Vizio 2016 P-Series UHD/HDR TVs

Today, Vizio announced the second-generation of its P-Series LED-LCD UHDTVs, which offer some of the features found previously only in the much-vaunted Reference Series. Unlike the first-gen P-Series, the new models include Dolby Vision high dynamic-range (HDR) capabilities—a happy coincidence, since Netflix launches its Dolby Vision service today—and they will be updated with HDR10 capabilities within 90 days.

To help facilitate HDR, Vizio doubled the number of local-dimming zones in the FALD sets from 64 to 128 in the 65″ and 75″ versions (126 in the 50″ and 55″ models), and the Active Pixel Tuning algorithm that controls individual pixels within each zone has been improved. Using the methodology defined by the UHD Alliance for Ultra HD Premium certification, Vizio calculates the contrast ratio to be 150,000:1, which far exceeds the certification’s requirement of 20,000:1 for LCD TVs.

At the briefing, I was told that the new sets can output as much as 600 nits from a full-screen white field. (Vizio does not plan to submit the P-Series for Ultra HD Premium certification, claiming that the test procedure is bogus.) Colorwise, the new P-Series achieves 96% of the DCI/P3 gamut without using quantum dots. Instead, the LED chemistry and color filters have been tuned to more precisely coincide and produce a wide color gamut that gets very close to P3 with minimal reduction in light output.

The HDR demos during the briefing—Dolby Vision streaming from Vudu—looked mighty fine. For example, the red long johns worn by the guitar player on the amplifier-car in Mad Max: Fury Road was a much richer, deeper red than BT.709 can manage, and the flames shooting out of his guitar were brighter and more detailed. Things were much the same on clips from Man of Steel and Pan, which also exhibited great shadow detail in low-light shots. And a feature called Black Bar Detection keeps the LEDs behind letterbox bars off, making them nice and black.

The P65 looked really good with custom content (seen here) as well as HDR movie clips streamed from Vudu.

Today’s announcement places equal—if not greater—emphasis on Vizio’s new SmartCast ecosystem, which integrates the operation of TVs (starting with the new P-Series), soundbars, and standalone speakers. All 2016 P-Series TVs come with a 6″ 1080p Android tablet remote running Lollipop on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and the tablet is pre-loaded with the SmartCast app. The app interfaces with the TV’s Google Cast capabilities to access content from over a thousand streaming-content sources. Even better, the SmartCast app aggregates content searches across multiple providers and categories, such as movies, TV shows, live TV, kids programming, etc., allowing you to easily find whatever you’re looking for wherever it’s available.

The P-Series comes with a 6″ Android tablet remote that sits in a wireless charging dock. The battery is said to last up to 14 days.

Perhaps the most important thing about SmartCast is that it separates navigation from consumption. To navigate in the traditional paradigm, you must be able to see the options on the screen from 10 feet away, point the remote at the TV, and navigate with arrow buttons, which can be quite cumbersome and inefficient. Moving the navigation to the tablet gives you much easier, more efficient control—for example, swiping rather than button-pushing through a list—and you don’t have to look at the TV screen to see a cursor move.

One thing I really like about this approach is that you can open the TV’s menu on the tablet and adjust the controls without disrupting the image on the screen, which is great for calibration. In addition, the SmartCast app can be installed on virtually any Android or iOS device, and multiple devices can control multiple TVs simultaneously. It’s a many-to-many, cross-platform system with great flexibility.

The new P-Series TVs are available starting today in four screen sizes—50, 55, 65, and 75 inches. The 55-incher uses an IPS panel for those who want a wider viewing angle, while the others use VA panels for deeper blacks. All panels and electronics are true 10-bit, which is good news for HDR fans.

P50-C1, MSRP $1000
P55-C1, MSRP $1300
P65-C1, MSRP $2000
P75-C1, MSRP $3800

At these prices, why even consider a Reference Series RS65, which lists for $6000? Using quantum-dot technology, the RS65 achieves an even wider color gamut (120% of P3 or 87% of BT.2020), and with 800 nits from a full-screen white field and 386 local-dimming zones, it provides even greater dynamic range (close to 800,000:1). But for those who don’t have $6000 to spend on a new TV, the P-series offers much of the RS65’s performance—and SmartCast—for a third of the price. I can’t wait to get my hands on one!