If you are on a budget and want the best TV your money can buy, the Vizio M3D0KD should sit on the top of your short list. If money is no object, the set probably deserves the same consideration thanks to its good lineup of features and surprisingly superb picture quality. It is available in two screen sizes: the 47-inch Vizio M3D470KD (*Est. $900) and the 55-inch Vizio M3D550KD (*Est. $1,350).
In a word, spectacular. If you look very, very carefully, there are flaws, of course -- the perfect set is yet to be made -- but by every measure of core performance, the Vizio M3D0KD is a winner.
In a year where reviewers struggle thus far to find LED TVs with black levels commensurate with their price tag, this Vizio set blows far past its competitors. At CNET, David Katzmaier says that the M3D0KD "boasts black levels and color accuracy that surpass competitors costing hundreds more, making it one of the elite values in its class." PCMag.com is similarly impressed. Things look just as good at the other end of the contrast scale, with high brightness levels that are a boon for 2D and a difference-maker when it comes to 3D performance (more on that when we talk about features below). We've already heard how highly CNET thinks of the set's color performance, and that, too, is the case at PCMag.com, where Will Greenwald says the color channels are nearly perfectly aligned with their theoretical ideal values.
When it comes to edge-lit LCD sets like this one, uniformity is always a concern, but the top reviewers find limited issues with the M3D0KD. But that said, the M3D0KD is not free of its own artifacts. One of the reasons this TV's black levels are so impressive is that it uses local dimming technology -- literally turning off precise points on the screen to make them look blacker. However, the set struggles in scenes with lots of bright elements, Katzmaier says, resulting in lighter blacks in those limited cases. Blooming -- light spreading from bright objects against dark backgrounds -- is also seen. Instances where blooming is seen are called "rare" by Katzmaier, though he adds that they are distracting when they occur. PCMag.com's Will Greenwald also notes blooming but says it was seen in test patterns, not normal movie content viewed in the site's tests.
The set sports a glossy screen -- common in LED sets these days. Normally those screens do a good job of enhancing picture quality, but suffer under bright lights. Here, the set handles reflections fairly well, CNET says, while also doing a good job maintaining black levels in well-lit spaces. Katzmaier adds that it is "one of the better screens for bright rooms we've tested."
The basics are well covered, but some extras are missing. While raves for the feature lineup don't quite meet those of the picture quality, they don't quite fall that short. The set uses 3D technology and packs four pairs of passive 3D glasses in the box. Some videophiles point out that passive 3D sacrifices half the resolution of the picture, and makes scanning lines very obvious -- just like in an old-fashioned standard-definition set -- so you might want to sit a little farther away. On the other hand, the glasses are inexpensive and lightweight, and passive 3D seems less prone to crosstalk (a 3D artifact where images acquire double images, or ghosts). PCMag.com calls 3D performance "roundly excellent."
There's also Internet streaming with built in Wi-Fi. The lineup of content providers is ample, though not as comprehensive as with sets from some other makers. Still, if there's a content type you are interested in, odds are you will find a provider via the M3D0KD. One serious shortfall for those who want to view their own content is the lack of DLNA support. That means streaming that content is out, though you can view some types via a thumb drive attached to one of the two USB ports.
No discussion of the M3D0KD would be complete without some comments on the remote. You can point-and-click your way through most online content menus well enough, though entering things like user name and passwords are a nuisance if you need to resort to a virtual keyboard and a standard remote. However, the clicker included with the M3D0KD includes a full QWERTY keyboard that makes those things a snap. However, nearly all reviewers find some negatives with some aspect of the remote. The thicker-than-typical form factor makes it uncomfortable to use, PCMag.com complains, while CNET notes that the button could be more responsive. It uses Bluetooth (as well as the more typical IR) to communicate with the set, so line-of-sight issues are nearly never a problem.
The set is advertised as having a 240 Hz scenes per second (SPS) refresh rate. SPS refers to an effective rate that's derived from the way the LCD panel itself interacts with the backlight. While lots of makers have taken to specifying their TVs this way, the actual native refresh rate, and the specification quoted in previous years, is 120 Hz.
Clean, but uninspiring. Those who want a TV that can double as a work of industrial art won't want the M3D0KD. It's not bad-looking, but with its standard though softly rounded black bezel, no one will mistake it for anything but a TV. One disappointment is that the stand does not swivel -- that can cause some problems hooking everything up. Speaking about the combination of the fixed stand and some downward-facing inputs, PC World grouses "Accessing some of these inputs would require a contortionist."
One of the best TV buys of 2012. That sums up the opinions of nearly everyone who has looked at the Vizio M3D0KD. Picture quality is the reason, but it's also because the feature set is well executed.
Some sets, such as the Samsung ES8000, are more feature-laden. Others, such as the Sony HX850, provide very slightly better picture quality. However, no set puts together as complete a package as the M3D0KD. If it were priced the same as the aforementioned sets, it would be worth considering. At its selling price, however, it's a clear top choice.
Credibility Rating: Excellent CNET has struggled to find an LCD TV it truly likes for 2012, and the 55-inch Vizio M3D550KD does have a few flaws. But it also has an impressive lineup of features and even better picture quality, earning it a 4-star rating -- the same as other top-rated sets here, all of which cost hundreds, if not thousands, more.
Review: Vizio M3D550KD Review, David Katzmaier, July 27, 2012
Credibility Rating: Excellent The 55-inch Vizio M3D550KD hauls down the Editors' Choice here among budget TVs, thanks to performance that outdoes anything near its price tag. Blacks and brightness levels are excellent, and colors follow suit. All the must-have features are there and are fairly well executed. Will Greenwald finds only energy efficiency as a small gripe, though it's worth noting that the set still meets Energy Star guidelines.
Review: Vizio M3D550KD, Will Greenwald, May 14, 2012
3. PC World
Review Credibility: Very Good At first glance, the 3.5 star rating might lead you to believe that PC World doesn't think all that much of the 47-inch Vizio M3D470KD it puts through its paces, but reading through the article paints a much different story. Image quality is described as "remarkably strong," and the feature set is well liked. Substandard sound and the lack of DLNA support are the biggest knocks.
Review: Vizio M3D470KD Razor 47-Inch 3D LED HDTV, Lincoln Spector, July 30, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good User reviews of the Vizio M3D0KD are hard to come by, but nearly 20 post their impression of the 55-inch Vizio M3D550KD here. Most seem to be pleased by the set itself, though one has a customer service/warranty issue and is unhappy with how the company responded. The overall rating of the TV is 4.6 stars. The 47-inch version of the TV is also evaluated here; the rating is lower, but that's based on only a small number of reviews.
Review: Vizio M3D550KD, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Aug. 2012