VIZIO’s 2014 lineup of E-series and M-series TVs is nothing short of amazing. While not perfect, these TVs continue to use the same sleek design introduced by last year’s models while focusing a bit more on the picture quality. However, all of these displays had to sacrifice one thing to reach its goal without hiking up the price – 3D support. By removing the technology and not bundling the 3D glasses, VIZIO can maintain those rock bottom prices while consumers can enjoy good picture quality that compares well with its rivals especially if you take time to tweak it. However, those that hope to watch popular movies like Disney’s Frozen in 3D will have to go for older models like the VIZIO M551d-A2R. Not to worry though because the M551d-A2R was hailed as one of the best 55-inch 3D TVs for 2013 and it will only set you back around $1,000 if you can find it.
If you care about good design in a value-oriented package, the VIZIO M551d-A2R has you covered without looking outdated compared to the newer VIZIO models. That’s because, as mentioned earlier, the M551d-A2R has the same design as other VIZIO TVs in the M-series. It is the one of the thinnest VIZIO TVs in the M-series measuring 1.75 inches thick and it has that “Near Edge to Edge” display because of it is impressively thin bezel. The more global TV manufacturers have great approaches to TV design but VIZIO takes a clever approach with the logo placement as there is a small tab on the bottom right corner of the display’s frame showing that logo. It is a nice way to keep the bottom bezel thin and make the logo stand out despite its small size.
The stand and base highlight VIZIO’s ambitions to keep the design minimal and premium too. Both of these parts are made of metal and the base has that border look which looks nice and keeps the TV in a stable position. Unfortunately the VIZIO M551d-A2R cannot swivel on its stand.
The M551d-A2R offers the essentials as far as connectivity goes. You have a full set of 4 HDMI 1.4 ports at your disposal so they are all 3D ready with one of them being Audio Return Channel-enabled. You can connect AV, component and coaxial cables to the back of the TV too and the graphic indicators on the back make it easy but these graphic indicators also tell you that HDMI brings out the best quality and that is the info that newbies need to properly set up a TV.
Another great thing about the VIZIO M551d-A2R is that the VIZIO Internet Apps Plus or V.I.A. Plus doesn’t look outdated either. The remote control looks similar and a bit cluttered but the large VIZIO logo button is easy to find making it a breeze to launch a TV app once you used the TV’s built-in Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet. Unlike those other Smart TVs that have overwhelming interfaces, the M551d-A2R keeps it refreshingly simple by having the app tiles appear on the bottom of the screen without severely interrupting the current TV program or source. You just select the tile by pressing the left and right buttons and you are on your way.
Only a handful of apps are shown in this list by default including Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Pandora and M Go but you can customize this selection to your liking so all of your favorite apps are within reach. You have to press the “V” button on the remote control again to get to the heart of the interface where you can see more of the installed apps and browse any other available apps for download. The app selection is very good as there are numerous Yahoo! Services amongst other obscure streaming services and even Fantasy Football. It has the same app selection and interface as the newer models so there is nothing to worry about there. There are 3 dedicated app buttons on top too so you can quickly launch Netflix, Amazon or M Go even without opening the dock.
Smartphone and tablet integration with the M551d-A2R is light but welcome as it is easy to swipe the content from the mobile device to the TV. Watching content from YouTube or Netflix is nice too as you can make your Android or iOS device a second screen where you can see the YouTube stats and control the playback or see the Netflix rating and other information.
Since 3D should be the main reason to get the VIZIO M551d-A2R as the newer models lack it, it only makes sense to talk about this first. VIZIO uses a technology called Theater 3D and it is a passive approach to the effect which means that the 3D glasses are a lot cheaper and you probably won’t need to buy any more additional pairs anyway because 8 pairs of 3D glasses are included in the package and none of them require batteries. 3D visuals look great and you get that comfortable sense of depth and richness. Crosstalk is noticeable when viewed off-axis or too close but there is nothing else wrong with the experience.
As for the overall picture quality, you are either going to not care or wish it was a little bit better. The whites look very bright but the black levels a bit muddy and need some work. The good news is you can do the work yourself by trying out one of the several picture modes and make other fine tuning adjustments. The M551d-A2R also has some stuff that you normally find on premium TVs including Smart Dimming for better contrast and a 240 Hz refresh rate for very smooth motions.
You can actually pretend that the VIZIO M551d-A2R is a TV made in 2014 and get away with it because all the important characteristics in the 2014 VIZIO M-series TVs are found in the M551d-A2R too. Since VIZIO raised the bar in the image quality department, the picture quality of the VIZIO M551d-A2R is closer to average but the 3D experience doesn’t disappoint and neither does that attractive $1,049.99 price tag.
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