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Vizio D-Series 4K Ultra HD TV 2016 Edition Review

by on September 27, 2016
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Manufacture
Overview

Vizio’s 2016 D-series 4K TV is definitely below the level of the company’s HDR-capable P-series and M-Series models to a lesser degree (the M-Series lacks HDR-ready wide color gamut) but this doesn’t stop the D-Series from being a very decent bare-bones sort of start TV set with some great specs mixed in with the more mediocre performance metrics it delivers. Of particular note is the gaming capability of the D-Series. It’s downright superb and quite possibly good enough to make this one of the best 4K TVs for gamers in terms of raw responsiveness.

These things basically sum up to mean that with this particular model, what you’ll get isn’t going to deliver a major “WOW factor” if you’ve already experienced higher-caliber 4K TVs before but it will be a very decent starter TV that’s price at a very reasonable level by the standards of almost any budget. If you’re looking for more premium 4K home entertainment specs like enhanced color, serious HDR functionality and stunning black levels or brightness, you’re better off going for Vizio’s own premium 2016 models or at a notably steeper price, Samsung’s and Sony’s mid-range and premium 4K HDR TVs. Also if you want the most affordable true HDR TV you can get your hands on, the D-Series isn’t for you either but if you just need a solid start 4K TV with some good to decent display and motion specs, then this particular TV series is a robust choice, especially if you’re a gamer.

The Good

The D-Series models distinctly lack the sort of premium features of their P-Series cousins or even the M—Series to a lesser degree. However, there are still more than a few things to recommend to this 4K TV if you take its value for price into consideration. And beyond this, the D-Series does in fact have a couple of particularly notable quality features in a more general sense. We’ll get to these in a bit.

First and foremost, as long as you’re not expecting premium performance, the D-Series is one great 4K TV in terms of overall value per dollar spent. It may not be a stunner but it is a solid performer and deliver very decent conventional SDR color while also offering a great contrast ratio and some fine display quality. The Vizio upscaling engine for non-4K content in the D-Series is almost as good as that found in all other Vizio 4K TV models, meaning that it’s great for upscaling Full HD (1080p) content sources and a decent performer on SD and 720p content upscaling. Additionally, the motion specs of the D-Series aren’t bad at all, with particularly good motion blur control being a definite bonus of this 4K TV.

Given all of these general traits above, the D-Series is indeed a great value purchase given its retail price of just over $599 for the 55 inch model we’re reviewing here.

Moving along into a bit more detail, the display qualities of the D-Series which we absolutely respect the most are its black performance, contrast ratio and some of its motion handling specs. The contrast and black levels in particular are both of a high caliber even by the standards of mid-range 4K TVs and in fact, if you compare the contrast and black uniformity as well as black level on the D-Series with those of the “premium” UH9500 and UH8500 LG 2016 HDR 4K LCD TVs, this affordable little Vizio TV beats them both by a massive margin. This is indeed commendable. The black level in the D-Series isn’t quite what you’ll get with the excellent P-Series model but it’s above average for a non-HDR 4K TV.

The motion handling qualities of this affordable 4K TV are also very decent. We can honestly say that this is a good 4K TV for fast content, especially in 4K resolution. In particular, the D-Series delivers some truly great motion blur control, with a response time of just 12 milliseconds that allows for minimal blur on Blu-ray, streamed and cable content despite a native refresh rate of only 60Hz with only interpolation for 30Hz content. Furthermore, the overshoot on motion blur control is quite minimal at just 0.8 milliseconds. We’d also like to say that the D-Series delivers decent 24p content playback. We’ve seen much better in the M-Series and P-Series (not to mention premium Sony and Samsung 4K TVs) but in this 4K TV, you get the ability to playback 24p content without judder at a basic level and that’s good enough for most users. Only the motion interpolation of the D-series models is weak, since there is no interpolation capacity for refresh rates of more than 60Hz.

Next, we come down to the single feature of the D-series which we consider to be by far its strongest and best characteristic. Namely, the D-Series is one superb piece of gaming display and use technology. If you’re looking for a 4K TV which is wonderfully responsive when hooked up to a gaming console, it’s hard to beat the D-Series. No it won’t deliver the superior display specs for gaming that other HDR 4K TVs could manage but what it does deliver is a wonderfully fast input lag of just 12.8 milliseconds. This is faster than we’ve ever seen in a 4K TV from any brand and good enough even for serious online gaming competitions as far as we’re concerned.

