While this beastly TV has shown up at various events and trade shows before, this is its final form: a wall-mount only, silver-bezeled monster that's Dolby Vision compatible and likely to be on special order until the Curiosity rover comes home.
Forming impressions of a TV this big proved difficult. It's about twice as tall as I am, and about six times as wide—I can barely see the whole thing at once.
In all seriousness, this is actually the first TV I've tested and calibrated outside of our test labs in Cambridge, MA. I brought our meters and pattern generator to Vizio's launch event in NYC last Wednesday, and went hands-and-meters-on with the RS120-B3 in a light-controlled room, with full access to the TV's menu and calibration controls.
Whether it's a smart, sensible investment is beside the point—this is Vizio saying, "Not only can we make a giant, proof-of-concept TV a la Samsung, but we'll even let calibrators take a crack at it." Challenge accepted.
The screen is very, very big—otherwise, this is standard Vizio fare.
TV designs don't vary too wildly from panel to panel: Controls and ports are always on the back, bezels are almost always slim, and IR sensors are usually just below the screen somewhere. Maybe you get a company logo here and there, but for the most part the only thing that tends to vary is the tabletop stand. And considering the RS120-B3 doesn't have a stand—it's only wall-mountable—what you see online is pretty much what you get.
Where it differs is in scaling. Basically, scaling a software/interface designed for normal-sized TVs up to a giant 120-inch screen creates some issues—namely, pixelation. The functionality and app accessibility are, from what I can tell, totally fine. You still get the highlights, like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, UltraFlix, and Vizio's extensive calibration controls—2/11-point white balance and color tuning. It just doesn't look terribly smooth.
Likewise, the double-sided Vizio/Qwerty keyboard remote is the same as what's included with the company's other upper-crust models. I was hoping for a two-foot, seventeen-inch wide remote with fist-sized buttons I could pound like Donkey Kong, but no dice.
Dolby Vision looks awesome! But don't expect a golden goose, even at this price.
If this TV was a "normal" size—42 to 65 inches or so—and was priced this crazily, I'd expect the world from it in terms of picture quality. But while the price is still out-of-this-world even for a 120 inch model, testing revealed that a lot of what you're paying for is Dolby Vision functionality, the gigantic screen, and the included custom installation and Vizio sound system.
First, if you haven't seen Dolby Vision in action, go out and do so. It's impossible to really describe what a drastic difference it makes to content, but it's incredible. Dolby intends to capture highlights that approach the brightness of real objects like the sun or starlight, and if the Reference Series is any indication, the company is well on its way.
But outside of Dolby Vision content, the RS120-B3 isn't really wildly better (in terms of core accuracy or overall performance) than Vizio's other models, such as the 2015 M- or 2014 P-series TVs. That's not a knock against it at all, of course, as those TVs have proved to be generally excellent 4K options.
To start, the RS120-B3's biggest problem is, in fact, just how big it is. Like the 65-inch Reference Series, the 120-inch model sports 384 zones of local dimming. This means that there are hundreds of LED zones behind the screen that make up the backlight, and they can be dimmed/brightened separately from one another.
Because it uses the same amount of zones as the smaller 65-inch Reference Series, we can safely assume the two are controlled via the same computational algorithm. And this is good: Vizio has been implementing full-array, local dimming backlights into its TVs since early last year, and at this point the company has gotten very good at the finer details of local dimming.
The bad news is that the 120-inch model is almost 200% larger than the 65-inch, meaning its pixels are also roughly twice the size, and (I assume) the LEDs behind the screen as well. This makes for less overall granularity by which to control the TV's dimming. Using our LS-100 luminance meter, I measured a few different contrast patterns, including the ANSI checkerboard pattern at 6x6, 5x5, 4x4, and 5x6, and a couple of full-field screens.
I measured black levels from very good to somewhat disappointing depending on which section of the black square I measured. Nearer to the white squares yielded sub-amazing results like 0.09 nits, though the darkest areas of the screen dipped down to around 0.05 for standard content, and down further to 0.03 with the TV's "backlight scanning" Clear Action mode enabled.
Those black levels are great for an LCD, but they're a far-cry from the best we've ever seen. On the other hand, considering how insanely bright the RS120-B3 can get, it's unlikely your eye could resolve any luminance in shadow areas when you're staring down the barrel of Dolby Vision.
I measured specular highlights upwards of 600, 700, and even 800 nits off of Dolby Vision content like The Lego Movie and Man of Steel. For reference, the typical smartphone peaks at about 400-500 nits at its brightest, and this was still in the TV's accurate, theater-focused Calibrated Dark mode.
Overall, we expect non-DV content to sport very solid contrast, but it's clear that the RS120 (and likely RS65) are going to be at their best and brightest—no pun intended—while playing mastered Dolby Vision content. Even still, Dolby's stringent requirements for playback and superb mastering (which makes the full-array backlight an absolutely necessity) end up making for excellent contrast most of the time. Only the gargantuan screen seems to introduce any drawbacks here.
Another requisite for Dolby Vision is wider, expanded color abilities. While the 65-inch boasts a quantum dot panel, the 120-inch is a little less colorful, using "wide color LEDs" in order to hit minimum requirements. According to Dolby and Vizio, these are its color properties compared to the DCI-P3 and Rec.2020 color spaces:
Naturally, I checked the TV's "standard" color production (Rec.709, for you tech types) and calibrated the TV to traditional theater standards as well. Even with the Dolby Vision assets in tow, the RS120 still produces a fairly accurate color palette, including the techy, under-the-hood details like RGB balance and EOTF (gamma).
Using the TV's 2/11 point white balance, CMS (color tuner), and on-board controls for things like backlight and sharpness, I was able to calibrate the TV to standard dark room performance within the rec.709 standard. Granted, cutting down a Dolby Vision-compatible TV's brightness and color saturation/luminance is a questionable thing to do, but it's nice to know that the RS120 can pretty easily achieve a flawless, basic performance for content mastered to last-generation standards.
I didn't get the chance to do our usual motion or viewing angle tests, unfortunately, but I can say that the curated content I watched—a few clips edited by Dolby, and some Dolby Vision-graded footage of The Lego Movie and Man of Steel —looked plenty smooth, even on such a big screen.
On the other hand, judging from some off-angle viewing, I noticed that the panel's overall uniformity, or the evenness of the lights behind the screen, was only okay. I discovered occasional discrepancies in white/gray color and color shifting at more extreme angles. You could easily argue that you'll almost never need to go very far off-angle with such a huge screen, however, and overall the full-field (fullscreen) uniformity was just fine.
Despite the out-of-this-world price, the 120-inch Reference Series is very real.
Doing a first impression of a TV that 99% of US consumers will never even lay eyes on is tricky. On one hand, it might be easy to extrapolate that as good as the RS120-B3 looks playing most kinds of content, the 65-inch (RS65-B1) is the better value of the two models. After all, it delivers more color, a higher number of dimming zones per inch, and costs 1/20th as much.
But on the other hand, taken as a statement, the 120-inch Reference Series is quite powerful. It's a fully finished product, and one of only two Dolby Vision-compatible TVs available in 2015. It's proof that Vizio can reach beyond the Wal-Mart, Costco, and Best Buy crowd into the 1% of videophiles. Besides, a $130,000 TV is about as far from "value" as things get.
Ultimately, we were extremely impressed by the RS120—both by Vizio's ability to produce a TV of this quality, and Dolby Vision's ability to push the hardware to its absolute limit. That bodes very well for the smaller, 65-inch model. If Vizio can condense the RS120's quality into the smaller (more affordable) panel, it could very well become the yardstick by which all other HDR TVs are measured.
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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