The level of performance one can get for $1500 astounded me. Today I’m looking at a D-series model, also 65 inches and also Ultra HD, that checks many of the same boxes and sells for the rather surprising price of $1000.
Vizio D65u-D2 65” Ultra HD (4K) TV
- 16-zone full-array backlight
- VA panel with high native contrast
- Color-accurate calibrated picture modes
- Vizio Internet Apps Plus smart TV interface for streaming content
- Ultra HD resolution
- HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 support
- Amazing value
Though Vizio has been in the display biz for 14 years now, I only recently managed to review one of their products for the first time. I was seriously impressed by the fantastic performance and value offered by the M65-C1 back in January of this year.
LCD with 16-zone full-array LED backlight
3840 x 2160 pixels
Native refresh rate:
Input signal compatibility:
Up to 3840×2160 @ 60Hz
15 watts x 2 speakers, DTS simulated surround mode
4 HDMI 1.4a, 1 HDMI 2.0 w/HDCP 2.2, 1 shared component/composite
Optical Digital out (DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM), 1 RCA in, 1 RCA out
1 USB, 1 RJ-45, built-in WiFi (802.11ac)
35.77” H x 57.42” W x 10.24” D
One year parts & labor, lifetime tech support
Vizio, Vizio D65u-D2, Ultra HD TV, HD TV Reviews
After that article published I was offered a sample of the D65u-D2. It’s also a 65-inch panel running at Ultra HD (3840×2160) resolution. The only major difference is its lower number of backlight zones, 16 versus the M-series’ 32. It also sells for $500 less. Let’s think about that for a second. The M65 is $1500… for an UltraHD television… with full-array backlighting… That’s extraordinary. So how amazing is it that you can pick up a D-series set with the same size and resolution for only $1000? And all you’re giving up is 16 backlight zones? It’s almost enough to render one speechless. The first 65” Ultra HD TVs were $6000 when introduced just three years ago. Now one can buy the same level of performance for $1000? It sounds crazy I realize, but thanks to Vizio’s tireless pursuit of value, it is a happy reality. So what will you get for that $500 savings? Let’s take a look.
The benefits of full-array backlighting are well-known, especially now that Vizio’s entire product line includes the technology. From the premium Reference-series down to the value-priced D-series I’m reviewing today, every set except the smallest 24-inch screens have multi-zone configurations. The main difference is in the number of zones included. Where the Reference displays have 384, the P-series 128 and the M-series 32; the D-series panel covered here has 16. For a further explanation of how it works, please check out my review of the M65-C1.
Fewer zones mean less flexibility to vary contrast according to content. But is this cause for concern? Considering the relatively small price differences between the different lines, one might just assume it will be better to move up to a more expensive M-series display. But if every dollar is important, saving a couple hundred bucks on a D65u-D2 won’t mean giving up a lot of performance. The gaps in contrast performance and image depth are not tremendous.
Feature-wise, the only thing missing here is HDR. Premium Vizio displays are now supporting Dolby Vision. Of course you’ll need correctly-encoded content to go with them. But if you’re just looking for a fantastic Ultra HD television at a low price, the D65u-D2 is it.
For video tweakers, the same comprehensive menu system is in place with a full color management system and both two and eleven-point grayscale adjustments. And I can report that those features work as well as they did on the M-series display, which is excellently.
You also get Vizio’s Internet Apps smart TV interface to conveniently bring in streamed content from major providers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Vudu and others. Apps are accessed by a dedicated button on the remote and look like an ideal solution for cord-cutters.
The bezel is extremely narrow; so much so that from 10 feet back, the image practically floats in front of you. All you see outside the picture area is a small Vizio logo and a power LED which can be turned off in the menu.
If you’re looking for a super-slim TV, this isn’t it. But the D65 isn’t overly thick either. It will mount easily on the wall thanks to standard 400mm VESA lugs on the back. And all the inputs face either down or sideways to keep cables tidy. The base consists of two cast-aluminum pieces that bolt in place on either side of the panel. They’re extremely steady and solid but you’ll need a surface the full width of the TV to use them.
