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Vizio P-Series Quantum review: A more affordable alternative to OLED with a superb picture – CNET

Vizio's P-Series Quantum is something special. It's hands-down Vizio's best TV ever, and one of the best-performing LCD TVs I've ever tested from any brand. It's only available in a 65-inch size, model PQ65-F1. And the list price is expensive for a Vizio at $2,100.

At that price you're close to 65-inch OLED TV territory. The Quantum isn't as good as LG's cheapest 2018 OLED, the B8 series, nor is it as good as LG's 2017 OLED models, which are still around and cost around the same as the Quantum right now. If you have that kind of money to rub together for a new TV, just bite the bullet and get an OLED.

But discounts are a wonderful thing. Like many other TVs the Quantum will likely get a significant price cut soon for the Black Friday and holiday buying season. In fact it already had one, going down to $1,500 at club stores Sam's Club and Costco in late August through mid-September. I expect a similar sale price to hit in the near future.

At $1,500 the P-Series Quantum is an absolute steal. It outperforms any non-OLED TV I've reviewed this year. Samsung's flagship Q9 (review coming soon) did beat it in some of my side-by-side tests -- including bright-room performance and HDR punch -- but the PQ was still close. It outperformed the Q9 in other areas. Vizio's TV is super-bright with superb contrast, and makes just about any high-quality video look as good as possible on an LCD TV. And it costs a lot less than the Q9 or Sony's Master Series Z9F.

To get a significantly better picture you'll have to spring for an OLED, and depending on the price difference between the Quantum and LG's B8 OLED, which is due for its own Black Friday discount, it might be worth going for the big "O." But if that's not happening, and you still want a better picture than you'll get from the TCL 6 series, Vizio P-Series, Sony X900F and Samsung Q8s of the world, go for Vizio's "Q."

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Good lookin' TV, bad remote and streaming

I called the standard P-Series "the nicest-looking Vizio TV I've ever seen," but the Quantum is even sleeker. Its minimalist frame is all black, interrupted by the teensiest little Vizio "V" you've ever seen. Glass extends almost all the way to the edge on all four sides.

The only color accent from the front is the chrome of the thin support legs, which disappear when you wall-mount the TV. From the side there's a matching textured strip of chrome. The overall look is classic, clean and all-business. There's nothing cheap-looking about it.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Unfortunately the remote, the same tired wand Vizio has been waving for years, does feel cheap. It also has too many buttons and I kept having to glance down rather than operate it by feel. I prefer the simplicity of TCL's Roku TV remote or Samsung and LG's evolved clickers.

I'm also disappointed by Vizio's SmartCast smart TV system. It's less capable, slower and generally inferior to others, including Roku, Samsung, LG and Sony's Android TV. It does offer the ability to stream apps from your phone, if you're into that, with its built-in Chromecast function. Vizio also adds the ability to sort apps in the order you prefer, but the biggest issues, including a home screen crowded with apps and shows you might not care about, remain.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Vizio's WatchFree service is a new addition aimed at cord cutters who want free TV. It's a partnership with the Pluto TV free service and uses the same grid-style layout as a typical cable box. Most of the channels are from Pluto itself, with names that include Failarmy and Adventure TV. Or they're free feeds from online sources such as Bloomberg and Cheddar. Even the familiar channels, like Fox Sports and something called "NBC News / MSNBC" aren't the same as those channels. There's a lot of free stuff to watch so it's tough to complain, but Roku, with Featured Free and the Roku Channel does a better job in general of delivering free, ad-supported video.

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WatchFree has a program guide with a bunch of free TV shows and movies, with ads.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Although it lacks its the built-in voice assistant found on Sony, Samsung and LG TVs, you can control the Vizio to some extent with Google Assistant (details here) and Alexa (here) smart speakers. I didn't test that functionality this time around, but Google Home worked relatively well with the 2017 M-Series.

