Vizio M-Series Quantum 4K UHD smart TV review: Great color, moderate HDR

The overall picture of this affordable TV is excellent, though the HDR effect is relatively mild and there's no motion compensation or Bluetooth.

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Vizio

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At a Glance
  • Vizio M-Series Quantum smart TV (65-inch class)

Vizio’s M-Series Quantum is one of those more affordable TVs with outstanding color that I’ve been warning Samsung and Sony about. It delivers very good image quality, especially for the price (at press time, the 65-inch-class M658-G1 I reviewed was going for $748 at Amazon), though HDR isn’t quite as impressive as it is on the competing Hisense H8F. Also, for some reason, Vizio doesn’t offer motion compensation or Bluetooth.

Regardless, this is an excellent TV image for the money, and it should be on every budget shopper’s short list.

Design and specs

The M-Series Quantum has a thin bezel, though it’s not bezel-less as Vizio’s website indicates. The resolution is 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels), and the model I tested was a 65-inch class (64.5-inches measured diagonally). The unit is approximately 2.4 inches thick (just shy of 11-inches deep with the feet attached) and weighs in at right around 52 pounds. Wall-mounting is via an integrated 400mm x 200mm VESA attachment point.

Vizio talks about a 120Hz effective refresh rate, but the hardware refresh rate is actually 60Hz. There’s a layer of quantum dots that are responsible for the outstanding color, and the TV runs Vizio’s own SmartCast operating system, which includes a well-designed remote control app for Android and iOS, if you don’t mind creating an account to use it. At one point, Vizio tried ditching remotes and did a lot of good work on said app.

All the most popular streaming channels—including YouTube and Netflix—are onboard, so don’t let the proprietary OS throw you. Nearly all the usual smart TV perks are available, including a curated set of internet TV channels (WatchFree), Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support, mirroring of devices, and so on.  Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast streaming are supported as well. 

The M658-G1 has no integrated DLNA client; Samsung, LG, and others do. Plex is available for streaming from NAS boxes and the like. More on that in a bit.

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The M658-G1 has all the usual ports. The HDMI is 2.0b and HDCP 2.2 is supported.

The ports residing on the back of the unit include two HDMI 2.0b, optical digital audio output, analog RCA audio output, coaxia, and ethernet facing downward. A USB port, two HDMI ports, and composite inputs face to the side. Smart of Vizio to make the least permanent connections the easiest to get to. There’s an 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter onboard, but there’s no Bluetooth radio, so forget wireless headphones and the like. 

Interface and remote

Vizio apologized for their bundled standalone remote, but I wasn’t sure why. It’s betterr-looking than most, and suitably minimalist. True, it’s topped by advertising/streaming shortcuts, but that’s par for the course with even top-tier remotes these days. And if you happen to use those services, they’re very handy. 

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Vizio’s remote is small, the layout is logical, and it does the trick. Transport controls would be welcome, though. 

The onscreen SmartCast interface is more responsive than on past models, but there’s still some lag compared to other TVs I’ve reviewed. It’s not aggravating, but then again, I only lived with the TV for a week. Otherwise, it’s easy to navigate and everything is laid out logically. The settings menu is separate and a bit more facile. I particularly like that you don’t constantly need to drill down to change settings.

I must also compliment Vizio on the speed of the over the air (OTA) channel changes. There was no lag at all in that department.

Performance

The M-Series color is top-notch, thanks to the aforementioned quantum dots and the overall processing is greatly improved from what I saw with the Vizio P-Series last year.  

The M-Series is marketed as HDR and indeed, it supports Dolby Vision as well as HDR10 and HLG. But it doesn’t render HDR as vividly as, say, the Hisense H8F, or a QLED or OLED because it doesn’t have a ton of peak brightness. Both our meters measured nits at around 530 max, which is around 150 to 200 nits more than non-HDR TVs but a couple hundred shy of what I consider suitable, and well shy of the 1,000 nits that the industry recommends. Five hundred is enough to make the HDR effect noticeable, it’s just not enough to really blow you away.

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Happily, the color in this image isn’t far from being accurate. A layer of quantum dots assures that.

Regardless, because the M-Series does pretty well with the 90-zone array backlighting, it all works. And the M-Series avoids some of the pitfalls that generally accompany a lot of peak brightness, such as vivid moiré and shimmer in detailed pans. There is some, but it’s not as obvious as with many brighter TVs, even top-tier models. And kudos to Vizio for finally fixing the issue where the edges of bright anti-aliased titles overlaid on video danced annoyingly. 

Now for my biggest picture complaint: I am generally at odds with Hollywood types who think motion compensation is evil. I have quite a bit of 2160p material featuring quick pans, and without compensation, it’s ugly. I don’t know if Vizio bowed to peer pressure, or just made another or their odd marketing decisions (like foregoing remotes), but there is no motion compensation on the M-Series. There’s a Film mode, but turning it off did nothing. 

I also ran into some issues playing back material from a USB thumb drive. The app, which is rather primitive-looking and very slow enumerating files, actually crashed when I tried to view 4K UHD images for color measurement. I had to view them using an Oppo external Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The app was better with movies, but it’s obvious Vizio hasn’t spend much time on its media player.

And, of course, as I told you earlier, you must install Plex to stream media from a NAS box or the like. DLNA is easy. Plex requires an account, and has never performed as reliably or universally as DLNA servers in my testing. 

The M658-G1’s sound is loud and clear, but as with most TVs, there’s not a lot of bass. It’ll do for casual listening, but you’ll definitely want to hook up something more sonorous eventually. 

Picture aside, there is one thing to know about the M658-G1 before you buy it—in my testing, the TV would boot if SmartCast was the input and there was not internet connection. All smart TVs rely on the internet for advanced features, such as channel guides, curated internet channels, web browsing and the like. But they should function well without one. SmartCast should be smarter than that.   

Buying advice

For most users, the vast majority of the time, the M658-G1 is a great TV for not a lot of money. You certainly won’t find better color in this price range, and it really doesn’t get much better in the top tier. Bottom line: I enjoyed watching this TV under almost all circumstances.

Just note the lack of motion compensation, streaming via DLNA, and Bluetooth. If any of those are important to you, look elsewhere. And as to the internet connection issue, hopefully that will be fixed soon.

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At a Glance
  • A lot of TV for the money: Very good image quality and color as good or better than sets costing twice as much. Vizio's SmartCast interface has also matured. The lack of motion compensation, Bluetooth, and native DLNA streaming will lose a few fans.

    Pros

    • Great color and a generally nice picture
    • Affordable for the image quality
    • Supports Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, Alexa, Google Assistant, and more

    Cons

    • No motion compensation or Bluetooth support
    • No DLNA client
  
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