Vizio P65-C1 Review
By Chris Heinonen on
Over the past decade, Vizio has managed to transition from a TV company that makes a great value TV to one that makes a great TV. This year that transition is finally complete with the updated P65-C1, which is the best looking LCD set I’ve used this year. To get a picture that beats the Vizio, you’ll have to spend way more than $2,000 to do so and even then it still might not be as good. The P65-C1 is so good for the price, and overall, that I bought one for my new AV room to serve as my reference UltraHD display.
Why does the Vizio out-perform other LCDs in the same price range, or that are even more expensive? Vizio has focused on supporting full array local dimming backlights, while most of the competition has moved to more stylish edge-lit LEDs. This does mean that the Vizio P65-C1 is 2.5” deep while some competitors can be an inch thinner, but this doesn’t matter. Anyone using a stand or a standard wall mount is going to see no difference in the daily profile of the TV, but they will see a big benefit on screen.
The P65-C1 has all the features you want in a high-end set today. It is one of the few TVs, along with the LG OLED models, that supports both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision standards. While Dolby Vision content is smaller right now, this might change in the future as Blu-ray support arrives, and the Vizio will be prepared to take advantage of it. Along with this the Vizio has support for a wider color gamut, displaying colors that weren’t possible on TVs just a couple of years ago.
Where Vizio has also made a huge change is to do away with the internal SmartTV apps you expect to see. Instead they have shipped the Vizio P65-C1 with a 6” Android tablet and a minimalist standard remote. They’ve also ditched the internal TV tuner, which I am more ambivalent about. As someone that watching most content over-the-air, I’ll miss the tuner. I can add an external one for around $40, but then I’m giving up an HDMI input. It also makes the channel selections on the Vizio remote even more curious. The might work with HDMI CEC to control a cable or satellite box, but I don’t have one to test them with.
The use of Chromecast for streaming is mostly good, but with some downsides. The main benefit is opening up the Vizio P65-C1 to a larger selection of apps that prior SmartTV systems usually offered. You don’t need to worry that the company is going to drop support for it anytime soon or that apps won’t be updated. You also get to use the native interfaces for all the streaming services, which most people are used to and are better designed with keyboard and voice input.
The downsides are that you need to use a tablet or smartphone to do this streaming. You can’t use a universal remote to control everything with the Vizio. You also are missing the 2nd most popular streaming service today: Amazon. This is Amazon’s fault, as they don’t have a streaming video app in the Google Play Store. Even if you get Amazon’s app through their own app store, or manage to get a copy of the Amazon app from a Sony HDR TV, they don’t support Chromecast streaming and won’t work. Amazon won’t even sell TVs with built-in Chromecast functionality for whatever reason.
Four of the HDMI inputs on the Vizio are HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 capable for UHD HDR content. HDMI 5 is still HDMI 1.4, but it can accept a 1080p signal at 120Hz for people with high-end gaming PCs. The P65-C1 has an LCD panel that refreshes at a true 120Hz, so you will all of those frames. It can also display 24p films and 60i or 60P TV without any judder. In testing I found that all four of the other inputs did support HDR content from a Samsung UltraHD Blu-ray player though sometimes I had to switch back and forth to get HDR to work. This might be from my HDMI cables, or it might just be HDR growing pains.
Superb Image Quality
After years of watching Harry Potter for shadow detail quality, I finally found a new test scene in The Revenant to use as well. Just around 20 minutes in there is a scene around a campfire with subtitles that kick on. The image is very dark, which means the subtitles cause any sort of backlight to kick on. Here the Vizio P65-C1 provided the best non-OLED performance I saw this year. The picture has an overall uptick in brightness, but it’s rather small and the letterbox bars remain a solid black. On edge-lit displays from Sony and Samsung, the letterbox bars become a lighter shade of gray and the backlights are clearly visible. With dark scenes like this, the VIzio P65-C1 and it’s full array backlight out-perform what any edge-lit display can do.
I did still watch the Harry Potter hilltop scene and the Vizio is a star performer here as well. The nighttime is much more clear than on the other displays, and the pulsing of the backlight that I saw with the Vizio M-Series last year is absent on the P65-C1. Aside from the LG E6 OLED, which looks better but costs 2.5x as much, the Vizio P65-C1 has the best shadow detail and dark scene performance of any TV I can recall. The dynamic backlight works very well, with little blooming or other artifacts. It manages to be very transparent in use, and in the past month I’ve had it enabled and never noticed pumping or other action from it.
