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Vizio M-Series 2016 review: This M TV is a video value hit

The Vizio M series has a free tablet remote, support for both HDR formats, and excellent picture quality for an affordable price.

David Katzmaier
David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming
David runs CNET's home entertainment division, where he leads a team that covers TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home audio. If he doesn't know something about the gear you use to keep yourself entertained at home, it's not worth knowing.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
15 min read

Vizio is well-known for its budget TVs, but in the last couple of years the company has put out a few televisions that aim higher than the bargain basement. These midrange Vizios, like the M series last year and the P series from earlier in 2016, have scored some of the highest review ratings we've given. That's because they combine excellent image quality with an affordable price, a combination we value.


Vizio M-Series 2016

The Good

The affordable Vizio M series has excellent overall picture quality that competes well against even more expensive TVs. It can handle both high-dynamic-range formats. The remote is a fully functional Android tablet. The Google Cast system offers more apps and frequent updates than many dedicated smart-TV systems.

The Bad

Using the tablet for settings and streaming apps is often more of a hassle than traditional onscreen menus. No built-in tuner, so you can't watch over-the-air antenna broadcasts unless you attach a separate tuner.

The Bottom Line

Despite the inconvenience of its tablet-based menus and apps, the Vizio M series' excellent image quality and value make it a top choice for the price.

The 2016 version of the M series is Vizio's best value yet. Its picture quality beats that of any TV at this price, even sets from Samsung, Sony and LG that cost more, making it a superb choice for TV shoppers who prize image quality over brand cachet, design or smart TV extras.

Vizio M-series 2016 (pictures)

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So is there a catch? Well, this TV depends on an included Android tablet for streaming app access and even basic settings, something I found less convenient than the traditional big-screen method. It also lacks a built-in TV tuner, so you can't hook up an antenna. To watch free over-the-air TV you'll need a third-party tuner box or an DVR such as the TiVo Roamio OTA or the Channel Master DVR+.

The M series has a great picture but it's not as good as the more expensive P series. Choosing between the two boils down to a how much extra you're willing to pay for that image quality improvement. If you can afford the P, I think it's money well-spent, but I won't blame you for opting for the M instead and saving the dough. Its value proposition is the best I've ever seen on a TV this high-performance and well-equipped, period.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch M65-D0, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. Here's how the other sizes differ (prices current at Vizio's site as of September 15, 2016. And yes, the 55-incher is currently cheaper than the 50).

Vizio M-series 2016 sizes

Model SizePriceDimming zonesRefresh ratePanel type
M50-D1 50 inches$8493260HzVA
M55-D0 55 inches$8006460HzVA
M60-D1 60 inches$1,25064120HzIPS
M65-D0 65 inches$1,30064120HzVA
M70-D3 70 inches$2,00064120HzVA
M80-D3 80 inches$4,00064120HzVA

The most important difference in the table above is the IPS panel used on the 60-inch model. Because of that difference I expect it to perform worse than the other sizes. See the Features section for additional details on this and other differences.

Update June 30, 2017: For 2017 we have updated weighting system we use to figure the overall ratings in TV reviews. As a result the rating of the 2016 Vizio M series has been reduced from 8.8 to 8.5. The review has not otherwise been changed.

Editors' note: I actually used three different M65-D0 during the course of this review. Two were bought new from Best Buy and the third was supplied by the manufacturer (as most of my TV review samples are). The third came late in my review process and I used it primarily for HDR testing.

The first one I bought showed a defect -- a vertical line of stuck pixels -- so I returned it to the store and replaced it with a second one, which didn't show the defect. Vizio says the issue is covered under warranty, and adds: "Vizio displays have a very low malfunction rate, but with the units that do malfunction, vertical line issues are not that uncommon with any LCD display."

I did note some performance differences between the two purchased samples, but they were minor. See the picture quality section for details.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Get a free tablet, lose some convenience

Just like the P series, the M includes a 6-inch Android tablet that's supposed to be the main "remote," as well as the gateway to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. If I bought one of these TVs, however, I'd I'd mostly ignore the tablet and rely on a good universal remote for basic functions like power and input switching, and on an external device for streaming.

