Vizio V-series (2021): Budget TV with midrange features
Picture quality on the V-series is fairly average, not better or worse than others in its price range, though that still means a bright, color-accurate image with a decent black level and contrast. I compared its picture to its closest competitor, the TCL 4-Series, and while the V-series was a little dimmer, side-by-side they're virtually indistinguishable.
That TCL, which runs on a Roku interface, is a little easier to use and has a more comprehensive selection of streaming services, but not as many adjustments for those who want to fine-tune their TV's image. If you know your way around your TV settings and like dialing in your picture modes, the Vizio is the better option. On the other hand if the price between the two is a wash, I give the TCL a slight edge overall thanks to Roku TV.
The 2021 V-Series is available in sizes from 43 to 75 inches and costs between $340 and $920. I reviewed the 55-inch model, which is currently available for around $440.
Bluetooth remote, complete with Vizio voice
While the V-series lacks the step-up options found on higher-end Vizios like the M- and P-Series -- stuff like next-gen gaming perks, local dimming, wide color gamut or tons of light -- it does have the company's brand new voice remote. That new clicker is one of biggest differences between the V-series and TCL's 4-Series, and Vizio has the advantage. The TCL's remote feels cheap, is IR (infrared) only and lacks voice capability.
Meanwhile Vizio's remote feels like it came with a (slightly) more expensive product. It has both IR and Bluetooth, so you only need to point it at the TV when you turn it on. It also has voice control, so you can have the TV change inputs, search for content and more. It doesn't have dedicated playback buttons, unlike the TCL, which is a bit disappointing -- you use the main directional pad to control play/pause, rewind etc.
The voice control via the remote works well, about as well as Roku's version on devices that have it (or via a step-up remote). Most useful is being able to search for shows and more. For example, you can hold down the button and say "Ted Lasso" and the show will come up with a link to where you can find it. In that case, just Apple TV Plus, but when a show/movie is available on multiple platforms, you can choose the one you want and the TV will navigate directly there with the push of a button. This voice search may seem like a minor thing, but once you get used to it, going back to the old way (like TCL's 4-Series remote) seems archaic.
Vizio's remote reserves prime button placement for Vizio's "free TV" service which has a hodgepodge of free-to-watch content in a basic-cable kind of way. I suppose more free content is a good thing, but you'll likely press this button by accident way more than you'd ever actually watch this content.
Most of the popular streaming services are built-in to Vizio SmartCast, including Netflix, of course, along with Disney Plus, Vudu, Amazon Prime. The TV's interface minimizes their importance, instead drawing your focus to big banners on the top that feature actual shows and movies which seem like ads (which, of course, they are). However, this has the positive effect of making it seem like there's always something available to watch and it changes regularly, unlike the more staid and static Roku interface on the TCL.
One service that's notably missing is HBO Max. However, you can install the HBO app on your phone/tablet and cast that to the TV using either Chromecast or Apple AirPlay. That isn't a big deal for the typical tech-savvy CNET reader, but if you're considering this TV for your parents/grandparents and they need their regular fix of The Wire or Oz, this extra step might be frustrating.
Connections and gaming features
The rest of Vizio's features and connections are basic as well, with the exception of available Variable Refresh Rate with AMD FreeSync on two 70-inch and 75-inch models -- the V706-J and V756-J -- in the series. The other two V-series TVs in those sizes, the V705-J and V755-J, lack VRR. Gamers who want VRR should note that those step-up"6" models, like all of the V-series, are still 60Hz TVs -- to get 120Hz input and VRR, you'll need to step up to the P-series.
I didn't test those models, but on the 55-inch model I did test, input lag with Game Low Latency mode enabled is low, around 14ms.
The Energy Star rating is on the model I reviewed is mid-pack, at $22 per year. For comparison, the 55-inch TCL 4-Series is $12 per year, so not a huge difference.
- HDMI inputs: 3 (1 with eARC)
- Composite analog input
- USB port: (0.9A power)
- Internet: Wired and 802.11n dual-band wireless
- Antenna input
- Analog audio output
- Optical digital audio output
- Speakers: two downward-facing downward facing)
Friendly setup, lots of settings
The Vizio leads you through the initial setup steps with big friendly menus. Once you get to the main home screen, there's a lot thrown at you at once. As mentioned above, that does give it a far more dynamic feeling than the basic boring blocks of the Roku interface.