Finally, connectivity-wise, the D-Series offers the same robust specs as all of the other 2016 Vizio 4K TVs and a majority of 4K TVs of any kind on the market from all brands. This means that all the essentials such as HDMI 2.0, USB 3.0, Ethernet, WiFi, HDCP and HEVC are fully accounted for. In fact, this model offers more than the average number of HDMI inputs since there are 4 ports built into it, and the average among 2015 and 2016 4K TVs is Four, with some high end 4K TVs even offering as few as 3 HDMI 2.0a ports.

The bad

So far we’ve heaped what you might consider to be a surprising amount of praise on the cheap and pretty bare bones D-Series SDR 4K TV and we don’t think we’re without reason in doing this. After all, this is a 4K TV that doesn’t pretend to be more than what it really is –a bare bones, basic starter model—and at fulfilling its designated function it does indeed do a good job, which is why it really does deserve some kudos. However, none of this is to say that the D-Series is without flaws, because obviously enough it isn’t. Of course, we’re not going to consider a lack of HDR or wide color gamut to be flaws in this TV since Vizio certainly isn’t selling the D-Series as a premium model but even within the range of what this TV should do, yes it certainly has a few things we don’t like.

First and foremost, while the D-series is a full-array LED backlight 4K TV (Like all of Vizio's 4K UHD TVs) the quality of its local dimming is so terrible that it might as well not even have the feature in place. This is quite odd considering the presence of full-array backlighting but we’ve seen much better performance in this area from many edge-lit 4K TVs. In the case of the D-Series, the backlighting creates more bloom than we’d like and the picture as a whole darkens far too much when local dimming is activated. We’re guessing that this is due to combination of a poorly implemented backlighting algorithm during local dimming and overly large dimming/lighting zones in the LED array. In contrast, the other major Vizio 4K TVs for 2016 and even 2015 offer generally excellent local dimming quality.

Moving along, the brightness of the D-Series leaves a lot to be desired by the standards of newer 4K TVs. No it’s not an HDR TV and offers no support for either Dolby Vision or HDR10 high dynamic range formatting, so we’re not expecting high level 600 nit+ peak brightness but this particular series peaks at less than 300 cd/m2 (nits). This is awful even by non-HDR (SDR) 4K TV standards in older ultra HD TVs. What does save the D-Series is the quality of it black levels. They’re deep and rich enough to still conserve a high contrast ratio and decent picture quality during content with highly variable lighting extremes.

We should also briefly note that as a TV with VA (vertical alignment) panel technology, the D-Series offers narrow viewing angles with which color and contrast fade quickly beyond 21 degrees to either side of dead center viewing. However, this is common to all VA 4K TVs, even the premium models like Samsung’s 2016 KS-SERIES SUHD televisions. Furthermore, the D-Series comes with a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz and can thus only perform motion interpolation on 30fps content to scale it up to a simulated 60fps. This might affect some high speed content even though the D-Series is a generally good performer on motion control for action video sequences.

Next, another aspect of the D-series which we definitely think could have been improved even in this budget 4K TV model is the resolution support for the inputs. The model does support 4K at 60Hz and 1080p content at a basic 60Hz but it lacks all support for 1080p at 120Hz, 1080p at 60Hz with 4:4:4 and 4K at 60 or 30Hz with 4:4:4 as well.

Finally, the smart platform on the D-Series is of the older TV-based type instead of the new 2016 SmartCast mobile device-based smart TV platform. This means a more basic user interface, more basic apps access and functionality and a lack of support for full web browsing. Most 4K streaming media apps like Vudu, YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime are available though.

Final Thoughts

All qualities and flaws considered, we have to admit that we like the Vizio D-Series 4K UHD SDR TV. It’s not by any means a fancy or robust 4K TV by 2016 standards but it is a decent performer as a basic 4K TV, with some great conventional color performance and all the essentials of a decent start 4K smart TV experience. It’s also wonderfully affordable.

