Vizio M401i-A3 Review
By Chris Heinonen on
Since Vizio came into the market and helped drive down the price of flat panels, I’ve associated many terms with them. Affordable. High Value. Bargain. But never Stylish. This year with the M-series they have decided to change that opinion. With a thin silver bezel and a stylish Vizio brand in the corner, the M-series will look nice up on a wall. At only 2” thick it will hardly stick out from its mount. Available in a wide array of sizes, from 32” to a massive 80”, the general features are the same. As you move up in size you find faster panels and other differences. I took a look at the 40” Vizio M401i-A3 model as the specs are closest to the 32” sizes that I am seeking to review. The 47″ model looks identical other than screen size.
Vizio M401i-A3 Design
|Display Type:||LED LCD|
|Inputs:||3x HDMI, 1x Component, 1x Composite, 1x Antenna/Cable, 1x Ethernet, 1x USB|
|Outputs:||RCA Analog Audio, Optical Audio|
|Streaming Services:||Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, M-GO, VUDU, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Pandora, iHeart Radio, Facebook|
|Display Size:||36.28”W x 23.23”H x 7.87”D|
|Display Weight:||27.78 lbs.|
|Review Date:||October 9, 2013|
|Price:||[amazon_link asins=’B00CI3BP06′ template=’PriceLink’ store=’refehomethea-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’e11f52ea-db7d-11e6-8d57-9136dc95d9d9′]|
Vizio uses the same remote for the M-series, which means the M401i-A3 remote has a 3D button on it despite no 3D support. It does have quick access to Netflix, Amazon and M-Go services and is backlit with a silver trim to match the display. The rubberized back is very nice in the hand and overall the remote design is very nice. The IR sensor on the display itself is either too small or not sensitive enough, as button presses are often missed. This is a common complaint with the M-series and perhaps in making the bezel so thin the IR performance suffers.
When you’ll notice the responsiveness of the remote the most is initially setting up networking and online services. Typing in your full email address and password for Netflix is hard enough with a remote and even harder when it fails to respond sometimes. The wireless setup is easy and what I used for all of my testing as the wireless router is in the same room. All of the online content is easy to set up except for Netflix, which sometimes would have graphical errors. The first time I tried I couldn’t enter my login credentials but I could after restarting the TV. Small visual glitches still happened in Netflix occasionally though I know this is often the fault of Netflix and not the hardware company.
Configuring the picture of the TV I am happy to report that Vizio has selections called “Calibrated” and “Calibrated Dark”. No crazy sports modes or anything else, but well named modes that make sense. These calibrated modes also provided the most accurate picture of any of the presets and are what I use for my review. More details on the actual numbers are found on the second page of this review. Just make sure to set brightness correctly, as the default setting is too low and will hide shadow detail.
The LED-lit M401i-A3 is an “effective 120Hz” model, which means it is a 60 Hz panel with backlighting tricks. You can enable LED dimming which causes the backlight to rise and fall with the picture content. In other models this often leads to overly-aggressive results where scenes pulse in brightness and you have to disable the feature. On the M401i-A3 the feature is mild and unobtrusive. Black bars on widescreen content become blacker and vanish more in a dark room. Dark scenes are a darker but not a muddled mess while dim scenes don’t fluctuate between light and dark.
For Blu-ray on the Vizio M401i-A3 I use an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player. The hardest dark scene that I use for reference is Voldemort and the other dark wizards gathering on a hill in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Here I am able to make out most of the details in the scene, which usually isn’t the case. The cut-away to the school is a bit too dim with the LED dimming enabled. Apart from this single scene I prefer the LED dimming to be on but it causes issues like this. There is also sometimes blooming at the edge of the letterbox bars but it is hard to notice in practice.
In Skyfall the entrance into Macau tests the contrast ratio of a set. The M401i-A3 looks very good, but the blacks of the background are not jet black. The lanterns still pop but the background could be darker. The lanterns and skin tones have a bit of a red push to them as well. Switching over to Drive the contrast is good but not amazing during the nighttime shots of LA. The supermarket scene in Drive also shows that the panel is running at 60Hz which causes a bit of stuttering on 24 Hz film content due to 3:2 pulldown.
The outdoor shots of Zero Dark Thirty are razor-sharp on the Vizio and the khaki colors that fill the desert are true to life. Shadow details during interrogations are good and most colors are accurate. Shifting to the bright and bold CGI animation in Cars everything really pops off the screen. The slightly accented reds and yellows help Lightning McQueen to really stand out during the races. The mountaintop and forest fight scene in The Avengers is clear and detailed despite the dark nighttime setting. The red and blue hues on Captain America’s outfit stand out and the Hulk is green without being an unrealistic hue.
Switching to TV, watching football on the Vizio works well. All of the compression artifacts in the HD signal are visible which can look bad only because the Vizio looks good. The greens in the grass are a bit over-pumped in direct sunlight but usually OK. The sound is better than I expect for a 2” deep TV but a sound bar or other upgrade is still recommended if you care about audio quality. There is no TV Guide available but it will show what you are currently watching.
Streaming content looks good on the Vizio M401i-A3. Netflix content looks good, but buffering is a bit slow. It supports multiple profiles so your list isn’t altered by the conflicting tastes of your family. The Vizio supports SuperHD content so the highest resolution 1080p streams are available on it. Amazon Instant Video has a custom interface that only uses the side of the screen. It makes it easy to keep watching something while you browse but I prefer a full screen view. Ultraviolet content through Vudu is crisp and clear, providing a great Blu-ray alternative. Hulu Plus uses their standard interface and is quick and responsive.
The viewing angle on the Vizio is wide for a LCD. It has off-axis contrast and brightness shifts that you expect from a LCD but they are not as severe as other displays. While a 40” set is more often meant for a bedroom or secondary system these days, the wider angle of the M401i-A3 will work well in a larger setting.
Overall the Vizio M401i-A3 provides a relatively accurate image with a few small issues. The SmartTV content is good and covers most of the bases. Including Wi-Fi in addition to Ethernet is a plus and the look of the Vizio is very nice. Including picture modes with accurate names, Calibrated Dark and Calibrated, is a step that every vendor should take.
The one area where the Vizio really fell short for me is with the remote. The occasional lack of responsiveness is enough to turn an enjoyable night to sit down and watch a movie into a frustrating one. It feels great in the hand but doesn’t respond well. There are also a couple of video processing bugs that I ran into, detailed on page two, that are troublesome but rarely noticeable. Overall the Vizio M401i-A3 is a very solid, stylish, and affordable TV. Available in a variety of sizes it is one of the better values available in a LCD set today.
|Pros:||Accurate preset, good viewing angle for an LCD, nice streaming content selection, clean look|
|Cons:||Limited picture adjustments, poor IR reception, some video processing artifacts|
|Summary:||The Vizio M401i-A3 has good performance and great value. The clean look is great in a room, I only wish they would fix the remote.|