One of the main things that separates the Vizio from the TCL are far more extensive picture settings. While the TCL doesn't go much beyond the basics, the Vizio has adjustments for noise reduction settings, resolution/detail enhancements and more. It lets you tweak the image to a degree more typical of a higher-end TV.
Like the TCL 4-Series, the Vizio will detect a 24p signal and adjust its refresh and backlight to reduce judder. This is not the soap opera effect. Unlike the TCL, the Vizio gives you the option to turn this off if you notice any issue, or prefer more juddery motion more like a traditional TV.
Picture quality comparisons
The most direct competitor to the Vizio V-series is TCL's 55S435, which is roughly 10% cheaper at the time I tested it. The Samsung QN55Q60A is that company's entry-level QLED model, though even so it's nearly twice the price of the V-series. It's here to give you an idea what spending more can get you. For my side-by-side comparison, I connected all three TVs via a Monoprice 1x4 distribution amplifier and viewed them all in a row.
The Vizio and TCL looked very, very similar. Though the TCL is a tiny bit brighter, side-by-side you really can't tell that. It's also close enough that's it's likely within the range of standard unit-to-unit variation. Or to put it more simply, overall they're about the same brightness. The TCL's colors are a little more accurate out of the box, but again, they're so close you'd be hard pressed to pick one over the other.
Color and brightness are the two things you get stepping up to the Samsung. It's about 15% brighter than the TCL with non-HDR content, which itself is about 10% brighter than the Vizio. So between the Vizio and the Samsung, that's a noticeable difference. Color is more noticeable, however, at least with HDR. With regular HD and 4K content, they're all about the same. With HDR the Samsung has noticeably deeper, richer colors. It also has better brightness with HDR, being able to pump out over 400 nits, nearly double that of the other two. Does that better HDR performance make it worth nearly twice the money? Not in my book.
Like nearly all LCDs, off-axis performance isn't great. Which is to say, if you have a wide couch, or grandpa likes to sit in his lounger off to the side, anyone not directly in front of the TV has a noticeably worse image. In this way, however, it's about the same as the TCL and Samsung though.
Since the V-series isn't capable of doing much with HDR content, lacking both the brightness and the expanded color capabilities of a "true" HDR TV, it's good that does a great job remapping HDR content to be watchable within these limitations. You can dial in how bright the overall image looks and in general it does a better job with this than the TCL. Not a huge difference, but a noticeable one side-by-side.
What budget TV to get?
The Vizio V-series and the TCL 4-Series are brothers from other mothers, sisters from other misters. They are far more similar than they are different. The TCL is a little brighter, the Vizio has a little better contrast ratio. In both cases, it's hard to notice even side-by-side. The Roku interface is better and has pretty much every streaming option available. Vizio's remote is better, though, both with its Bluetooth and voice capabilities.
Aside from smart TV systems, biggest difference is probably the settings, of which the Vizio has more picture quality adjustment options than the simplistic-by-design TCL. So if you know your way around a TV menu, or want to be able to dial in the picture even on an inexpensive TV, the Vizio is the better choice, as long as you don't mind an extra hoop or two to watch HBO.
The 4 Best Vizio TVs of 2021
The P-Series Quantum 65-inch from Vizio is the best the brand has to offer. With excellent 4K UHD resolution and a QLED panel, you'll get superior picture quality for both UHD and upscaled content. It also features Chromecast and AirPlay2 support for mirroring your smartphone or tablet screen. The M-Series 55-inch is a close second from Vizio. It still gives you great 4K UHD resolution with HDR support, but it doesn't have as many local dimming zones or as bright a screen. The M-Series is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free voice commands and smart home network integration.
Where are Vizio TVs made?
Vizio TVs are manufactured in Mexico, China, and Vietnam, though the company is registered in the U.S and claims to operate as a U.S. company. The TVs are largely assembled in China nad Mexico, with many being supplied by Foxconn.
Do Vizio TVs have cameras?
Vizio TVs do not have built-in cameras. That said, the company was fined by the FTC in 2019 for spying on customers without consent. If you do want to use a camera with your Vizio TV, you should be able to hook up a webcam.
Are all Vizio TVs smart TVs?
Nearly all Vizio TVs sold now are smart TVs, meaning they have the built-in SmartCast OS loaded with streaming services and a variety of smart TV apps. You'll be hard-pressed to find a "dumb" TV these days, but if you don't like Vizio's OS, you have the option of picking up a streaming device of your choice and using it instead.
About Our Trusted Experts
Taylor Clemons has been reviewing and writing about consumer electronics for over three years. She has also worked in e-commerce product management, so she has the knowledge of what makes a solid TV for home entertainment.
