Ultra HD Home Theater Display Review
VIZIO SmartCast™ M-Series 65” Class HDR XLED Plus™ Ultra HD Home Theater Display
MSRP: $1199, Street $999
| February 8, 2018 |
| Richard De Jong, Editor |
When VIZIO started producing TVs over a decade ago, their catch phrase was “Where Vision Meets Value.” With a combination of high-end picture quality and a highly competitive price point, their M-Series 4K Ultra HD Display exemplifies that motto.
You might find marginally better picture quality from some other brands, but often at twice the price. And you can definitely find cheaper 65-inch 4K TVs in what is becoming a crowded marketplace, but not with the first-class features and performance of this M-Series.
Because of the M-Series’ combination of performance and value, we bestow to this VIZIO line of displays our Ultra HD Central Highly Recommended rating.
Before I gush too much and you rush out and buy this lovely M-series, let me add one caveat. By design, this M-Series home theater display does not supply a tuner for capturing, through an antenna, the traditional Over the Air (OTA) broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS and the CW.
Of course, this is not a problem if you still subscribe to a cable or satellite service. You can easily connect your digital receiver to this M65 and tune into your favorite channels through the receiver.
And for those of you who are finding their content from less traditional sources like Hulu, Vudu and Netflix, the M65 offers one button direct access to those providers. And since the display has Google’s Chromecast technology built-in, you can cast a multitude of content from your smartphone directly to this gorgeous 65-inch 4K screen.
With that said, if this M-series display fits your viewing habits, then as we say, we highly recommend this beauty.
Currently, VIZIO makes five sizes of this M-Series HDR XLED Plus Display, 75, 70, 65 and 55 and 50-inch. Since the specifications are similar for all five models, this review of the 65-inch M65-E0 can apply to the other four in this series.
Of course, I always suggest that you buy the largest screen that your budget, room and significant other will allow. I find the 65-inch model is a sweet spot with a large impressive screen but a less daunting price when compared to the 75-incher, the M75-E1, that retails for about twice as much.
Overall Rating: 9.3
With all the processing power driving the high-end video technologies in this M-Series 65" display, this VIZIO Ultra HD monitor generates consistently top notch picture quality when upscaling HD content to 4K resolution. When feeding it native 4K Dolby Vision or HDR10 programs, the picture quality is elevated to an “OMG, come look at this” level.
Audio performance is OK, which is my opinion of the sonic reproduction of most of the TVs in its price range.
If you are not deterred by the lack of a TV tuner for OTA channels, then I would rate this Features category high because of all the connectivity that VIZIO supplies through the M-Series to content providers like VUDU, Netflix and Amazon as well as a host of other video and music channels. And if your smartphone has become an appendage, you will feel right at home using it as a remote and a Chromecasting partner for the VIZIO.
Ease of Use: 9.2
First and foremost, this display is easy to set up and achieve an excellent looking picture straight out of the box. And for day to day use, the VIZIO designers were wise enough not to off-load all the functions to your smartphone. With dedicated buttons on the remote to directly access content providers like Netflix and a Home screen to reach a bevy of others, navigating to your favorite programs is smooth sailing.
At the time of this writing, VIZIO is offering the 65-inch version of M-Series Ultra HD HDR XLED Plus Display for a cool $999 from multiple online sources. Now I realize that 65-inch 4K TVs under a grand have become low hanging piñatas. Just go into a big box store and swing a stick and you’ll find one or three. But most will not supply the picture quality that this Dolby Vision and HDR10 compatible display provides.
Please remember that all these ratings are relative to the state of the art and marketplace at the time when the review was posted.
I can reel off a list of video features that this VIZIO 4K Ultra HD M-Series display offers, such as HDR10 (High Dynamic Range) and Dolby Vision compatibility; 32 Local Dimming Zones; and Ultra Color Spectrum.
Simply put, each adds a level of excellence to the picture quality, better contrast, deeper blacks and a wider range of colors. All combine to create a rich vibrant display, which specially shines when playing back 4K native content – with an added twinkle with Dolby Vision mastered content.
I do notice an occasional bit of blooming on the M65. And no LED backlit TV from any manufacturer can match the deep velvety picture quality of the best OLED TVs. But I still believe that the M65, with its consistently handsome picture quality, offers a compelling price to value comparison over OLED TVs.
The audio from the pair of integrated 15W speakers is no great shakes. You should be fine for watching the big game. But they will be woefully inadequate to experience the full throttled effect of the opening sequence of the 4K Blu-ray of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. Show your M65 some respect and pair it with a comparably full-bodied sound system.
The initial setup of the VIZIO M65-E0 is quick, as you can see from this video. For this process, you can use either the supplied remote or your smartphone or tablet with the VIZIO SmartCast app loaded (Android or iOS).
I find using the remote more straightforward. You can load the app later when you want to cast content from your phone to the VIZIO display.
