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Vizio takes on Samsung and LG’s best with new Reference Series 4K TVs

In February, we got an advanced look at Vizio’s endeavor to bust the pricing barrier for 4K UHD TVs with the company’s uber-affordable M-series, starting as low as $600. Today, after confirming previously-leaked pricing for the M-Series, Vizio introduced a highly-anticipated new member of the family that sits on the polar opposite side of the pricing scale: Meet the Vizio Reference series.

While Vizio has elbowed into the big leagues by proffering extremely affordable TVs with solid performance, this new Reference series indicates the company has turned its gaze to the precarious world of top-tier display technology. To that end, the new Reference TVs, which are available in 65-inch and 120-inch models only, are loaded with an arsenal of cutting-edge technologies.

Like many of Vizio’s LED TVs, the Reference Series offers full-array backlighting with local dimming which allows for better lighting control, and, therefore, much better contrast between the light and dark images on screen. But the Reference series pushes the boundaries much further, moving from an average of around 32 zones to an incredible 384 zones of controlled lighting — and, in theory, the more zones, the better the contrast and screen uniformity. If implemented properly, these could be some of the best-performing LED-based TVs of the year.

In addition, the new TVs attempt to tangle with top-tier models from the likes of Samsung and LG with a wider display of the standard color gamut, called Ultra-Color Spectrum, as well as employing one of the most anticipated new technologies in the genre, High Dynamic Range (HDR). HDR is designed to offer even more realistic 4K UHD imagery by blasting extremely bright images against darker backgrounds, providing a picture more inline with what we see in the natural world. And Vizio is also the first major brand to leverage Dolby’s highly-anticipated Dolby Vision for the job.

“We are proud for Dolby Vision to be introduced to consumers through the VIZIO Reference Series, providing a dramatically different visual experience that engages the senses and further draws viewers into the picture,” said Giles Baker, SVP, Broadcast Business Group, Dolby Laboratories.

Of course, the higher color gamut and HDR technologies that today’s state-of-the-art 4K UHD TVs can render won’t matter much without the proper content to showcase the new performance capabilities. To give the Reference Series an edge, Vizio has also partnered with Dolby and Warner for “unparalleled” access to 4K UHD Dolby Vision titles available through VUDU’s on-demand video service. Just how much content will be available remains to be seen, however.

Other features for the new Reference series include Vizio’s top upscaling software for stepping up HD programming, dubbed the Spatial Scaling Engine, “future-ready” HDMI ports, likely referencing the new HDMI 2.0a spec needed to input HDR content, High Velocity Mode designed to render content at up to 120 frames per second for lightning-fast gaming, and Vizio’s Internet Apps Plus smart platform.

In addition, the 65-inch model comes with a 5.1 Vizio sound bar system built into the base, with an included 10-inch wireless subwoofer and surround speakers. Vizio hasn’t yet announced pricing for the 120-inch version, but the 65-inch model is expected to cost $4,000. Release dates for the new Reference series have yet to be announced.

We’re not sure Vizio’s ambitious new models can deliver on all promises, but on paper, the Reference series is an enticing new addition to the next age of high-end displays. We’ll be looking to get our hands on one as soon as they’re available, so stay tuned.

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Ryan Waniata
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ryan Waniata is a multi-year veteran of the digital media industry, a lover of all things tech, audio, and TV, and a…
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