Will new Vizio P-series UHD TVs push other brands to cut prices?

Company's first UHD sets start at $1,000 and range up to $2,500 for a full-featured 70-inch model

Published: September 23, 2014 01:30 PM
Is a 70-inch UHD TV for $2,500 an appealing deal?

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If you've been flirting with a new Ultra HD TV but have been turned off by their high prices, Vizio might make you glad you've waited. Models in its new P-series UHD TV lineup, which we previewed at CES, are aggressively priced for a major brand, starting at $1,000 for a 50-inch set and topping out at just $2,500 for a 70-inch whopper.

By comparison most of the 65-inch UHD TVs in our Ratings from major brands such as LG Electronics, Samsung, Sharp, and Sony are priced between $3,000 and $4,000, and feature-laden flagship models cost even more.

Even if Vizio isn't a brand you favor, the arrival of its P-series sets is likely to benefit anyone shopping for a UHD TV. By establishing new pricing benchmarks for 4K TVs, Vizio is challenging its competitors to react—and that could mean you'll wind up paying less than you imagined for a UHD TV from a favorite brand.

Packed with features

Vizio P-series UHD TVs aren't bare-bones models. All of the P-series sets are full-featured LCD models that have 4K (3840x2160) UHD screens, full-array LED backlights with zones that can be locally dimmed, 120Hz refresh rates, and Vizio's VIA Plus smart TV service. [Ed. note: Based on info we received from Vizio we originally listed the sets' refresh rates as 240Hz. Since we'd never seen a 240Hz UHD, we questioned Vizio and found out the TVs are actually 120Hz sets that use backlight scanning to create a 240Hz-like effect. The post has been edited to reflect this information.]

Here's the entire P-series UHD TV lineup with pricing.

  • 50-inch P502ui-B1, $1,000
  • 55-inch P552ui-B2, $1,400
  • 60-inch P602ui-B3, $1,700
  • 65-inch P652ui-B2, $2,200
  • 70-inch P702ui-B3, $2,500

The TVs can now be pre-ordered from the Vizio.com website, and the company says they'll soon be available in stores and online at retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart.

In addition to the features mentioned above, all the sets have built-in HEVC (H.265) decoding, a new, more efficient video codec that is being used by Netflix and other services to stream 4K movies and TV shows. Vizio says that its P-series sets support 4K Ultra HD streaming from Netflix now, and will support 4K streams from other services, including Amazon Instant Video and UltraFlix3, later in the year.

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We'll be paying close attention to two things when we get these new UHD TVs into our labs. One is how well Vizio's LED backlights with local dimming perform. Most TVs these days use edge LED backlights, with rows of LEDS across the sides or top and bottom of the screen. A full-array backlight spreads LEDS across the entire back panel of the TV. Vizio says that its sets have up to 72 zones that can be individually dimmed. When done well, this type of local dimming can improve an LCD TV's black levels and contrast, as well as the uniformity of the light across the panel.

How will 1080p shows look?

We also want to see how well the TV upconverts regular high-definition programs—720p, 1080i, and 1080p—to the set's higher native 3840x2160 resolution. (Vizio calls its upconversion technology the Spatial Scaling Engine.) This feature is important because with limited amounts of 4K content currently available, most of the time we'll be watching upconverted regular high-definition content on our UHD TVs. How well a TV can perform this critical function is a key differentiator among sets and brands.

Despite the lower pricing, Vizio claims its TVs will fare well performance-wise against its competition. All the P-series sets come with six-core processors—a quad-core graphics processor, plus a dual-core CPU—and the latest 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi for wireless connection to home networks. Like all the UHD TVs we've tested this year, the TVs have HDMI 2.0 inputs for playing 4K content at up to 60 frames per second.  

As a brand, Vizio HDTVs have typically done well in our testing. But we've tested a few low-priced UHD TVs from lesser-known brands that haven't performed especially well. We're looking forward to getting one of the new Vizio UHD TVs into our labs for comprehensive testing to see how well it can make the jump to UHD.

—James K. Willcox

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