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Vizio M3D0SR review: Vizio M3D0SR

Vizio M3D0SR

Ty Pendlebury
Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
7 min read

If I were writing this review in 2010 or 1983 or 1953, I'd begin with how 3D will revolutionize how you watch movies (and TV)...forever! Of course, 3D today is still caught in the starting blocks when it comes to home use, relegating the importance of 3D capability on Vizio's M3D550SR to "featurette" rather than "feature presentation." While the TV's 3D effect isn't very well-implemented here, at least you get four pairs of glasses in the box, so watching an occasional 3D movie as a family doesn't require any additional outlay or effort on your part.

Canon PIXMA MG6220 - multifunction ( printer / copier / scanner ) ( color )

Vizio M3D0SR

The Good

The <b>Vizio Razor M3D550SR</b>'s black levels are very good for an edge-lit LED-based LCD TV. Shadow detail and colors are solid, while the matte screen really helps reduce reflections. The TV piles on the features with passive 3D, a Bluetooth QWERTY remote, and onboard wireless. The passive system creates minimal crosstalk, and Vizio includes four pairs of passive 3D glasses.

The Bad

The M3D550SR's local dimming can cause blooming and turn completely off during fades to black. The colors were less accurate in darker areas, the screen lost uniformity at the corners, and it didn't handle 1080p/24 sources correctly. The 3D performance introduced too much depth.

The Bottom Line

The Vizio M3D550SR is a solid edge-lit LED TV with excellent black levels, although its passive 3D and Smart Dimming feature create some issues.

Meanwhile, the Vizio's 2D picture quality was very good for the price overall compared with other edge-lit LED TVs, highlighted by deep black levels and well-rendered shadows. I did experience problems with the overactive Smart Dimming system and the TV's video processing, but they didn't spoil the positive impression. Vizio's VIA apps are plentiful, the QWERTY keyboard takes more than a few (beneficial) cues from smartphones, and while the TV's look is nothing special, its features are among the best available. In fact, with Vizio's failure so far to release any of the higher-end models it teased at CES in January, this is the company's flagship TV for 2011. The M3D550SR isn't our favorite edge-lit LED of the year, but it still makes a strong showing against stiff competition.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch M3D550SR, but due to physical differences between the models in the series, I can't apply the results gathered here to the other sizes. The 46-inch version, for example, has a glossy screen and my quick look at its picture quality put it a step below that of the 55-incher. I never saw the 42-incher, but I can't assume it behaves the same as the 55-inch model. For more on the different models in the series, you can follow the links below.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Models in series (details)
Vizio Razor M3D420SR 42 inches
Vizio Razor M3D460SR 46 inches
Vizio Razor M3D550SR (reviewed) 55 inches


The TV features a piano-black bezel, angular speakers, and an aluminum pedestal.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Design highlights
Panel depth 1.5 inches Bezel width 1.5 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes

It's been said before, and unless something radical happens at CES 2012, it'll be said again: TVs look the same. Take the manufacturer's name off a product and it can be hard to tell your low-end Samsung from your Toshiba from your LG. In this fashion, the M3D550SR is another black, rectangular box with a screen in the middle. The rectangle around the edge is piano-black on the 55-inch model, while the 46-incher is "rose-black," meaning black with a red tint in direct light. The bottom edge is a little different in that the speakers jut angularly out from the bezel in a not-unattractive way. Being an edge-lit LED, the television is slim, and the swivel stand gives it some flexibility.

The LED edge-lighting system affords an ultraslim profile.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Remote control and menus "="">Other: Bluetooth remote
Remote size (LxW) 2.2x6 inches QWERTY keyboardYes
Illuminated keys No IR device control No
Menu item explanations Yes Onscreen manual No

The remote control, identical to the one found with the 2010 Vizio XVT3SV, not the 2011 Vizio E3D0VX's flipper--is one of the better features of the M3D550SR. Not only does it sport a slide-out QWERTY keyboard but it's also got Bluetooth, so you don't need line-of-sight to control the TV. The keys on the keyboard are a little rubbery, though.

The Settings Menu is sensibly laid out and easily navigable. The menu is left-aligned and can take a little getting used to, as the highlighted option isn't immediately obvious. The Smart TV portion of the interface capability favors the "ticker" method, appearing at the bottom of your screen.

