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In the Field: VIZIO 4K HDR-Enabled M-Series SmartCast TVs

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As a writer who has covered multiple categories over the years, including audio, video, computer, and mobile technologies, it’s my duty to keep personal excitement at bay before taking pen to paper. As I have developed a particular fondness for home entertainment gear, this time around has proven to be more challenging than ever. Of all the converging technologies that have entered the tech space in recent years—to me, nothing beats immersing yourself in high-definition video and being surrounded by high-resolution multi-channel audio. So when a new product debuts that’s poised to enhance that enjoyment, I’m naturally eager to get it in the “lab” (my living room) to see how it performs. Since VIZIO is a brand with which I’m very familiar, having written about it on multiple occasions, agreeing to spend some time with the new 50" M50-D1 4K HDR-enabled display was pretty much a no-brainer.

So, what’s new?

When it comes to the realm of home entertainment, VIZIO has earned quite the reputation, delivering bang-for-buck performance that’s hard to match at or near its price. In fact, this reputation has earned the company a rather large and loyal following since it hit the market in 2002. VIZIO’s TVs have been well covered and regarded over the years, and its new M and P series 2016 models raised quite a few eyebrows when they were introduced, not only because of what they packed, but also because of a few interesting design changes the company chose to implement in its latest series. For starters, these new series aren’t traditional “TVs” because they don’t incorporate TV tuners, hence the name “Home Theater Display.” So, if you’re a cord-cutter or simply someone who relies on over-the-air broadcast TV via an antenna, you’ll have to use an external tuner. On the other hand, if you have a cable or satellite receiver, you can connect them as usual via its HDMI or component video interface to enjoy your local broadcast channels in high-definition, where available.

A notable addition to the entire 2016 lineup of VIZIO’s M series displays is the ability to handle 4K HDR video. While UHD 4K resolution is pretty common these days, High Dynamic Range (HDR) is just beginning to spread its wings. HDR itself isn’t a new technology—camera enthusiasts have been familiar with its ability to deliver enhanced contrast and color reproduction for years. As it currently stands, there are two competing HDR standards, known as HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Thankfully, VIZIO realizes the last thing its consumers want to deal with is another format war. So while the displays initially launched with just Dolby Vision support, a free firmware upgrade has been made available, allowing these models to support HDR10 content, as well. This means whether you’re watching Dolby Vision content, such as Marco Polo, on Netflix, or connecting a UHD Blu-ray player like the HDR10-enabled Samsung UBD-K8500, you won’t have to choose or guess which formats will ultimately reign supreme and deliver the most content; you can simply choose the content you most want to watch. Well done, VIZIO!

Another change for 2016 is the lack of a built-in traditional Smart TV interface; instead, VIZIO opted for the inclusion of SmartCast wireless streaming technology. While this may sound like an omission or oversight, it’s actually a rather interesting approach. Using the included Tablet Remote or an Android or iOS smart device of your own, you can stream content wirelessly from the wide library of apps that support Google Cast streaming. Apps that support Google Cast include Netflix, HBO Go, HULU, Showtime Anytime, Google Play Music, and much, much more. What’s great about this solution is that it gives you access to an ever-expanding library of TV shows, music, and movie selections beyond the services that are embedded into the display’s smart interface. Again, VIZIO is delivering choices.

Setup and installation

Once I had the M50-D1 unboxed and placed on my A/V stand, the on-screen setup guide walked me through pairing the tablet remote control, which was a relatively easy process that included placing it close to the lower-right corner of the display. Internet connectivity is also established in the initial setup process, and once it was complete, the display automatically downloaded and installed the latest firmware. In addition to using Wi-Fi to stream to the display, an Ethernet port is also on board. On the video side of things, connection options include 4 HDMI, dual USB ports, and a component video input, the latter is typically used to connect legacy high-definition video sources.

As with most high-definition displays, the VIZIO M50-D1 required a few menu adjustments, out of the box, to deliver optimized picture quality. Using the Calibrated Dark picture mode found in the display’s settings, I was able to get pretty close to what I consider to be a true-to-life cinematic image; and it took just a few adjustments from that point to really dial things in. After completing the picture adjustments, I was able to save my settings and access them across the display’s other inputs—time saved. While I didn’t have a UHD Blu-ray player on hand, I connected my Fios HD DVR and Marantz UD5007 Blu-ray player without incident and, thanks to the aforementioned SmartCast technology, I could simply rely on my smartphone or the included tablet to stream content wirelessly. To further aid in the installation, VIZIO includes an HDMI cable in the box.

