Vizio M43-C1 UltraHD TV Review

The Vizio M43-C1 offers UltraHD resolution, superior contrast ratios, and full array local dimming in an affordable package. The integrated streaming supports UltraHD from both Amazon and Netflix, the two main sources of UltraHD material today, and it has an HDMI input with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 support for the future. Finding another TV with all these features from another manufacturer costs hundreds more today making the Vizio M-series a true bargain.

Full Array Local Dimming

Specs
Manufacturer: Vizio
Model: M43-C1
Display Type: LED LCD
Resolution: 3840x2160
Inputs: 5x HDMI (1x HDMI 2.0 w/ HDCP 2.2), Component, Composite, Antenna, USB
Outputs: Optical, Analog Audio
Streaming Services: Netflix, Amazon, HuluPlus, Spotify, UltraFlix
Wi-Fi Support: Yes
3D Support: No
Display Size: 37.9” x 24” x 8.3”
Display Weight: 22.7 lbs.
Review Date: September 16, 2015
Price: $530
Company Website

Buy From Amazon

Why Amazon Links?

On an LCD TV, no feature is as desired by videophiles as full array local dimming. This gives the TV individual control over the brightness of different areas of the image. The more zones, the greater the control. Most TV vendors don’t tell you the number of zones, but most models in the M-Series use 32 zones, while the smaller 43” M43-C1 reviewed here only uses 28 zones. In high contrast scenes, like the moon against a black sky, the moon can be brightly lit while the other zones dim to increase the black level and provide a better image.

No dimming system is perfect, and when used too aggressively you will see blooming, or halos around bright objects against a dark background. Some also exhibit a rapid pumping of brightness levels, where the whole image quickly goes very bright and then very dim. Explosions are a common trigger for this but I didn’t have issues with it on the M43-C1 during my time with it.

What I did notice is that the contrast ratio roughly doubles with the local dimming enabled on the M43-C1. Blacks get darker while bright areas maintain their high-brightness elements without excessive haloing. Part of what Vizio does to enable this is by offering pixel level dimming control to go with the backlight. It’s an interesting trick to offer finer control and one that worked during my use of the M43-C1.

UltraHD Ready

As the amount of UltraHD content continues to expand, the Vizio M43-C1 is ready for it. Of course it has a 3840×2160 resolution screen to show every pixel of UltraHD content. It also has integrated streaming from Amazon, Netflix, and UltraFlix for viewing UHD content now. One HDMI input also features HDCP 2.2 and full bandwidth HDMI 2.0 so it can handle any content planned right now. It can’t stream YouTube in UltraHD because it uses a different codec than Netflix and Amazon that isn’t supported on the Vizio. You also lose out on HDR and wide color gamut content, but an UltraHD TV that displays those starts at $2,500 right now.

How much benefit you will see from UltraHD content is a complete toss-up. Much of this depends on your screen size and distance. With a 43” TV from 6-7’ away, you probably won’t notice much. I tried to watch House of Cards in UltraHD on the Vizio right next to a similarly priced, similarly sized TV streaming it in 1080p. Comparing the two the Vizio is the clear winner but it is because of its superior black levels and contrast ratios. The difference in fine details between the two was hardly visible at all, if ever, and didn’t make a big impact. Now with a much larger screen size things might change. Also when UltraHD Blu-ray comes out, with much higher bandwidth compared to Netflix and more fine detail, the difference in resolution might be more visible again.

The M-Series received a slight design change this year. Two feet near the edges of the screen now support the TV instead of a center base. It it supposed to make it less likely to tip over, but does require a wider base to place the TV on. The remote still has a backlit keyboard on the back which makes searching online content far easier. The main side of the remote still has no backlight, making it hard to use in the dark. The slim bezel and rounded metal edges make for an attractive set that feels much more solid than its price would indicate.

Dynamic Blacks

The clearest indicator of how well the local dimming works on the Vizio M43-C1 was during Chapter 12 of the final Harry Potter Blu-ray. The black robes of the wizards gathering on the hill are a deep, inky black well beyond any of the other 40-48” TVs I’ve seen this year. Turning the active dimming on and off let me quickly see how much of a difference it makes and it isn’t subtle. As they destroy the shield that is protecting Hogwarts, the bright explosions clash against the black background but it remains very dark. Toggling active dimming makes even more of an impact here as I far prefer the image with it on. If I look carefully I can notice the local dimming toggle on and off sometimes, but rarely and only when I look for it.