The Vizio Internet Apps interface slides along the bottom of the screen.


"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit with local dimming
3D technology Passive 3D glasses included 4 pairs
Screen finish Matte Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
Refresh rate(s) 240Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant No USB Music/Video

Vizio traditionally offers an excellent feature set for the price and the M3D550SR packs them in, with passive 3D being the most prominent. Despite its picture-quality problems, it's quite likely that passive 3D will become more prevalent next year--people don't like paying lots of money for 3D glasses and they find cross-talk distracting. The cheap glasses make more sense for consumers who only watch 3D movies on special occasions.

The television is an edge-lit LED featuring local dimming that behaves similarly to LG's LW5600. It uses a series of LEDs along the edge of the TV and dynamically lights them in zones across the screen in response to light and dark content. The only drawback to this kind of technology is that it can cause blooming when trying to illuminate light areas surrounded by black.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Streaming and apps "="">Other: Blockbuster, Rhapsody, and other Yahoo apps
Netflix Yes YouTube Yes
Amazon Instant Yes Hulu Plus Yes
Vudu Yes Pandora Yes
Web browser No Skype No
Facebook Yes Twitter Yes

In terms of content, current superstars Neflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant are present and accounted for, while other services such as Blockbuster, Facebook, and Pandora are also available. The only missing major contenders are CinemaNow and YouTube. Apart from adding new services, the VIA system is largely the same as we've seen in previous years, and the design feels dated compared with most of the big-name competitors' designs.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 9 Fine dejudder control No
Color temperature presets 4 Fine color temperature control 2 points
Gamma presets 0 Color management system No

The M3D550SR offers a plethora of picture modes, including sports-specific ones like baseball and golf, but if you're looking for even more advanced tweakery, you'll find the TV only offers a 2-point grayscale system, as opposed to the 10 points found on LG and Samsung TVs.

The Vizio's setup menu is easy to navigate.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Connectivity
HDMI inputs 4 back Component video inputs 1 back
Composite video input(s) 1 back VGA-style PC input(s) 1
USB port 2 side Ethernet (LAN) port Yes

Nothing major is missing from Vizio's connectivity array, although the rare user who needs more than one component-video input will be disappointed.

The M3D0SR series offers most connectivity options.

For an edge-lit LED-based LCD TV, the Vizio performed very well overall. It showed relatively deep blacks and accurate color, and was admirable in its ability to distinguish shadow detail--an important aspect of any TV's performance as it gives a picture depth. On the downside, I did notice some blooming and uniformity issues along with improper handling of 1080p/24 content.

While Smart Dimming provided better picture quality, it played merry hell with calibration since the TV wasn't sensitive enough to distinguish near black from actual black and would turn off completely during some measurements. The dimming also affects color in the lower parts of the spectrum and I wasn't able to get a stable RGB reading at the 20 percent level. While "MythBusters" proved that you can actually polish a you-know-what, in this case it almost wasn't worth the elbow grease. Nevertheless I persevered despite the dimming issues and the fairly insensitive two-point system, and the resulting picture was noticeably better than the default in Movie mode.

Note that I also tried calibrating the TV with dimming off, but the pictures looked terrible, with blacks resembling a Nordic ash cloud.

My suspicions that the 55-inch and 46-inch models have different panels were more or less confirmed when I plugged the calibration settings in from the 55-inch TV, and the 46-inch TV looked and tested terribly. As a result we can say that the posted settings can only be used on the 55-inch.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Comparison models (details)
LG 47LW5600 47-inch, LED-edgelit
Samsung UN46D6400 46-inch, LED
Panasonic TC-P50ST30 50-inch plasma
Sony Bravia KDL-46EX523 46-inch, LED-edgelit
Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasma

Black level: The Vizio could throw its weight around in this group with a depth of black that beat the LG and the Sony, although it wasn't quite as deep as the ST30 or the Samsung could manage. Compared with the Sony EX523, the Vizio was able to conjure up much more detail in darker areas, and even rivaled the ST30 in this regard. The Vizio's deeper blacks weren't to the detriment of dynamic range; bright and complex scenes looked punchy--only a little bit of blooming in dark regions spoiled the plasmalike effect.

