The M50-D1 from VIZIO couples innovative HDR and 4K technology with an affordable price-tag.
The digital imaging world is a rapid transition from an HD standard to that of 4K. While this switch originally began with videographers and multimedia professionals starting to capture and produce content in 4K UHD, the home entertainment world is following suit with a mass influx of 4K TVs to provide consumers with the best picture quality possible.
While 4K TVs were overly expensive at launch, pricing has come down as the 4K standard expands to reach more households. VIZIO is a company known for their quality televisions and home theater products that offer the stellar performance most seek with pricing that won't break the bank.
Priced at $649 (originally $849), VIZIO’s M50-D1 is an excellent mid-range 4K television that packs competitive features like including Dolby Vision HDR support and even ships with a dockable ” Android tablet for use with the TV’s built-in Chromecast.
VIZIO provided us with a sample M50-D1 to make this review possible. Rest assured, all opinions and perspectives made within the following review are that of my own, and no outside influences or bias have played any role in the outcome of this review. While this review is based on our experience with the 50-inch model (M50), our views remain relevant for the larger models which differ in screen size besides a few minor changes.
Depending on who you ask, the look or cosmetic appeal of a television can often be a “make or break” situation as devices like this can often be the focal point in a room or business. Typically, televisions that pack a load of competitive features and are priced under $1K lack visual appeal due to the cost of production and engineering thus reserving the best looking designs for high-end models that sell for more than $1.5K.
The M50-D1 is a model that I would consider to be an exception of this. While it isn’t the slimmest 4K TV, it is quite thin for the price at just 2.7” thick at its largest point and has slim matte black plastic bezels surrounding the entirety of the 49.5” panel. As you’d expect this model is VESA-mount compatible, but the included legs offer a wire-style design that is simple yet elegant while providing excellent stability.
There are integrated buttons on the back left edge of the TV allowing you to perform basic operations such as power, channels, and volume without the need for a remote. The M50-D1’s port selection offers four HDMI, two USB and a component video yet there is no dedicated TV tuner (coaxial input), so you’ll have to purchase a separate tuner if you don’t plan to utilize a modern cable or satellite box which offers HDMI.
Included in the box are two different remotes that vary widely in design and potential. First is your traditional remote that is relatively dumbed down only offering your basic commands like power, volume, channels, and some general settings shortcuts. Its build is made of a cheap, lightweight plastic and works as expected with a notable feel of a budget remote.
The second remote is a 6-inch Android tablet that is branded by VIZIO offering a sleek, thin design. Despite it being intended for use with the M50-D1, it is a full-fledged tablet running Android that could be utilized on its own though its specs are rather limiting beyond remote use. Besides charging through the bottom microUSB port, VIZIO included a convenient base station that wirelessly charges the tablet. This allows you to safely store it resting upright (magnetic) on a nightstand or side table while simultaneously recharging the device when not in use.
While this is technically considered a smart TV, it differs from the traditional smart TV in the sense that it does not have a smart OS running inside it like most of its competitors. VIZIO adopted the strategy of incorporating a Chromecast within the internals giving it full access to screen mirror or streaming content from a computer or mobile device like the included 6-inch tablet remote.
Some may find this to be a burden as it requires another device for media playback, but I have found it to be a benefit. First off, the included tablet remote is all you need to access content from popular sources like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix or HBO. More often than not, the operating system found in smart TVs are clunky either from a poor UI, sluggish performance or lack of support for streaming services.
Having access to a built-in Chromecast, you are met with a refined experience designed by Google themselves with fast performance (depending on network conditions) and wide support for more content partners than any competing Smart TV.
This support includes streaming services that are not often supported on Smart TVs like Twitch.TV, Sling TV, and Facebook Video. More and more platforms are gaining support for Chromecast streaming every month, so there is a great potential that your service of choice will be supported with the M50-D1 now or shortly.
The 49.5” panel inside the M50-D1 is 4K UHD which means its resolution is 3840 x 2160, exactly four times 1080P HD. It offers 32 Active LED Zones which helps dynamically change the backlighting to provide optimal blacks and contrast ratios.
Jumping from 1080P to 4K UHD is very noticeable in image clarity and sharpness although it will be primarily dependent on the type of content you are viewing. At this point in the market, the shift in consumer TV’s is moving to 4K before many content providers are offering native 4K content.
What this means is that you won’t be able to take full advantage of the 4K picture from any cable providers like Spectrum or Comcast although some satellite providers like DISH and DirecTV have begun to offer limited 4K support with their latest Hopper 3. Standard HD content upscaled to 4K looks good, but it will all depend on the content source and often no better than an HDTV at the same screen size. Streaming services that support 4K and HDR on select video content include YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video/Prime Video.
Beyond the high resolution, this panel supports Dolby Vision HDR (High Dynamic Range). Compared to HDR10, Dolby Vision offers higher brightness ranges and millions of additional color variations although this is entirely dependent on the individual panel's performance and I'll get into this in the next section.
Performance & Function
I'll start my experiencing using the TV with the handheld remotes as that is often a big proponent of unit performance. While the traditional remote has a cheap feel, it works well for basic functionality like powering the TV and controlling the volume and channel selection. What I have noticed however is any settings like aspect ratio adjustments are always reset to default upon every power cycle.
This means when I'm streaming Twitch via the built-in Chromecast, I always have to manually fiddle with the picture settings to change the TV's default settings which cut off the streamer's HUD and overlays. Sure, it is only a few button clicks with the traditional remote, but it'd be preferable to the user experience if it were to save the aspect ratio settings based on my previous configuration rather than resetting every power cycle.
The tablet remote is great to use and enjoyable for consuming content both individually as a tablet and when streaming to the built-in Chromecast. While the gesture and concept of adding this tablet into every purchase of the M50-D1 is a good idea overall, you can see they cut corners cost wise with the tablet's hardware limitations. For example, one of the biggest oversights that I've noticed is storage size is limited to only 8GB.
I used the tablet out of the box only installing streaming apps like Netflix, Twitch, Vudu, YouTube and HBO GO. Trying to add any further apps, I was met with a notification saying I was out of storage space. It makes sense that they kept this tablet underpowered compared to standalone consumer competition to save money, but I think bumping up the internal storage to 16GB would have been a better move despite the higher production cost. With this limitation out of the picture, I think you'd get more value and a better user experience being able to install more than just five streaming apps without hitting storage limits.
The panel performance on the M50-D1 is excellent for the price with great color accuracy and contrast ratios. Where it falls short is the maximum brightness values and color spectrum of the panel which fall short of the full potential of Dolby Vision HDR technology. Most consumers at new to 4K or HDR probably won't mind this downfall, but die-hard tech enthusiasts who want the best HDR performance will want to dish out the extra money on a more expensive TV model that packs a more high-end panel coupled with Dolby Vision.
From an audio standpoint, the built-in speakers are decent and suitable for most users. If you are an audiophile or don't find the integrated audio to be sufficient enough, you always have the option of upgrading to an aftermarket entertainment system like a VIZIO Sound Bar which we will be reviewing in the coming weeks.
VIZIO continues to excel in the mid-range TV market, and their M50-D1 is an excellent example of this. Packing a multitude of competitive features with a sleek design and satisfying performance, you'd be hard fetched to find a better 4K HDR TV under $650. While it doesn't utilize a dedicated smart OS, the support for Google Cast coupled with the included tablet offers support for a broad range of streaming devices with an ever increasing compatibility for new streaming services.