With UltraHD Blu-ray content the Vizio shines. A recent upgrade to the firmware added HDR10 support so it can do HDR from an UltraHD Blu-ray disc. Watching Oblivion the expanded color gamut and the spectacular highlights shine. Simple things like the red light of a robot are brighter and richer than on a Blu-ray disc and it makes it stand out. During Mad Max the flames of the insane guitarist are a rich orange-red that isn’t possible without HDR. The Vizio P65-C1 can’t do HDR highlights as bright as the Sony or Samsung TVs I compared it to, but it can do them while still maintaining far better black levels.
Streaming Dolby Vision content from Vudu works well. Lucy was pretty awful as a movie but it looked just fantastic on the Vizio. Superb details, incredible night scenes with neon highlights against a black background, and bright daytime scenes with great HDR and WCG. Dolby Vision offers a number of benefits over HDR10 as it knows how to adapt the image correctly based on the capabilities of your TV, so having support for it is nice. There aren’t any disc-based Dolby Vision titles yet, but players that can do that might come out this year.
Using GoogleCast to watch content on the Vizio is both good and bad. Searching and finding the content you want has actually never been easier. Since you’re using a tablet, the apps support keyboard entry and often voice search, which is much better than an on-screen keyboard. The apps are also always up-to-date with the latest versions of the interface to make it easy to use. Since the Vizio app also runs on iOS, I can use my iPhone or the included tablet to operate the TV.
Once I’m watching something I do sometimes wish for a standard remote control. The minimalist remote that is included has a play and pause button, but it never seems to work with content that you are casting. Since each app also has its own interface, it can make it harder to use for people that aren’t familiar with it. Overall I found the Cast experience to be better than the prior SmartTV features built into the 2015 Vizio models. If you don’t like it, then you can just get a Roku or other media streamer instead and use a conventional remote.
Watching sports on the P65-C1 is a great experience as well. I streamed college and NFL games to it using SlingTV, the Big Ten Network app, and with an external tuner. Everything was nice and clear, and the backlight is powerful enough to overcome any challenging lighting setup. The Olympics from Rio looked wonderful from NBC or streaming, and motion blur was not an issue. You can enable a scanning backlight for even better motion resolution, but the drop-off in light and the introduction of a potentially bothersome flicker might turn you off.
Overall the Vizio P65-C1 offers up the best LCD image I’ve had in my testing room and certainly the best image from a TV that’s $2,000 or less. Vizio has stepped-up their game and managed to produce a high-end set that can compete with anything out there.
The Vizio ships with two Calibrated presets, one for bright rooms and one for dark rooms. These track the BT. 1886 gamma function very well, but the grayscale does has a blue push to it. The contrast ratio of 4,500:1 without dynamic backlighting is good, but some LCDs have done better. Color performance is decent, and it easily covers the whole HDTV color gamut.
Post-calibration these issues are all fixed. The grayscale is accurate, colors are correct, and it does benefit from having a calibration done. For all calibrations for HDTV content we target the Rec.709 color gamut with the BT.1886 gamma. Measurements use CalMAN software, an i1Pro2 meter, and a C6 colorimeter. A DVDO AVLabTPG pattern generator provides test patterns, while for HDR content we use the HDFury Integral.
For HDTV content, the Calibration modes are good, but can be adjusted. The 2.2 gamma is the one that tracks closest to BT.1886 so I use that. The default sharpness is too high but you can easily bring that down by using a test pattern. Both color and tint are relatively accurate with the default settings, but the white balance is what needs to be adjusted. You can look at the pre-calibration measurements below and see the blue tint in the grayscale.
I only adjusted the grayscale in the CMS and left the color points alone. All of these CMS adjustments apply to every input and every preset (aside from HDR) so I try to do as little as possible while getting a good result. The adjustments are made inside of the Vizio app, which means no on-screen menus to make measurements incorrect and is a nice change. I do wish Vizio would add buttons for fine adjustments instead of a slider, as it can be hard to get it right sometimes. Going away from using a remote to using the app is certainly much better.
After calibration, the numbers are better. The grayscale is accurate and the colors have come into line as well. Using the 10-point controls to get the gamma dialed in also made this more accurate. Most TVs recently I’ve said can do OK without a calibration, but the Vizio P65-C1 benefits a good amount from having one done. You can do fine without it, but you’ll see the benefits of having it done. Unfortunately you can’t easily A-B the results since the changes to the grayscale are applied to all picture modes and inputs after you do them.
