The Good: The bigger Vizio E series sets offer the best picture quality available in this price range, thanks to local dimming. The Google Cast system offers more apps and frequent updates than many dedicated smart-TV systems, and now you can access some apps without using your phone.
The Bad: Roku TVs are still better convenient for streaming. No built-in tuner.
The Bottom Line: The Vizio E series offers the very good image quality for a rock-bottom price, as long as you stick to the 60-inch and larger models.
For the last few years Vizio TV’s have earned our highest scores for value by serving the best picture quality for the money. The main challenger to Vizio’s cheaper TVs like this E series has been TCL with its Roku TVs. I like Roku’s smart TV system better than Vizio’s, but Vizio’s ace in the hole has always been superior picture quality.
This year there’s a new wrinkle:. If you want a 55-inch TV and can swing the extra money compared to this Vizio, get the TCL instead. Its picture is that much better. And later this year TCL will release the 50- and 65-inch sizes.
But maybe you want a size bigger than 55 inches, you don’t want to wait or you don’t want to spend any more than you have to for a very good picture. If that’s the case, the E series is a great choice.
PSA: The best E’s are 60 inches and larger
There’s more variation than usual between the different sizes in Vizio’s E series, so before I go any further, there’s some stuff you need to know.
I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch E50-E1 and the 65-inch E65-E0. Based on what I saw and know about the series, the 60-inch and larger models are significantly better than the others.
That’s because the 43- and 50-inch sizes lack the local dimming that was so effective on the 65-inch size I tested. Meanwhile most of the smaller models use an IPS-based (“in-plane switching”) LCD panel, and the IPS panel on the 50-incher I tested delivers inferior image quality. Only the 60-inch and larger sizes that have the winning combination of local dimming and VA (vertical alignment, and non-IPS) LCD panels.
Here’s how the entire series breaks down.
Vizio E series (2017)
|Model||Size||Dimming zones||HDR||Clear action||Panel Type||CNET score|
|E43-E2||43 inches||0||No||No||IPS||6.6 (3 stars)|
|E50-E1||50 inches||0||No||No||IPS||6.6 (3 stars)|
|E50-E3||50 inches||0||No||No||VA||6.6 (3 stars)|
|E55-E1||55 inches||12||Yes||180||IPS||6.6 (3 stars)|
|E55-E2||55 inches||12||Yes||180||VA/IPS||6.6 (3 stars)|
|E60-E3||60 inches||10||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
|E65-E0||65 inches||12||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
|E65-E1||65 inches||12||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
|E70-E3||70 inches||12||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
|E75-E3||75 inches||14||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
|E80-E3||80 inches||16||Yes||180||VA||7.3 (3.5 stars)|
The better E TVs with local dimming have anywhere from 10 to 16 dimming zones. More local dimming zones generally equals better image quality, but I don’t expect much difference between the models with 10 or 16 zones.
Vizio says the E55-E2 may use either an IPS or a VA panel. Here’s its statement: “[The E55-E2 will] start shipping with VA panels and then may move to IPS panel technology if demand increases. It is difficult to say when the IPS panels will cut in, but your readers can use the following serial number prefix on the box to identify models with IPS panels. If the fourth digit of the serial number is a “J” or “7,” that unit uses an IPS panel. Ex. LWZJSEARxxxxxxx or LTM7SHARxxxxxxx. All other serial numbers will be units using VA panels.”
My statement? The easiest thing is to stick to 60 inches and above.
Standard black frame, weird spindly legs
The frame around the screen is shiny, black and thin, so from the front it looks like almost all picture, while the cabinet is relatively thick seen from the side.
Rather than a pedestal stand the E series utilizes the same kind of splayed, spindly legs found on most TVs today. They’re a bit, er, different looking, thanks to a pattern of triangle-shaped cutouts.
The 2017 E series comes with a new clicker with more buttons and capabilities, although its keypad is basically useless since the TV lacks a built-in tuner for antenna channels.