But let's back up for a sec. Here are the M series tablet's specifications.

  • 720p resolution
  • Quad-core processor
  • 8GB storage
  • Android Lollipop (5.1)
  • Stereo speakers
  • Headphone jack and microphone
  • No camera or expandable storage

The P series' tablet has a higher-res screen, better processor and more storage but is otherwise identical. Between the two I didn't notice any differences in performance, although the 720p screen of the M series' slate showed chunkier icons and text when I looked closely. Both worked mostly fine as standalone tablets, whether playing a game, checking email or watching video. One exception came with the second M series tablet I tested, which seemed to have connection issues with a couple of my 5GHz networks. Switching to the 2.4GHz network fixed the problem.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What worked less fine was using the tablet as a TV remote. I didn't like having to futz with the tablet to turn on the TV, shift focus between two screens and rely on the smaller-screen interface for everything. I prefer to use a traditional button-and-TV combination mostly by feel, without taking my eyes off the big screen. Fortunately Vizio does include a small, traditional remote that can control volume/mute, input, aspect ratio, play/pause, picture mode, pairing and power, and most of those settings can also be controlled by universal remotes like Harmony.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For every other TV setting you'll need to use Vizio's SmartCast app, preinstalled on the included tablet and also available for any iOS or Android device. Although it has improved since I originally tested it -- including the much-needed addition of up/down buttons as an alternative to sliders for adjusting numeric settings -- the app still occasionally lost connection and wasn't as bulletproof or convenient as a standard remote.

You can also use the SmartCast app to browse movies, TV shows and other content, whether from streaming services or you cable TV, but it lacks Netflix, HBO and Showtime app integration, among many others, and can't control your cable box, so the browse function isn't very useful.

Smart TV via the small screen

Speaking of apps, one big advantage is access to more apps than any other smart TV system not named Roku. Vizio's tablet has just as many choices to "cast" to the TV as Google's own Chromecast device, including apps for rarities like PlayStation Vue, Twitch and Pluto TV. The selection is truly vast, and casting works exactly the same way as Chromecast. See my review for details.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The big exception is Amazon Video, whose Android app doesn't allow native casting to the TV. That means you'll miss out on Amazon's large selection of video, including a few 4K and HDR movies and TV shows, unless you use an external Amazon-capable device (none of which currently do HDR, although that might change soon) or cast Amazon from a Chrome browser. The Amazon Video app isn't natively available on the Google Play store used by Vizio's tablet, and you can't buy Vizio SmartCast TVs (or Chromecasts) at Amazon.

Another minor issue? Vizio's tablets are currently incompatible (according to the Google Play app) with the CBS All Access and NFL Mobile apps, and perhaps a few others I didn't test. Those apps worked on my phone, however, which Cast them to the TV with no issues. Nonetheless, it seems Vizio's TV/tablet system is already a victim of Android fragmentation.

In the end people comfortable using their phones for everything might prefer Vizio's cast-based method, but I like having TV-based menus and a button remote. I also prefer the big-screen interfaces of well-developed apps like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube to their smaller-screen versions. And if you really like Casting, you can get it by connecting a $35 Chromecast, or other Cast device, to any TV.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Distinctive legs, convenient cradle

The M series' relatively generic looks -- slate-gray frame from the front, silver edges and thickish profile from the side -- get some pizzazz from its unusual stand legs. They consist of chrome rods bent into rounded supports, and while distinctive, they risk looking a tad cheap to my eye. I also wish they could be move toward the center, like Samsung allows on the KS8000. One cure? Wall-mount.