I also measured the contrast ratio with the dynamic backlight engaged. With it enabled we see a contrast ratio that exceeds 60,000:1 but importantly it also keeps the gamma very close to the BT.1886 target. Very often the gamma curve will skew when you enable any sort of local dimming but the Vizio accounts for that. With that, and the fact that it doesn’t introduce many artifacts (if any), I highly recommend keeping it enabled.
|White Level||39.3 ftL||31.62 ftL|
|Black Level||0.0088 ftL||0.0005 ftL|
|Average Grayscale dE2000||3.88||1.42|
|Average Saturations dE2000||2.97||1.64|
|Average Color Checker dE2000||3.95||1.98|
|Summary||Pre-calibration the numbers are OK, but they improve far more after calibration on the grayscale. The contrast ratio for the post-cal has the dynamic lighting engaged, as we were able to verify the gamma for it. It isn’t perfect for BT.1886 but closer than more TVs can do.|
For HDR, I only measured HDR10 data and not Dolby Vision data. Calibrating Dolby Vision requires your PC video card to send a signal to the display and I could not get it to send one correctly. This is a PC issue and not a TV issue, since Dolby Vision content that I streamed was correct. I’m currently replacing this PC, so I might have Dolby Vision test data later on.
For HDR10 I used the HDFury in combination with the AVLabTPG to create the test patterns. The Vizio recognized these correctly after its firmware update to support HDR10 which the P65-C1 should update to automatically or you can download from their website.
One key thing to know with HDR content on the Vizio is that the backlight is automatically set to maximum. On other TVs with HDR, you can control the backlight even though it should be set to maximum. Here the backlight control actually sets the midtones, and you need to leave it at 50. Otherwise you mess up the gamma curve and the image won’t look correct.
The correct settings I found for HDR were to have the gamma at 1.8 and color all the way up to 65. When setup this way, the accuracy of the HDR10 image is very accurate. Measuring in the Vivid mode, we see 84% of the DCI/P3 gamut covered using the CIExy measurements and 88% using the CIEuv measurements.
The rest of the HDR test data is currently on the SSD of the PC that’s being replaced and will be added later. Overall the HDR10 image measures well, though not quite as well as the Sony X930D that I tested before.
Overall the objective measurements of the Vizio are good, but not as excellent as some other recent TVs we’ve seen. That said, we’re getting close to the point on most TVs where the differences aren’t ones that will be visible to the naked eye. The main difference that you will see is that the backlight improves the contrast ratios compared to other TVs and does so without distorting the gamma or introducing many artifacts.
Input lag on the Vizio in the Game Mode was 37.5ms. That is decent for a TV now but not as good as some models out there today. We will start measuring HDR input lag soon with the release of the updated PS4 and XBox One consoles as well.
I’ve already addressed most of these so far. Some people are not going to like the direction of the new remote, and I for one don’t like using a tablet while watching TV, but many people will be fine with it. The lack of an integrated TV tuner is something I’m more concerned with, as more and more people are dropping paid TV service every year. It is something you can easily address, and there are more and more creative TV tuner options coming out, but doing so will cause you to use up another HDMI input.
After using the Sony X930D and its Google Android interface, I overall prefer that to the Googlecast option of the Vizio. You can still Cast anything you want to it, but most of the apps are built-in, and a universal voice search ties it all together. However that requires a more powerful processor to drive the interface and voice search than just using Cast, and likely would push the price up as the Sony is $800 more for a 65” than the Vizio.
A Winning LCD
The Vizio P65-C1 is the best looking LCD I’ve used, and the best value in a TV I’ve seen this year. The only TV that has impressed me more is the LG E6 OLED, which is still the best but also sells for almost 3x as much as the Vizio. The P65-C1 puts almost all of that image quality into a package that more of us can afford, and one that even works better in bright rooms than the LG. Support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10, plenty of HDMI inputs, an updated app system that offers more support than prior models, and a fantastic picture set the Vizio P65-C1 apart.
It’s easy to say something is great, but with the Vizio P65-C1 is put my money behind that statement and bought one for my AV room. The more I watch the Vizio the more it continues to impress me, and I can easily recommend it to anyone looking for a high-performance TV.
Great image quality, HDR10 and Dolby Vision support, well designed dynamic backlight system, fantastic value
No Amazon streaming, no backlit remote, preset Calibrated mode not as accurate as it could be
The Vizio P65-C1 is the best looking LCD TV we've reviewed this year, and the best TV at its price this year as well. Unless you're willing to spend 1.5-2x as much for an OLED in the same size, you won't find a better image for the price today.