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Vizio P-Series Quantum review: A more affordable alternative to OLED with a superb picture

Picture quality

27-vizio-pq65-f1

Click the image above for CNET's picture settings and notes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The PQ is one of the best LCD-based TVs I've tested, and earns the year's first "9" score in this category. It's not as good overall as LG's OLED TVs (which earn the "10"), but it can get brighter and delivers otherwise excellent image quality in nearly every area. The only TVs that match or beat its picture, namely OLEDs and Samsung's Q9, cost a heck of a lot more. TVs that cost less, such as Vizio's standard P-Series and TCL's 6 series, don't perform as well -- especially with the highest-quality 4K and HDR images.

The PQ has superb black levels and contrast for home theater lighting as well as one of the best bright-room images on the market, second only to the Samsung Q9 among TVs I've tested. Video processing and uniformity are top-notch. While the Q9 has more impactful HDR, its shadow detail with standard dynamic range falls short of the PQ. I also noticed some banding in HDR material on the Vizio, but it was rare and certainly didn't ruin an otherwise outstanding performance.

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.

Dim lighting: To establish a black level baseline I turned first to the super-dark torture test: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Chapter 10, where Voldemort's gang invades Hogwart's.

I was surprised to see the dark areas and letterbox bars of the Vizio PQ weren't quite as deep as the original P-Series or especially the Samsung Q9. But they were still excellent, and deeper than any of the other LCDs. The PQ showed more shadow detail than the Q9, which obscured (or "crushed") a lot of the detail in areas near black, like the robes of the attackers. In these scenes the original P-Series looked a bit better overall than the PQ, although the latter still beat the black levels of the Sony and TCL.

With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom on standard Blu-ray, the submarine scenes at the very beginning stacked up in a similar way between the sets, with the Q9 delivering the deepest black levels (aside from the LG OLED) and the PQ a hair lighter, with superior shadow detail, and a near-match for the original P-Series. 

As the scenes brightened just a bit to show the sub's searchlights of the surface of the island at night, the differences became less pronounced between all of the sets. But the OLED still looked the best with its superior contrast, and the Sony and TCL letterbox bars still looked a bit brighter -- which in turn hurt their contrast in comparison to the other three LCDs

Between those three -- the PQ, P-Series and Q9 -- black levels were similar in the brighter but still mostly dark scenes from Chapter 1, where the worker tries to evade the rampaging dinosaurs in the storm. The Q9 continued to show a bit less detail in shadows at times but otherwise the contrast of the three looked basically the same.  

Bright lighting: This is one bright TV. In terms of raw light output only the Samsung sets, the Q8 and Q9, beat the Vizio PQ with a standard 10 percent window pattern. With a full-white screen -- think a hockey game or skiing -- the PQ pulled ahead of both slightly. All three can get blindingly bright in their most potent picture modes, Dynamic and Vivid respectively, and exceedingly bright with HDR too.

Light output in nits

TV Mode (SDR) 10% window (SDR) Full screen (SDR) Mode (HDR) 10% window (HDR)
Samsung QN65Q9F Dynamic 3221 724 Dynamic 3173
Samsung QN65Q8F Dynamic 2348 638 Dynamic 2388
Vizio PQ65-F1 Vivid 2184 749 Calibrated 2441
Sony XBR-65X900F Vivid 1183 696 Vivid 1203
Vizio P65-F1 Vivid 997 462 Vivid 1101
TCL 65R617 Brighter/Vivid 653 480 Brighter/Dark HDR 824
LG OLED65B8P Vivid 393 130 Technicolor Expert 771

In Samsung's case that level of brightness is only maintained for a few seconds in Dynamic mode before it dims considerably, while other modes maintained light output consistently. Neither the PQ nor other non-Samsung TVs evinced that kind of abrupt in any mode.

