Vizio M55-E0 TV Review
By Chris Heinonen on
The Vizio M-Series falls below their P-Series in terms of performance, but unlike the P-Series it has physical changes this year. While it still lacks the TV tuner that they removed last year, it has gained WCG support, better HDR, and the ability to stream content without needing to pull out your phone or tablet. With more competition than ever in this price range, can the Vizio M55-E0 offer enough performance to keep up with the pack?
Vizio M55-E0 Design and Features
Each year Vizio updates their lines and one of the hardest things for people to do is to know what’s changed. So it is probably easiest to break down the differences for the 2017 M-Series models vs. the 2016 M-Series. The key differences are:
- 32 dimming zones for each 2017 model (vs. 64 before)
- Support for wide color gamut in the 2017 models
- Brighter HDR highlights in the 2017 models
- No more IPS versions, only VA panels, so all offer good contrast ratios
- Integrated “apps” for streaming content from Netflix and more
The drop in local dimming zones is a big change from last year. More local dimming zones provide more control over the contrast ratio of the TV and a better image. Fewer zones can mean more artifacts, like blooming or haloing with bright objects against a dark background.
Last year the M-Series offered HDR highlights but did not support wide color gamut. This year Vizio has changed that and made sure the M-Series supports all the important features to get the most out of 4K content.
This year Vizio has included a real remote control that lets you control volume and provides on-screen menus. While having menus in the tablet app were great for calibrating, where on-screen menus can affect readings, they were a pain for making quick adjustments. By moving back to a standard remote the Vizio M55-E0 is easier to control that it was last year and it still offers the app if you prefer that.
A big drawback to the Vizio TVs last year in my view and that of many others was the reliance on Chromecast for streaming. While this gave you lots of services to choose from, it tied you to your phone or the included tablet. This year, Vizio is still using Chromecast but making it possible to launch that streaming from the integrated “apps”.
To be clear, the Vizio doesn’t have any integrated apps. Instead, it is more of a web app that you browse and then that starts the Chromecast stream. The apps are not built in, and you’ll notice this as it can take a few seconds to load when you turn the Vizio on. The design also means that in theory it could be updated much faster than custom apps since it isn’t an app at all, but time will tell how that goes.
Right now the Vizio M55-E0 gives you access to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu and a few more less common services. The Amazon app does not provide HDR at this moment but that upgrade is planned. Vudu provides access to Dolby Vision titles, letting you stream in the maximum quality you can from any service right now.
What Vizio doesn’t provide here is voice search or anything similar to look for content. Other companies are providing that in this price range, and with the wide range of streaming services out there is helps. The Vizio is an improvement over the Chromecast streaming of last year, but it lags behind what TCL, Samsung, and others are offering.
Vizio M55-E0 Image Quality
The Vizio M55-E0 supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, so it will take full advantage of the 4K Blu-ray discs that are available. Transformers: The Last Knight comes up short as a film but is beautiful demo material. On the Vizio M55-E0 the Dolby Vision disc is fantastic on-screen. Greens and Reds have tons of saturation and pop, looking even more vivid than they do on my non-Dolby Vision OLED. The dynamic tone mapping lets the Vizio resolve as much detail in the image as TVs that have higher nit output, giving you the full impact of HDR on-screen.
Torture testing the dynamic backlight using the hilltop scene in Harry Potter 7.2 the Vizio does very well. It keeps everything visible without losing details in the shadows. The highlights of Hogwarts in the background aren’t as bright as with an OLED or an LCD with more dimming zones but it still looks great. The one thing that did trip up the local dimming was the Netflix login screen. The cursor would often cause the backlight to engage in a noticeable way, but in real-world content, I didn’t see this.
What I did see on the Harry Potter hilltop scene is that the color of Voldemort’s face on the HDR version was slightly off. Calibrating the display didn’t correct this, it just seemed to be something with how the Vizio handles the EOTF for HDR content.