I love Vizio's included wireless charging cradle because it provides a permanent home that helps keep the tablet "remote" from getting lost, and provides a very convenient way to keep the battery topped off. Wireless charging is one of my favorite features on any mobile device, and Vizio deserves major credit for including it in such an elegant way with its throw-in tablet.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Key TV features

Display technology: LED LCD
LED backlight: Full array with local dimming
Resolution: 4K
HDR compatible: HDR10 and Dolby Vision
Screen shape: Flat
Smart TV: Google Cast
Remotes: Tablet and standard
3D capable: No

The best feature is full-array local dimming ("FALD"), which improves all-important contrast and black levels, and has better uniformity than edge-lit dimming. The number of dimmable zones is roughly half that of the step-up P series -- the 50-inch M gets 32 zones, while the 55-inch and larger get 64 -- and in general, more zones equal better picture quality. Here's where I remind you that most other TVs at this price lack dimming entirely or use the edge-lit variety as seen on models like Samsung KS8000 and Sony X930D, and that FALD TVs from Samsung and Sony cost thousands more.

The 50- and 55-inch M series have a 60Hz refresh rate panel compared with 120Hz on the larger models (Vizio claims higher numbers like "240Hz effective" and "720 clear action" but that's basically bunk). I don't think the difference between the two will be visible to most people who aren't extremely sensitive to blurring. The 60Hz sets also lack a setting to engage MEMC (motion estimation, motion compensation), a.k.a. The Soap Opera Effect.

More visible, however, might be the effect of the IPS (in-plane switching) LCD panel used on the 60-inch size. In the past I've found IPS has worse image quality than VA (vertical alignment), the panel type used on the other sizes. IPS delivered worse black-level performance and contrast, and although it's slightly better from off-angle, it's still usually worse overall. I didn't test the 60-inch size for this review, but based on past experience I'd recommend avoiding it.

One other difference on paper between the M and P series is the P's somewhat wider color gamut, called Ultra Color Spectrum by Vizio. The difference isn't major in our tests however (see below) and in any case is only applicable to HDR content.

LG and Vizio are the only TV makers this year to support for both types of HDR video: Dolby Vision and HDR10, the latter thanks to a recent software update. Today at least, that means TVs like the M series can access more HDR TV shows and movies than other devices.

As mentioned above, the M-Series lacks a built-in TV tuner, so it can't receive local TV stations available via antenna/over-the-air broadcasts.

Sarah Tew/CNET


  • 1 HDMI input with HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2
  • 3 HDMI inputs with HDMI 1.4, HDCP 2.2
  • 1 HDMI input with HDMI 1.4, HDCP 2.2 (can accept 1080p @120Hz)
  • 1 component-video input
  • 2 USB inputs (both version 2.0)
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • Stereo audio output

Here's another difference between the M and P series. Of the M series' five HDMI ports only one, Input 1, supports HDMI 2.0a. That means it's the only port fully compatible with HDR10 devices, for example a 4K Blu-ray player or HDR-capable streaming media device.

Three other ports (Inputs 2 through 4), support HDMI version 1.4 only, which means they can handle any device, 4K or otherwise, outputting video up to 4K/24Hz (but not 4K/60Hz). Vizio says they will indeed work with 4K HDR sources, too: "We have found that the Samsung and Philips 4K Blu-ray players do output HDR content on HDMI 1.4 with 24Hz content. In these cases, HDMI input 2-4 can also support HDR10 playback." That claim is correct with the Samsung player for input 2 and 3, although not with input 4 according to my test. I didn't test the Philips player.

Input 5 will accept 4K sources at 60Hz, 4:2:0 (which is technically beyond HDMI 1.4) and is also capable of accepting 1080p at 120Hz, a frequency typically reserved for computers.

Since there's no tuner, the standard RF-style antenna input is conspicuously absent. Vizio includes a 6-foot-long HDMI cable.

Picture quality

The M series showed an excellent overall image, exhibiting deep black levels and plenty of contrast thanks to its full-array local dimming, as well as accurate color, solid video processing and very good screen uniformity. With HDR sources it's more of a mixed bag, showing less than ideal HDR10 quality but better results in Dolby Vision. All told it outperforms most LCDs I've tested this year, including both Samsungs and the Sony in my comparison lineup, but not the Vizio P series or the Sony X930D.

I'm not posting picture settings because of the precalibration color discrepancy between the two purchased samples. Check out my calibration and HDR notes for details.