At the end of the setup process, you will be asked to choose your Picture Mode from three options, Standard, Calibrated and Vivid. To begin, forget Vivid, unless you like an over-amped picture. The default is Standard, but I would suggest Calibrated, especially if you are viewing a lot of movies.
If you are not satisfied, you can always go into the Menu under Picture and change modes. If your viewing room is a home theater environment with subdued lighting, in the Picture Mode submenu, you can pick Calibrated Dark.
Also, you will notice in the Picture menu, a whole tool belt full of picture adjustment settings that you will probably never need to noodle with unless you are an inveterate tweaker.
For the rest of you, your time is better spent on subscribing to or signing on to the streaming content apps available through your Chromecast enabled M65 display and your smartphone. After you do, the Installation Guide will explain the casting procedure.
The stand for the VIZIO M-Series exemplifies the display’s no-nonsense design, nothing grand, just two simple metal legs supporting a flat screen with a dark gray bezel. The screen is somewhat reflective when the set is turned off. When powered on, I was never distracted by reflections.)
No buttons adorn the front. On the back are a set of basic function buttons (Power, Volume and Input). Also on the rear are two connection panels. The horizontal provides a LAN port, if you prefer a wired connection to your router. The TV also includes an integrated Wi-Fi adaptor (802.11ac Dual Band).
In addition, there are two audio outputs, one analog stereo and one optical digital. There are three HDMI inputs. HDMI 1 is ARC (Audio Return Channel) compatible.
[Editor’s note: Forgive this paragraph for its technical jargon, but this info matters to some readers. HDMI 1 supports HDMI Version 2.0 (2160p@60fps, 4:4:4, 8-bit | 2160p@60fps, 4:2:2, 12-bit | 2160p@60fps, 4:2:0, 12-bit). Ports 2-4 support v1.4 (2160@60fps 4:2:0, 8 bit). If you want more inputs to be Version 2.0 capable, then VIZIO’s P-Series provides four such ports.]
On the vertical panel are one more HDMI in, an old-school set of Component ins, and two USB ports. Once again, there is no RF input for an antenna or cable. You basically will have to find a source for your favorite network programs from a different provider, like Amazon Video or Hulu.
Luckily, the non-backlit, compact (1.75” x 7”) remote control has dedicated buttons that will take you directly to favorites like the Amazon Video, Netflix and Vudu apps. And if you push the V button between the Volume and Channel rockers, the home screen presents you with a smorgasbord of content providers, including well-known apps like Hulu and discoveries like XUMO and Pluto TV.
If you are not exhausted exploring the choices available from the M65’s home screen, you can use your smartphone to dive into the hundreds of video and audio content suppliers like YouTube that are Chromecast-enabled. With a simple tap of the cast icon on your phone, you can fling the content to display on the 65” glory of this M-Series.
If the show is available in 4K (for Netflix there is a 4K subscription tier) and you have enough bandwidth, it will stream to your VIZIO in Ultra HD. For me, the ability to stream 4K content makes buying the M-Series display all the more compelling. Because for as well as it upgrades HD programs to 4K resolution, this VIZIO really shows off with 4K material.
At this time in early 2018, the two main sources for native 4K content are 4K UHD Blu-rays (with over 200 titles that playback on a 4K UHD Blu-ray player) and streaming content providers like Netflix, Amazon Video, and VUDU (not coincidentally, all three can be directly accessed from their dedicated buttons on the M-Series remote).
More traditional providers, like Dish, also are supplying an expanded cache of 4K programs. For example, Dish is offering NBC’s 4K broadcasts of the Winter Olympics.
In addition, more and more 4K content is available with high dynamic range capabilities like HDR10 and Dolby Vision, which add a perceptible, picture quality punch. Many of Netflix’s newer original series like Stranger Things, Black Mirror, The Defenders and Chef’s Table are being streamed in Dolby Vision, which is particularly impressive.
Here’s a hint, if you wonder what the video resolution is of a source being displayed on your M-Series, click on the Info button on your remote. In a few seconds, at the top right of the screen, a little overlay pops up and reveals the resolution. 1080 is HD, 2160 is Ultra HD (2160 x 3840). In addition, it will list the audio format. And if you are receiving Dolby Vision, that will also appear.
(Of note, I find my Netflix connection sometimes takes a minute or less to attain 4K resolution. And as a reminder, to get a 4K stream from Netflix, you must be enrolled in their UltraHD plan.)
And if you are serious about streaming 4K Ultra HD content, then you must assure that the download speeds from your Internet Service Provider is consistently fast enough. For Ultra HD quality, Netflix recommends 25 Megabits per second. I would suggest faster if you can manage it.
With its combination of admirable picture quality, user-friendly features and competitive price, the VIZIO SmartCast M-Series 65" Ultra HD Display earns our Ultra HD Central Highly Recommended award. With high dynamic range capabilities like HDR10 and Dolby Vision, the M-Series impresses when displaying 4K programs. And since Google’s Chromecast technology is built-in, you have access to an ever-growing catalog of 4K shows from streaming content providers at your fingertips.