Wonder Woman is also available to stream in Dolby Vision through Vudu on the Vizio M55-E0. While much of the film has a conservative color palette, there is a tremendous use of HDR and WCG when appropriate. While the flaws of the 4K Blu-ray disc are still here, with noise in bright areas thanks to the 2K DI, the film is great on the Vizio. HDR objects like the lasso of truth light up on the screen, with lush colors on Thmeyscira and rich oranges for explosions and fires.
With HDR content, the 2017 Vizio M55-E0 is much brighter than the 2016 Vizio M-Series models. Vizio has always been a bit of an odd-ball on HDR measurements, as most TVs get dimmer when you use larger HDR windows while the Vizio always got brighter. It is as if they were keeping the local dimming backlights turned down to avoid any blooming at the expense of peak highlights. This year, despite the lower backlight zone count, highlights are much brighter than before. I measured 740 nits for the highlights with a 10% window, which was well above what they were in 2017. I don’t have a 2016 on hand so perhaps they changed the backlight behavior there as well, but here HDR is much better than it was before.
Streaming The Handmaid’s Tale on the integrated Hulu kinda-app worked well, though the show has a color palette that makes beige exciting. Hulu still hasn’t enabled 4K streaming on devices outside of video game consoles, so the image here is relatively soft in comparison to the other titles. We didn’t have any issues buffering over WiFi or Ethernet, but we also have rock-solid WiFi and Internet so it should never be a problem.
Compared to the M-Series from last year, the M55-E0 has traded off a bit of SDR performance to improve the HDR performance. SDR material looked relatively flat, coming from an OLED, but HDR material popped with vivid colors and highlights. While the Vizio M55-E0 is perfectly capable of handling SDR content just fine, it shines when given HDR content that you can expect to see more of in the future.
Calibration and Data
We measure and calibrate all our displays using CalMAN software from SpectraCal. Measurements are done with an i1Pro2 and a C6 HDR meter, along with a Murideo Six-G pattern generator. For SDR we target the Rec.709 color gamut and a BT.1886 gamma curve. For HDR we aim for a 1000 nits target along with Rec.2020 and DCI/P3 primaries.
Vizio continued to excel by offering Calibrated and Calibrated Dark presets. These are very accurate out of the box, and easy to understand. While other displays make you guess if you should use Movie, Custom, Cinema Pro, Cinema Home, ISF Expert, or some other mode, Vizio just gives it a name that is accurate and easy to understand.
Using the Calibrated preset for SDR, before calibration the M55-E0 is very accurate. The RGB balance moves towards blue a bit at the end, and the gamma tracks a bit closer to 2.3 than perfectly BT.1886 but it is very good. Looking at the saturations they all fall at 3.0 dE2000 or below, and only a handful of the ColorChecker patches go above 3.0. Luminances are well controlled, and if you look at the ColorChecker comparator, you see that the target and measured values are very close.
After calibration, we get the grayscale to be better by a completely insignificant amount. Everything get just a hair better but to be honest, you should save yourself the time, set the brightness and contrast correctly, and you’re good to go. I should note that the M55-E0 does look to clip whiter than white still in their video processing, which is one thing that they could correct since some content carries that data even if it should not.
For HDR measurements, we use a target of 1000 nits instead of relative, which is what most publications use. The reason to not use relative is that it will make an HDR TV that can do 300 nits and an HDR TV that can do 2000 nits look to be identical in how accurately they can reproduce HDR content. Since HDR is all about brightness, and about hitting that target, using relative feels like cheating to me.
Because the Vizio can do around 740 nits, you’ll see that the dE2000 for the grayscale starts to rise a lot just after 55%, where the target Y (luminance) values increase. At 55% we expect 148 nits but we are getting 120, causing the dE2000 to hit 5.1. If you remove luminance, as relative does, then you’d get a dE closer to 3.3.
You can see this behavior in more detail with the larger tone mapping curves. You can see how it tracks closely from 0-40%, but from 45% on it tracks below the EOTF, with a lower light output level. This is preserving some detail at the brightest parts of the image, letting you see content from 70-85% that would otherwise be completely clipped, but it is what causes the higher dE2000 errors. On a display that can easily do 1000 nits here, like the Sony Z9D, you’d be able to use a 1000 nits target and have no real errors at all provided the EOTF and grayscale tracked correctly.
