Saturday, July 4, 2015

Vizio Reference Series Demo Review

This year's AFI Docs Festival included a special bonus... one that was aimed at cinephiles and filmmakers alike. I got to check out Vizio's new (and incredible) Reference Series, available to John Q. Public later this year (in 65" and 120" versions.) The differences between current sets and the Reference Series is greater than night & day; but I shudder to think how much those differences will cost customers. Needless to say, I won't be getting one... no matter how positive this review is. That said, it gives me great incentive to buy a lottery ticket or two this weekend.

Cost notwithstanding, the technology behind the Reference Series is seriously impressive. My private demo consisted of a looping video with highlights of several recent Hollywood blockbusters, including last year's Into the Storm. The picture was so crisp, so lifelike, I have to wonder if I would have given the movie a grade of D, had I seen it on this TV instead of at AMC Mazza Gallerie. Probably not. The same video montage was displayed on a regular HDTV set, placed side-by-side with the Vizio; and the differences were (in a word) sobering.

Sobering for me and anyone else, who has to go home and watch their current televisions. Perhaps the most obvious improvement is in active LED zones, where the Vizio outscores the competition by a whopping 384-8! Vizio's M-Series sets had as many as 36 separate zones, which was considered a breakthrough last summer. 384 is more than 10x greater than that. The full array LED backlights the entire display, resulting in a more uniform picture.

The Reference Series packs an 800 nit Backlit Display (very, very bright) and a UHD Spatial Scaling Engine, which automatically scales/upgrades HD content to Ultra HD; so don't toss out your Blu-ray discs just yet. There's also Clear Action 1800, which practically eliminates blurring at high speeds (sports, video games, etc.) That's pretty much the equivalent of a 240Hz refresh rate. Sweet.

In regards to sound, there's an integrated 5.1 Sound Bar System with three channels and a 10" wireless Bluetooth subwoofer, that you can place pretty much anywhere. It delivers over 100 decibels of sound pressure with almost zero distortion. That's really impressive in today's world (bid adieu to total watts, which actually only indicates power used... and not loudness.)

Last but not least (and perhaps most important of all, at least early on) is content. What's the point of driving around in a Ferrari, if you're going to be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic all day? That's where Vizio earns it keep, with Vizio Internet Apps Plus (4K content on Amazon Prime, Netflix and (coming soon) Dolby Vision content via Vudu. This on top of the fact that the 4K Ultra HD screen quadruples the resolution of regular HD? Perhaps you should buy a lottery ticket this weekend, as well? I don't pretend to be an expert when it comes to TV technology; but the Reference Series is the best looking television picture I've ever seen. Enough said.

Just in case you understand the technical jargon better than I do, click here to learn more about the Reference Series. You can also add your contact information, so Vizio can notify you when the sets are available for purchase.