Dim lighting: The M series performed very well in this category, beating every other LCD except the P series. In dark scenes, such as the fireside talk Hugh gives his son Hawk in "The Revenant" (Chapter 4), the black of its letterbox bars and shadows was quite deep, lending richness and realism to the image. The P did a bit better job controlling spillover from lighter areas into dark (blooming), although blooming wasn't a major issue on the M series either.

In addition to lighter black levels in most scenes, the Samsung KS8000 suffered brighter corners and edges, then the M, an issue that got worse as scenes brightened. Both Vizios, on the other hand, maintained uniformly dark in the letterbox bars, which made the actual image appear more vibrant. As for the Sony and the Samsung KU7000, they were both significantly worse (lighter black levels and less contrast) than the Vizios and the KS8000 in a dark room, and of course the OLED was the best by far.

The M also showed full shadow detail, even edging out the P series slightly in revealing the depths of the trappers' furs and shadowed faces, for example. I still preferred the P series overall in a dark room, however, and its ever-so-slightly worse shadows wouldn't be noticeable outside a side-by-side comparison.

Bright lighting: The M65 I tested is dimmer than the Samsung KS8000, but kept up well with others (including the P series) and is still plenty bright for just about any room. Unlike the others, it evinced the most light output in the Calibrated mode, with local dimming disabled and the backlight turned all the way up. The Vivid mode, on the other hand, somewhat bit dimmer. Since Calibrated is by far the more accurate of the two, that's actually a good thing.

With HDR sources Vivid mode was again brightest, although Calibrated wasn't that much dimmer at 438 nits. Vizio says it's working on a software update that will improve HDR10 light output even further, and tests of the review sample it sent, with as-yet-unreleased software, support that claim (see the HDR notes for more).

Light output in nits

TV Mode (SDR)10% window (SDR)Full screen (SDR)Mode (HDR)10% window (HDR)
Samsung UN65KS8000 Dynamic618480Movie1346
Vizio P65-C1 Vivid502572Vivid486
Vizio M65-D0 Calibrated456450Vivid507
Samsung UN65KU7000 Dynamic452453Vivid425
Sony XBR-65X850D Vivid427461HDR Video432
LG 55OLEDB6P Vivid367115HDR Vivid651

The M and P share a similar semi-matte screen finish, which beat the others (with the exception of the Samsung KS8000) at reducing reflections. That Samsung and the LG OLED were superior at preserving the fidelity of black onscreen, but the Vizios beat the KU7000 and the Sony in that regard.

Color accuracy: Despite some variation in initial color temperature, both M series TVs I purchased were excellent post-calibration in terms of both measurements (see the Geek Box below) and observations. The natural colors of the trees, rivers and skies from The Revenant looked superb, as did the weathered, ruddy skin tones of the trappers. Compared with the others, I'd give the KS8000 and OLED a slight edge in this category, but all were extremely good and any differences would be difficult to discern without a side-by-side comparison.

Video processing: Motion performance was excellent, just like on the P series. At a Reduce Judder setting of 1 and a Reduce Motion Blur setting of 10 it showed a maximum motion resolution to 1,000 lines, with basically no smoothing of 24p sources (aka Soap Opera Effect). Clear Action cleaned it up a bit more, at the expense of reducing brightness.

Input lag for gaming was also very good on the M series. On two of the first four inputs I tested, engaging the game low latency slider with any picture mode yielded a score of 37ms. On Input 5 the score was even better at just over 19ms.

As with most 4K TVs I've tested the M series had no problems with upconversion of HD sources and channels I watched, nor was there any apparent benefit to the screen's higher resolution with those sources.

After the update to enable HDR10, both the M and P series evince an annoying bug. When you engage the Quick Start mode, something the SmartCast app encourages you to do, the sets engage edge enhancement, causing ringing and extra sharpness around onscreen objects. The standard fix of reducing the Sharpness control to zero eliminates the issue only temporarily; the edge enhancement reappears when the TV is turned back on, despite a zero reading. Vizio says the TVs' next software update will fix the issue, and the sample it shipped me (which had prerelease software) indeed didn't show the issue. In the meantime I'd recommend turning Quick Start off, which means you'll lose the ability to power on the display by casting from the tablet.

