Vizio P series TV depends on software, not hardware, for 2017 updates

The "new" version of one of CNET's favorite TVs is basically identical to last year, plus software refinements and minus the tablet remote. And that's a good thing.

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
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.
David Katzmaier
3 min read

The TVs with CNET's highest review scores in picture quality are LG's OLED models, including the new C7. But what TVs do you think scored best among LCD TVs?

The answer last year was Vizio's P series, which earned one of only two 9s I awarded in overall image quality. That score matched a significantly more expensive Sony and fell short of only those OLED models, which cost even more.

Apparently Vizio didn't want to mess with a good thing. For 2017 the "new" P series is exactly the same as last year. The panel, processor, inputs and other hardware are identical, according to Vizio, and so is the external design.

What has changed, and will continue to evolve, is the software. Since I first reviewed the 2016 P series it has gone through a series of software updates, many addressed at improving its high dynamic range (HDR) picture quality. I haven't had the chance to review the latest version yet, but I expect it to continue to offer some of the best image quality available in a non-OLED TV.

Both the 2016 and 2017 TVs will receive updates in the future, and Vizio says they'll continue to exhibit identical performance throughout the model year. In my experience reviewing TVs that kind of next-year future-proofing is a first. And it's pretty cool.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Vizio says the P series delivers "some of the industry's best full-white brightness performance" and also claims a color gamut that's close to DCI P3. In my most recent review of the P series showed very good full-field light output, but narrower P3 color gamut than Vizio's claim. I plan to re-test soon to see if any of that has changed, as well as compare the P to other 2017 TVs.

The P series' full-array local dimming is the main driver of its excellent picture quality. Both the 2016 and 2017 models have "up to 128 zones" of dimming in the 65- and 75-inch sizes, while the 55-inch size has 126 zones. The 2017 M series, meanwhile, has 32 zones on all sizes.

Vizio also confirmed that, just like in 2016, the 55-inch member of the P series will use an IPS-based panel, not a VA panel like the others. In my experience IPS (in-plane switching) has worse image quality, in particular worse black levels and contrast, compared to VA (vertical alignment), so I will continue to recommend against the 55-inch P series. If you want a 55-inch Vizio, I'd go with the M series -- none of the sizes in the 2017 M series use IPS panels.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The 2017 P series does offer some changes unrelated to image quality. No longer does the TV include a touchscreen Android tablet remote in the box and ask you to use an app to access most TV settings. I wasn't a fan. Instead the 2017 P series comes with a traditional multibutton clicker, which you'll use to access traditional onscreen settings menus. Yay, tradition!

For Smart TV you still have the option to Cast stuff like Netflix from your phone using Vizio's Chromecast built-in feature, which also allows control via Google Home. New for 2017 there's also an onscreen menu, called Smartcast TV, that allows you to launch apps using the traditional onscreen approach. It's coming via software update later this year, although it still doesn't support Amazon video. Boo lack of Amazon, but you can always add a Roku.

And just like last year there's no built-in tuner, so you can't watch over-the-air antenna broadcasts unless you attach a separate tuner.

Here's pricing and basic specifications for the Vizio P series, which is shipping now.

Vizio 2017 P series

P55-E1 55-inch$1,300
P65-E1 65-inch$2,000
P75-E1 75-inch$3,500

Vizio P series 2017 specifications

  • 4K resolution
  • HDR compatible with HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats
  • Full-array local dimming (up to 128 zones)
  • 240Hz "effective" refresh rate
  • Chromecast built-in, Google Home compatible
  • Onscreen apps interface coming in summer 2017
  • No built-in tuner for antenna TV broadcasts

The company also announced the step-down M series at the same time, and the cheaper E series and D series are shipping now as well.

Correction: This article originally stated that brightness was higher and other characteristics were improved on the 2017 P series compared to the 2016 model, but that is not the case. The two are identical but for the lack of an included tablet on the 2017 model.