Vizio Reference-series UHD TVs promise enhanced picture and sound

The new Vizio Reference series UHD TVs are designed to offer enhanced contrast and colors and, in some cases, surround-sound systems. Vizio didn't indicate an availability date or prices for the flagship Reference series TVs, which will come in 65- and 120-inch screen sizes.

We saw an early prototype of the larger set at CES 2014, though the TV wasn't introduced last year as expected. Among the more notable features is Dolby's high dynamic range, or HDR, technology. Called Dolby Vision, it can enhance the set's contrast by boosting dynamic range—that's the difference between the brightest and darkest images a TV can produce.

The Reference sets will also be able to display a wider color gamut, the company says, and have full-array LED backlights with 384 dimmable zones. Vizio didn't say whether the TVs would use quantum dots to produce the wider range of colors, so we presume they'll use phosphor-coated LEDs.

We're starting to see more TVs with wider color gamuts and high dynamic range technology, though currently there is no standard for high dynamic range. Dolby Vision is a proprietary encode/decode system, so movies first have to be encoded using the technology and then are decoded by a chip in the TV. Dolby has said that Sharp and TCL are also interested in Dolby Vision HDR, but there are no firm dates for availability. Vizio says that Warner Bros. will offer some 4K Dolby Vision through the Vudu streaming service.

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Beyond HDR, both TVs have dual-band Wi-Fi, a six-core processor, plus the Vizio Internet Apps (VIA) Plus smart TV platform, which provides access to several streaming video services, including 4K UHD content from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and UltraFlix. The 65-inch model has a built-in 5.1-channel sound bar in the base plus a 10-inch wireless subwoofer and rear satellite speakers. The larger set doesn't come with speakers, presumably because people buying a presumably high-priced TV will have a home theater system.

New M Series

Vizio also announced its M-series TVs, UHD sets in screen sizes ranging from 43 to 80 inches; prices go from $600 to $4,000. All have full-array LED backlights, six-core processors, dual-band Wi-Fi, and the VIA Plus smart TV platform.

—James K. Willcox

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