- Editor Rating
- Rated 4.5 stars
- VIZIO M321i-A2 32" Smart LED HDTV
- Reviewed by:
- Published on:
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- Cosmetic AppealEditor: 100%
- Design & Build QualityEditor: 90%
- FeaturesEditor: 80%
- FunctionEditor: 90%
- Value For The PriceEditor: 80%
The VIZIO M321i-A2 is an affordable 32″ LED HDTV with Smart TV functionality.
I purchase my first house recently and had the basement family room converted into a home office. One of the core necessities that I wanted in this space was a HDTV that I could use for watching TV, testing related entertainment products, and most importantly playing video games. I decided I wanted to choose a 32″ model that had a sleek design, Smart TV features, and a 120Hz refresh rate.
My search ended with the VIZIO M321i-A2 which is priced at $350 through most major online retailers. There were a few reasons why I chose this model, but the primary reasons had to do with the price, the feature set, and my previously positive experience with VIZIO's E500I model which is still the primary HDTV that I use in my house.
Throughout this review, keep in mind that I did purchase this HDTV with my own money and was not given any sort of compensation in any form by VIZIO. Rest assured, no outside influence or bias had any effect on the outcome of this review and all opinions are based on my own “hands-on” experience with the product.
One of the things that draw me into the VIZIO M321i-A2 in the first place was its sleek design and thin profile. Manufacturer's often don't put an emphasize on a slim profile on their lower-end, smaller-screened models yet VIZIO went the extra mile to give the M321i-A2 a razor-thin profile that measures only 0.9″ thick. The optional stand is also slim and well designed to match the overall aesthetics of the HDTV.
Along the edges is a thin gloss black bezel which compliments the display nicely and keeps it from having the big, bulky look that many lower-end models suffer from. The sides of the chassis and top of the optional stand feature a matte silver finish that gives it a premium appeal factor. VIZIO deals with their branding in a subtle and classy manner having only a small emblem in the bottom right corner (below the display) in addition to a large VIZIO logo in the back center of the HDTV.
To my surprise, the build quality is phenomenal and there are no aspects that hint towards cheap craftsmanship on any of the HDTV's components. When it comes to this model's appeal, I can truthfully say I think the M321i-A2 is one of the best looking 32″ HDTVs on the market with Samsung's UN32H6350AFXZA being its closest competitor despite being priced nearly $250 more. I like how this HDTV flows so well with my 27″ iMac that sits right beside it.
The M321i-A2 is one of the most feature-packed 32″ HDTV models that is currently on the market although it is one of the higher-priced options so this should be expected. The display is a 31.5″ panel with a full 1080P HD resolution (1920×1080) with an effective refresh-rate of 120Hz.
There is a variety of inputs which are separated into two locations. On the left side there is a USB port, component input, and a HDMI port. On the rear, you'll find an Ethernet jack, coaxial cable jack, audio out (left, right, and optical), and two HDMI ports. I think this model could have benefitted by the addition of one more HDMI port (to make four total instead of three) that way I could have a DVR Cable Box, Google Chromecast, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 hooked up at all times without having the need to constantly swap out HDMI ports.
As you'd expect from this model being branded as a Smart TV, it is Wi-Fi ready and offers access to all your favorite apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Amazon Instant video among others. If you don't have Wi-Fi setup or a spotty connection in your location of choice, you can always opt to use the integrated Ethernet port for a hard-lined connection. Unlike some Smart TV's there is no built-in web browser which some consumers may be disappointed in, but I've found it better to leave the web browsing to a real computer or mobile device as even the expensive Smart TV models' web browsing functionality is awkward and limited.
One of the most surprising features that the M321i-A2 does not include is basic on-board power and menu buttons. Yes, I said it right. VIZIO did not put a single button on the TV itself including a power button. This means you must rely on the included remote control 100% of the time so you'll always want a fresh pair of batteries on hand. The remote itself also has excellent craftsmanship and features a traditional design besides the added buttons for Smart TV functions (Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, M-GO) and a backlight for easy viewing in darkly lit environments. Despite a 3D button being present on the remote, the M321i-A2 is not 3D ready and pushing the button will simply result in nothing happening.
You can choose between using the included table-top stand or wall mounting it via the VESA 100mm x 100mm holes found on the back of the HDTV (wall mount accessories not included). Since I chose to wall mount it above my work desk, I picked up this mount for $27 on Amazon and it has worked out well especially considering the affordable price tag.
