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Vizio P-Series 2016 review: Come for the small tablet, stay for the big picture

Vizio's P-Series TV includes a 6-inch Android tablet remote, but what makes it great is excellent image quality for a moderate price.

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
11 min read

Most of the time when I tell someone that a Vizio TV has a better picture than a Samsung, LG or Sony, they're incredulous. "Really?" they ask. "But it's so much cheaper. How is that possible?"


Vizio P-Series 2016

The Good

The Vizio P-Series has outstanding overall picture quality that competes well against the highest-end 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

Forget the "free tablet," the real story with Vizio's excellent P-Series TV is top-notch picture quality and future-ready features at an affordable price.

"I honestly don't know," I tell them. "But it's the best TV for the money you can buy."

For 2016, Vizio is delivering two bold changes to its TV line. The first is that these TVs aren't technically TVs. The company has omitted the antenna and tuner, which is why Vizio calls them "tuner-free displays." So if you want free over-the-air broadcasts, you'll need to invest in a third-party tuner box or an over-the-air DVR such as the TiVo Roamio OTA or the Channel Master DVR+.

The second big change this year is the remote: In addition to a basic on/off/input/volume clicker, Vizio includes a 6-inch Android tablet. The idea is to use the tablet to control apps such as Netflix and Hulu on the big screen, as well as access picture control and other settings. It seems like a cool concept, but in practice I found it kludgy and annoying in many cases. I ended up paying attention to the screen in my hand instead of the one across the room...and I can do that with my phone.

Vizio P-Series (pictures)

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If you're as annoyed with the tablet remote as I was, you can get by with a good universal remote or even the included button-based clicker, ignoring the tablet altogether (or giving it to your kids). And as usual, an external device like a Roku or Apple TV works better for streaming, and has those key apps (Amazon, iTunes) that the Vizio lacks.

Thankfully, what's good about this Vizio far outweighs the issues with the tablet remote. The Vizio P-Series is the first 2016 TV I'm reviewing and, simply put, it once again sets a high bar for value. In image quality it beats most major-brand TVs, even those that cost significantly more. It supports all the latest 4K and high-dynamic-range wizardry -- including both Dolby Vision and HDR10 -- and even its styling is nicer than you probably expect.

A "free tablet" might get some people in the door, but a great picture for the price is what makes me like the P-Series so much. In fact, right now, the only real challenge to this P-Series on the value horizon is the company's own less expensive, similarly equipped M series. Once again, the best TV for the money looks like it will be a Vizio.

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 P series has been reduced from 8.7 to 8.4. The review has not otherwise been changed. The review update promised below never materialized, but I do expect to review the 2017 Vizio P series soon.

Update September 19, 2016: Last month Vizio issued the software update allowing the P- and M-series TVs to work with HDR10 sources like 4K Blu-ray players. Since then I've run some tests and watched some video with HDR10 on the P series, but according to the company it's not yet finished optimizing the TV. For that reason, I'm going to wait until at least one more software upgrade before I fully update this review. Vizio has yet to confirm when exactly that upgrade will be available.

In the meantime you can read more about how the P and M compare with HDR10 using current software in the M series review. I've also updated a couple of sections below, including P3 gamut coverage.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch Vizio P65-C1, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. Here's how the other sizes differ.

Vizio P-Series 2016 sizes

Model SizePriceDimming zonesRefresh ratePanel type
P50-C1 50 inches$99912660HzVA
P55-C1 55 inches$1,299126120HzIPS
P65-C1 65 inches$1,999128120HzVA
P75-C1 75 inches$3,799128120HzVA

The most important difference in the table above is the IPS panel used on the 55-inch model. Because of that difference I expect it to perform worse than the other sizes. See the Features section for additional details.

Your remote control: An included Android tablet

The big headliner for 2016 Vizio TVs is that the company throws in a "free" Android tablet that doubles as a remote control. It's a 6-inch slate, barely bigger than my trusty Galaxy Note 4 phone, but of course it doesn't make calls (or have a camera).

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Vizio branding is prominent, the controls are typical with a power/wake button on top, a side-mounted volume and headphone jack, and a Micro-USB port on the bottom. The perforated silver top and bottom hide stereo speakers that diffuse nicely when you watch video in landscape (sideways) mode. Although the tablet requires two hands to use, it feels easy to hold thanks mainly to the rubberized back.

Here are the specifications:

  • 1080p resolution
  • Octa-core processor
  • 16GB storage
  • Android Lollipop (5.1)
  • Stereo speakers
  • Headphone jack and microphone
  • No camera or expandable storage
Sarah Tew/CNET

In short, this is a (mostly) fully functional Android tablet on which you can play Angry Birds or watch Netflix streaming video. I also love the wireless charging cradle, because it provides a permanent home that helps keep the "remote" from getting lost, and provides a very convenient way to keep the battery topped off.

So what's it like to use a tablet remote?

IMO, kind of annoying.