Chromecast built-in with on-screen menus too
For now the E series requires your phone to stream video from Netflix and others, but Vizio says the update that adds apps to an onscreen display, so you can stream without using your phone, is coming very soon.
Just like a $35 Chromecast, the Vizio E can serve up Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and all the rest on the big screen using your phone as a “remote.” Going into any supported app and hitting the Cast button reveals the Vizio TV as an option; select it and video from the app will play back on the TV. Easy peasy. It worked fine with Netflix (in 4K and HDR) and Vudu and YouTube (in 4K). Other apps I tried worked well too.
The biggest downside to the system is that Cast doesn’t support Amazon Video directly. But that update adds an actual on-screen menu for Casting apps, and one of them is indeed Amazon. I got a chance to play with an early version for this review and it mostly worked as advertised — and similar to on-screen displays found on competing Smart TVs.
Selecting the Smatcast “input” causes the new app home screen to appear, with icons for a handful of major apps along the bottom (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Crackle, iHeart Radio, Xumo, Vudu, Pluto, and “USB”) as well as tiles for TV shows and movies along the top. Amazon and the others worked just as I expected, complete with 4K and HDR streaming where avalable. Unfortunately response times weren’t the fastest and screens took a bit longer than I’d like to load, but in my book it’s (a lot) better than nothing. In no way is it better than Roku, however.
You can still use Vizio’s SmartCast app for iOS and Android to control settings like picture and sound modes, but you don’t need it since the TV has on-screen settings menus too. I also found the app more stable to connect and use than before, and it worked flawlessly on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone. The app also tries to surface content with “TV shows” and “Movies” sections, but most people will ignore those and go straight for the individual apps on their phones.
The Google Home speaker allows you to control the E series using your voice.
OK, Google, control my cheap TV
If you have a Google Home speaker, the E series can respond to voice commands. It worked very well in my testing, although unlike Alexa commands of Sony TVs, for example, power on/off isn’t supported.
Right now the only commands that work are Netflix and YouTube — but that’s a lot. I said “OK, Google, play Orange is the New Black on Test TV” (the name I gave one of the Vizios) and it worked, along with all of the subsequent commands listed here, like “next episode” and “turn on subtitles.” YouTube also worked as promised, and I was surprised to find volume and mute were also supported.
Later this year Google will roll out additional Google Home tricks to Chromecast and TVs like the E series.
No antenna tuner, ample connections
The E series lacks a built-in TV tuner, so it can’t receive local TV stations available via antenna/over-the-air broadcasts. In fact, lack of a tuner means they’re not technically “TVs” anymore, which is why Vizio’s web site calls them “Tuner-Free Displays.” If you’re someone who watches a lot of TV via antenna, rather than cable, satellite or streaming service, Vizio recommends you purchase a third-party tuner.
Beyond lacking a tuner connection, the E series’ connectivity is fine for an entry-level TV.
- Four HDMI inputs
- Component video input
- USB port
- Wired Ethernet port
- Analog audio output
- Digital audio output
The capabilities of the HDMI inputs vary on most sizes in the series — some are version 1.4 and some version 2.0 — but that shouldn’t be a big deal. Even the version 1.4 inputs can accept most 4K sources.
The larger E series TV beat the smaller one for image quality and also outperformed a couple of the other budget TVs I had on-hand to compare. Its strengths include deep black levels and contrast, powered by local dimming, accurate color and solid screen uniformity. It’s not the best performer in bright rooms, and HDR image quality had some issues, but at least it can handle high dynamic range. That said, the TCL P series was all-around superior.
Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV’s picture controls worked during.
Dim lighting: The effectiveness of the E65’s local dimming was clearly evident in a dark room, especially with darker scenes. During Chapter 16 in “Logan” in the darkened car, for example, the shadows and letterbox bars looked darker and more realistic on the Vizio E65 than on any of the other sets except for the TCL P series. The other big Vizio, the D65, came closest, but the E50 and D50 were both markedly brighter (worse) and the Element and TCL S405 looked even worse, with brighter blacks and a washed-out look.
