When it comes to hitting the ideal balance between price and performance, VIZIO is at the top of its game. The P65Q9 Ultra HD TV, new for 2021, delivers reference-level color accuracy with a large gamut, every flavor of HDR, 1200 nits brightness, a high-speed gaming engine, and VIZIO SmartCast for streaming convenience. You also get a 144-zone local dimming backlight with a high-contrast VA panel. The price? $1,300.
VIZIO P65Q9 Ultra HD TV Review
- 65-inch Ultra HD VA panel
- Quantum Dot backlight with 144 dimming zones
- Gaming engine supports adaptive sync and 120Hz refresh rate
- Accurate color out of the box
- HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and HLG support
- 1200 nits peak brightness in HDR mode
I’ve begun many articles by musing about the incredible level of display performance one can get for the money today. When I started in this business fifteen years ago, a premium 42-inch LCD panel cost around $4,000. The Pioneer Elite plasma I bought in 2009 cost me $2,900 and that was down from its original MSRP of $4,500. Today, I can buy a 65-inch VIZIO that out-performs that TV in many ways for $1,300. That’s extraordinary.
The P65Q9 is from VIZIO’s top tier line which for 2021 includes three displays, the P65 reviewed here the P75Q9 75-inch panel and the P85QX with an 85-inch panel, 792 dimming zones, and a 3000-nit backlight. The P65 packs in features for every kind of entertainment, movies, TV shows, and gaming. For cord-cutters, there’s SmartCast which is a refined streaming platform boasting nearly 100 apps including Apple TV+. Gamers will enjoy a 120Hz refresh rate with FreeSync Premium with adaptive sync to hook up the latest PlayStation and Xbox consoles. Videophiles will appreciate the large color gamut courtesy of a Quantum Dot film and a 144-zone local dimming backlight with HDR peaks over 1200 nits. And of course, there’s the excellent out-of-box accuracy and image fidelity VIZIO is known for.
65-inch Vertical Alignment (VA) LCD
Resolution and Aspect ratio:
3840 x 2160 pixels 16:9 (1.78:1)
120Hz, VRR support
Quantum Dot, full array zone dimming – 144 zones
10-bits (1.07 billion colors)
High Dynamic Range:
Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, Hybrid Log-Gamma
Input signal compatibility:
up to 3840×2160 @ 120Hz
1 optical out, 1 3.5mm out
1 USB 2.0, 1 RJ-45, built-in Wi-Fi (802.11ac)
The P65Q9 starts with a high contrast VA panel. VA or Vertical Alignment has a pixel structure most advantageous for contrast. It can deliver around five times as much dynamic range as the other most popular LCD technology, In-Plane Switching (IPS). This is thanks to its superior black levels. As a light valve display, VA can more effectively block the backlight’s output. To enhance this capability, VIZIO used a full-array local dimming backlight with 144 zones. While this is a lower count than the PX65-G1 I reviewed two years ago, it still delivers superb contrast for both SDR and HDR content with deep blacks, bright highlights, and no compromises in the detail department. HDR is supported in every currently available flavor – HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision.
To extend the color gamut, VIZIO uses a Quantum Dot film. This technology places a layer of chemically deposited dots between the backlight and TFT layers. The dots give off light of their own when excited by the white LEDs behind them. This effectively extends the color gamut to cover over 100% of DCI-P3. That color is accurate too. Every VIZIO I’ve tested is almost spot-on out of the box with little to no need for calibration. But tweakers can still delight in the P65Q9’s full color management system and 20-point white balance controls.
Gamers will enjoy playing the latest titles with the P65Q9’s support for Ultra HD at 120Hz with adaptive sync. There’s also a low-input lag setting which in my tests measured very well at 32ms. That includes the lag produced by the mouse through a gaming PC. That figure is about equal to what I’ve measured from 120Hz Ultra HD computer monitors.
Physically, the P65 follows today’s trend of panels without borders. OK, there’s a thin border around the top and sides of 10mm. On its included stand legs, it sits just one inch off the furniture.
