VIZIO M50-D1I received a VIZIO M50-D1 50” SmartCast Home Theater Display in exchange for posting a review.

I’m under no obligation to be nice to the product, just factually correct. If you’re wondering why I haven’t been around Pocketables too much the past few weeks it’s been that I’ve been working primarily on this, well that, work, and the wife getting robbed sort of threw a monkey wrench into things.

Since I am fairly concerned with maintaining my reputation as not a shill, I will note that the agreed terms I could call this product a lot of names and it’s still mine. Also with how many questions I hit them up with I do not expect they want to offer me another product as I believe they see me as the Annoying Orange of tech reviewers now.

Setup

VIZIO M50-D1I initially set this up using the included legs. These were the only thing that required a tool that was not included and were pretty easy to screw on except I had one screw out of four that refused to go into a hole. It probably would have had I worked at it and been planning to keep the feet, but I wasn’t particularly worried as everything about the feet were secure enough with one screw.

Like most TVs in its class the power cord is on one side and the inputs are on another, which annoys me as trying to do any sort of cable management you’ve got five cables here and that one nearly three feet away. The power cable is also not particularly long so using that three feet to run it behind the TV leaves maybe two or three feet left of power cable. There’s no built in cable management or ties that help with this.

The M50-D1 ships with a little Android tablet you can use as a remote control/casting device. I signed into my Google account on it, then had to update Play Services and a few other things, then was able to launch the VIZIO control app which needed to download a firmware update for the TV once it was up and running. All in all with all the updates and downloads on a 250mbit connection (yes, I’ve got business class, why do you ask?) I believe I was up and running with the newest everything in 20 minutes. Most of that was update time, not download time.

The tablet

VIZIO M50-D1The tablet is kind of a sweet little Android device. Seems fairly responsive, but it’s slower than my phone (HTC 10,) less storage than my three year old tablet (Nexus 9,) and generally is included I believe with the thinking that you’re going to use it mostly as a remote, which can be great.

It would be a perfect remote in my opinion if it had an IR blaster. The remote can control your display over WiFi and you can cast content from YouTube, Netflix, and pretty much everything that can go to a Chromecast with the built in Chromecast Ultra-spec tech, but if you’re dealing with a dumb TV tuner box that uses IR to change channels, power up, etc you are out of luck unless you want to purchase a separate IR blaster.

The lack of an IR blaster is one of those oversights I can’t unsee and makes the tablet a lot less useful to me. Personally I’d rather use my phone to control the display.

The tablet does have a headphone port, so I could get one of those cheapy IR blasters that plug into the audio jacks though.

It’s also got wireless Qi charging and a stand, which is kind of cool and looks slick.

The IR remote

VIZIO M50-D1The unit comes with a little scaled down remote with between seven and eleven buttons depending on how you’re counting. Power, link, picture mode, aspect ratio, input, mute, volumes and channel up and down, and play/pause.

I’m uncertain why there’s a CH up and down as the TV doesn’t have a tuner, but perhaps there are apps coming that can use it. I see no way to assign them to the satellite tuner box I have attached. Probably for a tuner on a different model or some sort of ARC-style device feedback.

I’ve found that the only thing I use the IR remote for after a month of using this product is to change the picture mode for my XBOX One S from game to vivid or calibrated when I’m watching UHD.

The built in speakers

No. I’ll add that I’ve only met one flat display in my life with speakers I like. I’m using the built in ones as this is in my bedroom and my wife objects to the installation of a speaker system. Consider strongly that you’ll want a sound bar, and unfortunately it looks like there’re no mount points to attach a good one to the unit (although you can put them on a wall).

The OS

Although I write for an Android-centric blog about Android and Chromecast, this is my first interaction with an embedded Chromecast (of Chromecast Ultra spec.) If you’re familiar with Chromecast, this has it built in and as the firmware can be updated, it means it will change and become more or less useful as time goes on.

I’ve been playing with a Roku TV also and have found my favorite app Plex works significantly better over on that platform. This may be fixed in a Plex update, or maybe something is misconfigured on my server, but it appears DirectPlay doesn’t kick in often and my computer has to unleash the hamsters on my computer to transcode.

As a streaming device, other than Plex’s transcoding everything, and Amazon’s lockout of Chromecast compatibility, it functions exactly like you’d expect a higher-def Chromecast to move along at.

There is a kids mode in the tablet app, however you’ll find that as far as a parenting tool, you’ll need to lock down devices that can cast to it rather than expecting it to handle things.

One thing to note is that this smart display is more of a monitor/receiver than an interactive device. You’ll need the tablet or smartphone, or some HDMI input if you’re wanting to send content to the display. There do not appear to be any built-in apps that let you browse for content, which I imagine is probably why they include the tablet.