Shadow detail was good, a hair better than the TCL P series even, but I still preferred that TV’s dark-room picture overall. There was also little evidence of blooming on the E65, that stray illumination that can plague some local dimming-equipped sets.
Bright lighting: The E series was one of the dimmest TVs in my lineup and not a great performer in a bright room. One issue with the E65 is that getting peak brightness out of this TV requires disabling its local dimming, something few users will likely remember to do when the lights are up. That said, it should still be plenty bright for most viewing situations.
Here’s how it stacked up:
Light output in nits
|TV||Mode (SDR)||10% window (SDR)||Full screen (SDR)||Mode (HDR)||10% window (HDR)|
|TCL 55P607||Vivid/dimming off||438||431||Brighter/Dark HDR||448|
|Vizio E65-E0||Vivid/dimming off||289||287||Vivid/dimming off||288|
|Vizio D65-E0||Vivid/dimming off||260||260||N/A|
The D and E series Vizios all share a very similar matte screen finish, and it was a bit better than any of the others at reducing reflections. It also preserved black levels well.
Color accuracy: Before and after calibration the E series was quite accurate, with impressive skin tones and natural colors. The E50 didn’t match the saturation or richness of the E65, however, although it was still solid enough, and I doubt the difference would be visible in side-by-side comparisons.
Video processing: The E series handled 24-frame content properly, with the smooth but not too smooth look of film. Motion resolution was typical of a 60Hz TV, the panel’s native refresh rate, despite Vizio’s “120Hz effective” fake specification. The E65’s “Clear Action 180” improve motion performance to 600 lines, but it wasn’t worth the trade-off in brightness or flicker.
There’s a “Game Low Latency” setting but according to my tests it didn’t affect gaming input lag, which was very good at 33 ms. The 50-inch E was even better at 29ms.
Uniformity: Lighting across the E65’s screen was impressively even, the best in my lineup along with the D65, with little variation or brights spots in test patterns no matter the brightness level. Watching hockey, which can really expose uniformity issues, the two large Vizios again looked better than any of the others, although the P series was close.
From off-angle the E65 and D65 maintained black-level fidelity, color and pop better than any of the others aside from the TCL P series.
HDR and 4K video: In this budget TV lineup only two models are capable of HDR playback, the TCL P series and the Vizio E65. Between the two it wasn’t much of a contest; the P series won handily. When streaming “Marco Polo” on Netflix, the E65 looked flatter and more washed out compared to the much punchier TCL, which also showed more vibrant saturated yet natural colors. The TCL did crush shadow detail a bit more than the Vizio, but overall it was still much better.
The story was similar watching “Logan” on 4K Blu-ray and HDR. The P series looked much more dynamic, and I immediately notice its significant light output advantage in brighter highlights. HDR on the P series had all of the punch I expected, while on the E it was altogether more muted, like standard dynamic range material.
The E65 was able to pass the full resolution of 4K from YouTube and played through a suite of 4K test patterns from Florian Friedrich with no issues.
Vizio E65-E0 Geek Box
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0034||Good|
|Peak white luminance (100%)||289||Poor|
|Avg. gamma (10-100%)||2.33||Good|
|Avg. grayscale error (10-100%)||0.722||Good|
|Dark gray error (20%)||0.633||Good|
|Bright gray error (70%)||0.558||Good|
|Avg. color error||1.603||Good|
|Avg. saturations error||1.37||Good|
|Avg. luminance error||1.31||Good|
|Avg. color checker error||1.59||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||600||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||300||Poor|
|Input lag (Game mode)||33||Good|
|Peak white luminance (10% win)||288||Poor|
|Gamut % DCI/P3 (CIE 1976)||82||Poor|
|Avg. saturations error||15.4||Poor|
|Avg. color checker error||11.7||Poor|