Full-array local dimming
4K resolution and HDR support
Lackluster smart-TV platform
The 2017 Vizio M Series (available at Amazon) is more of the same—and that's a good thing. The Vizio M65-E0 we tested isn't a $10,000 set you'll build an entire home theater around, but it delivers high-end features, excellent picture quality, and a respectable selection of smart features all at a great price.
There are a few drawbacks, of course. The built-in smart platform is very juddery, so you'll probably want to use a streaming box like a Fire TV or a Roku. It also doesn't have a built-in TV tuner, meaning you'll need an extra box if you hook it up to an antenna (though cable boxes and streaming boxes all work just fine).
All in all, the 2017 Vizio M Series is arguably the best value in Vizio's entire lineup, and one of the best values on the market. It's not perfect, but for a lot of people it'll be just right.
The 2017 Vizio M Series is available in five screen sizes: 50", 55", 65", 70", and 75". We received the 65-inch model (Vizio M65-E0) on loan and, as usual, gave it over 24 hours of break-in time before testing. Here's how the other sizes compare in price:
· 50-inch (Vizio M50-E1), $599.99
· 55-inch (Vizio M55-E0), $679.99
· 70-inch (Vizio M70-E3), $1,999.99
· 75-inch (Vizio M75-E1), $2,499.99
All five of these models share most of the same specs, including an advertised 120Hz refresh rate (60Hz native), HDR10/Dolby Vision support, and a wide color gamut.
Each model also features local dimming with a full-array backlight, meaning that certain parts of the screen will get brighter or darker depending on what is on the screen. This can help isolate bright objects on a dark background, as the TV can have one zone get brighter while the rest remain dark. All screen sizes come with 32 zones, though obviously that means the individual zones on the larger sizes will be bigger than on the 50-inch, so the effect may be more convincing on the smaller sets.
Note that none of the 2017 Vizio M Series models include a tablet, like last year's did. While this provides a little less value, the updated Smartcast system (which uses built-in apps and still includes a Google Chromecast built into the TV) is much simpler to understand.
The M Series continues to excel where it matters
You buy a TV because you want to watch content and you want it to look good. Seems simple, right? Well a lot of TV manufacturers tend to gum up the equation by throwing in extra features you may or may not want to pay for. Vizio doesn't (typically) do that, focusing instead on delivering great picture quality at prices below the competition.
Though the M Series doesn't offer the best bang for your buck that we've seen this year—that honor still goes to the TCL P Series—it does provide excellent all-around picture quality and next-gen features like a 4K panel, local dimming, and the most important of all: HDR, or High Dynamic Range.
The M Series gets HDR right without breaking the bank
Though the M Series isn't the most stunning HDR TV we've tested this year, it nails the basics. The idea behind HDR is simple: you want content where the bright highlights get really bright while still providing deep blacks so shadowy objects look the way they should.
Getting this right requires HDR content (which is typically coded in either Dolby Vision or HDR10), and a TV that can get bright while maintaining deep black levels. While there's a point where TVs become too bright, typically the best HDR TVs deliver good black levels while getting very, very bright.
The M Series doesn't quite get that bright, topping out at around 350 nits. A good "standard" dynamic range TV like what you already own likely gets up around 150. The best HDR TVs can now push above 1,000 nits, though personally I find that uncomfortable to watch in a dark room. The M Series also supports both major forms of HDR (HDR10 and Dolby Vision), so you should be set up for some time.
What does all that mean if you're not a technical person? The M Series will look great today, tomorrow, and will hold up for a long time to come.
Vizio's dialed back some of the smart feature experimentation this time around
Last year's M Series focused on Vizio's still-new "SmartCast" system, in which Vizio trimmed out all the TV's smart features and menus in favor of a built-in Chromecast. Though you could still control some features on the screen using a built-in remote, Vizio off-loaded most of the major stuff—including Netflix and other streaming apps—to an included tablet that you could use to cast content to the screen.
If you were used to Google's Chromecast, which powered Vizio's underlying tech, then it was (mostly) a breeze. But for most people a good old-fashioned remote and built-in apps make more sense. The M Series this year still has Chromecast built-in, but it now has a more traditional user interface that includes popular apps like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.
In a nutshell, you're getting a simpler, more streamlined experience in line with older Vizio TVs.