Specs

• Screen size: 40 diagonal inches, 50 diagonal inches, 55 diagonal inches 58 diagonal inches, 65 diagonal inches
• Smart TV: Vizio Basic smart OS
• HEVC (H.265, H.264) Included: Yes
• VP9 Included. Yes
• HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
• HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
• Refresh Rate: 60Hz native refresh rate
• Screen Lighting: Full-array LED backlighting with limited multi-zone local dimming
• Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
• Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet port
• Remotes: conventional button remote
• Connectivity: 5 HDMI 2.0a ports (4 in 50 inch model), 1 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Digital Optical audio out, 1 component in, 1 RCA Audio out
• Contrast Ratio: 4460 : 1
• Black Level maximum: 0.024 cd/m2
• 3D Technology: None
• Processor: quad core

Highlights

The M-Series model’s main highlight is definitely its fantastic gaming capability. This is by far the fastest 4K TV for console gaming that we’ve yet had the pleasure of reviewing and with an input lag of just over 13 milliseconds, the D-Series is probably the single best 4K TV you could buy if you’re looking for a 4K TV for use during serious competitive online gaming. Even Vizio’s other models like the P-Series and E-Series or Samsung’s 2016 SUHD TVs, all of which also offer great game console controller responsiveness during gameplay in their respective game modes don’t come close to matching the D-series in this regard.

Visual Specs

The visual specs of the 2016 D-Series 4K TVs, and specifically of the D55U-D1 model we’re covering in this review are what we’d call above average by the standards of budget SDR (non-HDR) 4K TVs but by the standards of HDR TVs for 2016, the D-Series basically underperforms in most key visual specs. Let’s cover these visual qualities in sequence, with contrast, black performance, brightness, color and motion control in respective detail.

Contrast and black performance-wise the D-Series D55U-D1 and its versions in other sizes are actually very good performers, as we’ve already indicated earlier above. While peak brightness in these TVs is quite weak (even by non-HDR TV standards) the deep inky black level of 0.024 cd/m2 saves a lot of the viewing quality despite the low bright highlights and results in a contrast ratio which is very robust at 4460:1. This is further enhanced by an excellent black uniformity in which virtually not visible blooming or greying out of dark strong blacks is visible across the TV’s display.

As for brightness -which is an integral part of 4K TV contrast and display performance- it is truly on the weak side and this is one of the D55U-D1’s biggest display defects, even if you take aside comparisons with HDR TVs of any kind. At 269 cd/m2 for even peak brightness in a small 10% window, the D-Series models underperform even many SDR 4K TVs and they definitely underperform all HDR 4K TVs we’ve reviewed to-date. If it weren’t for the rich blacks in this TV, its low brightness would be a major potential deal breaker despite the TV’s low price.

Color-wise, the Vizio D-Series and D55U-D1 model of this review offer only basic 8-bit color without the added benefit of Wide Color Gamut of the HDR10/Dolby Vision type. This means a fairly low DCI-P3 color space coverage of only 73.4% and notable banding in color tone shifts due to the 8-bits of color range (16.7 million colors instead of the 1.07 billion of 10-bit color). However, despite its average color space and value coverage, the D-Series manages to deliver the SDR color it comes with in a great way, with high color accuracy and low Delta E and gamma of 1.92 and 2.3 respectively after some calibration of assorted color settings. These are very respectable metrics for any sort of 4K TV.

Finally, as we’d already covered earlier. The D-Series TVs perform moderately well on motion control specs. They only offer a native 60Hz refresh rate and offer a limited 24p content playback capacity which does however offer basic 24p content replay without judder. On the other hand, the motion blur control of the D55U-D1 and D-Series is very strong, with a low response time and a very slight overshoot resulting in remarkably minimal blur during fast movement in upscale content and native 4K video.

