80-inch TVs aren’t exactly the kind of size everyone is looking for because they are really expensive and huge. Thin bezels and thin profiles don’t help either. Once you place that order, you can expect a gargantuan TV that weighs more than 150 pounds. Because even the 1080p models are still very expensive, people also hope that they won’t have to that urge to upgrade their TV anytime soon. Therefore, if you are going that 80-inch route, you better make sure your money is well spent. VIZIO has a reputation of making affordable but pretty decent TVs and lately they have been tackling the midrange TV crowd too. The VIZIO M801i-A3 belongs in that series but those that have seen the 2013 model (VIZIO M801d-A3R) might be left scratching their heads because the newer model lacks 3D. This reflects VIZIO’s new ambition to strip 3D functionality from all of their latest TVs to focus more on overall picture quality while keeping the price low. The M801i-A3 is priced at $3,100 at the moment so it still manages to undercut the competition a bit. Now it needs a closer look to see if VIZIO should be worried about those pricier TVs that claim to be superior.
The VIZIO M801i-A3 looks exactly the same as its predecessor and that’s fine because the M-series looks and feels lot more premium than the already attractive E-series. VIZIO successfully figured out a design that doesn’t exactly look fancy but is elegant enough to appreciate especially given VIZIO’s reputation for budget TVs. While the M801i-A3 boasts a “razor-thin profile” just like the other VIZIO M-series models, the depth of the display is 2.62 inches thick making it bit thicker than some of the VIZIO TVs with smaller display sizes. The bezel is very thin though and it is barely noticeable when viewing the VIZIO M801i-A3 from afar. The logo is also uniquely placed on the bottom right corner leaving the TV slightly asymmetrical. It uses the same stand as the smaller displays making this TV pretty easy to set up. 4 HDMI ports along with 2 USB ports can be found on the back. The rest of the ports are ports that you would find in just about any other large TV.
The M801i-A3 is a giant TV that can independently connect to the Internet thanks to the display’s built-in Wi-Fi and VIZIO’s own Internet Apps Plus (V.I.A. Plus). Accessing an online service or TV app is pleasantly simple as there is a remote control that has a button with the VIZIO logo that brings up what VIZIO calls the V.I.A. Plus App Dock. Once the dock appears on the bottom of the screen, you simply scroll left or right to select an app while still watching TV and it loads immediately. It is a very light and clever approach to blending Internet features with the TV features. The tiles featured on the dock are not the only apps installed on the TV. Pressing the VIZIO logo button again shows all the installed apps in a full screen arrangement and you can browse other apps available for download if you feel like checking out other services. There are a lot of apps to keep you busy online with the VIZIO M801i-A3.
The TV may be the same as last year’s model in many ways but the remote control is a lot better as there is this cool backlit keyboard that you can use as a faster alternative to the onscreen keyboard whenever you need to input text.
Integration with iOS and Android devices is on the minimal side. It does offer that simple interface to share content on your phone or tablet by means of simple swiping but that’s just about it. There is also enhanced support for the YouTube and Netflix apps on the TV where you can glance at the statistics of the current video you are watching.
The 80-inch screen is so big that it is hard not to be bedazzled by the display once you turn it on. Pricier 80-inch TVs certainly look better than the M801i-A3 especially if they boast a 4K resolution but you probably won’t wish for such models once you witnessed just how good 1080p looks on a big display despite the low PPI (pixels per inch) count. If you are a bit critical with things like the brightness and contrast, worry not because you have all sorts of picture modes to try out. The “Calibrated” mode looks pretty good although you may need to tweak the color settings a bit if you care about color accuracy. The “Game” and “Computer” modes may be useful too if you plan to play first-person shooter games on the huge display as it reduces the input lag. Blacks are not particularly deep too although once again you can calibrate the TV to get better results. With a 10,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, the VIZIO M801i-A3 has what it takes to show off highly impressive visuals. VIZIO just needs to work on the default settings.
The M801i-A3 is equipped with a few other premium technologies too including Smart Dimming which makes use of local dimming zones to get the brightness right in different areas. There is also the 240Hz refresh rate which works best when watching sports. Fans of the soap opera effect may also like this in action movies too.
The VIZIO M801i-A3 may have its hits and misses but that doesn’t affect the fact that spending about $3,100 for an 80-inch TV is a bad choice. What matters most in a TV of this size is that it looks good, the picture quality is passable and it can get better with some tweaking. The thin bezels and the Smart TV features also helped this TV become a serious alternative to the more expensive ones. If you really want to enjoy your favorite 3D movies on this screen, you might be able to find the older model and save about $100 too if you are fine with a standard remote without the keyboard. But the M801i-A3 is VIZIO’s step forward and you may get more firmware updates than the 2013 models.
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