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Hands on: Vizio M-Series

Get a monstrous 4K picture for under $2K with Vizio's outgoing M-Series

If you’ve been researching new televisions, then you’ve probably been running into two new buzzwords: High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut. As if 4K Ultra HD wasn’t enough to wrap your head around, these two new elements of picture quality are being folded into a newly minted tier or TVs called Ultra HD Premium. If you find that frustrating, well, we don’t blame you. The TV world is moving quickly right now. There’s good news though: If you simply want a big-screen TV that looks great, but you don’t want to spend a small fortune, there are some outstanding options right now. And Vizio’s 2015 M-Series is perhaps the best of all of them.

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Vizio marches to the beat of its own drum when it comes to introducing it’s new model-year televisions. While other brands like Samsung, Sony, and LG are right smack in the middle of rolling out all their 2016 models, Vizio is staggering its new TV series releases throughout the rest of the spring and summer. Yes, Vizio has announced the new 2016 M-Series that is to come, but that lineup is a few months away from store shelves, and when they do hit, they’ll be at full price. Meanwhile, Vizio’s top-notch 2015 M-Series TVs are available for a serious discount, presenting the opportunity to get a huge 4K-resolution TV for a modicum of cash.

These TVs may not offer the latest bells and whistles, but they do offer outstanding picture quality at seriously low price.

The 80-inch and 75-inch options are hard (if not impossible) to come by, but the 70-inch model is available online for $1,865, while the 65- and 60-inch models are selling for just over $1,500 and $1,160, respectively. If those prices sound too good to be true, it’s because they are. To get comparable performance from a competing TV, even another 2015 model, you’ll have to spend significantly more.

Part of what makes these TVs so desirable are their full-array local dimming backlight systems. With 32 individually controlled zones of LEDs laid out in a grid behind the TV’s LCD panel, these displays are able to offer even brightness across the screen and impressive black levels with minimal halo effect. The 2015 M-series also marked a jump forward for Vizio in terms of video processing, yielding a picture that is sharp without obvious processing anomalies. Simply put, this is a series of TVs with splendid picture quality, and Ultra HD resolution which is beneficial for screen sizes above 55-inches in typical viewing scenarios.

Vizio M Series
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

There are a few catches to consider, however. For one, the 2015 models discussed here offer smart TV system we’ve never been particularly fond of. But a 4K streaming set-top box like the Roku or Amazon Fire TV is a better choice from both a user interface and content perspective. Or, if you like to be on the bleeding edge of video tech, Samsung’s K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player is compatible with Vizio’s 2015 M-series, as shown in our video above. You’ll have to use HDMI input 5, as it is the only one equipped to handle HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2, both protocols which the Samsung player requires. However, you’ll get less compressed 4K video, which is visually superior to most streaming 4K options.

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Upscaling in the M-series is also impressive, so 1080p sources will look better than they would on a similarly sized 1080p television.

The other catch is that these televisions seem to be disappearing quickly. When we started our evaluation just a couple of weeks ago, 80- and 75-inch models were still available; now they appear to be gone.

If you’ve been on the fence about a new TV purchase, struggling to decide whether now is a good time to buy, we offer the Vizio 2015 M-series as motivation. These TVs may not offer the latest bells and whistles, but they do offer outstanding picture quality at seriously low price, a value proposition that’s hard to resist when you’re trying to go big on a budget.