Inputs are clearly labeled and placed both for type and function. HDMI 5 is the one to pick for HDCP 2.2 if you plan to connect an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. At this writing, only Samsung is actually shipping one but others may have appeared by the time you read this. The other HDMI ports support version 1.4a which means UHD signals top out at 30Hz. There’s also a single analog component input which can also accept composite sources. There are RCA jacks for audio in and out as well as a digital optical output that can pass Dolby and DTS bitstreams back to your receiver or soundbar. Finally an Ethernet jack is provided for a hard-wired network connection. Built-in WiFi is the speedy 802.11ac protocol if you don’t have an RJ-45 cable drop behind your entertainment center.
The remote is decent though I pined for a backlight when watching in the dark. The most commonly-used navigation keys are fairly easy to use by feel though. It’s a small wand with buttons that have a satisfying click. Dedicated controls take you right to Netflix, Amazon or iHeartRadio. A large central key opens the app interface. The nifty keyboard I used with the M-series display is absent here. My only wish is for hotkey access to the Active LED Zones option. This is something I turned on and off according to content. The option is buried three levels deep in the OSD.
Before diving into the picture options and calibration, I first connected the D65u-D2 to my WiFi network. With the TV’s built-in Ethernet, this was simply a matter of entering my router’s password. It’s pretty cool that it is now possible to buy a television and have only a power cord tethering it to the wall. If you want to cut the cord from your cable or satellite service, there’s never been a better time than today.
Vizio doesn’t skimp on image adjustments even on its lowest-priced products. Everything I used to calibrate the M-series display from my previous review is present in the D-series.
The Picture menu is laid out in a logical tree with two main screens of options. Basic controls are up front. For those seeking accuracy and consistency, you’ll want to turn Auto Brightness off. That option uses a bezel-mounted sensor to vary brightness according to room lighting. In most environments, a single calibration with a maximum level around 50fL provides more consistent image fidelity.
The Picture Mode Edit function near the bottom lets one save their settings in a custom picture mode. As you can see, I’ve already named mine something easy to remember.
The second screen has the rest of the image options. Color temp presets are all adjustable in the Color Tuner. If you make a change in RGB levels, a small asterisk appears in the menu to remind you it’s no longer at the stock settings. Black Detail tweaks low-end gamma for better shadow detail. Active LED Zones refers to the zone-dimming dynamic contrast feature. It can be toggled on or off.
Reduce Judder is Vizio’s frame interpolation control. When the slider is all-white as shown there is no processing. Each frame in a 24p signal will be repeated five times. 30Hz is quadrupled and 60Hz is doubled for mathematically correct cadence. Increasing the slider also increases the soap-opera effect.
Clear Action is a backlight strobe where a black frame is inserted between each active one. It serves to reduce motion blur which it does, but at the expense of overall light output and contrast. Reduce Noise will address grain and block artifacts. Game Low Latency is helpful in reducing input lag when you connect a computer or game console and have an itchy trigger finger.
Picture Size & Position adjusts those parameters for analog signals. Film Mode and Color Space are best left on their Auto settings. And Gamma includes presets from 1.8 to 2.4.
Selecting Color Calibration brings up a multi-screen color management system along with built-in test patterns.
The Color Tuner is an extremely easy-to-use way to adjust every possible color parameter. This first screen contains Hue, Saturation and Brightness controls for all six colors along with RGB Gain and Offset. You can rough-in the grayscale here and tweak the CMS to great effect.
To further improve grayscale tracking, RGB controls are available at 11 points, 5-100 percent. The adjustments are very precise and helped me achieve exceptional results during the calibration process.
With all the fervor surrounding Ultra HD displays, it’s easy to forget that many of us still have DVDs in our collections. There are some movies and TV shows that may never appear in a hi-res format but we still want to enjoy them on our fancy new sets. To this end, I pulled out an old Star Trek: Enterprise episode. Now I realize the series is available on Blu-ray but I used a clip from the Fan Collective compilation of Borg-related stories.