The Vizio M55-E0 covers 81.6% of the DCI/P3 xy gamut and 88.9% of the DCI/P3 uv gamut. These numbers are lower than other TVs in the price range, like the TCL P607, but because the Vizio can get brighter it winds up with a similar color volume. Each display can produce a similar number of colors, they just vary in the shades and brightness of the colors they can produce.
I tend to calibrate the white balance on HDR displays and leave most of the other controls alone. Right now they can interact so much with the tone mapping of the display, and every TV seems to handle tone mapping differently. Since their behavior isn’t consistent, and can vary with test pattern versus real content much more than SDR displays do, I think you’re best to choose the presets that follow the EOTF the best. Using a 20 point control is not necessary, though.
Post-calibration the errors in the grayscale from luminance are still present, but the RGB balance is better and the overall error level is lower. It’s not perfect, but it is improved. With the Vizio M55-E0 I suggest just using the Calibrated preset for the most accurate images, dialing in contrast and brightness, and then adjusting the grayscale with the two point controls if you have the capability. If you do not, then I wouldn’t bother paying for it as it isn’t going to be worth it. Overall a well performing display for the price.
The main drawback to the Vizio M55-E0 might not even be a drawback to you, but cord cutters will miss the lack of an OTA tuner. You’ll need to add an external tuner to watch network TV if you don’t subscribe to cable or satellite. TV streaming services like Playstation Vue, which could provide these channels, also aren’t supported with the integrated “apps”, but you could start them with your phone. As someone that uses a HDHomeRun to stream their TV if I don’t have a tuner, the lack of an app that supports live TV is a bummer.
Only the main HDMI input is compatible with HDMI 2.0 at full bandwidth. If you want to watch HDR content you’ll need to use this one, so you’ll likely need a receiver or an HDMI switch to go with it. This is something that was not a big deal last year, but with 4K Blu-ray players now only around $200, 4K game consoles with HDR coming out later this year, and 4K media streamers all over, this limitation is a bigger deal now.
Comparisons and Conclusions
The big question is how the Vizio M55-E0 matches up to the competition. At the same price, depending on which is on sale that week, you find the TCL P605 and P607. Here I feel the TCL has an advantage over the Vizio. While the Vizio has slightly wider viewing angles, the TCL has a superior streaming platform in Roku, an integrated TV tuner, and all three HDMI inputs are compatible with HDR over HDMI 2.0. The Vizio offers an extra HDMI input, but if you need an OTA tuner, that takes up one already.
That said, the TCL only comes in a 55” while you can get the Vizio in 50”, 55”, 65” and 75” sizes. The Vizio also offers improved build quality and a nicer design than the TCL. Another option we looked at in the similar price range is the Samsung MU8000. While it has a better OS and search feature, the image quality comes up short of the Vizio. It also lacks support for Dolby Vision but does have an integrated TV tuner. Given the choice, I’m going to take the Vizio M55-E0 over the Samsung and add-on a TV tuner, but can see where people would prefer the ease of the Samsung.
Vizio has done a good job updating the M-Series for 2017 with far better HDR performance and making it much easier to stream apps. Some people will be bothered by the lack of a tuner, like myself, but data shows that most people don’t use it anyway. The M-Series had its usual throne of “Best Value TV” stolen away by TCL this year, but then TCL changed course and now it only comes in a 55” size leaving the other sizes there for Vizio to take. The Vizio is a good TV for today, but it really is ready for what is going to come in the future.
Far improved HDR over the 2016 model, WCG support, integrated streaming, and very accurate calibrated presets that give anyone the best image possible.
No TV tuner, integrated "apps" are slower than others and have fewer services, only one HDMI 2.0 full bandwidth input, fewer dimming zones than 2016.
For your peak TV value this year, the 2017 Vizio M-Series is hard to beat. Other than the TCL P607, that only comes in a 55" size, the Vizio offers the best combination of pure HDR and SDR performance for your dollar. It is improved over the 2016 model with much better HDR support, but gives up a little bit in SDR performance to get there.