If you prefer to wall-mount, a 400x200mm lug pattern can be found in the back for a bracket. The front layer is shiny and will pick up some room reflections, but an optical coating prevents them from reducing picture quality. Just watch out for specific light sources like table lamps or sunny windows. If you install the P65Q9 in a bright room, it has plenty of light output available, over 1200 nits in HDR mode or in the SDR Bright picture preset.
For video input, you get four HDMI 2.1 ports, one of which supports eARC and Dolby TrueHD. Two of them support Ultra HD signals at 48Gbps while the other two go to 18Gbps. Also on the side panel is USB 2.0 and Ethernet. You can hardwire the P65Q9 to your network or use its 802.11ac Wi-Fi. If you need to connect a legacy audio system, there are 3.5mm analog and optical digital outputs.
The remote is a small and slender wand with basic controls only. You get a navigation pad which controls the menu system and SmartCast. Up top are quick-access buttons for Netflix, Amazon, and others along with VIZIO’s WatchFree service. You can also use voice commands by pressing the mic button. The remote is not backlit. The P65Q9 can also be controlled from the VIZIO SmartCast Mobile app on your phone or tablet. It’s a free download from Apple or Google’s app store.
After bolting the spindly but solid stand legs in place, I set the P65Q9 up on a bench in my theater. It is feasible to simply plug the TV into power, run through the brief setup routine, and watch the vast array of content available from SmartCast. You needn’t connect a single wire to the display if your Wi-Fi is quick enough. I have 200mb/s service which is more than enough to stream Ultra HD with surround audio and HDR. For my review, I connected a Panasonic DP-UB9000 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
I spent some time exploring the SmartCast interface which is very familiar to me since it’s been a fixture on VIZIO TVs for many years. I cut the cord at the beginning of 2021 and have not looked back. I can get way more TV than I’ll ever be able to watch from Apple TV+, Disney+, Paramount+, Amazon, and Netflix. I logged into my accounts from the P65Q9 and was quickly able to access my saved shows. The TV had no trouble with the HDR10, and Dolby Vision formats commonly found in the latest Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+ content.
Though typical VIZIO TVs do not need calibration in their two Calibrated picture modes, I went for it anyway. One thing I discovered right away was the Enhanced Viewing Angle option. This is turned on by default and it makes subtle tweaks to color and gamma in order to improve picture quality from off-center viewing positions. The feature works as advertised but there is a slight reduction in horizontal resolution which I was able to confirm using test patterns. The difference is minuscule though and I couldn’t see any difference in clarity when viewing actual content. The only thing to note is you must decide before calibration whether you want to use the feature. When it’s on, you’ll barely need to change anything if you use either the Calibrated or Calibrated Dark modes. When it’s off, a lot more adjustment is needed. I turned it off for the best possible picture but had to work harder to dial in color and grayscale. It’s all detailed in my tests below.
The quickest way to check out Dolby Vision content is on Netflix. After signing into my account, I went straight for Formula One Drive to Survive. Seasons 2 and 3 are shot in Dolby Vision and look sensational. Red Ferraris drip with color that you won’t see on an SDR display. The extra contrast makes the picture pop; you’ll want to reach out and touch everything you see on the screen. It’s a visual feast. I never saw any signs of compression. Even the in-car footage which has occasional breakup stayed solid. The P65Q9’s video processing managed to clean up the more challenging material.
I also checked out a new Netflix documentary series called Heist. The first two episodes take place in Las Vegas and there, I could see the warm hazy colors that define that city’s skyline. Shots of the streets showed a sun-drenched landscape that almost had me reaching for an iced tea and a cold wet towel. The actors’ skin tones looked perfectly natural against an almost stylized backdrop. The picture was bright and three-dimensional.
Switching over to my Panasonic DP-UB9000, I first checked out a multi-burst pattern to see the effect of the Enhanced Viewing Angle option. Though I could see a tiny reduction in horizontal resolution, it was so small that I decided to leave it on for both SDR and HDR modes. Contrast seemed slightly better with it on though I could not measure a difference.