I've been using this HDTV on a regular basis for the past 3 months and have put it through the paces with Netflix streaming, video game playing, and even hooked it up to my iMac to see how it worked as an external monitor (though I wouldn't recommend it for this purpose).
As for the quality of the panel itself, the 1080P quality and 120Hz refresh rate combination performed excellent throughout everything I threw at it. I did run a few testing on the panel to see how it stacked up in terms of overall quality. Keep in mind the following tests were run on the ‘Calibrated' picture settings with the ‘auto brightness control' turned off and the ‘color temperature' setting switched to computer as this produced the best picture for our testing.
I used the Dead Pixel Test from Jason Farrell to look for any faults in this panel. When showcasing the white and red channels, I was able to identify 3-5 dead pixels although they were tough to locate. These pixels remained black so they blended in well and were near impossible to notice while watching a movie, TV, or gaming. I did not find any stuck pixels which would have been more of an annoyance as these typically stand out much easier. To give you an idea of how good or bad this is, most major HDTV/monitor manufacturers deem a maximum of 5 dead pixels as acceptable. Verdict: Average
In order to test the color contrast, I utilized Lagom's color contrast test found here. The M321i-A2's panel scored highly with a noticeable difference between nearly all the color bands ranging from dark to light although the light end of the spectrum did fall off a bit in the last two bands of both the blue and red channels. Verdict: Good
In order to identify a quality panel, the backlight should ring evenly throughout with no spots that are darker or lighter than one another. I used the same Dead Pixel Test to observe how evenly the backlight was across the white, blue, red, and green color channels. The M321i-A2 showed a relatively even backlight although there were minor signs of a vignetting effect in the edges of the panel's corners (most noticeable in the white channel). In comparison, this test rang in far better than the rather dramatic vignetting we previously found in the VIZIO E550I. Verdict: Good
This test is usually a tough one for panels in the sub-$400 price range, but this VIZIO model held strong with promising results. The darkest two grey square (#1 & #2) blended in with the black background, but the remaining 17 held out strong proving the black level is above average for a panel at this price-point. Another aspect to note is that there was no noticeable noise or dithering within any of the 20 squares. Verdict: Good
This test checks the grayscale gradients for any banding or noise artifacts which could potentially hinder your image's outcome. Again, the M321i-A2 passed this test with flying colors as we experienced no visible noise or distinguishing banding between the change in the gradient. Verdict: Excellent
On some panels, the viewing angle can be a serious problem especially when you plan to utilize the HDTV in a room with a wide array of seating. I put this panel through the test and found the results to be more than satisfying. I was able to clearly distinguish the screens content virtually a 90-degree angle in each direction and the picture remained consistent throughout my angle of view. Verdict: Excellent
The 120Hz response time made for excellent performance within the ghosting test. After comparing the results, the M321i-A2 proved to harness very little ghosting throughout the various grey channels which makes it an ideal HDTV for gaming or fast-paced sports action. Verdict: Excellent
The built-in pair of 10W speakers offer decent audio quality and output so it should be sufficient for most consumer's needs. When compared to the audio performance of competitors in this price range, I'd say the VIZIO will match or outperform the competition. If you're really into your audio experience when gaming or watching TV or movies, you would see a benefit if you were to invest in an aftermarket sound system.
Overall, I've been very pleased with this M321i-A2's performance although there are a few minor things that I would fix if I had the chance. While this may seem a bit too critical, I did notice is sluggish performance when turning on the HDTV. It typically takes about 15-20 seconds for the panel to turn on and be ready for viewing. This isn't horrific although the panel waits 5-7 seconds before making any sign of turning on after the power button is pressed which can sometimes be confusing as you don't know if it successfully registered your button press or not.
Secondly, I've seen a lot of complaining on customer reviews about the remote and lack of buttons on the HDTV itself. I completely agree and feel their pain with the lack of integrated buttons on the unit's chassis. With this issue, I think VIZIO was rather stupid to not exclude this from the design as you're out of luck if the remote gets lost or you run out of batteries. Having said that, I have been fairly satisfied with the included remotes performance and have only had a single time where the HDTV was not responding properly to my remote's commands. I solved this issue by rebooting the HDTV by unplugging it from the wall and plugging it back in.
Overall, I found the VIZIO M321i-A2 to be one of the best 32″ HDTVs at this price-point. It offers a stellar appeal and build quality while harnessing the Smart technology and features that you could ask. When it came down to performance, the M321i-A2 really shined and proved that good things do come in small packages. At this price point and the 32″ screen size, the other HDTV that I'd consider a threat is the Samsung's UN32H6350AFXZA however this model is nearly $200 higher in price.