Troubleshooting

Have you ever been in a house with a WiFi signal that gets you 200mbit to the internet at point A but you take four steps and you’re lucky to get 6mb? That’s my house. Take a guess where I put the TV.

I had serious problems when I first set the TV up streaming. It was choking, blocky, 4K streamed videos looked like garbage, but the signal was strong.

As with a Chromecast, there are no onscreen indicators when things look bad that there’s a bandwidth problem, and as signal strength is not an indicator of WiFi speed I had no idea that my visual woes were caused by incredibly low bandwidth until I took my phone and SpeedTest and just checked that one corner of the room for bandwidth and discovered it was terrible.

You can do a bandwidth check with the included tablet/software controlling a diag routine built into the display. However this seems to be testing to a fairly low bandwidth server from what I can tell and it’s a very short test so you don’t get to the type of sustained bandwidth you’re probably wanting to measure. Testing on a wired or wireless connecting using the app universally lists as sub-UHD bandwidth even though it works just fine with Netflix or locally.

It would be nicer if there were some sort of overlay diagnostic mode you could enter on the display that would show you when you’re requesting more data than your pipe is capable of delivering. Maybe just a tablet to TV bandwidth test along the lines of the Chromecast speed test app (Speed4Cast).

The display has an Ethernet port, so although I rectified the issue with WiFi I also went ahead and eventually went wired as I have so many WiFi devices talking at all times it’s absurd (and trying to track down what’s broken where, this removes one more item from my list).

Field of gray

The unit has 32 lighting zones for localized dimming which allows you to get a significantly higher dynamic range and looks great for most things. That feature will stick out like a sore thumb if you’ve got a grey background and some white text on the screen and will make it appear almost to be banding in those zones. Pretty sure this is the same issue for anything on the market doing localized dimming though.

VIZIO M50-D1

Nothing wrong, just gray levels change due to localized dimming. You can disable that with other modes. I’d show a fantastic picture here of UHD HDR working, but it looks bad as a photo.

I noticed this while poking around in a game’s setting and realizing that the HDR plus solid white text on a dim gray background were differently grayed than their neighboring grays. Not a big issue, you can simply turn off the HDR logic and switch to computer or game display, but it was interesting to see it demonstratively meh an image.

Should be noted that now that I’ve seen the gray and white zone change it can’t be unseen on other TVs. Was an interesting demonstration of what’s going on behind the scenes. Makes moving pictures look amazing, but white text on gray evidently doesn’t play nicely in HDR mode.

This isn’t a problem, just an observation that you can actually see all the spots it’s trying to do dimming.

Put it on a wall

VIZIO M50-D1

The wall – phase 1

The display does not appear to have a toddler tether or anything to make it happy on a rickety table. I’ve looked in the manual and searched on the back and not spotting anything. I’ve got a three year old and a one year old and it was on a shaky table. I grabbed a $25 near universal VESA wall mount from Amazon as I knew what was going to happen if I left this at grub levels – I was going to find a kid under a fairly light TV saying she was sorry, and I didn’t particularly want that to happen.

The unit was light enough that it could have been wall-mounted by one person, however I had help who just lifted and dropped it in in one shot and then we both were pretty amazed how easy it was. 32 pounds of flat screen is pretty easy to wall mount.

I’m not seeing the specs for the VESA mount, but it uses a C style unless I’m mistaken. Universal mount I got online fit it no problems. I’m told it works with 400 x 400 or 400 x 600 standards, that said, I’m guessing it’s pretty easy to find.

The main course

VIZIO M50-D1Warning: the following review is by a red/green colorblind tech with better than 20/20 vision. As such I can’t reliably comment on the color reproduction. Wife claims it’s the right color pallet, looks good to me. I decided to compare four things on both the M50-D1 and my 55inch TCL 55up120 I purchased at Costco.

The first involved watching DirecTV and a meh-bandwidth channel that my wife wanted to watch (E!) and seeing how the native upscaling/dynamic range adjustments, black levels, etc fared. Based on my observations it looked better on the M50-D1 than my other TV (TCL 55up150,) which is also a 2016 model and can be found at club stores.

Three comparisons involved an XBOX One S playing two different UHD movies (Watchmen The Ultimate Cut 4K, and The Martian 4K,) and also Gears of War 4 completely through when it was eventually released.

Watchmen I really didn’t notice a difference between the two TVs, it seemed dark, grainy, and somewhat unpolished on both. I think that’s what they were going for as the animated segments were crisp. The Martian ended up being spectacular, being able to see grains of sand, a range of colors and textures I’d not seen outside of the Consumer Electronics Showcase on several thousand dollar displays.

I’m guessing the big issue with The Martian looking better is the HDR display. The XBOX One S claims the M50-D1 supports HDR, and my TCL 55up120 TV it says I’m out of luck in that regard.