No TV tuner is a pain for cord cutters
One of the main things separating a TV from a plain display like a computer monitor is the inclusion of a TV tuner that can decode over-the-air broadcast signals. Vizio has omitted one from the M Series, likely in an effort to save on costs.
Most people don't use the built-in tuner, because they either use built-in apps, a streaming box, or plug their cable box into an HDMI port. Getting rid of it won't affect the majority of people. But cord-cutters that pick up local broadcasts with an antenna do need the tuner.
Even if you have cable, antennas can be useful for adding HD broadcast stations to a TV in a guest bedroom you otherwise can't hook up. It's cheap, and it works great, but if you want to hook up an antenna to the Vizio M Series you'll need to get a separate box that includes a TV tuner.
One solution would be to invest in something like the Tablo DVR. This would add pause/rewind/recording features to your OTA antenna feed and includes a tuner. These boxes typically have monthly fees if you want program guide data, though, so there's that to consider.
Viewing angles aren't great
Though the Vizio M Series has a very good performance profile with deep blacks, bright highlights, and support for major HDR standards, it is lacking in some areas. The biggest let down for us was the viewing angle. Though it's pretty common with the panels that Vizio is using, you're essentially trading the ability to deliver deep, rich black levels for the ability to appreciate those black levels if you're sitting off to the side of the TV.
It's not atrocious, and we certainly don't consider this to be a deal killer, but if you're planning on mounting this TV in a weird spot just make sure that your preferred seat is front and center. And if you wall-mount above eye level, make sure the screen is tilted downward to get the best picture.
The smart platform is stuttery and a bit slow
While we're very happy with Vizio's decision to simplify the M Series' smart platform and return to built-in apps, there are some issues. The biggest is speed. The interface is sluggish, with lots of fits and starts. It is definitely a big point of separation between the M Series and pricier sets.
The remote itself is also functional, but it feels a bit plasticky and the text can be tough to read in limited light. That said, we should reserve special praise for the litany of dedicated buttons. The most important ones are the buttons for Netflix and Amazon, though there are options for Crackle, Vudu, iXumo, and iHeart Radio. Most people will only care about the first two, of course—and programmable buttons would be great—but these are great options for non-techy folks to quickly access Netflix and Amazon.
The HDMI port selection is confusing
4K and HDR are exciting technological advancements, but it does mean some ports we are accustomed to need to be updated as well. Though new HDMI ports look the same as they have for years—and still take older HDMI cables—getting 4K and HDR means you need both HDMI 2.0 ports and HDMI 2.0 cables. Cables are cheap, so this shouldn't be a huge deal.
Vizio's spec page for the M Series lists HDMI 1 as the only HDMI 2.0 port that offers 4K at 60fps, with HDMI 2-4 being listed as HDMI 1.4. We've seen reports that the other ports can still carry a 4K signal, but simply don't provide enough bandwidth for 4K and HDR from a 60Hz device like the 4K Apple TV. Competitors like the TCL P Series offer three full HDMI 2.0 ports, so no matter how you slice it Vizio is a bit behind the curve.
Yes—it represents one of the best all-around values on the market
TVs are in the middle of a full-blown technical revolution, with exciting new tech like 4K resolution, better streaming services, and High Dynamic Range (HDR). HDR is the most important one, and it's finally rolling out to TVs you can actually afford. It's also a bit of a mess—surprise, surprise—with competing standards, a lack of content, and ostensibly "HDR compatible" TVs that don't do anything special.
The Vizio M Series isn't the best HDR TV we've tested all year, but it supports both major HDR formats, gets bright enough that the highlights in HDR content look fantastic, and you can get a 55-inch version for under $700. It has fantastic picture quality and just the right features to hold up for years.
Its only real competition is the TCL P Series, which is a slightly better performer and comes in a 55-inch size for between $600-650 online. The TCL only comes in that size—TCL's promises of a larger version are on hold until 2018—but it does offer three full HDMI 2.0 ports, meaning you can hook up three devices and get 4K/HDR from all of them without any issues.
If you're specifically after a 55-inch model, we'd lean towards the TCL. The smart platform is a bit smoother, the performance is slightly better (especially for gaming), and the price is lower—at least for now. 55-inch buyers aside though, the Vizio M Series is arguably the best HDR TV for most people in this part of the market.
Meet the testers
Senior Staff Writer@Reviewed
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
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