "budget-conscious" TV and dispenses with features like cameras or MHL ports -- most of its function existing in the service of the picture.

Chief among these extras is the edge-lit local dimming system, which is a big contributor to its solid picture quality. Vizio also says the TV has a 240Hz refresh rate, although as is often the case, it behaved more like a 120Hz TV.

Aside from Smart TV, one of the not-quite-necessary-but-nice-to-haves is the passive 3D system -- something that won't be available on the company's 4K sets in 2014. Vizio includes four pairs of passive 3D glasses in the box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Vizio remote has recently acquired wireless connectivity and learning functions, but based on my experience it still has some teething problems. Following my attempts to control two different Oppo devices and a Verizon set-top, I would say that it's currently unreliable at best. The setup routine asks you to input the make and model of your device, then press the power key to test that the code it selected works. However, on all three devices it failed, and the only option at that point is to input codes manually (and who has the specific remote codes to hand?) or to go back, which annoyingly deletes all of the previously entered data.

Smart TV: Vizio has made some tweaks to its Smart TV platform, now named Vizio Internet Apps Plus. Most notably, you can now see more apps on the screen at once; the ribbon that appears at the bottom when you tap the 'V' button now holds seven apps instead of four. Tap it a second time and you now get the new All Apps view.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The company has also added a swath of new apps to its "store" -- mostly local news stations, but notably it now includes Crackle video, 3D video-streaming service 3DGo, and music-streaming app iHeartRadio. The company showed off Spotify capability at CES 2014 but has yet to elaborate if models like this particular 2013 version will receive it.

Go to our Big List for a selective list of the apps the Vizio carries.

Picture settings: In the past, Vizio targeted its TV products toward sports enthusiasts and even included sport-specific picture settings in the menu. Now, however, instead of a dozen different sports modes, there are now only six, including two Calibrated modes for AV enthusiasts as well as a dedicated Game mode.

On the other hand there is still very little advanced tweaking available, offering only a two-point grayscale under Color Temperature, and no advanced color calibration, for example.

I used Smart Dimming in my calibration of the M601, but as with the other Vizios that use this feature, there is a significant hit to the gamma response in the lighter shades. Still, I feel this is worth it for the improved black levels.

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