Review: Vizio P65-E1 4K/UHD HDR LCD TV

Vizio is well known for high value when it comes to LCD TVs. Even though all of its TVs are modestly priced, they use full-array LED backlighting, and many implement local dimming, which improves contrast, uniformity, and black levels compared with edgelighting. In addition, Vizio was among the first TV makers to implement Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR), which is generally considered to be better than HDR10.

The Vizio P65-E1 is the 65″ member of the P-Series, the company’s flagship line. I’ve always been very impressed with the specs, so let’s see if it lives up to its reputation.

Features

The Vizio P65-E1 ($1700) is a 4K UHD HDR LCD TV with a full-array local-dimming (FALD) LED backlight. In the P-Series, this is called XLED Pro, and it incorporates 128 dimming zones. That’s four times as many zones as the M-Series—which I reviewed here—and with FALD, the more zones, the better. In addition, the P-Series implements a Vizio technology called Active Pixel Tuning that dynamically adjusts the brightness of individual pixels in conjunction with local dimming, which helps reduce haloing around bright objects on a dark background.

Vizio was among the first TV makers to embrace Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR), and it is fully supported in the P-Series, along with HDR10. This feature is called XHDR Pro, and according to Vizio, it also enables a wider range of colors, which the company calls Ultra Color Spectrum.

The LCD panels in the P-Series have a native refresh rate of 120 Hz, which allows for frame interpolation. Combined with backlight scanning, this leads Vizio to claim an effective refresh rate of 240 Hz. Vizio also touts a “Clear Action” rate of 960, which, the company says, “reduces the duty cycle of the backlight to approximate the scanning function of a CRT, which further improves the motion clarity of the image.”

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The Vizio P65-E1 provides five HDMI inputs, four of which are HDMI 2.0a and support 18 Gbps; HDMI 5 tops out at 10.2 Gbps. HDMI 1 offers ARC (Audio Return Channel), while HDMI 5 offers faster response time and 1080p/120 fps capability for PC gaming. Other connections include one component-video input, one Ethernet port, two USB ports, one analog-audio output, and one digital-audio output. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Of course, the Vizio P65-E1 and its siblings are so-called “smart TVs”; the company calls this function SmartCast. All the major apps are installed in the TV—Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, etc.—and the user interface has been improved. According to Vizio, most SmartCast apps use direct HTML5 links to the cloud, so you always have the latest up-to-date app experience. Vizio will add apps as it sees fit, but you cannot add apps from an online store.

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The SmartCast user interface is simple and effective.

In addition, all SmartCast devices, including the P-Series, provide Chromecast built-in. This lets you cast content from thousands of compatible mobile apps to the TV via Wi-Fi.

The P65 has no built-in over-the-air tuner. However, it does provide a pair of speakers powered by 10W each. Other onboard audio features include DTS StudioSound, TruSurround, and TruVolume.

Ergonomics

There are three ways to control the Vizio P65-E1: the included IR remote, the SmartCast app on a mobile device, and voice commands using a Google Home device. As I was finishing this review, Vizio added Alexa compatibility using an Amazon Echo.

I really like the included IR remote, even though it’s not illuminated. The buttons are well separated and easy to find by feel in the dark. I also appreciate that it provides both Back and Exit buttons, which lets you back out of the menu system one level at a time or all at once.

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The included IR remote is clean and uncluttered. It’s not illuminated, but the buttons are easy to find by feel in the dark.

The menu system is very well designed, and it stays on screen until you exit, which I prefer over a menu that disappears after a period of inactivity. The Picture menu lets you select the picture mode and enable or disable the Auto Brightness Control, which dynamically alters the overall brightness according to the amount of ambient light in the room. It also has all the basic picture controls (Backlight, Brightness, Contrast, Color, Tint, and Sharpness).

A More Picture option opens a submenu with the advanced controls—Color Temperature, Black Detail (tweaks the gamma at the low end to improve shadow detail), Xtreme Black Engine Plus (FALD on/off), Reduce Judder (frame interpolation for 24 fps content), Reduce Motion Blur (frame interpolation for 30 fps content), Reduce Noise, Clear Action (backlight scanning on/off), Game Low Latency, Pure Cinema, Color Space, and Gamma. The Reduce Noise menu item consists of two settings: Reduce Signal (random) Noise and Reduce Block (compression) Noise. Enabling Pure Cinema displays 24 fps content at 48 fps, doubling each frame. In this case, the backlight is scanned to reduce flicker.

