If you’re hunting for flat-screen bargains, the buck stops at the Vizio D Series (2016). While the high-end is filled out by the Reference Series and recently confirmed 2016 P Series, the D Series is Vizio’s pure value category once again this year.
As it stands, the D Series is highly affordable and ubiquitous, with a whopping 25 different models of all sizes to choose from. They’re all aggressively priced to move, but curiously they run the gamut from 720p sets (on the small end) to 4K when you get up to the bigger sizes. This isn’t to be confused with Vizio’s E Series TVs, which have an “E” in the model name and are primarily in 1080p, and Vizio’s nicer M Series TVs that have an “M” in the model name and all come in 4K.
As a result, you need to pay careful attention to what size and resolution you’re looking at. The 65-inch D Series we reviewed has 4K resolution and costs just $999, but if you’re looking for a smaller TV you may get more for your money with an E- or M-series model.
About the Vizio D Series
The 2016 Vizio D Series continues the 2015 D Series’ tradition of low price points and availability across a wide range of frills-free sizes. You’ll find the 65-inch D Series we reviewed in bold:
• 24-inch edge-lit 720p/HD LED TV (Vizio D24hn-D1), MSRP: $139
• 24-inch edge-lit 720p/HD Smart TV (Vizio D24-D1), MSRP: $169
• 28-inch full-array 720p/HD LED TV (Vizio D28hn-D1), MSRP: $169
• 28-inch full-array 720p/HD Smart TV (Vizio D28-D1), MSRP: $189
• 32-inch full-array 720p/HD LED TV (Vizio D32hn-D0), MSRP: $179
• 32-inch full-array 720p/HD LED TV (Vizio D32hn-D1), coming soon
• 32-inch full-array 720p/HD Smart TV (Vizio D32h-D1), MSRP: $209
• 32-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D32x-D1), MSRP: $229
• 32-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D32-D1), MSRP: $229
• 39-inch full-array 720p/HD LED TV (Vizio D39hn-D0), MSRP: $229
• 39-inch full-array 720p/HD Smart TV (Vizio D39h-D0), MSRP: $259
• 40-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D40-D1), MSRP: $329
• 40-inch full-array 4K/Ultra HD Smart TV (Vizio D40u-D1), coming soon
• 43-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D43-D1), coming soon
• 43-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D43-D2), MSRP: $349
• 48-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D48-D0), MSRP: $399
• 50-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D50-D1), MSRP: $449
• 50-inch full-array 4K/Ultra HD Smart TV (Vizio D50u-D1), MSRP: $599
• 55-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D55-D2), MSRP: $559
• 55-inch full-array 4K/Ultra HD Smart TV (Vizio D55u-D1), MSRP: $699
• 58-inch full-array 4K/Ultra HD Smart TV (Vizio D58u-D3), MSRP: $749
• 60-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D60-D3), MSRP: $699
• 65-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D65-D2), MSRP: $899
• 65-inch full-array 4K/Ultra HD Smart TV (Vizio D65u-D1), MSRP: $1,199
• 70-inch full-array 1080p/Full HD Smart TV (Vizio D70-D3), MSRP: $1,199
As you can see, there’s a whole slew of D Series TVs (and keep in mind those are just the new 2016 models), but the breakdown isn’t as complicated as it looks upon first glance.
The two little 24-inch options are “edge lit,” meaning they don’t use the same full-array backlight setup as the other million D Series models. This means they won’t look as good on paper, but also they’re such small TVs you likely won’t notice much of a difference.
The same can be said for resolution. Though the D Series is mostly 720p (1366 x 768) up through the 40-inch mark, at those smaller screen sizes you won’t notice the difference when watching regular content like DVDs and cable broadcasts. If you’re looking to double as a computer monitor though, I strongly recommend you grab one of the 32-inch D’s that’s got 1080p resolution.
Finally, there’s a good mix of non-Smart and Smart options in the smaller sizes, but above 39 inches they’re all smart. As you get into 40 inches and larger, you begin to get a few 4K/UHD options like the D65u-D1 that we reviewed. Pay careful attention to the model name/number when you’re shopping around in case you do/don’t want 4K or smart features, and keep in mind all new 2016 Vizio D Series TVs will end with some variation of “D number.” If it ends in a “C,” it’s a 2015 model.
What We Like
The Vizio D Series delivers just enough resolution.
Resolution is only as important as the size of the screen. Really big TVs (about 65 inches and up) need 4K/Ultra HD resolution to look their best, while smaller TVs (about 32 inches and smaller) can get away with 720p/HD (a step down from the standard 1080p/Full HD) without earning too many complaints. Mid-size TVs (everything in between) are usually best at 1080p/Full HD.
By this logic, the D Series does a great job matching resolution to screen size. Take the D65u-D2, for example. The 4K resolution here makes for a crisp, detailed picture. Additionally, you’d have to sit super close to the smaller 24-, 28-, and 32-inch D Series sets to notice their lesser 720p resolution.