Dolby Vision is surprisingly rare on today’s Ultra HD Blu-ray releases, but I always have my trusty copy of Shazam! ready for a viewing. There is plenty of material to showcase both the format and a capable display. The color stood out in hues like Shazam’s deep red suit, white cape, and bright golden trim. He leapt from the screen in more ways than one. Nighttime scenes played with a black backdrop that was deep but not quite as true as an OLED. LCD has come a long way for sure but it’s not quite to that level yet. The zone dimming helped make the letterbox bars disappear though which set off the picture nicely. Motion processing kept action smooth and clear with no signs of motion blur.
HDR10 is well represented by the first JJ Abrams Star Trek. Space scenes popped with bright stars and beautifully colored nebulae. The sequence on snowy Delta Vega was crystal clear with true whites loaded with detail. The red monster that chases Kirk down a hillside was a most foreboding shade, very scary!
Blade Runner 2049 is loaded with misty material that can easily become murky on lesser displays. The P65Q9 had no trouble showing detail in aerial shots of Los Angeles where acres of rooftops slid by in a dark fog. Closeups of Officer K’s face showed razor stubble just begging for a visit from Gillette. Blood had a deep shade that could only be seen on a wide-gamut display. Textures like stone, dust, and dirt were tactile and realistic.
All the movies I watched had Dolby Atmos soundtracks which were converted to two-channel using DTS Virtual:X. Though there isn’t a lot of bass, the soundstage is very wide, and some cues seem to move overhead thanks to clever processing. Though I’ll always prefer a full-range multi-channel speaker system for my theater, the P65Q9 delivers excellent sound from its built-in speakers.
The P65Q9 has two calibrated modes called appropriately, Calibrated and Calibrated Dark. I chose Calibrated as the basis for my tests. The zone dimming and dynamic contrast options were turned off. The Enhanced Viewing Angle options are turned on by default and as I noted earlier, turning it off affects both grayscale and gamut tracking.
I turned Enhanced Viewing Angle (EVA) off because it reduces horizontal resolution slightly. It’s nearly impossible to spot the difference in actual content but I could see a subtle difference in one-pixel burst patterns. Unfortunately, it changes color too making the P65Q9 more difficult to calibrate. With gamma set to the default value of 2.1, the picture looks a bit light and washed out with a distinct red tint.
In the gamut chart, you can see that green is off-hue and blue is over-saturated at the triangle’s perimeter. The green error causes cyan to be under-saturated. This is not a huge issue but it’s not typical of VIZIO TVs to need much, if any, adjustments in their Calibrated modes.
The easiest way to get a great picture from the P65Q9 without calibration is to leave EVA on and set gamma to 2.2. No further adjustment is needed. You can see that grayscale tracking is visually perfect except for a slight red error at the 80% step. Gamma tracks straight at all its presets and 2.2 adds depth and dimension to the image.
On the gamut chart, you can see much better performance with green that’s very close to its targets and excellent tracking from the other colors. Blue is still a bit over-saturated though. But an average error of 2.10dE is very low.
Being an extreme video geek, I chose to leave EVA off for the highest possible resolution and work with the VIZIO’s excellent 2 and 20-point white balance system. I had to adjust many of the steps individually, but the end result is reference level with an average grayscale error of just 0.70dE. Gamma tracks well at 2.19 with only a slight dip at 80%.
I made a few tweaks in the Color Tuner (CMS) but the end result is nearly the same. I went for a better balance of color luminance values which has a subtly positive effect. Overall performance is excellent, just what I’d expect from any VIZIO display.
The EVA option has the same effects in HDR mode but there, I decided to leave it on because it provided a tiny bit of extra contrast. The zone dimming options were set to medium. That meant I had very little work to do for a near-perfect calibration.
In the HDR Calibrated mode, grayscale tracking is almost flawless. I could see a slight red tint near the tone-map transition point at 70% brightness. On either side, it’s perfect with no visible errors. Luminance is a tad bright but lowering brightness clipped too much shadow detail, so I left that and the tone mapping sliders alone. I’m picking nets here.