For all my watching, I enabled Xtreme Black Engine Pro (FALD), Clear Action (backlight scanning), and Pure Cinema (24 fps content displayed at 48 Hz). I disabled all other so-called “enhancement” settings.

Setup & Calibration

Calibrator extraordinaire David Abrams of Avical measured the Vizio P65-E1 before and after he performed a full calibration for SDR, HDR10, and Dolby Vision content. He used SpectraCal’s CalMan software and the Colorimetry Research CR-250 spectroradiometer and CR-100 colorimeter. The test-pattern generator was the SpectraCal VideoForge Pro. All calibrations were performed in the factory-service mode.

Here are the pre-calibration measurements performed in the Calibrated Dark picture mode, which David identified as the most accurate mode out of the box:

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In SDR mode, the pre-calibration grayscale had an excess of blue, though it wasn’t too bad, with an average dE of 2.33 and a max dE of 2.98. Gamma was a bit wonky. Peak luminance was 132.42 nits, and black level was a very respectable 0.0038 nit. Colorimetry was also pretty good, with an average dE of 2.27 and a max dE of 3.19.

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The pre-cal SDR ColorChecker was quite good, with an average dE of 2.25 and a max dE or 3.57.

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With an HDR10 signal, the pre-cal grayscale was not entirely flat with only a very slight excess of blue. Average dE was only 1.77 with a max dE of 3.6. EOTF tracking was excellent, but colorimetry was way off in green, cyan, and yellow, with an average dE of 9.74 and a max dE of 24.43. Peak luminance was almost 457 nits, while the black level remained 0.0032 nit.


The HDR10 ColorChecker showed the same problem with green, cyan, and yellow; the rest of the colors were much better. Average dE was 5.62, and max dE was 27.26.

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With a Dolby Vision signal, grayscale was not flat at the high end, but RGB was pretty well balanced. Average dE was 1.66 and max dE was 3.01. Like HDR10, EOTF tracking was excellent. Peak luminance was 416.92 nits and black level was 0.0036 nit. The colorimetry was much better than HDR10, with an average dE of 3.03 and a max dE of 6.92.

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The Dolby Vision ColorChecker looked quite good, with an average dE of 2.42 and a max dE of 6.72.

Here are the post-calibration results in SDR mode:

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In SDR mode, the post-calibration grayscale was in balance, and gamma tracking was much better. Average dE was 0.5 and max dE was 1.26. Peak luminance was 102.15 nits, right where it should be, but black level had risen considerably to 0.025 nit.

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Post-calibration, SDR colorimetry was pretty good, with an average dE of 1.06 and a max dE of 5.43. The biggest problems were at 100% luminance.

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Post-calibration, the SDR ColorChecker was better, with an average dE of 0.97 and a max dE of 3.87.

Next, the post-calibration results for HDR10:

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With an HDR10 signal, grayscale was improved with calibration. Average dE was 1.35 with a max dE of 5.33. The dip at 65% corresponds with the tone-mapping rolloff. Peak luminance was 448.27 nits, with a black level of 0.0033 nit. EOTF tracking remained excellent, though luminance rolled off sooner than the target curve.

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Post-cal, the HDR10 colorimetry improved significantly, with an average dE of 2.25 and a max dE of 4.3.

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The post-cal HDR10 ColorChecker showed some improvement, though green and cyan were still pretty whacked. Average dE was 2.5 with a max dE of 9.9. ICtCp errors in all three primaries and all three secondaries were quite high.

Here are the post-cal results for Dolby Vision:

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Calibration flattened the Dolby Vision grayscale quite nicely, with an average dE of 0.94 and a max dE of 1.84. Peak luminance was 451.73 nits and black level was 0.00031 nit. EOTF and luminance tracking were excellent.

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Calibration didn’t change the Dolby Vision colorimetry much. Average dE was 2.5 with a max dE of 7.02.

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Calibration didn’t change the Dolby Vision ColorChecker much, either. Average dE was 2.03 with a max dE of 7.4.

