Vizio P Series (2017) TV Review
This Vizio is one of the best 4K HDR TVs you can buy for the money
Vizio has been carving out a niche over the last few years via TVs that deliver the hottest new TV tech for affordable prices. So far this year, we've had almost nothing but good things to say about Vizio's 2017 E Series and 2017 M Series, so our expectations for top-end P Series (available at Amazon) were pretty high.
Vizio's top-of-the-line 2017 option not only meets (and maybe exceeds) our expectations, it manages to do so at prices that still feel friendly. With the 55-inch P Series available for under $1,000, it's a great option if you want a knockout 4K/HDR but don't want to pay for extras you don't need.
The P Series does have a few drawbacks, but dollar-for-dollar there's no arguing the value here. You could spend a little more for a fancier design via Samsung's MU9000 series, or you could save money via this cheaper TCL series, but we think most people are going to love the middle ground.
About the Vizio P Series (2017)
Vizio's P Series is available in three screen sizes:
• 55-inch (Vizio P55-E1), $999
• 65-inch (Vizio P65-E1), $1,549
• 75-inch (Vizio P75-E1), $3,499
While they're definitely not Vizio's most affordable this year, the P Series TVs offer a smorgasbord of features—like 4K resolution, HDR/Dolby Vision compatibility, built-in apps, and full-array backlights with local dimming—that justify their already not outrageous pricetags:
• 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160)
• HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Dolby Vision compatibility
• Full-array backlight with 128 local dimming zones
• Expanded (10-bit) color production range
• Smart TV
Replete with features like HDR, FALD (full-array local dimming) backlights, 4K resolution, and not-too-shabby designs, the P Series TVs are priced very fairly. We received our 65-inch P Series TV on loan from Vizio, and gave it 24 hours of warm-up/break-in time prior to testing and evaluation.
Each P Series TV includes four HDMI 2.0 inputs, three USB inputs, and the usual suite of component/composite/LAN/optical audio. This year's design is quite similar to previous years, featuring smooth, solid silver metal finishes and wide-set feet.
What We Like
Vizio's full-array backlight delivers contrasty goodness
I know, I know, there's nothing sexy about "backlights," but bear with me. Vizio's MO for its LED TVs over the last few years has been to equip each model, almost regardless of size or price-point, with a "full-array LED backlight" (or FALD). This means that there are a bunch LEDs behind the entire array of the screen, rather than only positioned along the perimeter (usually called "edge-lit.")
FALD backlights typically boast better head-on contrast than edge-LEDs, though there are exceptions. The 2017 P Series isn't one, however. Using the standard ANSI checkerboard contrast and halation/loading patterns, I measured black levels as low as 0.006 nits, though the average was closer to 0.045. However, the TV couples that black level with a brightness of 350 nits, giving it a reference contrast ratio of almost 8,000:1. This is an awesome result.
This means that even when you're watching SDR (standard) content, you can expect excellent contrast results. However, there are some discrepancies to be aware of.
For one, the contrast drops off pretty rapidly if you aren't watching from a head-on or almost head-on angle. When most of the screen is dark and the local dimming zones can shut off most effectively, you'll get black levels as low as 0.06, but moving a few feet to the right or left of the screen can see them jumping as high as 0.019. While those are both still excellent shadow readings for an LED, the discrepancy may be noticeable if you've wall-mounted the TV and are walking around the room.
Not only does the P Series' FALD setup allow it to produce excellent shadow levels, it also gets pretty darn bright. Getting a reference brightness of over 350 nits in the Calibrated picture mode—which is naturally darker than most of the other modes—is commendable. During HDR, however, you can expect peak brightnesses over 500 nits. The screen will be brighter when most of it is lit up, however, due to how the local dimming zones function together. This means a mostly dark screen with a small pinpoint of light may not always look impressive.
Vivid and accurate colors really help things pop
While we consider contrast (and specifically black level) to be the keystone of good picture quality, color accuracy is the next item on the list. Fortunately, this is another area where the 2017 P Series, uh, shines. I measured 99% rec.709 coverage in the Calibrated mode (which makes sense—it's an HDR TV) and about 90% DCI-P3 coverage during HDR.