With a few tweaks in the 20-point white balance tuner, I achieved perfect HDR grayscale tracking. The EOTF is unchanged. It doesn’t get much better than this for any HDR-capable display.
I’m only showing the calibrated charts here because they are identical to the default ones. My adjustments to grayscale tracking had no visible effect on the gamut results.
DCI-P3 color tracking is very good with all colors but cyan on or close to their targets. Cyan is a bit under-saturated but I couldn’t see this error in actual content.
Rec.2020 tracking is very good too with only slight under-saturation as the target level increases. Blue over-achieves a little and takes a turn off-hue at the 100% point.
After the SDR calibration, I set the backlight to 176.6024 nits (around 50fL) and turned off the zone dimming. The black level was 0.035 nit making the panel’s native contrast ratio 5043.5:1. When using any setting of Local Contrast and Active Full Array, the backlight shut off completely when displaying a 0% field pattern, so contrast became unmeasurable.
For maximum brightness in SDR mode, the Bright preset delivers 1102.9076 nits when measuring a 25% window pattern.
In HDR mode, I measured window patterns again and got a peak white value of 1207.654 nits. Black was unmeasurable because the backlight turns off when the zone dimming is engaged, and a 0% field pattern is displayed.
SDR – Only try these if EVA is turned off. If you leave it on, only change gamma to 2.2.
- Mode Calibrated
- Backlight 35
- Brightness 47
- Contrast 50
- Color 50
- Tint 0
- Sharpness 20
- Color Temp Warm
- Gamma 2.2
- Enhanced Viewing Angle Off
- Color Tuner
- R G B C M Y
- H 0 0 0 0 3 0
- S 12 0 0 0 0 0
- B 9 -4 34 0 23 1
- WB Tuner
- Rgain -7
- Ggain 5
- Bgain 1
- Roff 1
- Goff 0
- Boff 1
- R G B
- 100% -9 5 2
- 90% 9 -5 -7
- 80% 0 0 -1
- 70% 0 3 0
- 60% 7 2 -4
- 50% 4 2 -2
- 40% 0 0 0
- 30% 0 0 -1
- 20% 0 0 0
- 10% 0 0 0
- Mode Calibrated
- Tone Mapping 50
- Brightness 50
- Contrast 50
- Color 55
- Tint 0
- Sharpness 20
- Color Temp Warm
- Gamma 2.2
- Local Contrast Medium
- Active Full Array Medium
- Enhanced Viewing Angle On
- WB Tuner
- Rgain -3
- Ggain 2
- Bgain 0
- Roff 0
- Goff 0
- Boff 0
- 70% R-8 G-6 B3
The VIZIO P65Q9 delivers reference level accuracy and a superb picture for just $1300. With the latest gaming features, it makes a great display for every kind of entertainment.
- Bright, sharp picture
- Excellent out-of-box color accuracy
- 120Hz and VRR for gaming
- Support for every HDR format
- Slick SmartCast streaming interface
- A backlit remote
- More backlight dimming zones
While no display is perfect, the P65Q9 included, it’s hard to fault a TV that delivers so much for just $1,300. With a bright, sharp, and colorful picture, it looks better than premium displays from a few years ago while costing far less. Gaming features like low input lag, 120Hz, and adaptive sync mean console users can enjoy the latest games on their PlayStation 5 or Xbox X. And whether you still have cable TV or not, the SmartCast streaming platform is one of the best and most refined solutions out there.
I was slightly disappointed to see fewer dimming zones than the last P-series TV I reviewed but in practice, the difference was minor. All content, especially HDR, looked great with bright bold color and deep contrast. While you won’t mistake the P65Q9, or any other LCD, for an OLED, it provides most of the benefits at half the cost.
The last few years have seen a dizzying array of new video formats, Ultra HD, HDR, Dolby Vision; they all make the experience better and tempt us to upgrade. If you’ve been waiting for things to settle and refine, that day has come. With everything available in a 65-inch TV for $1,300, it’s hard to imagine what could be better or cheaper. The VIZIO P65Q9 Ultra HD TV comes Highly Recommended.