Finally, here’s the spectral distribution of the P65:

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The spectral distribution of the P65 does not have the multiple sharp peaks in red that the M65 had. In fact, the distinct green and red peaks look better than the typical LCD TV that exhibits a broad distribution between green and red with almost no peaks at all.

Test Material

I like to start my post-calibration evaluation of displays with test material. Beginning with the Samsung HDR10 Reference UHD Blu-ray, black-field uniformity was not bad at all, though it wasn’t perfect—it was darker in the center of the screen. The black dog and man in a black suit on a black background both looked very good, as did the white china on a white tablecloth, with good differentiation between different shades of black and white in the corresponding shots. Likewise, the shot of the sun over a coastline also looked excellent, with a very bright sun and good shadow detail.

The Natural Color tests all looked great, with realistic green foliage, purple flowers, brown tree bark, and skin tones on black and white backgrounds. In the 10-bit and 8-bit footage of clouds drifting by a coastline, I saw virtually no banding in the 8-bit version.

The Motion Sharpness test consists of a camera panning across rocks. With the Reduce Judder control set to 0, the image exhibited severe judder; increasing the control to 7 or above significantly smoothed out the motion. The Clear Action control did nothing to this image. I got the same results with scrolling text.

Turning to the FPD Benchmark Blu-ray, the situation was very similar with its Motion Resolution tests. In this case, the Reduce Motion Blur control was active, and settings of 5 or higher were very effective in sharpening motion detail. Again, Clear Action did not affect these tests at all. In the Gradation tests, the 0-100 ramp was very smooth with only slight banding; the 0-25 ramp had more banding, but it was better than the M65.

The Color Reproduction tests include a Gretag-Macbeth color chart, which is a great image to evaluate off-axis color performance. With the P65, moving off axis loses a fair amount of saturation beyond about 30° or so, but I saw no color shift. The other images—colored pencils, basket of yarn balls, red fruits and flowers on a red background—looked great on-axis, though the mostly red image lost a lot of saturation when viewed off axis.

The HQV Benchmark Blu-ray includes some good noise tests. The Reduce Signal Noise control works well on random noise when it’s set to Low or Medium; High softens the image too much. The same goes for the Reduce Block Noise control with encoding noise.

Finally, I looked at some tests on the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark Blu-ray. As I had seen before, full black-field uniformity was not perfect—darker in the center of the screen—but not bad. Similarly, a full-white field was slightly brighter in the center, but overall, the uniformity was pretty good. In the source-adaptive video-processing tests, the common cadences, such as 2:2, 2:3:2:3, and 2:3:3:2, all looked very good. In the edge-adaptive tests, there were virtually no jaggies in any of the images.

Real-World Material

I started my real-world viewing with a few challenging clips. In the Islands episode of the Planet Earth II UHD Blu-ray in HDR10, I saw no banding in the sky at 19:00 and 23:03 as I have on other displays. In every way, the footage in this and the Jungles episode looked wonderful, with rich, natural colors and exquisite detail.

The title sequence of all PEII episodes is made for HDR, with the limb of the Earth and a bright sun against the black of space. On the P65, it all looked great, except that the black was not quite as deep as I would prefer. (I’m spoiled by OLED blacks, which virtually no LCD TV can match.)

At 1:09:46 of Batman v Superman on UHD Blu-ray, Bruce Wayne’s shirt clips in a very bright light, but on the P65, it’s not horrible as I’ve seen on other displays. Likewise, at 18:53 of Pan on UHD Blu-ray, the sun clips a bit, but it’s certainly not egregious. Both use HDR10.

Speaking of Batman v Superman, I watched a bit of it on Vudu in Dolby Vision using the P65’s SmartCast app. Some scenes were clean as a whistle, while others were full of film grain-like noise—for example, the party scene at 1:02:00. Just before that, at 1:00:00, Swanwick’s suit was full of macroblocking, which is likely due to high levels of compression in the streaming signal.

I looked at the same clips on the UHD Blu-ray. There was no macroblocking at 1:00:00, and less noise in the party scene at 1:02:00—though there was certainly grain-like noise in that clip, which the P65’s Reduce Random Noise control couldn’t completely eliminate. Also, there was more clipping in Bruce Wayne’s shirt at 1:09:46 than there was in the Dolby Vision presentation from Vudu.