About that tablet…

As you can no doubt tell by now, VIZIO’s M-series displays include a 6" tablet remote. Furthermore, this tablet runs a pretty unobtrusive version of Android Lollipop, has 8GB of storage, and is equipped with a quad-core processor. As with most other Android tablets, I was able to log in to my Google account and access my existing library of content, which includes thousands of photos and songs. And because Google Cast is supported, getting that content to show on the big screen was a breeze. If you choose, you also have the option of watching content directly on the tablet’s 720p display and connecting a pair of headphones to its 3.5mm headphone jack.

While the tablet itself doesn’t function as a traditional IR-based universal remote control, I was able to download remote control apps easily for other Internet-connected components in my home theater system. VIZIO’s SmartCast app comes pre-installed on the tablet, and allows you to search for content across multiple entertainment apps. These content options include TV Shows, Movies, Music, Live TV, Kids programming, and Live Streams. On the hardware side, the tablet features a micro-USB interface and even comes with a dock that offers secure, magnetic placement of the tablet remote and the convenience of wireless charging. A standard USB charger is also included. In addition to the tablet, the display ships with an IR-based remote control, which offers basic control options.

In use

Before exploring the world of 4K streaming material, I turned to a Blu-ray movie that I know well, and one that would serve as an excellent test to measure the display’s black level performance visually, The Dark Knight. Having watched this movie a dozen or so times on my plasma TV, I’ve come to know what to expect from the shadows of Gotham. The M50-D1 LCD screen features a local dimming backlight, complete 32 active LED zones, and there’s no doubt this backlight technology contributed to the display’s excellent black-level performance, a weakness commonly attributed to LCD televisions since their inception when compared to other display technologies. As with most other LCD panels, black levels, contrast, and color reproduction took bit of a hit when viewing the screen from an angle. With Plasma TV’s having issues of their own, being out of production, and OLED TVs coming in at a premium price, this is simply par for the course for when it comes to LCD screens.


Next up on the list was Netflix’s Marco Polo, in 4K and Dolby Vision. To enjoy this content, you have to subscribe to Netflix’s 4K streaming service and have an Internet connection that’s up to the task; which Netflix recommends be at least 25 MB/s. I’ve seen HDR at trade shows and in-store demos, but this was the first time I had it in-home, and once I had everything in place, the advantages this technology offers was easily discernible. I prefer disc-based content to streaming almost always, but there was no denying the fine image detail and overall contrast HDR delivers; the picture quality was downright stellar. If you’re not a Netflix subscriber, VUDU also offers pay-per-view 4K HDR material for your viewing pleasure.

A little change goes a long way

Aside from the 50" model discussed here, VIZIO’s M-series displays offer multiple screen-size options all the way up to 80 inches. While this display ushers in a few changes not seen on traditional TVs, even last year’s VIZIOs for that matter, change isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Features aside, a display’s primary job is to deliver the goods when it comes to picture quality; and to put it simply, this level of performance in this price range is pretty remarkable. Throw a capable Android tablet into the mix and this display screams bargain, especially considering its picture quality punches way above its weight class. If you want to more about how these displays can integrate into your home theater environment or what you may or may not need to enjoy them at their best, contact us. As always, we’re here to help.

Are you interested in 4K HDR-enabled TV? Tell us why or why not in the Comments section, below.

36 Comments

I have the M60 D1 with Direct TV. Shoot me now. No matter if I use port 1 ARC to port 5 Direct TV says my TV is not a 4K TV. I have a 4K DTV receiver and 4K HDMI cables. Wi-Fi at 25. Smartcast says it's at 2160 but I do not believe I am seeing 4K content. Also, in 2017 how do I get YouTube in 4K? 

Vizio does not support youtube 4k.i wish I had know all this before I bought my m65d0. Also I still can't get tablet and TV to stay paired. I'm done trying. Just using TV as a TV at this point.

It's usually still connected even when it says it's not. I had 4 of the tablet remotes and they all tend to say they need to be setup Everytime but if I skip the setup process after doing it at least once, it's still connected it just says it's not. And I can get 4k YouTube on my Vizio with the tablet. Maybe it's ur internet connection.