Connectivity


Connectivity-wise, the D-Series 4K TVs are a bit unusual in their array of ports, even though they do nicely cover all the essentials. There is a total of 5 HDMI 2.0 ports in the TV, meaning that it offers one port more than is average for 4K TVs. On the other hand, there is only one USB port available. HDCP 2.2, HEVC and VP9 are supported in the HDMI ports of this 4K TV and there is full WiFi and Ethernet connectivity to the web, though the D-series offers no web browsing feature; something which is available in the P-Series and M-Series models and their SmartCast smart OS for 2016. Here is a breakdown of the core connectivity ports in this 4K TV line:

• 5 X HDMI ports
• 1 X USB port
• 1 X Digital Optical Audio Out
• 1 X Analog Audio Out RCA
• 1 X composite
• 1 X Component
• 1 X Tuner
• 1 X Ethernet port

Pricing

The Vizio D-Series 4K TVs sell for a very modest retail price which we consider to be one of the most accessible among all of the name brand 4K TVs released in 2016. The 55 inch model we’re reviewing here sells for just $600.05 with the 50 incher going for $560, the 58 inch model selling for $722.67 and the 40 inch 4K model on sale for a remarkably cheap $377.00 on Amazon.com

Link to the 40 inch version
Link to the 55 inch version
Link to the 50 and 58 inch versions
Link to the 65 inch version


Not so Great

To summarize the weakest aspects of the D55U-D1’s and D-series TVs’ performance. These models offer very low peak brightness, terrible local dimming, poor motion interpolation due to their native 60Hz refresh rates and come with a built-in sound system that’s definitely a low-end performer. Furthermore, we don’t like the more bare bones and rather limited Basic smart TV OS of the D-Series models. In fact we don’t understand why Vizio decided to forego the superior new 2016 SmartCast that it placed in its premium and mid-range 2016 4K TVs in the D-Series. Samsung, Sony and LG all offer the same high end smart TV OS in all of their new 4K TV models regardless of price and Vizio could have easily done the same.

Positives

• Excellent Input lag
• Great color accuracy
• Strong black levels
• High contrast
• Very affordable
• Decent motion handling

Negatives

• Very low brightness
• Terrible local dimming
• Inferior smart TV OS
• Weak audio
• Low refresh rate

Editor Rating
 
Features
B

 
Quality
B

 
User Friendliness
B+

 
Connectivity
A+

 
Price
A+

Total Score
B+

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User Rating
 
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B-

 
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B

 
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B-

 
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B-

 
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Bottom Line
 

For its price and qualities, the Vizio D-Series offers plenty of value. This is a very basic 4K TV but it has no pretentions of being something premium and thus for what it is, we like it and recommend it for anyone who wants 4K home entertainment on an extremely tight budget. You won’t get HDR or enhanced color performance but you will get a decent viewing experience.

 
5 comments
 
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  • Isaac
    November 30, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    I read in a post that Vizio managed to provide an HDR firmware update. Is this true? If so, does it significantly improve the visuals?

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      December 2, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      Hello there Isaac. At the time of our review and testing, we saw no HDR specs of any kind in this model and no support for HDR10 or Dolby Vision. We no longer have the test model on hand but to our knowledge there has been no HDR update for this series of TVs. Furthermore, ven if Vizio did implement one, the display quality difference would only affect color quality, not the TVs black performance for contrast and dynamic range.

      Reply

  • Kevin Lewis
    January 17, 2017 at 6:23 am

    Hello-

    I own the 40 inch model and bought this to be a gaming TV. I use it in a very dark room. Will buying a PS4 pro with 4K support for games and streaming content be a waste of money? I own a Regular ps4 now

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      March 18, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      Hey there Kevin, I don’t think that buying a PS4 Pro would be a waste of money. The new console does after all offer improved specs, improved performance and yes, the 4K will make a difference when used on the D-Series UHD display. Additionally, the D-Series offers excellent input lag for use as a gaming console in 4K resolution, making it a decent TV for just that kind of newer console. However, keep in mind that you won’t be able to enjoy 4K resolution with HDR through the PS4 Pro on the D-Series since this particular TV model doesn’t offer HDR display specs.

      Reply

  • Henry
    March 6, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Hello,

    Wonderful review. I recently purchased a Samsung and hated it because it did not allow me to turn of “motion lighting,” which darkened the TV when the image itself became predominantly black. Your review states, “In the case of the D-Series, the backlighting creates more bloom than we’d like and the picture as a whole darkens far too much when local dimming is activated.”

    Does the phrase “when local dimming is activate” imply that local dimming can be deactivated? Simply put, I need a TV that presents the image as-is, without any automatic adjustments for brightness.

    Reply

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