When it threw in the tablet, Vizio also removed all but the most basic onscreen menus from the TV. The included button-based "basic" remote can control volume/mute, input, aspect ratio, play/pause, picture mode, pairing and power. That's it.

Sarah Tew/CNET

To do anything else, you need to use the included tablet, or another tablet or a phone.

Want to watch Netflix or YouTube? You'll need to "Google Cast" from a phone or tablet to the TV -- just like using a $35 Chromecast. That's because the P-Series lacks a traditional smart TV menu system and apps. Want to tweak the backlight setting or set the TV's sleep timer? You'll have to use Vizio's SmartCast app for Android and iOS.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Such an arrangement can have some advantages. They include more frequent updates, access to more apps (again, with the exception of Amazon and iTunes), easier entry of text and search terms using a big touchscreen and Bluetooth connectivity so you don't have to aim the clicker.

But personally I found the disadvantages, such as having to futz with the tablet to turn on the TV, shift focus between two screens and rely on the smaller-screen interface, annoying overall. I love being able to use a traditional button-and-TV combination mostly by feel, without taking my eyes off the big screen.

As I mentioned above, if I owned a P-Series I'd mostly ignore the tablet and rely on a good universal remote for basic functions, and an external device for streaming (unless I wanted to watch something in HDR, which isn't yet available in an external streamer). Vizio says the P-Series can receive standard infrared commands from remotes like Harmony and cable box remotes, for example.

I'll have a lot more details on what it's like to use Vizio's system, including more details on the SmartCast app itself, in a follow-up article.

Sarah Tew/CNET


The TV itself looks decidedly higher-end than most Vizios, with the same kind of actual metal frame used by recent Samsung TVs like the JU7100, albeit without the aggressive angled edge. A discreet Vizio logo on the lower right, textured sides and a relatively thick body slightly differentiate it from otherwise identical-looking TVs.


Key TV features

Display technology: LED LCD
LED backlight: Full-array with local dimming (128 zones)
Resolution: 4K
HDR-compatible: Dolby Vision and HDR10
Screen shape: Flat
Smart TV: Google Cast
Remote: Tablet and standard
3D capable: No

The P-Series hits all of the image quality high notes I expect from an LED LCD TV. Its full-array local dimming backlight has a prodigious number of zones -- 126 for the 50 and 55-inch sizes, 128 for the 65- and 75-inch sets -- and in general, more zones equal better picture quality.

The 50-inch model has a 60Hz refresh rate panel compared with 120Hz on the larger models (Vizio claims higher numbers like "240Hz effective" and "960 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.

More visible, however, might be the effect of the IPS (in-plane switching) LCD panel used on the 55-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 55-inch size for this review, but based on past experience I'd recommend avoiding it.

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 P series can access more HDR TV shows and movies than other devices.

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


  • 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2
  • 1x HDMI input with HDMI 1.4, HDCP 2.2 (can accept 1080p @120Hz)
  • 1x component-video input
  • 2x USB inputs (1x version 2.0, 1x version 3.0)
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • Stereo audio output

Aside from the lack of HDMI 2.0a support (coming soon with the HDR10 update), the P-Series' input selection is state-of-the-art. Since there's no tuner, the standard RF-style antenna input is conspicuously absent. Vizio includes a 6-foot HDMI cable.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture quality

The P-Series was an excellent performer overall, not up to the image quality of OLED, but among the very best LED LCDs I've tested, earning the same 9 out of 10 in image quality I gave to the extremely expensive Samsung UN65JS9500 in 2015. I have yet to test the very best 2016 TVs, but I'd be surprised if the P-Series isn't among them -- and the least expensive.

It's plenty bright even for HDR, and its deep shade of black and relatively mild blooming (where halos of stray light surround bright objects against dark backgrounds) give a superb home theater picture. Color accuracy and video processing are very good, and the picture is as uniform as I expect.

One big caveat: As mentioned above, I don't expect the same excellent black-level performance from the 55-inch size, since it uses an IPS panel. I do expect the 50- and 75-inch versions to perform about the same as the 65-inch model I tested.

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: Aside from the OLED TV, the P-Series was the overall best in my lineup in a dark room. It delivered deep blacks with minimal blooming, beating out all of the other LCD sets in this area. The flip side of its less-aggressive local dimming was a slightly dimmer overall image in highlights and dark areas, but the overall impression of contrast and pop was still superb. During the opening of "The Revenant," for example, the shadows and letterbox bars on the P-Series were a bit dark compared with the other sets, but the details were still there in the trees and under the running water, and the depth of black was superior to everything but the OLED's.

Bright lighting: The P-Series is well suited to brighter environments too, although it's not quite the same caliber of light cannon as the Samsung JS9500 and the Sony. It measured just over 500 nits in Vivid mode with a decidedly blue color tint, but I'd recommend using Calibrated mode for bright rooms, which measured 380. Those figures are plenty bright for even the most sun-soaked rooms, but if you insist on maximum brightness for some reason, you'll need to get a more expensive TV.