Hi John - 

Your first issue sounds like a job for Direct TV.  there may be a setting in their tuner box that needs adjusting.

 

The following links will take you to some excellent videos of different scenes made in 4K resolution or to channels that feature the same from both amateurs and professionals.

Before viewing on your ultra HD monitor, be sure to activate each video’s 4K resolution through the button in the lower right corner of the clip.

  1. A compilation of several different scenes in 4K ultra HD in a single video, ranging from starry desert landscapes at night to the shining futuristic towers of Dubai in the desert sunlight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pxRHBw-k8M

  1. A YouTube collection of short 4K movies featuring places such as Redwood Nstional Park, the coast of the U.S Virgin Islands, New Zealand’s insane wilderness and scenes of puppies, horses and honey bees doing their cute or fascinating thing… These are short clips but each is quite beautiful to behold in this resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLD33E5618740295DF

  1. An awesomely spectacular clip of a skydiver dropping to the earth near Dubai in full 4K ultra HD. This is a perfect example of the kind of extreme sports footage that can now be watched in a way that feels far more real thanks to UHD resolution

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFg_mlBFV2c

  1. Pro movie clips from a partnership between 4K camera maker RED and YouTube have also been uploaded to the website for the sake of promoting Ultra HD and some of these are truly spectacular for having been captured with a professional video production model of a 4K UHD camera.

https://www.youtube.com/user/shotonred/

 I/ve been using the m-65 version for a month and a half and it works great. First and foremost make sure the TV has the latest software on it. In my case I directly connected a Cat 5 cable to the TV. At the same time I checked the tablet and made sure it was updated . My tablet is at Android version 6.0.1. Click the back button at the botton left of the tablet to get out of the Vizio app and you get icons at the top and bottom. Click on the cog and flip to the bottom About Tablet then System Update then check on updates. Next go to the Google store , the suitcase , top left Google Play then My Apps and games then update all. After everything is updated go back one to the google store and download Netflix Cast since it is not in the menu of Vizio. By the way I wanted to watch some BBC America stuff so I dowloaded their cast app and just had to put in my network provider and could watch programs I had missed.

 Next and this very important click on the Vizio App and then the COG. This takes you to all the TV controls. Click on the system COG , system information , display information. Now if your software is up to date you will get a number like 3.0.12.2 which is my latest version. If it is 1.0 then it has to be updated with an internet connection.

 Now if you have trouble staying connected your device is Bluetooth connected to the TV. First click on Network connection to see if you are Wi-Fi connected. You should see your router ID. Next go back to the main Vizio screen and click on the top left 3 bars. go down to device settings and click on it. It should show the name you configured and the network you are connected to which should be the same.

 Now here is a "problem " I found. Both the TV and and the tablet have to be on Wi Fi so they connect properly. If the TV is hardwired via a Cat 5 cable then the cast does not work. If you keep loosing connections between the TV and the tablet you need to check your WI-FI strength and make sure both are connected on the same device.

Now if everything is right and you play something like Netflix via Netflix cast you should see a box with several  lines it it. You then click on that and it start to play on the tablet. You click on it and add in your TV device name and now you can select where the Newtflix movie goes. By the way once you send it to the TV you can in fact shut down the tablet and the TV still runs the shows fine.

 The important thing is your TV and tablet have to be WI-FI connected and to the same WI-FI device.

I checked my M6-D0 System info. Display info. and I see under HDR mine says "No" what is going on here?
 

Hi Walter - 

Confirmed with Vizio:  HDR compatible:  HDR10 and Dolby Vision with M55-D0 and M65 -D0.  Make sure you firmware is updated and then contact VIZIO directly:

VIZIO SUPPORT

Toll Free
855-833-3221

Monday-Friday 7am-11pm (CST)
Saturday-Sunday 8am-9pm (CST)

How the heck does this TV stay paired with the tablet. Everytime I grab the tablet the TV says Network connection lost and I have to press the link button twice and set it up every time. Am I missing something here?

I am having the same issue.  Everytime I turn off the tv and put it back on i have to re pair the tablet.  Its really annoying.  Any fix?