Thankfully Vizio allows you to calibrate and name multiple settings for the TV. The included Calibrated and Calibrated Dark ones work well, though I went a bit deeper. I made ones for daytime and nighttime viewing, and customized those with and without active dimming. This let me quickly compare the TV in all room conditions to see how it stood up. With the backlight set to maximum, I measured over 100 foot Lamberts off an 18% APL test pattern, which is enough to deal with any ambient light. Even with the windows open and the lights on, you’ll have no issues seeing what is on screen.

The colors and detail from Samsara really come to life on the M43-C1. The fine grains of sand that the monks lay down are visible and very colorful. The shimmer of gold from the dancers in the opening scene is more brilliant with local dimming enabled and make the Vizio stand apart from its rivals. During one scene the Vizio gets a bit aggressive on pushing the shadows and making a red curtain less brilliant that it is on other displays. You wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t watch it side-by-side but it shows that local dimming isn’t perfect. It still offers enough of a boost that always went back to turning it on.

On the Vizio M43-C1 skin tones did have a tendency to push a bit towards red. When watching Skyfall next to a more accurate display, you can see this in faces. Remove the side-by-side comparison and the flaw is slight enough to not notice it. Reducing the color control a couple of clicks also helps to reduce this red push as well.

Now that football season is in full swing, the M43-C1 handles the fast action very well for an LCD. The image is bright enough for daytime watching in my living room with windows directly across from it without being washed out. Creating a picture mode for sports (bright image, motion smoothing) and naming it is easy in the Vizio menu system and makes it simple to find the correct preset without making your movies look overly smoothed.

Calibration and Bench Tests

To measure and calibrate the Vizio M43-C1 I use CalMAN software from SpectraCal with an i1Pro2 spectrometer and a C6 colorimeter. For calibration targets I use the Rec.709 HDTV gamut, the BT.1886 gamma curve, and aim for a brightness between 35-40 foot Lamberts. All test patterns are APL 18% to best mimic watching actual content.

Before calibration with the Calibrated Dark preset the Vizio M43-C1 measures well. The main issue is that enabling local dimming causes the gamma to shift a bit, but turn that off and you have an image with almost no visible errors. A few skin tone shades are above the visible error level, which I did notice in content. Post calibration this improves but not by a huge amount. Overall you should use the Calibrated presets for the most accurate picture, and full calibration details can be found after the summary.

Conclusions

The Vizio M-Series received an update this year to include UltraHD resolution and improved local dimming. What didn’t receive much of an update was the price, making them an even better value than last year. I can easily recommend the Vizio M-Series as it offers a superior picture for the money. Even if the Vizio was a 1080p set and not a 4K set I’d give it high scores based on the superior contrast ratios.

I highly recommend the Vizio M-Series. I just recommended it to my college roommate and a coworker and do to you as well. It offers superb performance, all the features you need this year and represents a great value.

Review Summary
Product: Vizio M43-C1
Reviewer:
Pros: Great contrast ratios from full array local dimming, good presets, UltraHD resolution, 5 HDMI inputs, very nice picture quality
Cons: No backlit remote, stand requires a wider table, CMS is hard to use
Summary: The Vizio M-Series represents the best value in TVs for 2015. UltraHD resolution, streaming UHD content from Netflix and Amazon, along with full array local dimming for great contrast ratios make for a fantastic image.
Value: 5/5
Performance: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Buy From Amazon

Why Amazon Links?


Calibration Details

Pre-Calibration the Vizio M43-C1 Calibrated modes are decent. It has a very good grayscale and gamma tracking with local dimming disabled, but it is worse with it turned on. Measuring a TV with local dimming enabled, and calibrating it with it turned on, is very hard to do because of how the dimming affects the gamma curve. This then causes all the measurements to have weird luminance levels and higher error levels.

Additionally because of how the Vizio menu system works, you cannot get accurate calibration readings with local dimming enabled if the menu is up. Having the menu on screen causes the gamma to change and then means your readings are off. Because of this you have to measure, adjust, back out of the menu system, and measure again. Calibrating this way can be done, but give yourself a few hours to do it. Hopefully Vizio comes up with an app one day to let me adjust settings from somewhere other than the menu system.