Gears of War 4 looked slightly better on the M50-D1, but not anything particularly stunning. I tried a few modes (vivid, game, custom,) and it otherwise looked pretty decent in all. I *think* in game mode I noticed a lack of blurring on the M50-D1 with the 120 refresh, but I may just be tripping here.

Thoughts

On value I’ll point out that I’m comparing a MSRP $849.99 50inch 2016 4K UHD HDR display to a 55inch 4K UHD TV that I picked up at a club store for $479.99. Obviously MSRPs don’t mean much as the TV is currently selling for whatever it’s selling for now (as of this review, $700, while my other TV is now currently rocking a $580 price tag, so I’m going to call this a $120 price difference for 5” less, lack of a TV tuner, better picture, and a 6” tablet).

For me the tablet is a non-issue as I have more Android devices than you can shake a stick at and this tablet does little that any of them can’t do, except look cool while wirelessly charging. The 8gb storage is very limiting and unless I’m mistaken it’s not expandable.

A tablet with this particular set of specs ranges between $37 and $60 bucks from what I can locate so let’s call it a $50 accessory that ships with the unit and that puts you at about $70 over one of the best deals on a good display I have run across.

My wife has pointed out that if you aren’t particularly married to technology like I am that addition of a dedicated TV tablet would be great. She used her parents repeatedly as an example.

And the picture is great in my opinion… however I’m a colorblind guy who’s going for crispness and black levels, and your eyes may vary.

Dislikes / room for improvement

VIZIO M50-D1I’m not a fan of the power input being on the far side of the TV. I’d like to have all my cables going down so I can sleeve them on one side, but this seems to be industry standard on all flat screens.

While the two rear-mounted USB ports are fairly accessible, a 6” extension cable would have been nice for the pesky odd sized items. Especially since the ports are recessed a few inches back from the edges of the TV.

If you slap in a USB stick with a couple of movies on it there’s currently no evident way to control it other than a play/pause on the IR remote. I’m told nearly nobody uses multiple movies on a USB, but who knows. My other unit I can select the media to play, play/pause/rewind, etc.

I really hate they shipped a tablet with no IR blaster to handle your remote casting needs. This means the unit ships with two remote controls (depending on your definition,) neither of them may be capable of controlling your IR-based tuner/audio/etc. Then again, that’s just another $10 or so for an IR blaster or universal remote.

Naming the inputsI was not a fan of the leg screws. Would like to see hand-tighten screws as opposed to having to break out the drill.

The built-in speakers pain me, however this is a near universal complaint I have against every flat screen I’ve ever played with. The only exception being a very expensive and amazing Bose brand flat screen.


While HDCP is v2.2 across the machine, the HDMI ports are not all the same. Port 1 is a v2.0, ports 2-4 are v1.4. The clock rate on the first claims to be 600MHz and on 2-4 it’s listed as 340MHz. Realistically I did not see much of a difference, but as 4K inputs grow you’re probably going to be having to decide which product gets the higher speed port. I’m basing this entirely on specs I’m seeing, I had no problem with this.

Riffing off of the above according to the VIZIO app HDMI color subsampling (Chroma subsampling?) is only available on HDMI1. I believe this means your UHD HDR content needs to be tacked onto the first input or it’s not going to look as good.

The display does not appear to auto-tune to an HDMI input when I power up a device. Not a deal breaker but would be nice to power on device X and have the unit ask if I wanted to switch to it. It does appear to switch to a USB stick when inserted, but that seems to be the only switching it does on its own.

You can name inputs in the app and they’ll appear on the display when you’re switching so you don’t have to remember which input has what.

Overall

I am loathe to do star or number reviews as people feel compelled to give anything they like the maximum number of stars or highest rating when it probably deserves a “good”. But this TV is probably the best I have played with in its adjusted price range (which doesn’t count the tablet).

Considering I got it for free, would I have bought it?

Yes and no. I think the tablet is neat, but it’s not particularly useful to me, at least with the current software and ability of most of my other devices to handle it using the manufacturer’s VIZIO Smartcast app (available in the Play Store and App Store.)

I’m not going to speculate what deviceless me would have done as, well, that’s not me. If you want that tablet in your life, it is pretty nice. Every time I pick up my HTC 10 and look over at that tablet I fear that it must feel bad knowing it will never be loved.

If the price were at where I expect it would be without the tablet, yes. It would have been the TV I purchased (or the 55 inch version of it,) rather than my current one. It does look better, and the price is decent, and I’ve had good experiences with VIZIO products in the past.

You can grab the VIZIO M50-D1 50″ 4K UHD HDR Home Theater Display at Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon, and others I’m sure. I’ve noticed the 55 inch versions of the display at Costco, which makes me assume they’re in the box stores, however I don’t know how well they perform.