Vizio M322i-B1 Review
By Chris Heinonen on
Earlier this year I reviewed the Vizio E320i-B2 TV which is an impressive 32” display. With good streaming content, a good image, and a low price it became my pick for the Best Small TV at The Wirecutter. Vizio has recently released the M-series model, the Vizio M322i-B1. While the styling is a little nicer, and the speed better, there is one major improvement: rear array LED zone lighting. While it is only 5 zones, it should be able to provide better blacks than one without it.
After testing the Vizio M322i-B1 and watching a lot of content on it, I still feel the E-series model is a better choice for most people. It has a better native contrast ratio and better pre-calibration measurements. The Vizio M322i-B1 remote is nice, and you get better viewing angles, but for most people the E320i-B2 winds up as a better value.
Compared to their E-Series the Vizio M-Series line adds a few nice features. The styling improves with a thinner bezel and a nice silver accent and there is an extra HDMI input. It is a full 1080p display instead of a 720p screen though you won’t notice from a normal distance. More important is that the rear array local dimming, an improved remote, and a full color management system. The remote is something that anyone will notice as the back is a full QWERTY keyboard layout. I would likely pay the $30 more for the M-Series just for the remote if it was backlit but at night it is hard to use. I can login to Netflix and other services far faster, and also search for titles in all those apps. Even something simple like entering your WiFi password becomes easy to do with a real keyboard.
The color management system (CMS) lets a calibrator correct settings including grayscale, gamma, and color points. A CMS was a rare feature a few years ago but now they are showing up on $300 TVs which is good to see. The M-series models last year had accurate Calibrated modes without a CMS so being able to improve upon that would be good. As I discover the inclusion of the CMS has side-effects. The five LED lighting zones promise better contrast ratios, but there is a trade-off here as well.
Almost all LCD TVs use a VA-type LCD panel. These produce good blacks but have the side effect of washing-out from an angle. Sit to the side of almost any LCD TV and the image is much worse than it is when facing it because of this. The Vizio M322i-B1 instead uses an IPS LCD panel which offers far better off-angle viewing but with blacks that are not as dark. IPS panels are common in computer monitors where viewing angles are more important than black levels.
So how much of a difference does this make? VA-panels usually have blacks that are 3-4 times as dark as those on an IPS panel. The addition of the LED array backlighting tries to compensate for this. If the backlight is dimmer in darker scenes, you can have darker blacks while having off-axis performance. The backlight does an OK job, and improves performance by roughly 140%, but still lags behind the VA-panel of the E-Series 32”.
The larger issue with picture performance is the Calibrated picture modes. On the E-series a CMS is almost unnecessary because these modes are already so accurate out of the box. Anyone can turn their TV on, set it to Calibrated, and have an accurate image with no adjustments. On the M-series the color issues are much larger with these presets. You can get them closer with a calibration, but for most people that is a $300-400 expense, and unlikely to happen on a $300 TV.
Vizio does include all the streaming features you need, and built-in WiFi to make it easy to use. Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, Spotify, and more are all here. They also load quicker than they do on the E-series. The keyboard remote really pays off here as searching for titles is much easier than using an on-screen keyboard. You can still use the on-screen keyboard, in case you have a universal remote, but the keyboard will save years of your life for better activities.
With Netflix paying their ransom to Comcast, 1080p SuperHD streaming looks good and even works at night. Vizio uses a new setup for apps, allowing creators to use HTML5 for creating them. This should allow for more frequent app updates, and more apps, since many other platforms also use HTML5. The app selection is good and they are responsive. Amazon now uses the full screen interface instead of the half-screen that Vizio has used before.
The key to the performance of the Vizio M322i-B1 is how well the LED backlighting works. On bad LED lighting systems, or poor iris systems on a projector, you see a pumping of the image. Shifts from dark scenes to light cause the backlight to ramp up, an effect you can notice. Once you see it and realize what it is you’ll always see it, which is why most demos don’t use scenes that can trigger it.
The final Harry Potter film is a favorite for testing, as explosions against a dark scene cause these to happen. The beginning of Chapter 12 is a torture test as Voldemort and his minions gather on top of a hill to attack Hogwarts. When using LED dimming, you can see the pumping here as the camera pans around and zooms in. Worse yet, when I used my own calibrated settings, if it was a dark enough scene the screen turned off completely! The LED lighting also led to crushing some shadow details, leaving a black blob instead of an shadow.
Off-axis viewing angles are excellent compared to other LCDs. Sitting all the way to the right or left of the screen and it still looks almost as good as it does straight on. If you are mounting your LCD up in a corner for a whole room to watch, this makes a large difference. Everyone can see the screen instead of just those seated in the middle.
Green and Cyan are undersaturated in the CIE diagram
The color gamut in the Vizio M322i-B1 comes up a little short of the targets. Greens and Cyans are under-saturated and deep cyan blues are not as vivid as they could be. The blue ocean in the Bahamas in Casino Royale is dull and lifeless where it usually pops off the screen with a rich cyan blue. Skin tones are also off, with a bit too much red and orange to them. Combine this with the color accuracy issues and the Vizio M322i-B1 falls short of the performance of the cheaper Vizio E320i-B2. With no calibration required it produces a more accurate image with darker blacks and a better contrast ratio.
