Vizio M-Series (2018) TV Review
Vizio's mid-range 4K TV is affordable, but not flawless
The 2018 Vizio M-Series is a dependable, affordable 4K TV in a world full of dependable, affordable 4K TVs. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The M-Series isn’t perfect, but it's a great HDR TV withs ton of upsides, especially if you're prioritizing affordability. If your secondary priorities include decent HDR performance, good-looking design, or a 70-inch screen, the M-Series is a fantastic choice.
On the other hand, if your secondary priorities include zippy, easy-to-use software, you might want to consider the TCL 6 Series, which performs similarly and comes with the brilliant Roku smart platform built-in.
The bottom line? The 2018 Vizio M-Series is a great TV that won’t break the bank, but its got a few flaws that are worth contextualizing given the stiff competition in this particular price bracket.
About the Vizio M-Series (2018)
The M-Series is available in three sizes, but we bought ourselves the 55-inch model due to the popularity of that size. Here’s the M-Series at a glance:
• 55-inch (Vizio M55-F0), MSRP $699.99
• 65-inch (Vizio M65-F0), MSRP $999.99
• 70-inch (Vizio M70-F0), MSRP $1,299.99
Each of the three panels feature full-array local dimming, a feature that typically improves a picture’s contrast by splitting up the total LED output across several separate “dimming zones.”
The 70-inch model features 48 dimming zones, the 65-inch features 40, and the 55-inch features 32. Aside from the number of dimming zones, each model in the M-Series lineup is more or less the same:
• 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160)
• High Dynamic Range compatibility (HDR10 and Dolby Vision)
• Built-in smart platform
• Native 60 Hz refresh rate
As usual, we let our TV warm up over the course of several days before conducting our tests. I’ll go into detail about the TV’s strengths and weaknesses in the sections to follow, but for now, here’s some raw data:
Performance Data (Calibrated mode)
• HDR white fall-off (peak brightness/black level):
• 2% white: 179.0 nits
• 10% white: 295.5 nits
• 20% white: 445.6 nits
• 50% white: 719.7 nits
• 100% white: 661.2 nits
• HDR contrast (peak brightness/black level): 302.9 nits / 0.088 nits
• SDR contrast (peak brightness/black level): 319.4 nits / 0.063 nits
• HDR color gamut coverage: 93%
• SDR color gamut coverage: 98%
• Viewing angle: ±19.45°
The M Series sits atop two of the slimmest stands I’ve ever seen on a TV. Seriously—these little legs are tiny. At first blush you might suspect (as I did) that a 55- to 70-inch panel cannot possibly stand upright on such legs, but luckily, you’d be wrong.
The rest of the design is about as basic as TVs come: dark gray plastic wrapped around the back, pleasantly modest bezels around the perimeter of the screen, and a panel whose thickness is enough to accomodate backlighting. It’s certainly not the thinnest or sleekest looking TV on the block, but relatively speaking, the M Series is better designed than some of its closest competitors.
On the back of the panel, you'll find the usual ports: 4 HDMI 2.0 ports, a USB port, shared component/composite inputs, an ethernet port, and an optical audio connector.
The M-Series is at its best when displaying HDR content, and for the time being, the easiest way to watch HDR content is via Netflix and Amazon. Those libraries are limited, however, so investing in a 4K Blu-ray player (or a gaming console that supports 4K Blu-rays) will pay off in dividends.
In HDR, the M-Series looks great. I spent an afternoon watching Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi on a 4K, HDR-supported Blu-ray and marveled at the spectacular imagery. Most impressive were the scenes that took place in the night: The M-Series rendered bright, pinhole-sized stars without polluting the pitch-black night sky with light.
That said, dark scenes on this TV are far from perfect. The M-Series has a habit of jumping too slowly or quickly from one degree of darkness to the next, which crushes finer details in dimly-lit scenes. For example, despite how gorgeous the night sky appears in The Life of Pi, the titular character’s hair in those same scenes appear shadowy and lacks texture.
The data backs this up, too: The M-Series shows an unnatural jump in grayscale luminance between 60% and 80% of the signal input. Essentially, it gets too bright too quickly in certain areas of gray, which smudges finer details in dark scenes.
The M-Series also does a workmanlike job recreating color accurately, but it doesn’t offer a wide HDR color gamut like some of its competitors. I don’t imagine this will be a deal-breaker for most people (and truthfully, the colors in The Life of Pie looked dazzling), but if you’re looking for a more robust HDR experience, you might want to consider a TV whose color production goes the distance.
The weakest element of the M-Series, though, is Vizio’s sluggish software, which is unfortunately a recurring motif for the company in recent years. Scrolling through inputs, navigating settings menus, and browsing apps feels slower than it ought to feel.
Smartcast, Vizio’s built-in smart platform, is average: You’ll find trusty standbys like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and YouTube, but several big-name apps are missing, like HBO and Sling TV. To be fair, the M-Series features baked-in Chromecrast functionality, which ostensibly allows users to stream some of these missing apps from their phone, but it’s not as flexible as having the ability to customize the app experience on the TV itself.
Additionally, there are times when I turn the TV on the start-up process fails, requiring a second press of the remote’s power button before it boots up all the way.
The remote itself isn’t that great, either. The buttons are shallow, undefined, and placed close together, making it difficult to develop a navigational rhythm without looking down at the remote while you’re using it.
If you’re considering the M-Series, I recommend investing in an external streaming box to supplement the TV’s lackluster smart platform. Don’t have a streaming box yet? Fear not: We’ve tested and reviewed the best streaming devices you can buy right now.
Should you buy it?
Yes, but only if you make peace with its shortcomings.
It’s 2018, and budget-friendly TVs are better now than they ever have been. The M-Series is no exception: It’s a great mid-range TV, but like most TVs in its price range, it comes with some drawbacks.
If you’re concerned about the M-Series’ lackluster smart platform and you’d rather not rely on an external streaming device, the comparably-priced TCL 6 Series is probably the better bet. Unfortunately, the TCL 6 Series is only available in 55- and 65-inch models—the M Series features both of those sizes plus a 70-inch model. And, not for nothing, but we also found the M-Series to be a better looking TV from a design standpoint (though admittedly, they’re pretty similar).
When the mid-range TV market is crowded with great TVs, it's the shopper who ends up winning. If you buy this one, buy it for its ~800 nit HDR peak benchmarking, intelligent local dimming, and solid screen uniformity.
Related Video: TCL's latest big-screen TV is an incredible value
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