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Vizio P-Series (2018) review: Great picture with 120Hz but not worth the step-up fee

Its strength is deep black levels, and in that area it actually beat the other non-OLED sets in my lineup (aside from the super expensive Q9, which I haven't fully reviewed yet), including the TCL by a hair. Like the M-Series its color lagged the others by a bit, however, and while video processing was excellent, its HDR image also showed some minor issues that led me to prefer the others. Yes, it still fully deserves an 8, but money no object? I'd take the TCL, the Sony or the Q8 over the P-Series for overall image quality.

Note that I was unable to compare the 2018 M-Series directly to the 2018 P-Series for this review. That's because the M-Series review sample Vizio sent me developed an image quality issue before I could include it in my P-Series comparisons: the image became dark and discolored, to the point where it was unwatchable. Vizio says the issue would be covered under warranty, but did not supply an official reason yet for why it occurred (that might change in the future, once the company's engineers get a look at the faulty sample). In the meantime I'm confident in my overall comparison between the two -- I like the picture on the P-Series a little better, but not enough to be worth the price difference.

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: A crucial part of my comparisons is pure black level, and I still haven't found a better bit of super dark test footage than Chapter 12 of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. In that sequence, the P-Series looked great, beating the black level of the TCL by a hair and the Sony by a touch more, and matching the more expensive Samsungs in the letterbox bars and dark shadows. The P looked positively inky, falling short of only the OLED in this scene for pure contrast -- a good start indeed.

Next I checked out the almost as dark (in another way) suspense thriller A Quiet Place, but the differences, thanks to its more mixed dark and bright scenes, were harder to spot. As the Abbott family tiptoes through the store in the opening sequence, the Vizio P did deliver slightly superior black levels in the bars and the shadowy spaces of the cleaned-out shelves (3:38), but even in a dark room side by side, it was slight enough that I had to measure to be sure of its advantage over the other LCDs (of course the OLED looked and measured darkest). Even during exceedingly dark scenes, such as when Evelyn (Emily Blunt) hides under the stair (47:50), the differences between the P-Series, the TCL and the Samsung Q8 were really tough to discern.

Shadow detail on the P-Series was excellent, although it showed no clear advantage over the others in exposing near-dark details. And in terms of blooming, or control of stray illumination, it beat the Sony and matched the TCL and the Q8, falling short of only the Q9 and the OLED in dark scenes.

Overall with SDR material calibrated for a dark room, the Vizio P-Series is as good as any of the LCDs I've tested this year, but again not significantly better.  

Bright lighting: As I mentioned above, the P-Series and M-Series samples I tested came very close to one another in terms of sheer light output, despite Vizio's claims that the P is significantly brighter. Both fell short of the more expensive Sony and Samsung sets, and surpassed the light output of the TCL.

Light output in nits

TV Mode (SDR) 10% window (SDR) Full screen (SDR) Mode (HDR) 10% window (HDR)
Samsung QN65Q8FN Dynamic 2348 638 Dynamic 2388
Sony XBR-65X900F Vivid 1183 696 Vivid 1203
Vizio M65-F0 Vivid 1035 477 Vivid 1005
Vizio P65-F1 Vivid 997 462 Vivid 1101
TCL 65R617 Brighter/Vivid 653 480 Brighter/Dark HDR 824
Vizio P65-E1 (2017) Vivid 459 575 Vivid 498
LG OLED65C8P Vivid 419 141 Cinema Home 792

As usual the brightest Vivid modes were woefully inaccurate; the most-accurate SDR mode, Calibrated, topped out at 706 nits (about double the same mode on the M-Series). With HDR, where light output matters even more, both of the P-Series' most accurate picture modes (Calibrated and Calibrated Dark) measured about 860 nits -- and I'd definitely recommend using them instead of Vivid. By way of comparison, the TCL's most accurate HDR setting hit 824 nits, so the two are close.

The P's semimatte screen finish reduced reflections as well as any TV in my lineup, with the exception of the Samsung Q8 and the LG OLED, and beat the TCL in this area. It also preserved black levels well, albeit not particularly better than the TCL or the Sony.

Color accuracy: The P-Series delivered superb accuracy with SDR sources after calibration, according to my measurements, but compared to a couple of the other sets it looked slightly off in some dim scenes. As Lee and Evelyn dance in the darkened basement in Chapter 4 of A Quiet Place, for example, their skin tones looked slightly redder and more flushed than the others. The difference wouldn't have been visible outside a side-by-side comparison, and doesn't show up in the measurements I took, but still worth noting as a minor disadvantage. In brighter scenes, for example when Lee lectures Regan about avoiding the basement (28:39), the difference wasn't visible, and the Vizio again looked as lush and vibrant -- and accurate -- as any of the other LCDs.

Video processing: The P-Series' true 120Hz panel leads to superior performance in this category compared to 60Hz panels such as the M-Series and the TCL. In fact it brings the P-Series to nearly the same video processing level as the Samsung Q8 and the Sony X900F, for much less money.

