Vizio M602i-B3 LED TV Review
More great value from Vizio—but not the company's best
Behind The Screens
The Vizio M602i-B3 (MSRP $1149.99) is a stellar performer in many areas. A great black level, almost perfect backlight uniformity, good motion performance, and plenty of overall luminance will have movie lovers and binge watchers salivating.
There's one big issue, however: red. The M602i-B3 produces reds that are yellowish in hue, which detracts from the purity of colors like orange, and adds a pinkish tint to bright grays and highlights. The overall performance is quite solid, but an extensive calibration proved that this TV simply can't produce the correct red.
We calibrate all of our TVs for ideal "black room" viewing: a peak luminance of about 120 cd/m2 (~40 fL) and a gamma sum of 2.4. The reduction in luminance helps preserve details in low-gray and shadow tones, helps stabilize the RGB sub-pixel emphasis, and even makes for better panel life over time.
Vizio's M Series TVs offer a suite of calibration controls, including 2- and 11-point grayscale balancing and a full color tuner (or Color Management System)—but there's no gamma pre-set or individual gamma controls.
Calibrating the M602i-B3 to home theater viewing involved reducing the Backlight from from 91 to 32, and making adjustments to the Color and Tint controls—something we almost never have to do, for the record. I maxed out a number of the TV's color controls in order to correct primary and secondary color production as much as possible, but ultimately some errors couldn't be fixed.
Contrast performance—a comparison of a display's peak white output to its minimum black luminance—is one area where the M602i-B3 really shines. With the TV's local dimming enabled, I measured black levels as deep as 0.039 cd/m2, which is very, very dark for an LCD TV. I measured these black levels using the standard ANSI checkerboard pattern, which yielded decent white luminance, too: 118 cd/m2. Overall, this gives the M602i-B3 a contrast ratio of 3046:1, which is comparable to much more expensive mid-level competition.
Our viewing angle test measures how far viewers can sit from the center of a TV before the picture becomes washed out and degraded. Generally, the wider the angle you watch from, the worse the picture quality is overall. However, due to differences in panel type and construction from manufacturer to manufacturer, the viewing angle can vary from generous-enough-for-group-watching, to so-narrow-you've-gotta-watch-solo.
The M602i-B3 falls somewhere in the middle. I tested a total viewing angle of 68°, or ±34° from the center to either side of the display. This is certainly not on the lower end of viewing angle flexibility, but you also won't enjoy excellent picture quality from extreme angles, like with an OLED or a plasma.
A color gamut is a visual illustration of the hue and saturation of a TV's primary and secondary color points. Digital displays produce red, green, and blue primaries that correspond to the short, medium, and long wavelengths that human eyes see. These primaries are combined to produce the secondary colors cyan, magenta, and yellow; combining all three primaries creates black, gray, and white shades. The exact hue and saturation of the primary and secondary colors is laid out in an international document known colloquially as Rec. 709.
When testing a TV's color gamut, we measure how close (or far) its color points are from the Rec. 709 standard. In the case of the M602i-B3, testing revealed that the TV produces accurate green, cyan, magenta, and yellow points. BBlue skews slightly towards magenta, but not by a huge margin. Red, on the other hand, wanders towards yellow enough that it creates a notable difference in the appearance of reds and oranges during content. Despite fiddling extensively with the on-board color tuner, I found that the M602i-B3 couldn't produce the correct red hue without considerable desaturation.
A display's gamma curve (or gamma sum) illustrates the gradation by which luminance builds at each step along the grayscale, from black to white. Most TVs adhere to a gamma curve of 2.2 or 2.3 out of the box, but we calibrate for a gamma curve of 2.4, which is better for black-room viewing.
Testing revealed that this Vizio produces a bright-room gamma of 1.42 using the default settings in Calibrated Dark, in part due to the local dimming and motion lighting settings. During calibration, I was able to adjust the TV's gamma curve to a flat 2.39, which is very close to the 2.4 ideal we calibrate for.
Error within a TV's grayscale—its production of black, gray, and white shades—is measured as a collective number called DeltaE. A DeltaE of 3 or less is considered ideal, though most TVs test with slightly more error than this. Error within the grayscale's neutrality is often the result of an imbalance in emphasis of the RGB sub-pixel setup.
Prior to calibration, the M602i-B3 tested with a very high DeltaE of 15.24, with most of the error appearing around 40 and 50 IRE, or middle gray. After calibration, the M602i-B3 achieved a very impressive DeltaE of 0.9—which means practically no technical grayscale error, and no visible grayscale error at all.
As I said in the previous section, error within the grayscale is often the cause of an imbalance in sub-pixel emphasis. In the case of the M602i-B3, the presets in the Calibrated Dark mode result in an over-emphasis of the red sub-pixel, resulting in pinkish grays and whites. This is likely due, in part, to the TV's skewed red point, which is more yellowish in nature, causing it to carry too much luminance.
Using the TV's 2- and 11-point white balance controls, I smoothed out almost all of the red over-emphasis, resulting in a much smaller amount of grayscale error and a flat, even emphasis between the sub-pixels.
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