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With its new lineup of UHD/4K TVs on display in New York City, Vizio discussed the value, quality, and features of its new P Series.
Unlike many product launches, the official coming-out party for Vizio's P-Series UHDTVs coincided with the availability of the first shipped product, which meant that by the time I arrived in NYC for the event, more than one AVS member already had their hands on one. After reading some of the comments from those early adopters, I had a few technical questions on my mind when I walked through the door of the Bertrand Delacroix Gallery in Manhattan. Inside, I found P Series TVs hanging on the walls of four different rooms.
The first room—the main gallery—contained one of each size. The new model comes in five sizes—there's a 50 inch model for $1000, a 55-incher for $1400, a 60-incher for $1700, a 65-incher for $2200, and finally a 70-inch model for $2500.
A Vizio rep discussed the company's goals for its UHDTV launch, not the least of which was hitting that $1000 price point with the 50-inch model. The other focus was on offering a full suite of features and capabilities—what are you getting for your money?
All P-Series TVs have five HDMI inputs, and HDMI 5 sports a 18 Gbps, HDMI 2.0 2160/60p connection. The TVs all include HEVC/H.265 decoding and are HDPC 2.2 compatible. In addition, the new Ps all feature a dedicated upscaling engine and dual-band WiFi.
All the new P-Series TVs use FALD (full array local dimming) LED backlighting, which typically results in better contrast and improved screen uniformity versus LED-edgelit models. The 70-incher features 72 zones, while the rest of the line gets 64 FALD zones. Based on comments I read in the AVS P Series owners thread, I asked if the algorithm that controls the local dimming was upgradeable via firmware—surprisingly, Vizio said yes! However, users cannot tweak the strength/aggressiveness of the dimming.
I went into the first demo room, where a 65-inch P Series was placed next to a 65-inch Samsung HU8550, a flat-screen LED-edgelit model. As with all the demos at the event, both TVs were set to movie mode and used default settings—a claim I confirmed by resetting the TVs via their menus. I don't necessarily agree with that approach—default settings are usually far from ideal—but it is one way to avoid accusations of tampering with settings. However, it also means the two TVs are not at all calibrated or adjusted properly. The demo was a motion-interpolation test from the Spears and Munsil HD Benchmark 2nd Edition Blu-ray. The Vizio appeared to handle the test with far greater accuracy and ease than the Samsung as you can see in the following video clip.
I asked if the Samsung might have a motion-processing option that works better than the default, given the poor performance that I saw. Vizio acknowledged that tweaking settings could potentially improve the result, but it was sticking with the use of default movie-mode settings. However, the company made a good point in noting that most consumers will not mess with those settings. I mentioned that AVS members would tweak any TV, which is why I wanted to know. Regardless, if you do use motion processing, it's good to know that it works well on the Vizio.
Here's a still photo of the Spears and Munsil motion test.
The next demo was all about contrast, comparing a 65-inch Vizio P to another Samsung HU8550. Both TVs suffered some degree of light bleed in a blacked-out room. The Samsung fared worse in the dark-room environment, with more pronounced LED-lighting artifacts. The Vizio had notably better contrast at default settings than the Samsung, thanks in part to its ability to display brighter highlights. Both TVs lost saturation in the shadows when viewed off-axis. Even standing between the two TVs, for the sake of comparison, resulted in a loss of saturation at the far edge of each TV, making it difficult to compare image quality. I suggested tilting both TVs in a little bit in the future—like toeing in speakers—so each one is pointed directly at the viewer, which is how I perform comparisons at home.
Both TVs performed adequately in a dark room for LED-lit LCDS, but neither one comes close to an emissive TV—plasma or OLED—in terms of dark-room performance. However, the backlit Vizio P did appear to do a better job under those conditions, especially when it came to the letterbox bars, which looked considerably blacker on the P-Series TV.
Speaking of letterbox bars, it was during the contrast demo that I noticed the HU8550's letterbox bars looked smaller than those on the P; also, I noticed cropping on the sides. That's when I figured out that the Samsung was set to overscan, while the Vizio P was showing 100% of the image. As it turns out, Vizio's decision to use default settings on all the TVs at the event meant that all of the Samsung TVs were set to overscan, whereas the Vizio TVs were not. I commend Vizio for dispensing with that unnecessary, image quality-destroying feature. However, it's worth noting that with just one change of a menu setting, all the Samsung TVs in the Vizio demo could perform better—overscan always causes a loss of detail.
The next comparison was all about upscaling. The TVs were a 50-inch P Series and a Samsung HU6900. Here, the Samsung was almost certainly at a disadvantage due to the default overscan setting and the resulting loss of detail—the Vizio looked a tiny bit sharper. I see nothing to complain about regarding Vizio's upscaling solution, which uses a dedicated chip. Upscaling is unavoidable given the limited availability of UHD content, so it's nice to see it perform well—just don't expect miracles.
Next, the Vizio tour moved on to Netflix and Amazon content in UHD/4K. There was no Samsung in that demo, just a pair of Vizio P Series UHDTVs doing their thing. The Netflix content was streaming live off the site while the Amazon demo was a loop. I liked what I saw in the Netflix stream; it was approximately Blu-ray quality, despite a relatively low 15 Mbps bitrate.
The final comparison involved native UHD/4K demo content playing from a Redray 4K player on a P Series and an HU8550. Once again, the Samsung was overscanning and the Vizio was not. When viewing the same footage, the Samsung looked a bit softer than the Vizio. For that demo, I insisted on turning off the Samsung's overscan setting. The resulting was an image that matched the Vizio's in terms of detail rendition. However, the Vizio P still managed to eke out a better image thanks to its superior contrast.
In this image, the HU8550 (on the left) crops the image because overscan is turned on by default.
Vizio had one more demo involving video games. The same input that implements HDMI 2.0 can accept 1080p/120 signals and offers extremely low input-lag times. It's almost as if Vizio crammed an entirely different TV into the same box—a high-performance HDTV aimed at gamers. (In this mode, virtually all processing is bypassed, and each pixel in the 1080/ image is simply quadrupled with no interpolation.) That feature alone makes it worth serious consideration for anyone who uses a TV as a monitor on his or her high-end PC gaming rig.
Vizio's P Series features exceptionally low input lag for 1080P sources, making it a great choice for gamers.
The P Series is not a reference-level TV, nor does Vizio claim it to be—that's what the forthcoming Reference Series is designed to be. Vizio does claim that it delivers a lot of value by packing the P with features that typically come at a premium—namely the use of FALD with a decent number of zones. Since some of you here on AVS already have your hands on a P Series TV, I'm curious to hear what you think.
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