Hi Jonathan -

Don is offering sound advice here.  Most ISP's are offering 30-50mbps minimum service now. All you have to do is ask for it at no additional charge.  Wi-Fi signal strength is important as well.  You may need to change your router's location.  Sometimes simply elevating the router can make a world of difference.

Be sure to check and install all available updates for the display and the tablet.  Double check that  both the display and the tablet are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.  If you cannot maintain the connection please contact VIZIO support right away.

VIZIO:

 Tel: (877) -698-4946

Website http://www.vizio.com/

I have 4 of the tablets and all of mine do the same but I found that after setting it up one time, that's all u need even though it says otherwise​. After initial setup, I skip the setup process when it tells me I have to connect all over again, and it still works just fine. I think it does be connected but for whatever reason it says otherwise. Skip the setup process and see if u can still use it like how mine works. 

You need to veerify wifi strength for both the TV and Tablet. It is in the tablet settings COG and Vizio smartcast settings COG.

Hi Jesse -

Don is offering sound advice here.  Most ISP's are offering 30-50mbps minimum service now. All you have to do is ask for it at no additional charge.  Wi-Fi signal strength is important as well.  You may need to change your router's location.  Sometimes simply elevating the router can make a world of difference.

Be sure to check and install all available updates for the display and the tablet.  Double check that  both the display and the tablet are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.  If you cannot maintain the connection please contact VIZIO support right away.

VIZIO:

 Tel: (877) -698-4946

Website http://www.vizio.com/

Hi Richard,

I've looked all over the internet to find out info re: M55-D0 (M series) and Netflix and Amazon 4k/UHD and HDR abilities.  I've talked to Netflix, Vizio, and Amazon, all of them over the phone the last couple days.  All 3 have told me that Netflix and Amazon won't be able to stream 4k/UHD from the Vizion tablet.  They told me that I have to buy another device such as a Roku Premier Plus, Roku Ultra, Xbox One S, etc., and have that device plugged into the Vizio tv, and stream Netflix or Amazon directly from the new device, NOT from the tablet.  They said if I don't use an attached device, I won't be able to get 4k/UHD or HDR content at all.  (Amazon said that they don't offer HDR at this point in time anyhow.)  Is this true?  I've researched Vizio M series for months, and never came across information that said I'd have to buy another device in order to be able to see 4k/UHD or HDR/Dolby Vision.  I bought the tv becuase it said it could do that technology, but now I'm learing that it can only show the improved formats if I have another device attached to the tv (not casting from the Vizio tablet).  Please let me know what I should do.  I can't find this information anywhere.  Thanks so much!

I have just bought the vizio 50m with the tablet ($650).  Regular comcast plugged in looks great.  Useing smartcast sucks, the 4k is terrible.  I have looked at a few youtube 4k video's and the are somewhat better. I would not waste my time with a smartcast tv. I thought I had read someplace that this unit has the smartcast 2 or newer generation.  I think it would have been better to buy the $500 vizio with netflix app built into the tv.  I have that in the living room and the 4k netflix is awesome on it. Its really dissapointing when you look a blurry 4k fire place

Did you use the Vizio smaretcast APP and then click on the COG and setup the TV to your preferance? I keep seeing people that get rid of the tablet without doing any settings. Also use HDMI port 1 for the highest quality image. My Blu Ray play is on port 1 and my TV fiber feed is on two. The picture is excellent. .

Your WI-FI at the TV needs to be at at least 25 MB for 4 K service to be good. Next the "Cast" only programs the program  the TV will get. The TV gets the signal directly downloaded via WI-FI not as a feed from the tablet.  I used the "Netflix Cast APP" which is different than the "Netflix APP" and started up a program and in fact I can shut off the tablet and it still works fine on the TV so the tablet has zero effect on the quailty of the picture on the TV. It is all just WI-FI signal strength that effects the quailty. The Netflix Cast APP has a box with 3 curving lines in it and you click on that box to either select you tablet to play on or cast it to your TV. You do have to program the TV as a device you want to cast to. Go to your Vizio APP and click on the 3 bars on the top left. Half way down is Device Settings and click on that. You should then get the name you asigned to your TV. Click on that and part way down is Network settings. Click on that and at the bottom is Test Connection. Click on that and it will tell you what the WI-FI signal strength is at the TV.