Vizio M322i-B1 Bench Test Data and Analysis
For all testing and evaluation of the Vizio M322i-B1 I use SpectraCal’s CalMAN 5.3 software with the Klein K-10A colorimeter and an i1Pro spectrometer. The DVDO AVLabTPG provides the test patterns. I use APL 10% windows for all test patterns as it allows me to be consistent between LCD and Plasma displays.
Pre-calibration using APL patterns and no LED dimming, the Vizio M322i-B1 exhibits a noticeable red-shift to the grayscale. Black levels are high compared to VA-panel LCDs or a plasma display. As you see in the saturation sweep data cyans and greens both have large, visible errors at every level with their hue and saturation having issues. The color checker shows issues as well but the gamma is relatively decent when compared to the BT.1886 target. The Vizio has no gamma adjustment but with an 11-point white balance control you can adjust it manually.
Post-calibration the RGB balance is almost perfect. The grayscale dE2000 is highly improved even though the gamma is not quite as good. The contrast ratio is still just around 1,000:1 and the saturations of green and cyan are not improved. The lightness and hue have both improved slightly on those so their overall error level is lower. A few patches on the color checker still have very visible errors but it overall improves.
Even though the numbers look better, I found the image to be worse when watching films on the Vizio M322i-B1. The shadows are just crushed and it causes the backlighting to behave weird in dark scenes, turning off completely. Aside from adjusting the Gains and Cuts in the Professional controls, along with the Color and Tint, I would leave most of them alone.
Local Dimming Performance
Testing local dimming I used two approaches: One using 18% APL (Average Picture Level) patterns and one using full-field. APL patterns use a center window for measurements while it varies the outer color to maintain a common light level. 18% is close to the APL for many popular films and tries to mimic the real world.
With APL patterns, the contrast ratio jumps from 1036:1 to 2351:1. This is a good improvement but still well below a VA-panel. Using full field we move from 1035:1 to 52,868:1. using full field lets the Vizio turn off all the LED zones to have a virtually black screen. Using more backlight zones lets APL patterns perform better, as it could completely turn off the center area of the screen that is being measured. Since the Vizio M322i-B1 only has 5 zones, it cannot turn the center off completely when measuring the center but does manage to dim it.
So the local dimming does help, but not to the effect that the numbers would indicate. Full field numbers don’t represent real-world content and APL content only shows a contrast ratio of 2,300:1. Since LED backlighting is really meant to help with dark scenes, the shadow crush I see with it enabled causes me to really hesitate to turn it on. Without it blacks are a dark-gray instead of black, but I prefer that to losing all detail overall. With that and the easily visible pumping I see in dark scenes, I would leave it disabled.
Video Processing and Lag
The Vizio sailed through the 3:2, 2:2, and 60i cadence tests. Motion resolution is enhanced with the Motion Enhancement feature on as well. This reduces light output by flashing the backlight to increase motion resolution. Even with this enabled you can still get enough light output for a dark room from the Vizio M322i-B1. I don’t notice flicker from it so I would turn this on while leaving the LED Array disabled.
Using the Leo Bodnar Lag Tester I measure 44ms of lag in the Game mode. This is a little slow for a TV.
|White Level:||35.5 fL||33.7 fL|
|Black Level:||0.1118 fL||0.1113 fL|
|Average Grayscale dE2000:||3.52||2.45|
|Average Saturations dE2000:||4.00||3.01|
|Average Color Checker dE2000:||4.92||3.31|
|Summary:||Even after calibration, the numbers on the Vizio M322i-B1 fall below those that the E320i-B2 have with the preset Calibrated modes. The effort spent on a calibration isn’t really worth it in the end.|
Vizio vs. Vizio
This is the main problem with the M-series Vizio, that the E-series is much better this year than before. Compared to other 32” TVs the Vizio M322i-B1 is a good display but against the Vizio E320i-B2 I have little reason to choose it. If you are a professional calibrator you can get it close to the quality of the Vizio E320i-B2. Hooking up my laptop gives me a full 1080p image and so it you like to use your 32” TV as a PC display sometimes then the M-series might be a benefit. For most people, the Vizio E320i-B2 is just a better value.
Streaming apps are much faster on the M-series, and the remote is a welcome improvement but needs backlighting. 1080p resolution isn’t essential on a 32” TV, but I will take it if all else is equal. While I would pay $30 to add those benefits if all else was equal, I would rather have the picture quality of the E320i-B2.
The Vizio M322i-B1 is good, but it comes up short when compared to their own E-series model. While most people will be OK with the image, the undersaturated colors make it lose some pop and the poor black levels hurt the quality. With all the streaming services built-in you don’t need to add on a Roku or anything else. Needing calibration to perform at its best most people will be better off with the Vizio E320i-B2 instead. Unless you need the wider viewing angles of the Vizio M322i-B1, I would go with the Vizio E320i-B2. Other M-series models use VA-panels and might have better performance than the 32″ but I will have to test one to find out.
Good Streaming Features, Full CMS System, Good Viewing Angles
Under-saturated Green and Cyan, Poor Black Levels, bad preset modes
The Vizio M322i-B1 falls short of the image quality set by the E-series Vizio E320i-B2. A better remote and higher resolution are nice, but not enough to make this a better pick.