The first thing I noticed is that the gamma numbers in the Vizio menu system aren’t perfect. With local dimming enabled, 2.4 measures close to 2.4. With dimming disabled, 2.1 was closer to 2.4. I also found that if I made large adjustments in the CMS, I would get some test pattern banding and some bad data. You can see this in the post-calibration charts at the end. I eventually went back and took the hue, saturation, and luminance settings back to 0 to correct this and only adjusted the grayscale. If you do adjust the CMS, make the changes small to prevent this.

With dimming enabled, the big issue pre-calibration is with Blue. The saturations are off, and green is a bit as well. With dimming disabled this doesn’t happen, so it likely has to do with the gamma levels and the pixel blinking that Vizio uses with local dimming. I didn’t see major issues with my own eyes with dimming on, but did see a huge bump in contrast, so I left it enabled.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Post-calibration if you have dimming off, everything improves. Error levels are almost all below a dE2000 of 3, and the grayscale and gamma are almost perfect. Turn dimming back on and the gamma gets a bit wonky and your errors increase. So I calibrated it doing the measure, adjust and exit, measure method to get the gamma and grayscale right. It worked but the CMS adjustment caused large errors so I removed those after I took these measurements. So you can get a perfect grayscale and gamma with local dimming on, you will just have to work at it. Getting the colors right I could not do with dimming enabled and don’t know if that is a function of the dimming or because of the CMS.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the end, the preset modes are not bad. They’re not perfect, but better than most TVs for certain. The CMS itself is not that easy to work with and only produces OK results. With a 43″ TV you probably won’t be calibrating it, but if you do know that it will take a lot of time to get it dialed in.

If you are feeding the Vizio 1080p content or above, then you can use HDMI 5. It is the only HDMI port with HDMI 2.0 full bandwidth and HDCP 2.2 copy protection. Two other ports have HDCP 2.2 but only accept a 4K signal at up to 30Hz. However HDMI 5 does a poor job with content that isn’t 1080i, the deinterlacing is very bad and it won’t even accept some lower resolution signals at all. So for future content or if you scale everything to 1080p, use HDMI 5. If you have other content that is below that, you might want to use the other HDMI inputs for those lower resolution signals to get better video processing.

If you want to game on the Vizio M43-C1 you will be set. Input lag with a 1080p signal in game mode is only 18ms, about as low as any TV can go.

Calibration Summary
Measurement Pre-Calibration Post-Calibration
Contrast Ratio: 9911:1 10050:1
White Level: 38.7 fL 37.9 fL
Black Level: 0.0042 fL 0.0038 fL
Gamma Point: 2.25 2.30
Average Grayscale dE2000: 3.41 1.94
Average Saturations dE2000: 2.98 4.19
Average Color Checker dE2000: 4.31 3.34
Summary: Enabling local dimming causes some mixed results in the calibrations. Overall the preset modes are good if local dimming is disabled and OK if it is enabled. Because of how much local dimming adds to the display I would leave it enabled even at the expense of some color accuracy. You can improve it after calibration, but with mixed results so I would likely just stick to the preset modes.

  • sal

    Could you share the settings you used after calibration?

    • No. I wrote an article about why I don’t do this, and the short version is because it’s more likely to give you worse performance than using the default settings. You can read the full article here: http://referencehometheater.com/2013/commentary/sharing-calibration-settings-results-compared/

      • Gonzo in OC

        Uh, NO! I won’t be giving any other write ups from you any clicks. Others have posted their calibration data without trying to dissuade others from trying them. For many, calibration data is an excellent baseline.

        But you hold tight to yours. We’ll get over it. Actually, over it. Out!

  • TD28

    Chris, Thanks for the great information. I am considering this set, but watch a lot of sports via Directv and am concerned about the 60hz refresh rate, and motion blurring. You mention that football looks great on this set after making a few adjustments. First, how bad is motion blurring with sports on this set? I am looking for a set that we can watch sports, movies, broadcast TV and Netflix streaming without constantly having to make adjustments/change picture modes. Would this be a good choice or should I wait for a new 2016 model that has a 120hz refresh rate and handles motion better?