The Ultimate Vizio TV Buying Guide
Vizio may not have the same brand recognition that LG, Sony, and Samsung enjoy, but the company still provides quality televisions with plenty of features and price points to suit almost any home theater or entertainment space. Not only do they have full 1080p HD models, but they have several lines of 4K UHD TVs that are priced more reasonably than some of their competitors, making them a great option for budget-conscious shoppers. Most of Vizio's televisions also offer a range of smart features like streaming movies, music, and shows as well as screen mirroring and voice controls. Vizio's high end models like the P-Series feature bezel-free designs to give you an edge-to-edge picture and wider viewing angles than their predecessors, ensuring that no matter where you are in the room you have the best viewing experience. Vizio TVs offer high refresh rates for smooth motion and to prevent screen tearing and stuttering that can happen during intense action scenes in movies, shows, and video games.
Their televisions also have a variety of connectivity options. From HDMI inputs for HD and UHD streaming and video playback and USB ports for playing videos from external memory storage devices, there are plenty of ways to integrate a Vizio TV into your home theater. While some models don't offer Bluetooth connectivity, you can still use wired connections for external audio equipment like soundbars, speakers, and subwoofers to create a custom home theater configuration. When looking at a Vizio TV for your home, apartment, or dorm, there are some important deciding factors to consider before purchasing. We'll break down top features to help you decide which works best for you.
Picture quality mostly depends on what resolution your television can deliver. While it may be tempting to automatically spring for the higher-end 4K units, it's best to consider what kind of entertainment you'll be using before doing so. Unless you plan on investing in a 4K DVD player or exclusively streaming 4K content, you won't be able to take full advantage of a higher resolution TV. Televisions that offer 4K resolution are quickly becoming the new gold standard, but there are still great 1080p HD options for those who simply want a decent picture for family movie night or weekend gaming.
What makes 4K such a good thing? Televisions that have 4K resolution often support high dynamic range technology to produce color and contrast levels that closely mimic what you would see in the real world. This technology comes in four variations: HDR10/10+, HLG (hybrid log gamma), Dolby Vision, and Technicolor HDR. There isn't much difference between each variation of HDR besides which company has licensed the use of the technology. Each variation uses the same basic principles to produce enhanced color volumes and contrast for better detailing and more life-like pictures.
While companies like LG and Sony have taken the leap into the future of home entertainment and released a line of 8K televisions, Vizio has stuck to producing quality 4K and 1080p models. While 8K sounds fancy and exciting, with current home entertainment standards, it's almost impossible to take full advantage of that kind of resolution. TVs with 8K resolution give you four times the detail of 4K and 16 times that of 1080p. There are very, very few video streaming services, broadcasting companies, or video game developers that even offer 8K content, and it may be years before it becomes more mainstream. It may be a nice way to future-proof your home theater, but the extreme high cost of 8K models and the extremely limited selection of 8K UHD content means that it's not a reasonable option right now.
Along with the excellent picture quality that you get from 4K resolution, televisions with voice controls are becoming more and more popular for home entertainment. Some models come packaged with remotes that have microphones and either Alexa or Google Assistant built in for hands-free controls right out of the box. Others are compatible with smart speakers like the Amazon Echo or Google Home and require a little more set-up before you can take advantage of voice commands. While voice commands may seem a bit over-the-top, they're a great extra feature to have in busy households or those with limited motor skills or are visually impaired.
Voice commands make it easier to open apps, search for something to watch or listen to, and even adjust picture and audio settings without a remote or keyboard. Tiny buttons may be difficult to work with and certain fonts may be hard to read, and using a voice command eliminates a lot of unnecessary frustration. For busy homes, voice controls make it easy to find kid-friendly shows to keep little ones occupied while parents finish work or household chores. You can easily pull up a YouTube video to help walk you through a dinner recipe, or open Netflix and set up a movie to watch with friends while you make popcorn and get drinks. Some of Vizio's models are compatible with Apple Homekit, letting you use your iOS devices and Siri to search, browse, and open apps.
Televisions are one of those things that can be overwhelming when shopping for the perfect model for your home theater. With prices varying wildly between brands for the same bevy of features, it's almost impossible to equate a higher cost with higher quality. Luckily, Vizio leans into the more affordable end of the price spectrum, even for their top-of-the-line models. The D-Series offers the most budget-friendly models, with prices ranging from just under $150 to around $200 depending on the size of the television. The V-Series is more middle-of-the-road, offering better picture and more smart features with prices ranging from around $200-500. The M- and P-Series models from Vizio offer some of the best picture quality and the most smart features for your money, with prices to match: $1000-1,700. Even with the higher costs for the better models, Vizio is still priced below competitors who offer similar sizes and features. A 55-inch from Vizio may only set you back a few hundred dollars while a similarly sized smart TV from Samsung or LG may cost you well over $1,000.
