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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: The Vizio has four HDMI ports plus two USB inputs for external disks and keyboards. You also get a component/composite port, an Ethernet port, and a digital optical output.

Picture quality

According to Vizio, there are some differences between the M551 and the M601; the performance of both televisions are very similar -- and very good. Both exhibit the same ability to get darker blacks than most competing LED LCDs, while also exhibiting some problems with blooming. The main difference between the two is color accuracy, with the 60-inch showing slightly worse red response than the already-rosy 55-inch. Otherwise, color between the two is of the standard you would expect at their respective prices.

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)
Sony KDL-55W900A 55-inch edge-lit local dimming LCD
Samsung UN55F8000 55-inch edge-lit local dimming LCD
Vizio M551d-A2R 55-inch edge-lit local dimming LCD
Panasonic TC-P65S64 65-inch plasma
Sharp LC-60LE650 60-inch LCD

Black level: The black levels of the 60-inch are as deep as you would expect from an edge-lit dimming system -- and come with the usual caveats as you'll soon see. Firstly, a bit of that loveable scamp, Harry Potter. At the 57:44 mark of "Deathly Hallows, Part II," you see the titular character walk through a hall filled with junk, and on the left hand side of the image is a stack of books partly hidden in shadow. The books were visible on all of the TVs bar the 55-inch Vizio, and only vaguely viewable on the Samsung 8000. Part of the problem with the 55-inch Vizio was that backlight uniformity issues helped obscure the books.

While we're on backlight issues: blooming, as with the 55 inch, is a problem with the 60-inch. This effect is particularly noticeable when a part of the screen is bright and the rest dark -- think moons, credits, and so forth. Both models exhibited a gray strip across the middle on loading screens and the like, but it was less strident on the 60 than the 551.

To get blooming-free picture quality you'll need to spend more money, given that plasma is no longer an option. Sony is the best, after the Panasonic S64, for blacks without blooming, followed by the Samsung, the two Vizios, and then the Sharp which isn't affected by blooming (and has the lightest black levels of the bunch). However, the Panasonic showed brownish blacks at times while the Sony's can be blue. The Samsung and the Vizios had more neutral shades of black.

Color accuracy: Colorwise, the Vizio behaved very similarly to most of the other TVs in the lineup -- with the exception of the Sharp 650, which was a little undersaturated, particularly in green. The M601's worst color offense was too-red skin tones, although it still didn't tip over into ruddiness.

While the colors were similar between the two Vizios, the 60-inch was a little more favorable toward blues and greens, with a better approximation of the mother's dress in "Tree of Life." On the smaller Vizio the dress looked blue while on the 60-inch it had more cyan in it. The Sony and the Samsung did best at the four-color combination of natural red hair, pale skin, an aqua dress, and blue-green grass.

Video processing: Though the M series claims to support 240Hz, the motion resolution test suggests it should actually be classified as a 120Hz TV. The 60-inch managed to resolve only a maxiumum 600 lines out of a possible 1,200. You may see more blurring on leading edges and moving text, even with motion compensation (the Soap Opera Effect) turned on, compared to other TVs.

When it came to supporting Blu-ray content, the Vizio was very good, with the 24p stream relatively smooth compared to the jerkiness of the Panasonic S64.

Film-based 1080i content in the form of our synthetic test suite exhibited some shimmering in the test pattern, and in this way it behaved similarly to the Sharp 650, which also passed.

If you're looking to use the Vizio for gaming, you'll want to know about the fairly pedestrian 46.67ms input lag score in the dedicated gaming mode.

Uniformity: While not as prone to light leakage from the sides as the 55-inch, subtle brighter areas were still visible -- and particularly so off-axis. When seen from the side the television shows off the dimming backlight more obviously, but while colors became muted, at least the blacks didn't devolve into bluishness.

Bright lighting: Under bright lights the screen appeared quite reflective and could be just as distracting as the 55-inch before it. Blacks did give in to dark blue at times with the right (or wrong) content, but it held its deepest blacks better in the light than did the Sony.

Sound quality: For a unit with no discernible room to fit speakers in, the M601's sound quality wasn't too bad. While music wasn't very good -- the vocals on Nick Cave's "Red Right Hand" sounded distant -- at least the bass didn't become flabby and distorted.

But turn to movies and the Vizio had an impactful sound with no distortion or obvious compression on explosions. Compared to other models on test, vocals and environmental effects had more "space" than the 55-inch Vizio, and the TV was also able to go much louder than the other space-constrained model, the Samsung F800.

3D: For the first time since reviewing a passive TV, I saw significant crosstalk during one of my tests. Using the default 3D mode, in "Hugo" (4:44) as the protagonist's hand reached out against the dark background there was a definable ghostly image -- something that wasn't apparent on the 55-inch. There was an additional soap opera effect that wasn't visible on the 55. After some experimenting with the Film Mode and Advanced Brightness Control I got the TV to work properly but can't explain how this happened: the settings were the same as when I'd started. Apart from this glitch, the image was then as easy to view as that of the 55-inch, with decent color and black levels as well as the significant line structure artifacts common to 1080p passive 3D screens.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0003 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.07 Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.266 Good
Near-black error (5%) 0.0408 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.7191 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.3606 Good
Avg. color error 2.926 Good
Red error 5.4004 Poor
Green error 2.7363 Good
Blue error 3.1064 Average
Cyan error 3.1382 Average
Magenta error 1.6914 Good
Yellow error 1.4861 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 310 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 600 Average
Input lag (Game mode) 46.67 Average

Vizio M601d-A3R calibration report

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