By Will Greenwald
May 14, 2012
Vizio strikes again with a low-priced, well-equipped edge-lit LED HDTV. Last year, we tested the 65-inch Vizio XVT3D650SV ($3,699.99, 4 stars) and were pleased by its Web features, passive 3D, and picture quality. Now, the M3D550KD follows suit, with just as many useful features and a much, much lower $1,429.99 (direct) price tag. Its 3D isn't quite as crisp as with some active 3D HDTVs, but considering everything you get for the price, the M3D550KD (Best Deal: $1,198.00 at Amazon) earns our Editors' Choice for budget HDTVs.
Plain and unassuming, the M3D550KD has a slightly glossy and rounded black bezel with a backlit Vizio logo on the bottom and no other design flourishes. A row of controls sit behind the right edge of the screen, offering Power, Menu, Input, Channel Up/Down, and Volume Up/Down buttons. The inputs face left and downward in a recessed part of the back panel of the HDTV, with four HDMI ports and two USB ports accessible from the left side. Oddly, the analog and optical audio inputs are above the HDMI and USB ports, making cable management slightly inconvenient if you use a soundbar under the HDTV.
The remote is a thick brick of a controller that hides a keyboard that slides out from its bottom half. It's a Bluetooth remote, so you don't need line of sight with the HDTV to use it once it's paired. Pairing the remote is a simple process that the HDTV walks you through when you first turn it on, and after that you can use Vizio's Internet Apps (VIA) and other online features with text input through the remote's QWERTY keyboard. Though the remote is thick, it also feels flimsy because of the sliding keyboard, and its size makes it less comfortable to handle than conventional remotes.
You can access VIA over the M3D550KD's built-in Wi-Fi, which includes a wide variety of apps, widgets, and services. The HDTV can access Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, Pandora, and other streaming media services, plus social networks like Facebook and Twitter and an assortment of news, sports, weather, and other information apps. You can even video chat on Skype with the optional $150 XCV100 camera accessory. The only thing the HDTV is really missing is a Web browser, like those found on LG, Panasonic, and Sony HDTVs. A browser would have really made the QWERTY keyboard on the remote useful.
We test HDTV picture quality with a Konica-Minolta CS-200 chromameter after basic brightness and contrast calibrations, and the M3D550KD performed very well, reaching a peak white level of 364.75 cd/m2 and a very dark black level of 0.02 cd/m2 for a contrast ratio of 18,237:1. Colors were similarly excellent; using Spectracal's CalMAN software and the DisplayMate test patterns to measure color, the HDTV's red, green, and blue channels were nearly perfectly aligned with the CIE ideal values. The chart below shows the ideal CIE values (the red, green, and blue boxes), and the values the screen displayed (the gred, green, and blue circles). It doesn't reach the inky blacks of our high-end Editors' Choice Sharp Elite Pro-60X5FD ($5,999, 4 stars), but you'd have a hard time finding a screen that gets brighter or darker anywhere near the M3D550KD's price.
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