There are other things to consider when choosing a Vizio TV for your home theater, apartment, or dorm room. Some sizes may be too big for a space like a bedroom, kid's playroom, or college dorm, while a screen that is too small for a room will make movie nights and watch parties difficult for large crowds. If you're an avid console gamer, you may want a TV that has a 60Hz or 120Hz refresh rate for smooth motion and a low input latency for near real-time reactions. For those looking at buying a 4K TV, Vizio offers both standard LED and QLED panels that use quantum dots for more intense color saturation and better detailing. No matter what your entertainment needs are, Vizio has a model and size that's sure to fit right in.
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Offering a great picture and an updated smart-TV interface, the Vizio P-Series 55-inch 4K Ultra HD set is a smart choice for those who want state-of-the-art features for a reasonable price.
- Excellent 4K picture quality
- HDR and Dolby Vision compatible
- Competitively priced
- No TV tuner
- Slow Android remote control
In a market where one can spend several thousand dollars on a TV faster than you can say MasterCard, Vizio has tried to become the brand that offers more for a lot less. The perfect example of that philosophy is the 55-inch P-Series 4K Ultra HD TV, with forward-looking features and performance that are hard to beat at its $999 price.
The 4K P-Series supports the latest high-dynamic-range (HDR) format for boosting color and brightness, as well as delivering compatibility for the Dolby Vision version of the format. To further futureproof the set, Vizio uses Google Cast to support its smart-TV features, potentially offering more flexibility and support for a wider array of apps. Better still, the P-Series backs up it all up with excellent picture performance, thanks to an LCD panel with a full-array LED backlight with active dimming.
Design: Budget Box
One way Vizio keeps the price down is by not spending a lot on snazzy industrial designs. Consequently, the P-Series is of humbler origins, with a wide silver bezel and legs on either end of the panel. If you're looking for a razor-thin showpiece, this is not the set for you. It does come with all the necessary connections for a home theater setup, however, with one significant omission: As more people adopt a cord-cutter stance and want to use an antenna to pull in free local HD broadcasts, they'll be disappointed to discover this set doesn't have a built-in TV tuner, which means they'll have to purchase a separate $100 tuner box to use an antenna.
Performance: Great, But Not Subtle
The Vizio P-Series is a definite step up from the company's M-Series. The P-Series uses an IPS (in-plane switching) pane, for example, which delivers better off-axis viewing. Its full-array LED backlight also has nearly twice the number of active zones (126 versus 64) to deliver better contrast within a scene that features both shadows and highlights. I also found that the P-Series yielded very good color accuracy in its calibrated HD mode, although it drifted toward the blue, cooler end of the spectrum displaying 4K HDR content (both confirmed in our color gamut benchmarks).
While the P-Series does an admirable job of upscaling HD video, say, from a standard Blu-ray disc, and does an excellent job overall, there are areas of picture performance where it falls short of pricier sets, such as LG's OLEDs and Samsung's KS9000.
MORE: Our Favorite 4K (Ultra HD) TVs Available Now
White objects, such as an astronaut's suit, on the P-Series look dishwater-dull compared with that displayed by OLED sets, for example. And while images on the P-Series demonstrate excellent sharpness and crispness, they can also lack some degree of realism, making Matt Damon's face look rubbery at times in The Martian. The color skew away from red also gave the sky of the fourth planet from the sun a greenish tinge, compared with the rouge displayed by the top 4K sets.
The other area some viewers will find wanting is the degree of subtle contrasts and details that the P-Series sometimes fails to render. While the set does a good job yielding deeper blacks, it's often at the expense of eliminating details in shadows, especially compared with the Samsung KS8000. Vizio's picture tends to compress the contrast ratio into a narrower band, which one will find either makes for a bolder or for a cruder picture, depending on your taste.
Audio: Ignored Feature
As with most flat-panel TVs trying to appeal to more budget-conscious shoppers, the P-Series sound section is not noteworthy. It's adequate for most programs but it won't deliver the immersive sonic effects sought by movie fans.