The P-Series 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 HDR images, however, so I kept it turned off for my tests. With Clear Action disabled, the P-Series 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 P-Series' 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 P-Series' lag was slightly worse than the M-Series, but still respectable when I used the Gaming Low Latency setting in Calibrated mode (26.1 milliseconds). Using Game mode (with GLL on) actually measured slightly worse (33.4 ms), perhaps because that mode is quite dim.

Those numbers were measured on Input 1, but the Input 5 was even better, topping out at a very impressive 14.77 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 is the second lowest lag I've measured this year, losing out by a few tenths of a millisecond to the Samsung Q8 -- which measured 14.1 and 14.33 ms with 1080p and 4K HDR, respectively.

Going back to Input 1 to measure the Vizio P's 4K HDR input lag, it measured basically the same as 1080p on that input: 26.6 ms with GLL on in both Calibrated and Game modes.

Uniformity: Just like I saw on the M-Series, brightness across the 2018 P's screen was quite uniform, albeit similar to the others. With full-field test patterns there were no bands or bright spots, and only near the edges were there slight variations in brightness -- and those were impossible to discern with real video. So was any major difference between the sets in my lineup to exhibit "dirty screen effect," where differences in screen uniformity appear in pans and other camera movement.

From off-angle the Vizio P-Series was better in comparison than the M-Series. The P lost black level and color fidelity about as quickly as the TCL, and maintained black levels better than the Sony and the Q8. Only the Samsung Q9 and the OLED (of course) were better than the P from off-angle.

HDR and 4K video: While the 4K Blu-ray of A Quiet Place has Dolby Vision HDR, I chose to watch it in HDR10 first so I could include the Samsung TVs in the comparison with all of the others. And HDR is where the differences come through much more obviously than with standard dynamic range material.

The super expensive Samsung Q9 was in a league by itself in terms of highlight brightness and overall HDR brilliance, and the LG OLED did its share of trouncing the other LCDs with deep black levels and overall contrast.

Between the remaining four midpriced models, the default (Calibrated Dark mode) HDR image of the Vizio P-Series was the least pleasing. The bright sunlight in the opening sequence looked duller than the TCL and the Q8, and similar to the relatively muted Sony but without its extreme color accuracy. HDR still looked superb on the P-Series, in particular the depth of its black levels, but it didn't have the same pop and brilliance of the Q8 or the TCL.

I typically evaluate HDR in the best default setting -- I don't calibrate for HDR -- but Vizio's rep suggested a sort of "enhanced" mode to check out too: Calibrated mode (not Calibrated Dark) with Backlight to 100, Color at 55, Black Detail on High and Xtreme Black Engine on Medium (though that should be the default). In those settings the P-Series indeed looked more brilliant and "HDR-ified" than before, but still seemed worse than the TCL and Q8. Near-black shadows, like the edges of Evelyn's face under the stair (47:50), were too bright in these settings, blooming was worse, black levels didn't get as inky and colors were over-saturated.

One of the issues in both settings was color accuracy, where the P-Series rendered scenes with a bluish-reddish tint that robbed colors of some lushness. It was subtle, and maybe tough to see outside a side-by-side comparison, but as a result the set didn't quite look as good as I expected from its measurements -- which showed excellent DCI-P3 HDR gamut coverage.

At this point it's probably worth mentioning that a good HDR calibration could well elevate the P-Series image quality to meet or exceed the other TVs. But that would add a few hundred dollars to the price, at least.

For my streaming test this time around I watched Netflix' The Defenders in Dolby Vision played from an Apple TV 4K. I excluded the Samsung, Sony and LG from this test and concentrated on just the TCL and Vizio, in part because the Sony and LG didn't play nice with the Apple TV's DV output and my 4K HDR distribution amplifier. I used the best default picture settings for each (Calibrated Dark on the Vizio; Dolby Vision Dark mode and Brighter TV Brightness on the TCL).

In this dark series the P-Series looked close to the TCL in most scenes, with the latter showing no advantage in brilliance or highlights. A lamp on Jessica Jones' desk (episode 4, 27:44), for example, looked and measured similarly on both sets in terms of brightness. I still preferred the TCL overall, however, because the Vizio's color veered into bluish, in particular in near-black areas like the shadows and the black of a martial arts uniform in episode 5 (7:30). Near-black areas were also too bright and showed less natural shadows on the P-Series compared to the TCL. Once again the P-Series image was excellent, but if I had to choose between it and the TCL for HDR, I would take the TCL.

Geek Box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.002 Good
Peak white luminance (SDR) 997 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.38 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.56 Good
Dark gray error (30%) 0.31 Good
Bright gray error (80%) 0.32 Good
Avg. color checker error 1.40 Good
Avg. color error 2.76 Good
Red error 2.26 Good
Green error 2.64 Good
Blue error 4.61 Average
Cyan error 2.82 Good
Magenta error 2.30 Good
Yellow error 1.96 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200 Good
Input lag (Game mode) 14.77 Good



HDR10

Black luminance (0%) 0.004 Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 1005 Good
Gamut % UHDA/P3 (CIE 1976) 94 Average
Avg. color checker error 3.22 Average
Input lag (Game mode, 4K HDR) 26.60 Good

Vizio P65-F1 Final by David Katzmaier on Scribd

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