Returning to UHD Blu-ray, I checked out Atomic Blonde in Dolby Vision. The opening scene includes a man’s face near a car’s headlight in an otherwise low-light image. The face and headlight were quite bright with good shadow detail in the rest of the shot. Other dark scenes with bright highlights looked great; this is a great disc for shadow detail and bright highlights in dark scenes, and the P65 reproduced them very well.

Transformers: The Last Knight in Dolby Vision looked wonderful in terms of detail, color, and shadow detail. There was very little clipping in the flaming spiked balls being lobbed by trebuchets in the opening scene, though there was more clipping in big explosions. In one shot, the sun is directly behind Merlin’s face, and the details were very clear.

Next up was Ender’s Game in HDR10. The detail and color all looked superb, and the shadow detail in the outdoor night scene with Ender and Colonel Graff was excellent. However, the black of space wasn’t all that great, especially without the bright Earth in the shot.

Like virtually all HDR TVs, the four HDMI 2.0 inputs on the Vizio P65-E1 default to 10.2 Gbps bandwidth. This prevents it from displaying Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk from UHD Blu-ray at 60 fps in HDR. To enable 18 Gbps, you need to go into the Settings menu and turn on Full UHD Color for the appropriate HDMI input. Once I did that, Billy Lynn played without a problem, and it looked wonderful.

Stargate: Continuum on Blu-ray is particularly challenging. The opening starfield looked quite good, with no visible haloing around the stars. However, the lack of uniformity in the black of space was visible, and the black level was certainly higher than with HDR programs, as expected. The shadow detail in the night scene as the Achilles steams across the Atlantic was excellent.

Finally, I went back to streaming and took a look at Okja in Dolby Vision from the SmartCast Netflix app. Overall, the image looked very bright and sharp with excellent colors. However, after the opening credits and the story’s setup, I saw some serious banding as the scene fades up from black to a mountain landscape. And the night scene at 17:40 as Mija tends to Okja looked a bit strange, with poor contrast on the sides of the image.

I checked out this scene playing from a Roku Ultra in HDR10 on my Sony A1E, and it looked fine. Also, there was much less banding in that fade-up from black. So I connected the Roku to the P65 and tried the same clips. They looked better, with less banding in the fade-up from black and better contrast on the sides of the night scene.

After this exercise, I decided to take a quick look at Altered Carbon, the new Netflix series, in Dolby Vision from the P65’s internal app and HDR10 from the Roku Ultra. The Dolby Vision version exhibited lots of banding in the fade to black after the title sequence, while the HDR10 version had almost no banding in that moment. I saw no contrast issues like I did in Okja.

Conclusion

The Vizio P65-E1 a solid performer, with superb detail, color, shadow detail, HDR, and video processing. Other strong positives include Dolby Vision capability and its SmartCast online functionality with Chromecast built in. And while contrast and saturation diminish when viewed from off axis, I saw no color shifts, which I can’t say of all LCD TVs.

However, I saw quite a bit of banding in some fade outs and fade ups from the TV’s Netflix app. Streamed content from a Roku Ultra looked better in this regard.

The black level and black-field uniformity are pretty good, but not great. In fact, the post-calibration black levels were slightly higher than the M65, though black-field uniformity is definitely better. Also, the post-calibration peak-luminance measurements for HDR10 and Dolby Vision are only about half of what the M65 exhibited. Even so, HDR images are plenty bright in a dark room, and I’m sure the set would look fine in the presence of ambient light.

At a list price of $1700, the Vizio P65-E1 is a great value. Even better, as of this writing, the price is $1300 on the Vizio website. That’s only $100 more than the M65, and you get four times the dimming zones and a 120 Hz panel. For those on a limited budget, this TV should be on your very short list.

Many thanks to David Abrams of Avical for measuring and calibrating the Vizio P65, and for allowing me to do my evaluation in his studio.

Review System

Sources

Oppo UDP-203 UHD Blu-ray player
Roku Ultra UHD HDR streamer
SpectraCal VideoForge Pro test-pattern generator

Setup & Test Discs

Samsung HDR Reference (UHD Blu-ray)
HD Benchmark (Blu-ray)
FPD Benchmark (Blu-ray)
HQV Benchmark (Blu-ray)

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