But if you're getting a Quantum, I'd recommend you skip Vizio's streaming altogether. Do yourself a favor and get an external streamer such as the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. Or, if you want Dolby Vision, get an Apple TV 4K

Key TV features

Display technology LED LCD
LED backlight Full array with local dimming
Resolution 4K
HDR compatible HDR10 and Dolby Vision
Smart TV Vizio SmartCast
Remote Standard

A Q by any other name

So what makes Quantum different from the "regular" Vizio P-Series, which comes in a larger range of sizes and costs a lot less at 65 inches? Quite a bit.

As you might expect from the name, the Quantum uses quantum dots so it can achieve a wider color gamut. According to my measurements, the dots allow it to cover about 4 percent more of the P3 gamut than the standard Vizio P-Series. The PQ65-F1 matches the gamut coverage of Samsung's quantum dot-equipped QLED sets and LG's OLEDs.

The biggest difference is the PQ's searing light output, which measures well over the 2,000 nits Vizio touts on my review sample. That's more than double the brightness of the standard Vizio P. It competes well against Samsung's Q9 and Q8 sets, and trounces OLED's brightness. The Quantum also boasts more zones of full-array local dimming -- 192 compared to the 65-inch P-Series' 100. Zone number is an important spec because it controls how precise the dimming can be. More zones doesn't necessarily mean better picture quality, however, and in comparing the P-Series and PQ I was hard pressed to see any Q advantage that resulted directly from its higher zone count.

Otherwise the Quantum and P-Series' image quality chops are largely the same. Both have a true 120Hz refresh rate panel, just like Sony and Samsung, and they're better than the 60Hz panels found on cheaper Vizios and TCL sets. Although you should ignore Vizio's "240Hz effective" and "Clear Action 960" claims, Vizio's 120Hz panel does improve video processing and also allows the option to engage MEMC (motion estimation, motion compensation) -- also known as the soap opera effect. Like LG, TCL and Sony, Vizio supports both major types of HDR, HDR10 and Dolby Vision, in the P-Series.

  • Four HDMI inputs (version 2.0, with HDCP 2.2)
  • One HDMI input (version 1.4, 1080p/120Hz input capable)
  • One component-composite video input
  • One USB port
  • RF antenna tuner input
  • Ethernet port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • Stereo analog audio output

Connectivity is identical to the standard P-Series. Four of the inputs can accept all major 4K and HDR sources. A fifth HDMI input can accept neither HDR nor 4K sources. Instead, Input 5 can handle 1080p at 120Hz input, ideal for so-equipped gaming PCs (we didn't test this function). Gamers will also appreciate that Input 5 has lower input lag than the others.

Beyond HDMI, the selection is solid and, unlike some major TV makers, includes an analog (composite/component) video input. And yes, unlike 2017 Vizio TVs the PQ does include an antenna port for the TV's built-in over-the-air TV tuner, just like those of competitors. The tuner has real value to cord cutters and others who don't subscribe to cable or satellite TV.

Picture quality

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Click the image above for CNET's picture settings and notes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The PQ is one of the best LCD-based TVs I've tested, and earns the year's first "9" score in this category. It's not as good overall as LG's OLED TVs (which earn the "10"), but it can get brighter and delivers otherwise excellent image quality in nearly every area. The only TVs that match or beat its picture, namely OLEDs and Samsung's Q9, cost a heck of a lot more. TVs that cost less, such as Vizio's standard P-Series and TCL's 6 series, don't perform as well -- especially with the highest-quality 4K and HDR images.

The PQ has superb black levels and contrast for home theater lighting as well as one of the best bright-room images on the market, second only to the Samsung Q9 among TVs I've tested. Video processing and uniformity are top-notch. While the Q9 has more impactful HDR, its shadow detail with standard dynamic range falls short of the PQ. I also noticed some banding in HDR material on the Vizio, but it was rare and certainly didn't ruin an otherwise outstanding performance.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

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