For the last few years Vizio TV’s have earned our highest scores for value by serving the best picture quality for the money. The main challenger to Vizio’s cheaper TVs like this E series has been TCL with its Roku TVs. I like Roku’s smart TV system better than Vizio’s, but Vizio’s ace in the hole has always been superior picture quality.
This year there’s a new wrinkle:. If you want a 55-inch TV and can swing the extra money compared to this Vizio, get the TCL instead. Its picture is that much better. And later this year TCL will release the 50- and 65-inch sizes.
But maybe you want a size bigger than 55 inches, you don’t want to wait or you don’t want to spend any more than you have to for a very good picture. If that’s the case, the E series is a great choice.
PSA: The best E’s are 60 inches and larger
There’s more variation than usual between the different sizes in Vizio’s E series, so before I go any further, there’s some stuff you need to know.
I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch E50-E1 and the 65-inch E65-E0. Based on what I saw and know about the series, the 60-inch and larger models are significantly better than the others.
That’s because the 43- and 50-inch sizes lack the local dimming that was so effective on the 65-inch size I tested. Meanwhile most of the smaller models use an IPS-based (“in-plane switching“) LCD panel, and the IPS panel on the 50-incher I tested delivers inferior image quality. Only the 60-inch and larger sizes that have the winning combination of local dimming and VA (vertical alignment, and non-IPS) LCD panels.
Here’s how the entire series breaks down.
Vizio E series (2017)
|Model||Size||Dimming zones||HDR||Clear action||Panel Type||CNET score|
|E43-E2||43 inches||0||No||No||IPS||6.6 (3 stars)|
|E50-E1||50 inches||0||No||No||IPS||6.6 (3 stars)|
|E50-E3||50 inches||0||No||No||VA||6.6 (3 stars)|
|E55-E1||55 inches||12||Yes||180||IPS||6.6 (3 stars)|
|E55-E2||55 inches||12||Yes||180||VA/IPS||6.6 (3 stars)|
|E60-E3||60 inches||10||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
|E65-E0||65 inches||12||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
|E65-E1||65 inches||12||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
|E70-E3||70 inches||12||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
|E75-E3||75 inches||14||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
|E80-E3||80 inches||16||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
The better E TVs with local dimming have anywhere from 10 to 16 dimming zones. More local dimming zones generally equals better image quality, but I don’t expect much difference between the models with 10 or 16 zones.
Vizio says the E55-E2 may use either an IPS or a VA panel. Here’s its statement: “[The E55-E2 will] start shipping with VA panels and then may move to IPS panel technology if demand increases. It is difficult to say when the IPS panels will cut in, but your readers can use the following serial number prefix on the box to identify models with IPS panels. If the fourth digit of the serial number is a “J” or “7,” that unit uses an IPS panel. Ex. LWZJSEARxxxxxxx or LTM7SHARxxxxxxx. All other serial numbers will be units using VA panels.”
My statement? The easiest thing is to stick to 60 inches and above.
Standard black frame, weird spindly legs
The frame around the screen is shiny, black and thin, so from the front it looks like almost all picture, while the cabinet is relatively thick seen from the side.
Rather than a pedestal stand the E series utilizes the same kind of splayed, spindly legs found on most TVs today. They’re a bit, er, different looking, thanks to a pattern of triangle-shaped cutouts.
The 2017 E series comes with a new clicker with more buttons and capabilities, although its keypad is basically useless since the TV lacks a built-in tuner for antenna channels.
Chromecast built-in with on-screen menus too
For now the E series requires your phone to stream video from Netflix and others, but Vizio says the update that adds apps to an onscreen display, so you can stream without using your phone, is coming very soon.
Just like a $35 Chromecast, the Vizio E can serve up Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and all the rest on the big screen using your phone as a “remote.” Going into any supported app and hitting the Cast button reveals the Vizio TV as an option; select it and video from the app will play back on the TV. Easy peasy. It worked fine with Netflix (in 4K and HDR) and Vudu and YouTube (in 4K). Other apps I tried worked well too.
The biggest downside to the system is that Cast doesn’t support Amazon Video directly. But that update adds an actual on-screen menu for Casting apps, and one of them is indeed Amazon. I got a chance to play with an early version for this review and it mostly worked as advertised — and similar to on-screen displays found on competing Smart TVs.
Selecting the Smatcast “input” causes the new app home screen to appear, with icons for a handful of major apps along the bottom (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle, iHeart Radio, Xumo, Vudu, Pluto, and “USB”) as well as tiles for TV shows and movies along the top. Amazon and the others worked just as I expected, complete with 4K and HDR streaming where avalable. Unfortunately response times weren’t the fastest and screens took a bit longer than I’d like to load, but in my book it’s (a lot) better than nothing. In no way is it better than Roku, however.
You can still use Vizio’s SmartCast app for iOS and Android to control settings like picture and sound modes, but you don’t need it since the TV has on-screen settings menus too. I also found the app more stable to connect and use than before, and it worked flawlessly on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone. The app also tries to surface content with “TV shows” and “Movies” sections, but most people will ignore those and go straight for the individual apps on their phones.
OK, Google, control my cheap TV
If you have a Google Home speaker, the E series can respond to voice commands. It worked very well in my testing, although unlike Alexa commands of Sony TVs, for example, power on/off isn’t supported.