Having calibrated more Sharp Quattrons and videophile-approved Panasonic VT50 plasmas than I could keep track of lately, I welcomed the opportunity to spend some time with a high value, high tech LED display from Vizio, the 70E701i-A3.
In my normal move around the room test, the Vizio exhibited somewhat sensitive off axis behavior; it's viewing angle seemed slightly wider before color shifts than that of top of the line Sharps and Samsungs, though it's far from a sit anywhere TV. As I moved a few feet off axis, skin tones began to turn pink and blacks began to loose their richness.
The semi-gloss screen does not have the sharp mirror like surface of some brands, and it does a good job of staying dark in indirect ambient light. However, it picks up significant but somewhat diffuse glare from direct light.
Blacks are dark but a bit cloudy; some lighter spots are visible, especially on the left and bottom screen edges. White uniformity was good enough not to be visible with normal picture content, though white and gray fields revealed a slight darkening and yellowing across the top and, to a lesser extent, the bottom.Before calibration:
Standard mode's presentation is smooth and relaxed, but with extremely rich colors. Skin tones have the chronic sun-burnt look, and greens look exaggerated. Shadow detail looks fairly neutral, though possibly a bit on the dark side. The Vizio has excellent contrast and black levels. However, bright white shades seem a bit homogenized or blended together. Overall brightness seems fairly well balanced in a dark viewing environment. I found the image to be rich and seductive, and far better than most displays out of the box, but the color appears to be over the top.
In Movie mode, brightness and color are both lower than in Standard, which helps flesh tones look more natural while overall image vibrancy takes a significant step down. White shades seem to be handled better, though detail in dark objects seems to sink down into the black background. Blacks are surprisingly deep, helping to offset the lack of punch caused by the low light output. Inoffensive yet uninvolving, Movie mode seems to cast a slight veil or haze over the image.
Whites look both too cool and overblown in Game mode, and flesh tones take on a decisively pinkish hue. Good overall brightness and shadow detail combine with the excellent contrast to give an exciting but garish and unnatural presentation.
Vivid mode appears to take the basic characteristics of Game mode to altogether annoying levels. The bluish whites are blended together and hyped; detail is exaggerated, with unrealistic edging. Color is unlike anything seen on planet Earth.
Football, Golf, Basketball, and Baseball modes all look like slight variations of Game mode. I can only imagine the crazy arguments between the marketing and engineering departments over these unnecessarily categorized modes, and I would be surprised if any owners actually took pleasure in changing picture modes with each sport they decide to watch.
Custom mode looks very similar to Standard mode.Calibration:
With contrast set to preserve WTW headroom to digital level 248, the on/off contrast ratio measured an excellent 3245:1, with a black level of .01195fL. With a more aggressive contrast setting that preserved less WTW headroom, the contrast ratio improved to 3538:1. The ANSI checkerboard contrast ratio and levels were nearly identical.
The Vizio lacks some fine calibration adjustments that have become somewhat common on recent high end displays: multipoint white balance controls and CMS controls. The multipoint adjustment was not sorely missed, though the gamma improvement may have resulted in a very slightly richer picture with more depth. However, the lack of CMS adjustment was more serious, meaning that adjustment of the color and tint involved more compromise than normal and finding the best settings became trickier. On the positive side, the Vizio exhibited good color decoding performance with level, unlike the Quattrons. RGB, YCbCr 4:2:2, and YCbCr 4:4:4 color spaces were all handled correctly via the HDMI input at 1080P, and resolution was crisp and pixel perfect.
The before and after calibration measurements are shown in the attachment.
Vizio 70E701i-A3.pdf 826k .pdf file
The white balance settings were global to each picture preset that used the same color temperature preset. Therefore, after adjusting the white balance in Movie mode, Standard mode benefited from the adjustment as well. However, they were not global to all inputs.After calibration:
Skin tones look quite natural, without the chronic sunburnt look. The color is rich and vibrant, and while all shades of color are not perfectly accurate, the look is pleasing. The veil has been lifted from Movie mode, and the picture comes through with excellent pop and vibrancy. The black level is very impressive for an LED display without local dimming, so contrast looks good even in darker movie scenes like the beginning of chapter 2 of The Dark Knight. Shadow detail appears to be well balanced, if on the dark side of neutral. Bright scenes have plenty of pop, and the Vizio has a fantastic ability to eschew graininess, contouring, and other unnatural artifacts. Watching hockey, the Dirty Screen Effect is not obtrusive, and if it was present at all it was very slight and fleeting. Motion is handled extremely well, on both DirecTV and Blu Ray material.
The Vizio is a pleasure to watch, despite the fact that it will never be heralded as being the latest Kuro Killer or having reference grade accuracy. It's picture quality shows a good combination of strengths and compares very favorably with other similarly sized, if more expensive, sets of it's type.