Dynamic and Vivid are terribly inaccurate, as usual, so if you want a bright SDR picture that's actually good, Vizio has the convenience advantage. Its separate "Calibrated" setting puts out a healthy 443 nits in its default settings and climbs to a very impressive 1570 if you turn the local dimming (er, "Xtreme Black Engine Pro") setting to Medium. To get an accurate bright-room SDR image out of the Samsung Q9 you'll have to play around with the picture modes more, for example maxing out the backlight in Movie mode and setting Local Dimming to High (which nets 1600 nits) or adjusting Natural mode by changing its color temperature to Warm 2 (for 1400 nits). I like Vizio's implementation of an accurate bright-room picture mode, and it would be nice if Samsung offered one too.

With HDR sources the Samsungs were brighter in their Dynamic modes but the PQ's Calibrated mode was actually its brightest as well as quite accurate. The Q9's Movie mode was still bright in HDR, however, at just under 2000 nits, while Movie in HDR on the Q8 clocked in at 1200 -- less than half of the PQ's Calibrated.

Where the Samsungs beat the Vizio most handily is in reduction of reflections. The screen of the Q9 and Q8 do the best job I've ever seen of dulling bright spots while simultaneously maintaining deep black levels in a bright room. The PQ is also very good at this, equal to the standard P-Series and the Sony and better than the TCL, but not as good as the LG OLED or especially the Samsungs.

Color accuracy: According to my measurements the PQ delivered excellent accuracy overall before and after calibration, and indeed colors from Jurassic World looked great. The skin tone of Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) as she ascends the elevator and enters the office looked healthy and not too flush, although the Sony and LG appeared a bit more balanced while on the Samsung she looked a bit pale. Natural colors, like the greens and yellows of the forest in Chapter 3, also came across wh excellent saturation and richness. As usual, however, none of the sets showed a marked difference in color compared to the others, especially if viewed outside a side-by-side comparison.

Video processing: The PQ-Series tested the same in this category as the standard P-Series, and it's very good. Both offer nearly the same nearly the same level of video processing as the Samsung Q8/Q9 and the Sony X900F.

The PQ achieved the maximum 1,200 lines of motion resolution in my test, and was able to do so while maintaining correct 1080p/24 film cadence. To get that result I set Reduce Judder to zero and Reduce Motion Blur to 10 while engaging Clear Action black frame insertion. The latter setting cuts light output significantly, as usual, but unlike on some TVs it doesn't cause massive flicker (as long as Reduce Motion Blur is higher than zero). I still noticed some flicker in the brightest images, however, so I kept it turned off for my tests. With Clear Action disabled, the PQ still managed an acceptable 600 lines of motion resolution as long as Reduce Motion Blur was engaged.

I'm no fan of the soap opera effect, but people who want a little smoothing might appreciate that the PQ's Reduce Judder slider is pleasantly gradual, with barely any smoothing at 1 and slightly more at 2 and 3 before getting into buttery territory at 4 and above.

Unlike most TVs that have a single Game mode to reduce input lag for gaming, the Vizio has a Game Low Latency (GLL) setting that can be applied to any picture mode -- including Game. With 1080p/HD sources, the PQ-Series' lag was very similar to the P-Series and quite good with GLL on, at about 27ms in Calibrated and 31ms in Game mode. With 4K HDR sources the results were similar.

Those numbers were measured on Input 1, but the Input 5 was even better, topping out at a very impressive 14.93 ms (Calibrated, GLL on). As I mentioned above, however, that input is only for 1080p sources, but if you're a twitch gamer going 1080p, Input 5 on the P series among the lowest input lags available.

Uniformity: Brightness across the PQ's screen was quite uniform. With full-field test patterns there were no major bands or bright spots, and only near the edges did I see slight variations in brightness. The Samsung Q9 showed very slightly more banding and backlight structure than PQ, while the P-Series, the Sony and the TCL showed less than the PQ, but the differences between all of them were minor and impossible to discern with real video as opposed to test patterns. The PQ also showed minimal dirty screen effect -- where a moving image reveals minor variations in brightness -- and was very slightly better than my Q9 sample in this area.