To get a visual idea of the D65u-D2’s video processing, I set my Oppo player to Source Direct. Even though it doesn’t pass the 3:2 pulldown test, I didn’t see any related issues in this content. I found out the reason for this later on after talking to Vizio. Details on this are in the Benchmark section. What this TV won’t do however is make your DVDs look like hi-def. While I have no doubt that this display is scaling as well as any other, it can’t create details that aren’t in the original material. It does smooth out jaggies nicely and it avoids annoying line twitter and block artifacts. It also reproduces color faithfully though in the Rec.709 colorspace only. This will make properly-encoded DVDs look a touch red since their Rec.601 gamut is a tad less-saturated.
Using the TV’s built-in speakers revealed that its simulated surround sound does not do a great job with dialog. I found it lowered its level too much and made it seem distant and out of phase. Shutting off the feature for straight two-channel listening was a noticeable improvement. There’s plenty of volume available but the last 15 percent of the slider introduces a fair amount of distortion from cabinet resonance. In my small room, 80 percent was plenty. Bass is reasonable without being chesty and mid-range frequencies were nice and clear.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the latest hot Blu-ray release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I reviewed this disc recently and found that although the image is super-clean and loaded with detail and deep contrast, it emphasizes certain shades of red a little too, well, forcefully. That anomaly is clearly visible on the Vizio indicating its properly neutral color-rendering. A correctly calibrated display will not cover up errors in a transfer and I could see the red issue just as well here as when I watched the disc on my Anthem projector.
Aside from this, the image was thoroughly engaging. I enjoyed a little better contrast with Active LED Zones turned on but blacks were not quite as rich as what I remembered from my M-series experience. With only half the number of zones available, there’s less room for dynamic contrast algorithms to do their thing.
Turning to another modern block-buster, I re-watched the final chapter in the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay, Part 2. I actually preferred watching this film with zone dimming turned off. The movie is fairly drab throughout and I found a little extra punch when I reduced the effective contrast. I know this is counterintuitive, but there it is. There was plenty of detail in either mode and color was unaffected.
But the occasional bright sequence looked far better when the panel was left in its native state. If I owned this TV, I would likely be reaching for the Active LED Zones option on a fairly regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great either way. But on this particular film, it looks a little better when turned off.
I finished up Blu-ray viewing with Toy Story 3. CGI of the Pixar variety doesn’t seem like a fair test but in actuality, many displays can’t adequately do justice to the incredible textures that abound in their films. My favorite example came in a scene where Mr. Potato Head has to rebuild himself using a tortilla. Yeah, it’s as funny as it sounds! Anyway, the closeups of the tortilla show so much intricate surface detail it makes you want to spread ground beef and cheese on the screen.
Texture rendered this well takes on a visceral quality. And that is something I typically only associate with good audio. Not many displays can inspire that particular adjective. And of course, color and contrast looked fantastic as well. I think it’s time to take a break for some Mexican food.
I don’t have any Ultra HD source components available so I turned to streaming from Amazon. Of course I still can’t see UHD streams from Netflix at my current plan level so I had only Amazon to help me with this part of the review.
I am constantly asked the question, “does Ultra HD really look better on an average-sized TV?” The answer is not a simple yes or no. Given identically mastered content, same standards, same compression level; then yes, Ultra HD will look better even on a 65-inch screen at a normal 8-10 foot viewing distance. But content is rarely mastered to the same quality level.
I tried an episode of the gritty police drama Bosch from Amazon Prime. It looked fantastic in Ultra HD. It was so crisp I thought I might cut myself if I touched the screen. This show is filmed and mastered with care and it shows in every detail. Color and contrast are reference-level. To me it seemed as good as the best Blu-rays I’ve seen with just a little something extra. Comparing that to an episode of Orphan Black in regular HD showed an obvious difference. That show, while mastered with equal care, didn’t quite have that last nth degree of sharpness.