When the Smart Dimming feature detects a completely black screen, the backlight switches off, causing problems at times. The detection is apparently laggy enough that you may lose really quick fade-in fade-out cuts, the type you might find in trailers or action movies. It happened during a trailer for "The Transformers," for example, as well as when I was measuring the TV's everyday (5 percent) test pattern; I had to turn the menu on to make sure the picture showed.

Color accuracy: Compared with the color-accuracy king of the edge-lit LCD world, the LG LW5600, the Vizio isn't quite there, and this is partly due to the lack of fine-tuning options. Skin tones were natural after calibration and there was only a faint lack of cyan-green colors in comparison with the LG's picture.

Actor Chris Pine wanders around in his underpants at one point in the 2009 "Star Trek" movie, and sexiness aside, this scene is actually a good tester for skin tones. The Vizio was able to make the actor's bronzed shoulders look fairly natural, though the LG was noticeably better.

Video processing: This was one of the areas where the M3D550SR could use some improvement. As with Vizio's E3D420VX before it, the film mode was quite lacking. In my lineup of comparison TVs, it gave the worst judder performance with a hiccupping detectable in smooth pans with 1080p/24 content.

On the plus side, its ability to replay content without jaggies was admirable. Employing Smooth Cinema mode at "high" I was able to get the motion resolution all the way to 1,200 lines, but the TV languished at only 350 lines without it. Since you'd need to put up with significant haloing artifacts if you left Smooth on, we still recommend disabling it and taking the motion resolution hit, which is hardly visible in most program material.

Uniformity: Consistency across the screen is the bane of every edge-lit LCD screen, and things are no different for the Vizio. I noticed brighter green "spotlights" in the corners during bright scenes, especially on letterbox bars. While discoloration of the letterboxes shouldn't trouble most people, it is the No. 1 cause of complaints from videophiles about plasmas like the VT30 with its "rising blacks" issue. If this troubles you, too, then the Vizio isn't for you.

Bright lighting: The 55-inch and 42-inch are the two models in this range that have a matte coating on the screen, and when viewed in a bright room, reflections don't prove to be too distracting. Based on brief testing with the 46-inch I can say that the screen is as overly glossy as the top-shelf LG LW9800--not a good thing.

3D: When 3D TVs emerged in 2010, the 3D effects were mind-bogglingly strong, and Vizio has chosen to continue in this vein. In comparison, this year Sony in particular has dialed down the strength of the "Z-axis" that gives the screen depth. Unfortunately there is no "3D strength control" on the Vizio, only a 2D/3D switch.

The 3D effect is quite overpowering, with exaggerated depth and an inability to place some background elements correctly in the frame. Compared with the active 3D on the Samsung UND6400, there was no crosstalk at all, but curiously the image seemed more distorted, as if it were wrapped around a globe. As a result, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" was quite difficult to watch. Even a simple scene with a scientist sitting in front of a landscape was warped and proved much easier to view on the Samsung.

Power consumption: Unless a manufacturer bungs a nuclear power plant in behind your TV (look for the distinctive twin cooling towers!) most LED-backlit LCDs are fairly conservative when it comes to energy usage. The same goes for the Vizio: even when uncalibrated it uses only a little more energy than a 60-watt light bulb (71W).

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.004 Good
Avg. gamma 2.2465 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.3132/0.3378 Good
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3138/0.3316 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3129/0.3285 Good
Before avg. color temp. 6943.6152 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6479.6518 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 2.9337 Average
Green lum. error (de94_L) 1.3041 Good
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 0.142 Good
Cyan hue x/y 0.2299/0.3305 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3245/0.156 Good
Yellow hue x/y 0.4263/0.5096 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Fail Poor
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 900 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 400 Poor
PC input resolution (VGA) 1,920x1,080 Good

Juice box
Vizio M3D550SR Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power save
Picture on (watts) 73.105 59.018 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.06 0.05 N/A
Standby (watts) 0.0469 0.0469 N/A
Cost per year $16.06 $12.98 N/A
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Good

Annual power consumption cost after calibration
Vizio M3D550SR
LG 55LW9800


(Read more about how we test TVs.)

Canon PIXMA MG6220 - multifunction ( printer / copier / scanner ) ( color )

Vizio M3D0SR

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7
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