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

Review Sections

Features

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.

Connectivity

  • 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.

vizio-p-series-2016-01.jpg
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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 measured 10% window Full screen
Samsung UN65JS9500 Dynamic 958 411
Sony XBR-65X930D Vivid 926 492
Vizio P65-C1 Vivid 502 572
Samsung UN65JU7100 Dynamic 496 478
Vizio M65-C1 Vivid 409 484
LG 65EF9500 Vivid 431 146
Vizio P65-C1 Calibrated 382 455
false


Light output in nits (HDR)


Sony XBR-65X930D HDR Auto 923 493
Samsung JS9500 Movie 884 881
Vizio P65-C1 Calibrated Dark 468 534
LG 65EF9500 Cinema 399 133

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.

vizio-p-series-2016-01.jpg
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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 Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.007 Good
Peak white luminance (100%) 147 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.33 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.822 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.702 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.653 Good
Avg. color error 2.788 Good
Red error 3.127 Average
Green error 1.58 Good
Blue error 5.798 Poor
Cyan error 0.948 Good
Magenta error 4.236 Average
Yellow error 1.039 Good
Avg. saturations error 1.97 Good
Avg. luminance error 2.58 Good
Avg. color checker error 2.4 Good
Percent gamut Wide (DCI/P3) 86 Average
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1000 Good
Input lag (Game mode) 43 Average

Vizio P65-C1 CNET review calibration results by David Katzmaier

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