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A closer look at Vizio’s new Reference Series 4K UHD TVs

by on October 21, 2015

Stephan Jukic – October 21, 2015

We’ve already previously covered the introduction by Vizio of its new highly premium Reference Series 4K UHD TV models to their lineups of 4K models but now let’s take a slightly closer look at these unique new models.

Unlike the by now well-known M-Series and slightly older P-Series 4K UHD models, the Reference Series televisions are a far cry from VVizio’s previously more budget-oriented 4K display technology path –instead of beating a bath towards offering some of the most affordable 4K viewing options on the market, Vizio’s Reference models seem to completely throw price cutting out the window.

Of the two models, the smaller 65 inch RS65-B2 is currently retailing from Vizio’s own website for $5,999 and the 120 inch colossus of a 4K TV, the RS120-B3 is on sale for what we imagine is a rather special category of customer for a whopping $129,999.99. In other words, well over $1000 per inch of its gigantic display space.

As anyone who’s familiar with the highly affordable pricing schemes of the M and P-Series TVs can plainly see, these Reference Series TVs are an example of Vizio’s movie in a completely different direction.

However, in exchange for all those extra dollars, the new models also offer their own highly unique and very impressive display technologies.

For starters, both models are the first 4K TVs in the world to come with Dolby Vision HDR technology imbued into their screens and what Dolby offers here is its own specialize and highly calibrated version of high dynamic range for boosting the contrast and color spectrums of a TV display to previously unseen levels. Furthermore, Dolby’s HDR spec is reportedly one of the most well developed and advanced on the market. If what we’ve read about the display quality of the new Reference Series TVs is to be believed, the Dolby HDR technology in their screens indeed does deliver the goods in a spectacular way.

As a general rule, all new premium UHD TVs as of now will be coming with HDR specs built into them and for the most part these specs for high dynamic range will be standardized based on specifications recently released by the Consumer Electronics Association. Furthermore, according to these specs, new HDR –enabled 4K TVs will also come with the HDMI 2.0a specification in their ports instead of the older HDMI 2.0, for the sake of superior HDR playback.

Even LG’s HDR OLED 4K TVs like the EF9500 now come with HDMI 2.0a and HDR capability in their displays. The same is the case with Samsung, which has announced that HDMI 2.0a will be a feature update to its own HDR 4K TVs.

High dynamic range on display at CES 2015 in a 4K TV

High dynamic range on display at CES 2015 in a 4K TV

However, in the case of the new Vizio models, the HDR situation is a bit different and arguably better as well.

This is mainly due to the fact that Vizio’s version of HDR from Dolbby Vision doesn’t require HDMI 2.0a to work and can instead function just fine with ordinary HDMI 2.0. In other words, the TVs have a simpler connectivity technology doing a more complex job.

On the other hand though, the Dolby HDR spec in the Reference Series also means that they’re only compatible with displaying HDR in content which has Dolby Vision’s high dynamic range spec. Currently, the selection of this type of content is rather limited and consists of only a couple dozen feature films like “Mad Max: Fury Road”, “Man of Steel” and San Andreas” among others.

So far at least, the new Vizio TVs won’t be able to display non-Dolby Vision HDR encoded content and this could mean limitations on their ability to show the HDR that’s expected to come out with 4K Blu-ray discs and some media players that we’re expecting to see on the 4K content device market soon.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that things are looking entirely bleak for the Reference TVs as far as HDR goes. Though Vizio hasn’t yet promised any concrete date for an update to HDMI 2.0a, the newer standard can be implemented via firmware updates and the completely web-connected Reference Series TVs are more than capable of getting such updates when Vizio decides to pass them along to their TVs’ owners.

Going beyond the matter of HDR in the Reference Models, the new TVs both offer flat screens over the seemingly trendy but generally useless (in this writer’s view) technology of screen curvature and both new TVs come with Full Array LED backlighting with hundreds (roughly 384) specific lighting7dimming zones built into their displays’ LED arrays. This means some extraordinarily precise lighting and dimming effects in addition to the greatly enhanced color saturation provided by HDR and Vizio’s own version of quantum dot color enhancement via what they call Wide Color Gamut (WCG) technology.

The smaller of the two TV’s, the 65 inch model is now available for consumer retail sale on Vizio’s website and should be coming to other online and physical retailers very soon. The giant 120 inch monster 4K Reference Series TV is on the other hand a customer purchase and installation job with free delivery and set-up included in its $130,000 price tag.

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  • @dolfer
    October 22, 2015 at 6:20 am

    John Archer, a prominent reviewer for Forbes, said that the varying flavors of HDR (Open HDR, Dolby Vision, etc.) would all support a base level of HDR data across the board. So even though a source might not be encoded with Dolby Vision, it still should be able to interpret the HDR basics. The LAST thing we need is another incompatible format war to confuse people…


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