As the young folk say, the Vizio Reference Series is pretty hype. The vaunted 4K TVs first graced the stage during CES 2014, grabbing AV enthusiasts' attention and refusing to let go. But then 2014--and 2015--came and went with hardly a peep about Vizio's darling, save for a brief appearance last April when the company debuted surprise prototypes of the 65- and 120-inch Reference Series TVs in NYC. The TVs became available for special order shortly after, suggesting a masterfully timed release that would hit the market just in time to take advantage of the growing tide of new TV standards like HDR.. We've finally got the 65-inch Reference Series (Vizio RS65-B2, MSRP: 5,999) in our lab and have set Vizio's paragon to boil after two years of simmering. Does it really deserve the title of "Reference Series?"
While many other manufacturers chase new technology with 8K and HDMI 2.1, Vizio is enhancing its 4K TV lineup, starting from the lower-priced V series all the way up to its top-of-the-line P-Series Quantum X. The V series steps in where Vizio's E line of TVs used to reside, with smart TV features, Dolby Vision HDR and up to 16 zones of local dimming, with models ranging from 40- to 75-inches. The number of dimming zones and peak brightness -- crucial for precise backlighting with proper contrast and vivid colors -- goes up as you proceed across the lines and increase the prices. This year's M-Series features up to 90 zones (double that of last year's M-Series) and 600 nits of peak brightness, while also adding the "quantum color" technology previously reserved for the higher-end P-Series, all in sizes between 43- and 65-inches. Speaking of the P-Series Quantum lineup, that covers 65- and 75-inch TVs (plus an 85-inch prototype that the company wouldn't commit to) with up to 480 local dimming zones, while the P-Series Quantum X feature the highest brightness rating of the group with "UltraBright 2900" that Vizio claims elevates Dolby Vision to a new level, plus a slick bezel-less design.
Like the E, M, and P Series, Vizio's D Series is another updated-every-year set. This backlight array, usually reserved for much pricier sets, gives those particular D Series sets a boost in terms of picture quality. The design, menus, and remote are dressed down a bit compared to Vizio's 2017 E Series, which uses a "Smart Cast" system that requires a second screen and Google Cast to operate the TV's menus and smart system. Though we'll be reviewing the 65-inch model, and expect better performance there, the 55-inch had issues.
Vizio has been carving out a niche over the last few years via TVs that deliver the hottest new TV tech for affordable prices. So far this year, we've had almost nothing but good things to say about Vizio's 2017 E Series and 2017 M Series, so our expectations for top-end P Series (available at Amazon) were pretty high. Vizio's top-of-the-line 2017 option not only meets (and maybe exceeds) our expectations, it manages to do so at prices that still feel friendly. With the 55-inch P Series available for under $1,000, it's a great option if you want a knockout 4K/HDR but don't want to pay for extras you don't need. The P Series does have a few drawbacks, but dollar-for-dollar there's no arguing the value here.
NBCUniversal is quickly expanding the range of devices you can use to stream its Peacock service. Both LG Smart TVs and Vizio SmartCast sets will support Peacock when it reaches wider availability on July 15th, including the free, $5 Premium and $10 ad-free Premium tiers. The media giant didn't name specific models, but offerings like this aren't usually dependent on having the absolute latest set. Between this expansion as well as promises of support for Apple devices, Google hardware and Xbox consoles, NBCU is following a familiar strategy. It needs Peacock to be available on as many platforms as possible if it's going to compete with other services, particularly from studio-specific offerings like CBS All Access and HBO Max.