Vizio E50-C1 LED TV Review
Yet again, Vizio proves that "affordable" doesn't have to mean "bad."
For the most part, the Vizio E50-C1 (MSRP $529.99) is a great TV that packs a ton of value into a relatively inexpensive package.
It doesn't quite reach the heights of its 2014 counterpart, but users will be treated to a respectable contrast ratio, consistent color production, and unpolluted neutral tones.
If there's an area of performance that really hurts the E50-C1, it's the TV's ridiculously narrow viewing angle, which does not lend itself well to group viewings.
We test our TVs before and after calibration. In doing so, we get a sense of how the TV will perform for both out-of-the-box users and users planning on doing an informed calibration.
An informed calibration is only as good as the TV's software will allow. Some TVs offer virtually no picture customization options included in our process, others offer more options than anyone will likely ever need, and most fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
The E50-C1 is one of the TVs that falls in the middle. In addition to 2-point white balance controls, Vizio has also included 11-point controls. It's not as extensive as a 20-point system, but it's better than being limited to 2-point sliders.
Also included in the E50-C1's software is gamma adjustment and a color management system. While it's always nice to have color management controls in theory, we were unable to get this E50-C1's CMS to work for every color point (more on that later).
Since we calibrate our TVs for a darkened home theater, I began in Vizio's "Calibrated Dark" mode. I would recommend sticking to this preset unless you're planning on having your E50-C1 in a really, really bright room. Yes, the TV is mesmerizingly bright in its "Calibrated" mode, but the wonder wears out its welcome fairly quickly once you realize how devastating this mode is for the TV's black levels.
With the color temperature set to "Normal" and the gamma set to 2.4, I raised the backlight to 47, made finely-tuned adjustments to the TVs 2- and 11-point white balance controls, and did my best to fix some color points in the somewhat-broken color management system.
Grayscale & RGB Balance
A TV's picture is comprised of red, green, and blue sub-pixels. Since neutral tones (black, white, and gray) are representative of all three sub-pixels, we measure a TV's grayscale to determine how "clean" these tones are at various steps of the grayscale. It's possible, for instance, for a TV's reference white (100 IRE) to be polluted with a red or blue tone.
The amount of color error across the grayscale is represented by DeltaE, with the ideal being a DeltaE of 3 or less.
The E50-C1 performs very well in this regard, even before calibration. We measured its out-of-the-box DeltaE on "Calibrated Dark" mode at around 3.62. After an informed calibration and tweaks to its 2- and 11-point white balance controls, I was able to get this down to 2.35.
A closer look at the TV's RGB balance reveals an overly-red grayscale prior to calibration.
A contrast ratio describes a display's peak brightness (100 IRE) divided by its deepest black level (0 IRE). Although we consider black level to be the most critical aspect of a TV's overall picture quality, a healthy gap between the brightest brights and the darkest black levels is one of the most important elements of a quality picture.
In the E50-C1's "Calibrated Dark" mode, we measured a black level of 0.051 cd/m2 and a reference white of 188.3 cd/m2, leading to a total contrast ratio of around 3692:1.
A total viewing angle describes, in degrees, the amount of flexibility a user has when it comes to sitting in front of the TV and enjoying a picture whose quality hasn't dropped significantly.
Our viewing angle test starts with a contrast reading at head-on angle. We continue to measure the contrast at increasingly off angles until the contrast dips below 50% of its initial reading.
Unfortunately, the E50-C1's total viewing cone did not exceed 34° (or ±17°). For a 50-inch panel, this is especially disappointing, seeing as how one of the major selling points for a big screen is the ability to hold group viewings.
A color gamut is a visual representation of a TV's color accuracy based on the international standards for HDTV color production. Within the visualization, there are three primary color points (red, green, blue), three secondary color points (magenta, cyan, yellow), and a white point.
For the most part, the E50-C1 produces terrific out-of-the-box colors, save for an oversaturated blue and an undersaturated red.
Although Vizio has included a full color management system in the TV's software, only a handful of the color points can be adjusted to a worthwhile degree. Unfortunately, blue and red are the two color points that are just too stubborn to rein in.
A TV's gamma describes how evenly luminance is allocated across a grayscale. In other words, a gamma curve is a visualization of how quickly a TV jumps from one level of brightness to the next. If the curve doesn't fall in line with international standards, you'll likely notice an extreme lack of detail in dark, shadowy regions of the picture.
We calibrate all of our TV's for a target gamma of 2.4, which is ideal for a dark room. For dimly-lit rooms, 2.2 is more appropriate. For bright rooms, 1.8, et cetera.
The E50-C1's out-of-the-box gamma reading clocked in at 2.33. Although the post-calibration reading of 2.47 is about the same distance from the 2.4 target, the post-calibration result represents a much gentler curve.
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