VIZIO continues to be a popular brand of TVs across North America because of their low prices. However, VIZIO doesn’t really have the budget market cornered these days as strong competitors offer some models that may cost more but offer better bang for the buck. But VIZIO continues to push and even branch out to smaller niches like 80-inch displays. Mainstream companies are busy rolling out 80-inch TVs with beautiful 4K displays but they cost well over the $10,000 zone. The VIZIO M801d-A3, on the other hand, can be purchased for less than half the amount and that could matter to a lot of people who simply need a huge TV.
The M801d-A3 is an edge-lit LED display which means that it is very thin and has a near borderless display. Up close, the border actually looks pretty thick but view it from the recommended viewing distance (about 14 feet away) the border just fades away. Borderless displays are nothing new but they look great especially if the screen is 80 inches. The overall look is stunning and VIZIO even managed to make the design of the VIZIO M801d-A3 unique too. The logo is hardly visible as it is small and found on the bottom right corner of the panel. The TV stand is nicely designed too. It has the rectangular frame style with a smooth metallic finish. In short, the TV doesn’t look and feel cheap.
As far as connectivity options are concerned, the M801d-A3 has the same number of ports as the “smaller” 50-inch and other “M” series. The 4 HDMI ports allow a small home theater setup while the shared component and composite input opens up legacy support although low resolution content looks poor on an 80-inch display. There is a pair of USB ports as well opening up the possibility of video, music and photo playback from a flash drive.
Despite the budget price tag (for an 80-inch TV at least), the VIZIO M801d-A3 manages to compete with on the online front with a full “Smart TV” platform called VIZIO Internet Apps Plus. VIZIO is taking a more simplistic approach with their Smart TV interface. Rather than filling the screen with interactive widgets and some icons, the VIZIO Internet Apps Plus interface takes the form of an application bar where you can scroll left and right and launch the application. Each application is represented by a rectangular tile so it is very easy to identify an app. There are also some shortcuts to settings and the like so that VIZIO button on the remote control is all you need to press if you want to make any type of configuration to the TV. This interface approach is nice because you can still watch TV or the active input in full screen while choosing an app.
If you want to download an app, all you have to do is press the VIZIO button again to see a full screen interface. It will show you all the VIZIO apps you have installed and you can go to the appropriate tab to see what apps are available for download. The selection isn’t as vast as other TV brands but the popular ones are present like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pandora, TuneIn and many others. There are even some apps that you normally wouldn’t expect on a TV like a calculator app, M-GO, eBay and a couple of small games. With built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi, it should be very easy to connect and download the apps you want.
The M801d-A3 only comes with a single remote control but it is nicely designed. The buttons have good spacing so the remote doesn’t look intimidating to use. The remote even has a button that activates the backlight so you can see all the buttons without the need for room lighting. Some TV remotes made for other TV brands have a dedicated Netflix button so you won’t have to go through the user interface just to launch the Netflix app. The VIZIO remote takes this idea a bit further by offering dedicated buttons for Amazon and M-GO in addition to Netflix so you have quick access to more video streaming options. Just make sure you don’t lose the remote control because the TV doesn’t have any physical buttons aside from the power button on the back of the display.
The VIZIO M801d-A3 also has Theater 3D technology which is basically VIZIO’s version of passive 3D. Oddly enough, the M801d-A3 only comes with 4 pairs of 3D glasses while the smaller models come with 8. 4 should be enough for most families though. The remote has its own 3D button so you can activate the effect quickly any time.
VIZIO’s Razor LED technology powers the VIZIO M801d-A3 and it works fairly well with decent color and pretty deep blacks. Don’t expect a high-class experience because it is the picture quality where VIZIO did the cost cutting. Fortunately, there isn’t anything seriously bad with this TV when it comes to picture quality. It just doesn’t excel in any particular area. A “Smart Dimming” technology is present though and it tries to optimize the brightness levels by dimming certain areas of the picture depending on the content being shown. The 240 Hz refresh rate is also nice as it helps keep the picture very sharp and clear no matter how much motion is involved. The audio quality is pretty average although getting a sound bar could fix that area.
In terms of overall performance and picture quality, the M801d-A3 is a pretty average TV although you can forgive those average features once you see the $3,999 price tag. Remember this is an 80-inch TV and the 1080p resolution still works well especially if you watch Blu-ray content. This price is also a very good deal if you consider the beautiful design and very simple set of online features that anybody should be able to figure out. The VIZIO M801d-A3 isn’t perfect but it is hard to come up with better compromises for such a low price.
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