I also tried an episode of Downton Abbey since I’m quite familiar with that series’ Blu-ray transfers. Here the streamed version was clearly inferior to the disc version. While color and contrast were excellent, the whole thing had something of a smeared appearance. Color transitions that should have been clean were instead blurred. The subtle shading that adds dimension to an image was almost non-existent. I also saw frequent banding artifacts signifying excessive compression.
There’s no question that Ultra HD is in your future. If you’re shopping for a TV, it’s probably best to pay for the extra pixels. And in some content, it will make a visible difference. But it’s not a universal improvement in image quality for all material. Vizio’s clean artifact-free scaling however will ensure that your streams, discs and broadcast TV will all look the best they can.
Vizio Internet Apps Plus is the interface for all the streamed content you’ll watch on the D65u-D2. New content providers are always being added but the major players are already included. Above is a screen showing all the apps that came on my press sample display. In addition there direct access buttons on the remote for Netflix and Amazon.
Moving through the menus and content selections is easy and intuitive with the navigation keys on the remote. I would have appreciated a backlight though. Once you sign into Amazon, labels are placed on the various choices indicating what Prime subscribers can watch for free and what they have to pay for.
Netflix has a similar interface but puts you right into the category list to help you find what you’re looking for.
Additional apps take you right to weather, news and other information; mostly provided by Yahoo. There are also services from Hulu, Vudu, YouTube and other content providers. And you can keep up with your various social media accounts thanks to Twitter and Facebook links.
To measure the color accuracy of the D65u-D2 I used an i1Pro spectrophotometer, along with an Accupel DVG-5000 signal generator and CalMAN 5.2 to control the instruments and crunch the numbers. Luminance tests were performed with a Spectracal C6 tri-stimulus meter.
The TV ships in its Standard mode with the backlight maxed at level 100. This offers over 100fL output with a vividly-saturated color palette and a bluish white point. It’s an ideal mode for store demos and sports bars but in the home it would be far too harsh for extended viewing.
With grayscale tracking this cool, the TV will appear quite bright but whites will not be neutral. This in turn makes earth-tones like brown, red and green much flatter both in detail and vibrancy. If you need punch in a brightly-lit space, this might work but in most situations, one should at least dial down the color temp. Of course the best choice is to select one of the Calibrated modes.
Like the other Vizio lines, the D-series offers two accurate modes, Calibrated and Calibrated Dark. They come pretty close to standard right out of the box. This kind of performance is hard to find at this price point. There are no visible grayscale errors here. Gamma runs a tad light but that’s easy to fix with a change to the preset. This chart is recorded with Active LED Zones turned off.
Because I like to tweak, I spent quite a bit of time using both the two and eleven-point RGB controls to bring the average error down by 33-percent and gamma now tracks closer to the 2.2 mark as well. You won’t find much better performance in any display at any price. This is pretty impressive.
In my last Vizio TV review, I struggled to find a proper way to measure gamma with the Active LED Zones turned on. Dynamic contrast of any kind is incompatible with the traditional methods. It was suggest to me to try using constant APL patterns rather than the full-field type. Constant APL means that regardless of the light level measured by the meter (in the center of the screen) the overall pattern is of the same average brightness. This presents more consistent content to the algorithms that govern the zone-dimming feature.
My Accupel signal generator won’t support this feature but I found that by measuring 17-percent windows, I could approximate a constant APL pattern. This resulted in the gamma chart below.
I am fully satisfied based on this result that gamma is not affected by the zone-dimming feature. It has an obvious effect on actual content but in the lab environment, it does not change the D65u-D2’s already-accurate tracking.
As above, we’ll start by looking at the out-of-box Standard picture mode.
The super-cool white point pulls not only the secondaries off their hue targets, all colors’ saturation levels are pushed towards higher points. This serves to make color pop more at the expense of fine detail-rendering. The image will look more colorful but it will lack the depth and refinement of a more accurate picture. The resulting errors are all well-above the visible threshold.
The Calibrated mode comes to the rescue with a reasonably low average error of 3.0787dE. The main issues remaining are with red and blue which are now under-saturated until they reach the outside of the triangle. Remember that the CIE chart represents five saturation levels for each color. Plenty of displays can hit the outer targets (100-percent). But few can also hit the inner ones where the vast majority of picture content actually resides.