Could this TV be more colorful? Yes. We've seen 95%-ish DCI-P3 coverage results from 2017's high-end OLEDs and Samsung's super-bright, quantum dot-equipped QLED TVs. Where the P Series fails a bit is in HDR green production—new HDR standards call for a very brightly saturated version of green, and the P Series doesn't quite get there.
If you're sitting there thinking, "Oh, it has slightly less vivid greens? Who cares?" you're probably in the same boat as most people. This concern is definitely an enthusiast/videophile sticking point and not something most people are going to notice or care about. But them's the breaks.
That said, the color here—regardless of which dynamic range mode you're in—is totally accurate, which is also very important, and it's definitely going to impress most viewers all the same. Likewise, the RGB balance within grayscale tones is very good even before any tweaking or calibration, and the TV's gamma/PQ luminance scaling is on-point, too.
SmartCast is still a welcome addition, but so is a traditional remote
Last year, Vizio added a "SmartCast" functionality to most of its higher-end and midrange TVs. It's basically Google cast/Chromecast built right into the TV. The 2017 P Series continues to employ the Vizio SmartCast platform to great effect. Basically, you use a second-screen device like your smartphone or a tablet and "cast" content from Netflix or YouTube right to the screen.
The proprietary app that accompanies the platform is what really makes it great. Not only does it allow you to find and cast content on your device pretty easily, but you can control the entirety of the TV with it, too. Picture settings are easier to adjust (especially during calibration) than the traditional remote solution, and typing in your gigantic WiFi password is made much easier via touchscreen.
The major difference this year is that the P Series doesn't include a tablet, and quite a few apps are built right in. While we initially thought the included tablet was a cool idea, the fact is, almost anyone who buys this TV is going to have a second screen device (you're probably reading this on one right now!). So there's no potentially extraneous second screen device here, and Vizio has included a very functional traditional remote if you just don't want to bother with casting at all.
What We Don't Like
Limited viewing angles
As I mentioned above, the FALD-equipped Vizio P Series does not have the most generous viewing angles. Specifically, I measured a total viewing angle of 14.10°, or ±~7° from the center to either side of the screen, which is pretty bad. However, the issue is also exacerbated by the test metrics, because we use full-screen images to test viewing angle, and so black level differences are exacerbated by the "off" function of the TV's local dimming.
Basically, we're expecting the viewing angle to not be perfect, but during normal content (i.e. anything that's not the entire screen roughly the same brightness) it's not going to be unusable. You're safe to watch from the ends of the couch or a slightly off-axis chair, for example. But you probably wouldn't want to wall-mount this one. If you're really concerned, try to track one down at the store.
The local dimming can go to extremes at times
While the P Series' full-array backlight with local dimming is without a doubt a huge boon to its overall picture quality, the process is not without drawbacks. As I already noted, the deep dimming of shadow tones has adverse effects on the TV's viewing angle, though the severity is variable depending on scene APL (average brightness) and whether or not you're watching HDR.
Another area is in consistency of shadow level across various shadow shapes, something we call "tunnel contrast." Essentially, when 90% of the screen is black, it's almost OLED dark. When only 10% of the screen is black, it's closer to an IPS monitor—kind of grayish and charcoal. The in-betweens of these two extreme can occasionally cause "banding," when a gradated or flat area has visible breaks in its transition from one phase to another.
In short, it simply means the TV isn't perfect. Vizio has been shaping and modeling the efficacy of its local dimming algorithm for years, and most of the time it works flawlessly, but attentive viewers may occasionally spot banding in shadowy areas, especially during darker/filmic SDR content.
Should You Buy It?
Yes—if you want a superb 4K/HDR TV at a great price.
There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it—the 2017 P Series is another smash hit from Vizio. While it stumbles in a few small places due to the eccentricities of the full-array/local dimming backlight type, it's pound-for-pound a great TV that delivers all the fancy new tech goodies, meaning it'll stay relevant throughout most of the 4K/HDR content lifecycle.
As usual, however, there are other options to consider.
Samsung's MU9000 series delivers a better design and a little more by way of HDR brightness and color saturation, but it's only a couple-hundred bucks more—it just doesn't have the contrast efficacy of the Vizio P Series. Or if you really want to save money, TCL's 55-inch P Series is hundreds less, though it isn't available in any other size right now.
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