When it comes to getting a big TV that probably isn’t too big for the average living room, 55 inches is a good pick. But finding the right TV isn’t easy even if you nailed it down to the size preference. 55-inch TVs can be the largest of a particular series or the smallest in a more expensive lineup of models. For the VIZIO E550i-B2, it is the second largest of the budget-oriented E-series but it is priced at a very tempting $699. That is a good $200 cheaper than the 60-inch model. But what the E550i-B2 has to prove is how well it can hang with the somewhat pricier 55-inch TVs that have flashier features and a slightly higher price tag.
The simplest way to make a 55-inch TV mighty attractive is to make the bezel very thin. The VIZIO E550i-B2 more than just succeeds in that regard because the company managed to make the E550i-B2 a bit unique too. The bottom part of the TV clearly has a slightly thicker bezel but the VIZIO logo is stylistically positioned on the very right of the bottom bezel. It looks a bit cleaner and breaks that normal tradition of putting the logo front and center. The VIZIO E550i-B2 has an impressively thin profile too and is even thinner than the previous budget 55-inch VIZIO TV.
The arrangement of ports on the back of the TV is pretty standard but VIZIO does a great job explaining them for people that may not be so tech-savvy when it comes to TVs. There are indicators that show the location of the ports and the video ports have a rating just to show those that are making the connections that the HDMI ports bring out the best quality. It is also worth noting that unlike the smaller models of the 2014 VIZIO E-series, the E550i-B2 has 4 HDMI (1 ARC) ports rather than 3.
Being a 55-inch TV priced so ridiculously low, the VIZIO E550i-B2 has fewer features than the competition meaning no 3D, no 4K panel and no fancy features like voice control. But E550i-B2 didn’t leave out the wireless networking part as it has built-in Wi-Fi – a key component to getting VIZIO Internet Apps Plus experience to work.
Unlike most modern and advanced “Smart” TVs, the VIZIO E550i-B2 only comes with a single remote control. But the unique aspect of the VIZIO Internet Apps Plus interface can be witnessed after pressing that “V” button where the source playback isn’t interrupted as a small dock of tiles appears below the screen. The tiles has a Windows 8 look and you can select the app you want to launch and it will open full screen. It is a nice simple approach and it makes the whole Smart TV experience more inviting. On top of that, VIZIO offers a good selection of apps including social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and numerous other streaming sites from Netflix to Spotify. The dock is customizable so it best to put your favorite apps there. You also get one-click access to Amazon, Netflix and iHeartRadio right on the remote control. Unfortunately, there is no longer a keyboard on the back of the remote like the previous E-series VIZIO TVs.
The E550i-B2 offers a full screen interface of VIZIO Internet Apps Plus too. Once again, you get a tiled interface that resembles the Windows 8 Start Screen even more although there are tabs that you can check out so you can install other apps to the TV. A rather neat and unique feature is the ability to preview an app before you decide to leave it installed. A digital version of the user manual can also be accessed on the TV.
iOS and Android smartphones and tablets can serve as a complementary screen to the VIZIO E550i-B2. You can do things like transfer content to the TV or control the playback of Netflix and YouTube apps and get show information.
The E550i-B2 also has a USB port which supports any FAT32-formatted USB flash drives. The TV can read the common video, picture and music file formats and the interface is pretty friendly but the TV may not be able to read bigger external hard drives.
The picture quality of the VIZIO E550i-B2 is clearly inferior when compared to the flagship plasma displays still being made by competitors and the advanced 4K displays which are finally dipping under $2,000. But remember that the E550i-B2 is a $700 TV and for that price, the VIZIO E550i-B2 looks pretty good. If you are expecting something a lot better, you really have to pay more.
You also have another option and that is to update to the latest firmware as VIZIO has proven in the past that firmware updates can improve the image quality. Digging through the options and calibrating the TV may yield better results too. In short, VIZIO needs to work on the TV’s default settings to make it even more appealing to beginners that have a keen eye for image quality. When viewing HD content, visuals look great especially if you crank up the Black Detail feature which boosts the contrast and black saturation. Standard-definition content unfortunately suffers from aspect ratio issues. There are plenty of picture modes to choose from too including a “Game” mode which lowers the input lag to an acceptable 40 ms.
The E550i-B2 gets another leg up for being energy efficient and the Energy Star 6.0 compliance proves just that. With the Ambient Light Sensor enabled, the backlight can be adjusted automatically to match the room’s lightning conditions so even more energy can be saved.
The sound coming from the VIZIO E550i-B2 can get quite loud thanks to a pair of 15 watt speakers. It also uses DTS Studio Sound to slightly enhance the bass and deliver a simulated surround sound experience. VIZIO makes a couple of sound bars that pair nicely with the E550i-B2 and significantly boost the sound at a budget price.
The VIZIO E550i-B2 is the kind of 55-inch TV that everyone on a tight budget will love. You can enjoy more stuff out of your TV at a noticeably better image quality if you spend more than $1,000 but that shouldn’t worry VIZIO that much. The E550i-B2 feels very refined and even innovative in some areas so it definitely gets a top recommendation for large TVs priced under $1,000.
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