From off-angle the Vizio lost black level fidelity and brightness at about the same rate as the other LCD-based sets with the exception of the Q9, which maintained black levels and contrast better than the PQ from seats to either side of the sweet spot right in front of the screen. I tried Vizio's "Enhanced Viewing Angle" setting and it didn't seem to make much difference. It did reduce resolution however, as noted in the item's menu description, so I left it turned off.

Here's where I remind readers that the LG OLED trounced all of the LCD-based TVs in the lineup at just about every aspect of uniformity, with no variations in brightness or color across the screen and very little loss in fidelity from off-angle.

HDR and 4K video: Only the LG OLED and the Samsung Q9 could match the high dynamic range prowess of the PQ. The others, including the standard P-Series, delivered significantly dimmer highlights, less punch and a duller overall image than those three.

Watching the 4K HDR version of JW: FK, I compared the Samsung Q9 (with the HDR10 version from the 4K Blu-ray) to the Vizio PQ (playing the Dolby Vision version from an Apple TV 4K). The Samsung looked more impactful because it showed the brightest highlights. It also matched the PQ's inky black levels, did a better job of eliminating blooming and, unlike what I saw with SDR, preserved shadow details just as well as the Vizio.

The highlights were the biggest difference between the two. A spot measurement of one of the submarine's lights, for example (1:21), revealed 600 nits on the Q9, 400 on the PQ and LG OLED, and less than 300 on the others. Some of that might have to do with the Samsung's handling of HDR10 but a good portion is attributable to raw LED horsepower.

The HDR10 version on the Vizio PQ looked similar to Dolby Vision, and again less punchy than the Samsung. I also tried playing with the Vizio's local dimming setting, moving from the default Medium to High, but it looked worse since it caused even more blooming and washed out dark areas. Meanwhile, as usual, the LG OLED looked best overall thanks to its perfect black levels, bright-enough highlights and complete lack of blooming, for the most realistic shadows and dark areas.

Thanks to the PQ's quantum dots I measured a 4 percent increase in coverage of the P3 color gamut compared to the standard P-Series, but in JW it was tough to see much, if any, advantage in the Q. Highly saturated areas of the image, like the red-orange lava in the titles logo and the red of the BBC banners in Chapter 2, for example, looked similar on both -- and on the other sets in my comparison. Judging from skin tones the Samsung Q9 and LG OLED looked the most accurate, and my measurements backed that up, but the differences between those and the PQ would be really tough to spot outside of a side-by-side lineup.

One strike against the PQ was a propensity for banding at times, where gradations between light and dark that should show a smooth fade instead reveal distinct stair-step patterns. It was obvious in the very beginning of Chapter 1 (1:18), where the sub's searchlight on the PQ broke into bands while the other TVs did not. The same scene in SDR didn't cause banding, but the banding also showed up in the Dolby Vision version, so it has something to do with the PQ's HDR processing. Even so it was quite uncommon, and most gradations I saw on the PQ in HDR were free of this artifact, so I don't consider it any kind of deal-breaker.

Geek Box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.005 Good
Peak white luminance (SDR) 2036 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.36 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.51 Good
Dark gray error (30%) 0.20 Good
Bright gray error (80%) 0.54 Good
Avg. color checker error
Good
Avg. color error 1.54 Good
Red error 1.39 Good
Green error 1.36 Good
Blue error 3.03 Average
Cyan error 1.16 Good
Magenta error 1.34 Good
Yellow error 0.98 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 600.00 Average
Input lag (Game mode, Input 5) 14.93 Good
Input lag (Game mode, Input 1) 26.80 Good



HDR10

Black luminance (0%) 0.004 Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 2441 Good
Gamut % UHDA/P3 (CIE 1976) 97.89 Good
Avg. color checker error 2.83 Good
Input lag (Game mode, 4K HDR) 26.57 Good

Vizio P-Series Quantum PQ65-F1 CNET calibration results by David Katzmaier on Scribd

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