Vizio’s color management system works as well as any I’ve used on a high-end display. The only thing I couldn’t fix was the luminance of 100-percent blue. That is still too low and results in the only visible error of the bunch. Considering the rest of the results, that’s a minor nit-pick and not worthy of concern. It doesn’t get much better than this; certainly not for $1000.
The D65u-D2 returned nearly the same result as the M-series display I reviewed recently. It is odd that it would pass the 2:2 pulldown test but not the 3:2. I observed the same behavior on the M-series panel I reviewed a few weeks ago so I spoke to Vizio about it. They informed me it was their choice to delay locking on to film-based material to avoid a 2:2/3:2 back-and-forth situation. This is something I’ve seen before and it can produce its own set of annoying artifacts. By waiting a few seconds, the 3:2 cadence stays solid through edits and transitions. I was able to verify this by simply watching a DVD rather than playing a test loop which only lasts three seconds. So this TV, and apparently the M-series as well, can pass the 3:2 test and correctly de-interlace film-based content from standard-def broadcasts and DVDs.
The chroma burst and plate failures for the 4:2:2 signal format aren’t of concern since even the cheapest players output 4:4:4. RGB is still the best choice for the clearest image.
With technologies like HDR on the horizon, contrast is becoming a more important metric in modern displays. The D65u-D2 is not an HDR display but Vizio is dedicated to providing maximum contrast in all its products. To that end, they’ve employed a vertical-alignment panel here that delivers a high native contrast rate. After calibration, with Active LED Zones turned off, I recorded a maximum white level of 50.4248fL, a black level of .0087fL and a contrast ratio of 5781.9:1. In most environment this would be sufficient to render an image worth of the most high-end display or projector. Only an OLED or late-model plasma TV could measure better.
With Active LED Zones turned on I was unable to measure the black level. The backlight didn’t shut off completely as I could see a glow in my completely darkened room. But the C6 was unable to get a reading.
If maximum output is the goal, the Vivid picture mode will pump out 114.3811fL peak. I wasn’t able to measure a black level there either so I have no contrast numbers for that preset.
THE VIZIO D65U-D2 Represents The Best Value In An Ultra HD Display I’ve Seen To-date. With A Full-array Backlight It Out-performs A Lot Of More Expensive Competition.
- Excellent contrast
- Accurate color with great calibration flexibility
- Great image clarity for both FHD and UHD content
- Intuitive app interface for convenient streaming
- Compatible with forthcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray players
- Unparalleled value
- Backlit remote
It’s pretty much impossible to fault a 65-inch Ultra HD television that only costs $1000. Honestly you could stop there and have a winner. But Vizio gives you a 16-zone full-array backlight, a high-contrast VA panel, a slick smart TV interface and the same high level of color accuracy and performance I found in their M-series display.
My comment about the remote is a nit-pick. It seems to be a tradition that only mid-priced and premium televisions even have a hope of earning a backlight. But I am always hopeful. When a TV performs well, more people will want to watch it in the dark for the best possible image quality. And that means they’ll need a backlit remote.
That aside, I am happy to recommend the Vizio D65u-D2 as the best entry-level Ultra HD television on the market right now. It gives away nothing in the performance arena. My tests showed an extremely accurate and well-engineered panel with accuracy previously found only in high-end displays. And much of that is accessible without calibration. Thanks to the Calibrated and Calibrated Dark picture modes, a new user can simply dial in the backlight level to taste and enjoy many years of Ultra HD bliss. And if part of that rapture means ending your relationship with a cable or satellite provider, the Internet Apps interface will deliver plenty of high-quality streamed content in both full HD and Ultra HD.
If you plan to add a new Ultra HD Blu-ray player to your rack, the D65u-D2 will accommodate it through its HDMI 2.0 w/HDCP 2.2 input. Even at this incredibly low price point, Vizio has left nothing off the table.
In the budget UHD display category it seems to me there is nothing better right now. The D65u-D2 receives my highest recommendation.