MORE: Our Favorite Soundbars for Small and Big TVs
There's little lower register sound here and to get the most out of what there is, the TV should be placed relatively close to a back wall to improve the reflected sound from the back of the set. One would hope for better audio out of a set at this price, but this is typically an ignored feature.
Interface: Too Clever by Half?
As with its M-Series line of TVs, Vizio is ditching its own custom-built, Yahoo-backed smart-TV interface in favor of Google Cast (the same system behind Google's Chromecast). The company calls its implementation SmartCast, which uses an included Wi-Fi-connected Android tablet as the set's primary remote control (a very rudimentary IR remote is included, but it's basically a backup). Compared with the less expensive M-Series, the P-Series models come with a slightly more powerful 6-inch Android tablet remote that has 16GB of storage and a 1080p screen.
The SmartCast approach is supposed to make it easier to look for programs because you can browse on the tablet across multiple sources and then simply tap or swipe to put the video up on screen. Thanks to Google's broad reach, using Google Cast means support for a very wide array of apps and streaming services, including Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, YouTube and HBO Now. You can also search or browse for content across multiple apps at once, which makes it easier to find something to watch.
The one drawback to this approach, however, is that I found the software tardy, making the Android tablet a very inefficient TV remote. On numerous occasions I sat looking at the dreaded spinning wheel waiting for an option such as the sound settings to pop up. Volume can be adjusted by using the side buttons on the tablet as well, but I found this approach slow to respond, especially when I wanted to quickly lower the volume. Vizio says it has improved the speed of the remote with a firmware update that wasn't available at the time of my testing, and the company plans to update the software to integrate Google Play Movies.
The 55-inch P-Series is an excellent 4K TV for the money, no question. It delivers a crisp picture and not only ably upscales current HD programming but is also ready for HDR and (hopefully to come) Dolby Vision movies. The only question some shoppers with more flexible budgets may want to ask themselves is whether they're willing to spend considerably more for an even better picture from LG OLED (which costs about twice as much). But if you want to keep costs down, the P-Series delivers a lot for the price.
John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. For Tom's Guide, he has reviewed televisions, HDTV antennas, electric bikes, electric cars, as well as other outdoor equipment. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and the CBS News television program.
The 3 Best Vizio TVs of 2021 Reviews and Smart Features
Vizio Smart Features
Vizio TVs run the SmartCast platform, which is very basic and has a very limited selection of apps and it doesn't have an app store. Instead, it's relying on its ability to receive apps that are cast from your smart device. While the platform is versatile and has considerably grown in support from app makers, Vizio’s implementation is far from perfect. The SmartCast app Vizio provides to access content as well as adjust settings isn't the fastest and most stable, and not everything is available for casting.
SmartCast now features a more traditional home screen. Apps like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are available, as well as featured links to content found on the online TV service Pluto TV. Unfortunately, there's no app store, and apps are not actually installed on the TV; they're links to web-based interfaces.
Vizio's improved the set of options you can change from the TV itself. Nowadays, you don't need to touch the SmartCast app at all to get the TV going properly, and even complete calibration settings are available on the on-screen menus (however, we do recommend using the app for more in-depth calibration since it's a lot more efficient for making a lot of adjustments).
For many years Vizio remained one of the few brands left to not sell their interface to advertisers. However, we noticed with the Vizio M7 Series Quantum 2021 and Vizio V5 Series 2021 that there's now suggested content on the home page.
Apps & Features
Current Vizio TVs don't have an app store, and there's no way to add additional apps. The included apps cover many of the more popular services, but it might not be enough for some people, especially if you rely on streaming services instead of a traditional TV service.
Vizio finally added support for voice controls with the release of their 2021 TVs that come with the new remote (see below). It's pretty basic and not as advanced as other brands, but you can still ask it to change inputs and open apps, but you can't ask it to search for specific content in apps.
Vizio released a new remote with their 2021 models. It's stripped-down compared to the past version as it lacks a Numpad, but you still get the short buttons to popular streaming services. It's not too big, but it's very basic, and it doesn't have backlighting.
The Vizio remote app is great. It supports all functions of the remote, and can even be used to enter text into some apps, which is rare. The TV's settings can also be controlled and adjusted directly in the app, including the TV's calibration. This can now be done on the TV itself, but due to the slow interface, it's usually faster to change the settings through the remote app.
The SmartCast platform isn't the most versatile, and it can be very slow. On 2020 models, we've encountered a few bugs with the settings, so it can be frustrating sometimes. Vizio is generally pretty good with software updates, though, and hopefully, most of these issues will be fixed.
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