This conservative approach to pixel count generally makes for better prices, but there are a few outliers. The 70-inch D Series is only 1080p/Full HD resolution, while both 39-inch D Series options are capped at 720p/HD. In all three cases, you’re going to see pixels at typical viewing distances.
The Vizio D Series looks pretty good right out of the box.
Back in the day, we used to have to excessively calibrate every flat-panel TV we got—but not the D Series, which looks pretty good right out of the box. Grayscale (neutral) elements are mostly clean and color-free, and colors—like reds, greens, oranges, cyans, and magentas—are balanced and accurate.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. A little calibration can go a long way towards making the D Series look like a proper home theater TV. But for most users, the pre-set modes—especially Calibrated and Calibrated Dark—are going to be fine.
The Vizio D Series offers up a useful, simple collection of apps.
Like most of Vizio’s TV offerings (except the brand new 2016 P Series), most of the D Series TVs ship with the “Vizio Internet Apps” smart platform (20 of the 25 TVs in the series, in fact). The platform is useful enough, giving you access to 4K-capable apps like Netflix, VUDU, and YouTube, as well as favorites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pandora.
That said, if you already have a streaming solution like a Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, or video game console, the smart features here probably won’t be a selling point for you.
The Vizio D Series delivers solid black levels.
While it can’t stand up to the latest batch of super-bright HDR TVs, the D65 is bright enough to look good in most normal room lighting. But its real claim to fame is in black level and overall contrast performance.
Black level refers to the least amount of light a TV can emit, or how dark it’s shadows are. Black level is widely considered the most important aspect of video quality, since it’s the major determinant for contrast and low-light color accuracy.
Like most Vizio TVs, most of the D Series sets have a full screen (or “array”) of lights behind the screen. The D65 has 16 “zones” of local dimming, which is a very small amount—consider that Vizio’s 65-inch Reference Series has 384 zones. To that end, while the Vizio D Series performs well by way of maximum/minimum luminance, the lower zone count can make for some ugly transitions during tricky scenes—more on that in the next section.
What We Don’t Like
The Vizio D Series isn’t going to win any “best dressed” awards.
This is a TV series focused on value, and it shows. The D Series wears a basic black plastic suit with zero filigree or finery. It isn’t even that thin, as its full-array backlight ads quite a bit of weight and thickness. But unless you’re just a stickler for design and pretty things, this is a minor complaint.
The D65 includes five HDMI inputs, one of which is a high-speed 4K input capable of 60fps playback.
The Vizio D Series doesn’t have a great horizontal viewing angle.
Like most of Vizio’s TV lineup, the D65 uses a “VA” (Vertical Alignment) style LCD panel. These panels are known for having higher contrast, but more narrow viewing angles, than other LCD panel types like IPS and TN. This was the case here, as well. The trade off for good contrast is somewhat poor off-angle viewing, so take care if you’re thinking of wall-mounting.
The Vizio D Series needs more local dimming zones to be great.
With a full-array TV, the more zones you have, the pricier the TV. One way Vizio keeps the D Series cheap is by basically cutting back on the amount of local dimming zones in each set. To that end, the 65-inch D Series has only 16 local dimming zones in a 4 x 4 grid behind the screen, or one zone for every four square inches.
As you can imagine, this doesn’t always make for the smoothest picture, and can occasionally mean a coarse presentation during scenes with complex mixtures of light and dark. This is occasionally moredistracting than if the TV didn’t have local dimming at all.
Should You Buy It?
Videophiles will have plenty to complain about when it comes to the Vizio D Series. The colors and grayscale tones, while accurate, would benefit from professional calibration. The number of local dimming zones is too low regardless of screen size, and the viewing angle is narrow. It’s a series whose picture quality is fraught with numerous little blemishes, and doesn’t have much going for it by way of design and aesthetics.But you know what? At these prices, 90% of people aren’t going to care. Getting a massive 65-inch 4K for $999, a 50-inch 1080p for $449, or a tidy 32-inch for less than $200—all of them smart and capable of great contrast—is straight-up amazing no matter how you slice it.
In 2016—where bigger, brighter 4K HDR sets are the feather in every manufacturer’s cap—the D Series is a welcome solution for the budget-conscious shopper who’s more concerned with practicality than pristine picture quality.
If you and the D aren’t meant to be, fret not. Maybe you’ve decided you want better picture quality, a better price, or you just intended to buy it but the store ran out. Here are some other options:Do you want a similar price and slightly better picture quality?
Check out the 2015 Vizio M Series. It’s still readily available and the overall dimming performance and out-of-box color accuracy is better than the lower-end D Series. You’ll get 4K resolution and the same software and smart features, too.
It also may be worth taking a look at Vizio’s 2016 P Series. If my first impressions are anything to go by, it could end up a vastly superior option if you’re willing to spend a little more.