Not true. Actually you'll have to cast from the Vizio tablet to get Dolby Vision HDR on Netflix and on Vudu because most devices only do HDR10. My PS4 Pro won't stream any Dolby Vision HDR content cuz its HDR10​ only. Although u will need an external device to stream Amazon as the tablet and TV DOES NOT carry it

Hi,
I have purchased this TV and I'm using google cast to stream Netflix. I have the 4k service and watching shows that Netflix says are 4k. Is that all I need? Quality is great but I'm not sure if it's 4k since I wasn't sure if just casting it would make it 4k. Thanks for your help

Hi Diego - 

Many customers tell us that they are not seeing a big difference while using the Netflix 4K service.  You may want to also check with your internet provider regarding their premium services.  I also suggest tweaking the TV's color, sharpness, and motion rate menu settings for the optimal image quality.

You should use the Netflix Cast App so it comes in proper and it will tell you what the signal is. If it is 4K material you will know right away. It is affected by the WI-FI signal strength. You need to have a feed via WI-FI at your device of at least 25 MB.

Something very important about the settings for the image that you get on the TV. If you are watching content on say HDMI port 1 and you adjust it the changes you have done only effect HDMI port 1. You have to adjust each port including your CAST. An example is my tablet shows CAST then HDMI 1 to 5 and then COMP for composite. While you are on an individual port you can click on the COG and select picture to adjust all your settings. You need to check each port when you are watching content on that port to adjust it to your best preferance. By the way as a back up I also downloaded the Vizio App to my smart phone and used bluetooth to sync to the TV. It does all the same as a tablet.

What HDMI port should I use on my M65-D0 for a 4K blu ray player?

Thank you

Hi Ricky -

Use the side or rear HDMI inputs of your television.  Whichever is most convenient for you.

Ok so any HDMI port is good for the 4K blu-ray? Also do you recomend a setting that would give me that Sopa Opera effect? Thank you.

Hi Ricky -

That is correct - any HDMI port at all.    Adjust the Clear Action feaure to diminish the "Soap Opera" effect.

The ports diminish in quality from port 1 desending so I use port 1 for my Blu-ray and port 2 for my Fiber cable feed.

HI! Thanks for the review. I've been in the market for a new TV and I especially had my eye on this particular one as it seems pretty well future-proofed. One of my main concerns though is that the 50 inch model of the M series doesn't have 5 hdmi ports, but not because I intend to use all 5 hdmi ports, but because the 5th hdmi port is a low input lag port on the larger m series models which is useful for gaming. I was wondering if you could let me know what the 4th hdmi (hdmi side) is labeled as. I can't seem to find this infirmation any where else. Thanks!

I got the Vizio M65-D0 model from B&H and so far pretty impressed although it needs better calibration. Can you share your calibration settings? 

Hi, Paul

Unfortunately, I don’t have the calibration settings recorded but I would recommend starting with the "Calibrated Dark" setting in the picture menu. From there I turned sharpness down and made a few adjustments to brightness and contrast. I too was impressed with the picture quality. Enjoy your display and thanks for reading!

Something very important about the settings for the image that you get on the TV. If you are watching content on say HDMI port 1 and you adjust it the changes you have done only effect HDMI port 1. You have to adjust each port including your CAST. An example is my tablet shows CAST then HDMI 1 to 5 and then COMP for composite. While you are on an individual port you can click on the COG and select picture to adjust all your settings. You need to check each port when you are watching content on that port to adjust it to your best preferance.

Not really interested in 4K at this time while our 55 inch set still functions. Little content on what we watch and bluray looks quite good at 8 ft.

Hi Greg, 

I'm still happy with my 1080p TV as well, my viewing distance is about the same as yours and content isn't really a concern. I was very impressed with HDR though and I expect content to continue growing at a steady pace. Thankfully this display supports both HDR standards, so as content becomes available, compatibilty won't be an issue. Thanks for reading! 

I bought two of these Vizio 48" monitors for a TV production truck. They are used for a muti-image screen in front of the director/producer/technical director bench where all of the decisions are made during a broadcast. Latency is a problem in our industry but these 4K TV's have almost none and staring at a picture three feet away with the resolution of these 4K's is stunning!

Thanks for sharing, Bryan! I'm happy to see your VIZIO displays perform well in a professional environment as well.

good tv

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