PROS – Excellent contrast. Powerful SmartCast connected platform. Tablet is handy as a remote and media device.
CONS – Middling color accuracy. Included tablet isn’t powerful enough to be used on its own for much more than movies and reading.
BOTTOM LINE – Vizio’s P-series of HDR-compatible 4K televisions delivers solid image quality and includes an Android tablet to serve as a remote.
Vizio’s P-series of ultra high-definition (UHD, or 4K) TVs are among the first to use the company’s SmartCast connected platform. SmartCast takes all of the menus and apps off of the TV screen and puts them onto an included Android tablet that doubles as a remote (or onto your own Android phone or tablet, which can function in the exact same way thanks to Google Cast). It’s an interesting, powerful new approach to connected features. The series also shows very impressive contrast with high dynamic range (HDR) compatibility, but it falls a bit short on color reproduction when compared with LG’s UH8500 series. We tested the 50-inch P50-C1, which retails for $999.99.
Editors’ Note: This review is based on testing performed on the P50-C1, the 50-inch model in the series. Aside from the screen size difference, the $1,999.99 65-inch P65-C1 is identical in features, and while we didn’t perform tests on this specific model, we expect similar performance.
The P50 is attractive and slightly shiny, with half-inch brushed metallic bezels instead of the typical black plastic seen on most televisions. The bezels are completely flat, with the sides of the screen featuring a grid-like texture and the top edge sharing the same smooth brushed surface as the bezels themselves. The television stands on two V-shaped metal feet that hold it up steadily with no wiggle, though you need to be careful to keep the feet away from the edge of your table or cabinet to prevent the set from toppling forward.
Menu, Power, and Volume Up/Down buttons sit on the back of the P50, on the lower-left corner. The Menu button only serves as an input selector. A few inches in from the edge of the screen, two HDMI ports, two USB ports (one 2.0, one 3.0), and a component video input are positioned facing left. Three additional HDMI ports, an Ethernet port, and optical and RCA audio outputs face downward.
The P50 is intended to be used with the included Android tablet as a remote. It also comes with a small, minimalist remote control you can use for simple interactions without playing with a touch screen. The conventional remote is a small, rectangular black wand with Play/Pause, Volume Up/Down, and Channel Up/Down controls in a prominent square near the center. Power, Input, Link, and Display Size buttons sit above the square, while Mute and Picture Mode buttons are located below it. You can use the remote to change picture modes, switch inputs, and adjust volume, but you’ll need to use the tablet or any Android device with the SmartCast app on it to actually change the television’s settings.
We test televisions with a DVDO AVLab 4K test pattern generator, a Klein K-10A colorimeter, and SpectraCal’s CalMAN 5 software, using testing methodology based on Imaging Science Foundation’s calibration processes. In its Calibrated picture mode, the P50-C1 shows a peak brightness of 429.11cd/m2 and a black level of 0.01cd/m2, for a 42,911:1 contrast ratio. This is very good contrast for an LCD television; to do much better you’d need an OLED TV like the LG Signature OLED65G6P$7,997.00 at Amazon (even the Editors’ Choice LG UH8500 series has only a 7,610:1 effective contrast ratio, due to its brighter 0.04cd/m2 black level).
The P50-C1 doesn’t fare quite so well with color, as the chart above shows. It boasts a wide color gamut, but doesn’t reach as far beyond Rec.709 as the LG UH8500 series or OLED65G6P do, limiting just how many colors it can work with. Its colors also aren’t nearly as accurate as the LG’s; white is overly warm, and secondary colors drift toward reds and greens more than we’d like to see. The colors aren’t wildly skewed, but they aren’t as spot-on as LG’s.
The P50-C1 is HDR compatible, but it prioritizes the Dolby Vision HDR format over HDR10 in its implementation. Dolby Vision can be found in a variety of HDR video sources, like certain shows and films on Netflix and Vudu. HDR10 is the HDR format used in Ultra HD Blu-rays, and setting up the P50-C1 to use it requires manually enabling HDMI color sub-sampling on the HDMI port to which your Ultra HD Blu-ray player (like the Samsung UBD-K8500$277.99 at B&H Photo-Video-Pro Audio or Microsoft Xbox One S) is connected.
I watched Deadpool and Mad Max: Fury Road in HDR on Ultra HD Blu-ray on the P50-C1. For both films, the increased contrast of HDR shone through quite well. The brawl in the burning lab in Deadpool showed excellent detail against the brightly flickering flames of the building. Both the bright, sun-drenched wasteland outside and the shade-darkened faces on the inside of the War Rig in Mad Max: Fury Road were clear and distinct, with no blown-out highlights or muddied shadows.
The television isn’t quite as impressive for color, which can be clearly seen in both films. The red of Deadpool’s costume is balanced and natural, but not particularly vivid against the cool whites and grays of the highway fight. Fury Road also looks very even and neutral, but it lacks the vibrant, vivid oranges and blues of the wasteland and the sky that gives the film its almost fairy tale visual quality.
The original Ghostbusters film on Ultra HD Blu-ray looks crisp and neutral on the P50-C1, though the grain of the film transfer can still be distinctly seen (a common trait of older remastered movies). The television’s strong contrast shows throughout this film as well, with bright highlights and dark shadows appearing in the same frame without any discernible blooming. Shadow details are more often lost in complete darkness in this film, but again that’s more an issue of the transferred medium than the television.
Input Lag and Power Consumption
Input lag is the amount of time between a television receiving a signal and the display updating. The P50-C1 showed an input lag of 32.1 milliseconds (ms) in the Calibrated picture mode, which is fairly quick for a 4K television. Curiously, the Game picture mode showed an input lag of 37ms, when such modes usually reduce input lag at the expense of picture quality. The difference is negligible, though, and both numbers are better than the LG 55UH8500’s 53.4ms input lag. If you want to do much better, you need to get a smaller screen in the form of a dedicated gaming monitor.
Under normal viewing conditions, the P50-C1 consumes 201 watts in the Calibrated picture mode. This is a lot for a 50-inch screen, though you can cut that to less than half with the more energy-friendly Standard picture mode with automatic brightness adjustment enabled. The P50-C1 uses just 79 watts in that mode, and while it does dim the screen appreciably, it’s still a balanced and very watchable picture. The slightly larger, 55-inch LG 55UH8500 is more modest with its power needs, using only 153 watts in its bright Calibrated picture mode.
Vizio’s P-series 4K televisions are technically impressive and loaded with features. The SmartCast platform is a welcome departure from most other connected televisions, and the included tablet puts its various media features right at your fingertips. The P-series shows fantastic contrast, but its color range isn’t quite as impressive as the similarly priced LG UH8500 series, and without the wider array of colors it only displays offers half the benefits HDR can offer. Because of the greater color gamut, LG’s UH8500 remains our Editors’ Choice, though the Vizio P-series is still a very strong pick among midrange 4K TVs.
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