Light output comparison

Light output in nits (SDR) Mode measured10% windowFull screen
Samsung UN65JS9500 Dynamic958411
Sony XBR-65X930D Vivid926492
Vizio P65-C1 Vivid502572
Samsung UN65JU7100 Dynamic496478
Vizio M65-C1 Vivid409484
LG 65EF9500 Vivid431146
Vizio P65-C1 Calibrated382455

Light output in nits (HDR)

Sony XBR-65X930D HDR Auto923493
Samsung JS9500 Movie884881
Vizio P65-C1 Calibrated Dark468534
LG 65EF9500 Cinema399133

The Vizio's screen maintained black levels well under the lights, although not quite as well as the OLED, the Sony and the Samsung JS9500. Only the OLED did a better job of dimming reflections.

Color accuracy: The Vizio's accuracy in both of the "Calibrated" picture settings was excellent, with minimal color errors in both modes, and every bit as good as the other sets. Side-by-side observation bore out the measurements, with excellent saturation and natural-looking color in the sweeping outdoor vistas, evergreens, rivers and skies of "The Revenant."

Video processing: The Vizio had no issues in this category. The Clear Action and Reduce Motion Blur settings had no impact on motion resolution, but Reduce Judder did. At a setting of 1 it increased motion resolution to 1,000 lines, with basically no smoothing (aka Soap Opera Effect). Clear Action cleaned it up a bit more, at the expense of reducing brightness.

Input lag was very good (around 40 ms) when I engaged the Game Low Latency setting in any picture mode. Previous Vizios' input 5 showed even less lag, but on the P-Series my lag tester didn't work on that input for some reason.

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 P-Series' screen.

Sarah Tew/CNET

HDR and 4K video: As mentioned in the update note at the top of this review, I'm going to hold off full HDR10 testing with the P series until Vizio issues another software upgrade. With the current software, the P series' HDR10 performance comes up short of some other comparable TVs, and certainly isn't as good as with Dolby Vision, but I don't think it's worth going into more detail with upgrades pending that could major aspects of HDR10 performance once again. If you're curious, I did some comparisons in the HDR section of the more recent M series review.

I have also removed a section below from the original review that referred to the P series' P3 gamut coverage in Dolby Vision. It was incorrect. Since it published I've learned more about how to properly measure P3 gamut coverage in HDR10, and doing so the P series measured significantly lower than I first reported. See my updated picture settings and HDR notes for details.

Until Vizio's HDR10 software upgrade is publicly available, I'll keep the original HDR section (below), which refers only to Dolby Vision tests.

My first viewing of HDR was with "Marco Polo" from Netflix, comparing the Dolby Vision version on the P-Series with the HDR10 version on the Sony to the standard 4K version on the Samsung UNJS9500 (at press time, its Netflix app didn't support HDR, but that should change soon). The Sony delivered the best picture between the three LCDs, its light output advantage over the Vizio evident in highlights and daytime skies, although the Vizio did show darker blacks. I might have ended up liking the Vizio better but for a marked purplish cast in dark areas -- surprising since, according to my measurements, Dolby Vision mode was quite accurate.

Comparing standard 4K with HDR the differences were subtle in most scenes, but HDR did look a bit better. Its main advantage showed up in bright outdoor shots, while mixed-brightness interiors were closer to a wash, and colors also didn't show much difference. "Marco Polo" is definitely a less aggressive example of HDR.

On the other hand, "Mad Max: Fury Road" in HDR is aggressive in pretty much every way. It looked great on the P-Series in Dolby Vision streaming from Vudu, but the Samsung (playing the HDR10 version from the UBD-K8500 4K Blu-ray player) showed an edge in the pop and brilliance of highlights. The sky against the cave mouth, the glints of sunlight in the water and the transparent armor of the villain Immortan Joe had more impact. Subjectively the Vizio's HDR color looked more accurate than the reddish Samsung, especially in skin tones, but its purplish shadows persisted.

Both improved upon the SDR version of the Blu-ray seen on the other sets, in both color -- like the red of the fire and flares, and the green of the leaves in the greenhouse -- and overall contrast and punch.

The P-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.

Geek box

Test ResultScore
Black luminance (0%) 0.007Good
Peak white luminance (100%) 147Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.33Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.822Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.702Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.653Good
Avg. color error 2.788Good
Red error 3.127Average
Green error 1.58Good
Blue error 5.798Poor
Cyan error 0.948Good
Magenta error 4.236Average
Yellow error 1.039Good
Avg. saturations error 1.97Good
Avg. luminance error 2.58Good
Avg. color checker error 2.4Good
Percent gamut Wide (DCI/P3) 86Average
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) PassGood
Motion resolution (max) 1200Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1000Good
Input lag (Game mode) 43Average

How we test TVs


Vizio P-Series 2016

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 9Value 9