Uniformity: The Vizio was fine from off-angle, no better or worse than the other LCDs in the lineup, which all lost significant fidelity compared with the OLED. There were no major bright or dim spots across the M-series' screen.

HDR and 4K video: The M series' performance with HDR10 sources from 4K Blu-ray is a step or two below that of other displays I've tested, including the P series, both in the measurements I took and in side-by-side comparisons with Hollywood films. That said, I'd definitely choose to watch the HDR version rather than the standard dynamic range version -- like with other recent HDR sets, the improvement in color and pop was readily apparent with most material. With Dolby Vision, the M series' HDR is much better.

I used the same comparison lineup as with SDR (detailed above) but added another M series review sample, the one Vizio sent me. That's because I don't calibrate for HDR, and since the one Vizio sent is more color-accurate, it should provide a better idea of the M series' peak HDR potential. That TV also has beta software (not yet publicly available) that Vizio says improves how the TV reacts to incorrect metadata, among other things. In other words, HDR on the M series is still a work in progress.

My first test was watching "The Revenant" via the Samsung UBD-K8500 4K Blu-ray player on all my comparison sets simultaneously, courtesy of the awesome the AVPro Connect AC-MX88-UHD distribution matrix. It revealed many of the same differences as detailed above, including the Vizios' superior black levels compared to the Samsungs and the Sony, a difference as exacerbated by the maxed-out backlight settings of HDR. The store-bought M series showed less accurate color than the competition, with a somewhat reddish cast, although the P series was even less accurate, veering toward purplish.

Many of the other sets, including the P, looked better in brighter scenes than the M series. In Chapter 2 as the camera pans over the the clouds then back to the forest (6:51), the M and P showed a dimmer sky than the others, leading to less of a natural impression as the brightness was revealed. In the P's favor it kept the trees relatively dark, but on the M they slightly more washed-out than on most of the others, an impression that persisted in many scenes despite the M's superior black levels. Part of the difference could be the M's inaccurate EOTF, according to my measurements.

"Mad Max: Fury Road" was the same story with the HDR10 4K Blu-ray, but looked much better streamed via Dolby Vision from Vudu. Highlights were brighter, overall pop and contrast improved, and the image looked every bit as vibrant and compelling as the other sets, with the exception of the superior OLED. I wasn't able to compare the M's Dolby Vision to that of the P directly, but switching back and forth the P appeared better, with brighter highlights still as well as punchier color.

Unlike Samsung and LG's 2016 TVs, the Vizio doesn't automatically engage the correct HDMI 10-bit picture setting when it detects an HDR signal from the Samsung K8500 Blu-ray player. Instead, you have to manually go into the Smart Cast app's settings and change it, something Vizio says you should do for all HDR devices. To do so, go to the gear icon on the app home page ("Settings") and select Inputs and engage "HDMI Color Subsampling" for the input you want by sliding the toggle to the right. I prefer the automatic method of changing this setting mainly because most users won't know to switch it themselves.

The M-Series was also able to pass the full resolution of 4K from YouTube. The TV also played through a suite of 4K test patterns from Florian Friedrich with no issues.

Note: The Geek Box applies only to the second purchased review sample, the one I ended up keeping and using for my comparison review, but I have included the charts for both it (No. 2) and the one I returned (No. 1) to illustrate how they differ before and after calibration.

Geek Box

Test ResultScore
Black luminance (0%) 0.007Good
Peak white luminance (100%) 147Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.31Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.952Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.891Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.964Good
Avg. color error 2.738Good
Red error 3.333Average
Green error 2.565Good
Blue error 4.678Average
Cyan error 1.96Good
Magenta error 2.578Good
Yellow error 1.313Good
Avg. saturations error 1.446Good
Avg. luminance error 2.5Good
Avg. color checker error 1.901Good
Percent gamut Wide (DCI/P3) 78Poor
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) PassGood
Motion resolution (max) 1000Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1000Good
Input lag (Game mode) 19.13Good

How we test TVs


Vizio M-Series 2016

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Value 10
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