Vizio's M7 series of 4K TVs show remarkably accurate color out of the box, but contrast levels aren't quite up to snuff.

Vizio continues to carve out its space in the TV market, offering attractive designs and solid performance for significantly less money than comparable screens from brands like LG and Samsung. At $799.99 for the 65-inch M657-G0 we tested, Vizio's midrange M7 Quantum series is less expensive than many big-name models out there, as well as TCL's Editors' Choice 6-series. It offers some of the best color performance we've seen for a non-flagship TV, but its relatively dim picture makes it feel a bit overpriced.

Editors' Note: This review is based on testing performed on the Vizio M657-G0, the 65-inch model in the series. Apart from the screen-size difference, the 50-inch $449.99 M507-G1 is nearly identical in features, and we expect similar performance.

The M7 looks minimalist and simple, with narrow matte black plastic bezels measuring a quarter of an inch on the sides and top, and three-quarters of an inch on the bottom. A metallic Vizio logo sits on the lower right corner, with an infrared sensor and small status light at the lower left. The screen sits on two Y-shaped black metal legs located near the sides of the TV, so make sure you have enough space underneath to support them.

All connections and on-TV controls sit on the right side of the back of the TV. Power and Input buttons, along with a volume rocker, can be found on the lower right corner. Two HDMI ports, a USB 2.0 port, and a set of RCA composite video inputs sit facing right near the right side of the screen, with two more HDMI ports, optical and stereo RCA audio outputs, an Ethernet port, and an antenna/cable connector facing downward.

The remote is a slim black plastic wand dominated by a square-shaped direction pad. Power, Input, and dedicated service buttons for Amazon, Crackle, iHeartRadio, Netflix, Vudu, and Xumo sit above the pad. Two large volume and channel rockers, a SmartCast button, and a number pad sit below.

Vizio's SmartCast platform enables the M7's streaming media features. Like its name implies, it's designed for casting video from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. The platform is based partly on Google Cast, so you can treat the TV as if a Google Chromecast is attached to the back. You can stream any Google Cast-compatible app from your phone, or any Chrome tab from your computer. The platform has recently been updated to accommodate Apple users, too; SmartCast supports AirPlay 2, so you can stream video from your iOS device or Mac as easily as from your Android device or PC.

SmartCast was originally built around casting content, but Vizio has since added a complete on-screen interface and limited app support, so you can stream plenty of video without using your phone. Pressing the SmartCast button on the remote brings up the on-screen smart TV interface, with a few dozen apps including Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, Plex, and YouTube. The interface also has a WatchFree section powered by PlutoTV for free streaming internet television without a login, and you can also use the regular PlutoTV app and Sony Crackle for more free video. The app selection is pretty anemic, but the Google Cast and Apple AirPlay 2 support mean you can use nearly any streaming service you want, if you don't mind using your phone or tablet to control it.

The Vizio M7 series displays 4K video and supports high dynamic range (HDR) content in HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG.

We test TVs using a Klein K-10A colorimeter, a Murideo SIX-G signal generator, and Portrait Displays' CalMAN software, using methodology based on Imaging Science Foundation's calibration techniques. Out of the box, in Calibrated Dark mode, the M7 shows a peak brightness of 265.8cd/m2 for a full white screen and 356.16cd/m2 for an 18-percent white field. This isn't particularly bright for an LCD TV, but it's in line with Vizio's claims of 400cd/m2 peak brightness for the series, which could likely be reached by using a smaller white field than the 18-percent one we use to evaluate peak brightness.

The TV has relatively few local dimming zones (20 in the 65-inch model we tested), and black levels ranged from 0.11cd/m2 to 0.21cd/m2 on different parts of the screen for an average of 0.18cd/m2. This results in a mediocre 1,977:1 contrast ratio. Curiously, the Calibrated picture mode, which should be brighter than Calibrated Dark, shows almost identical peak brightness and with slightly higher 0.21cd/m2 average black level, so we recommend Calibrated Dark mode in most viewing conditions.

For comparison, the slightly pricier TCL 6-series gets significantly brighter while showing far better black levels (497.15cd/m2 and 0.01cd/m2 for a wildly superior 49,715:1 contrast ratio). The Hisense H8F series gets even brighter (796.84cd/m2 with 0.02cd/m2 black level for 39,842:1 contrast ratio), though it tends to suffer a bit from light bloom. The TCL 4-series, on the other hand, is dimmer than all of them but still outperforms the M7 on contrast (244.02cd/m2 on a full-screen white field with 0.04cd/m2 black level for 6,101:1 contrast ratio).

What the M7 lacks in brightness and contrast, it makes up for in color range and accuracy thanks to its use of quantum dot technology to improve its ability to display colors. The above chart shows DCI-P3 color levels as boxes and measured color levels as dots. Out of the box, in the Calibrated Dark picture mode, the TV hits nearly all colors spot-on, with greens and cyans reaching a bit further than the color space without significant skewing. Along with slightly undersaturated yellows, this means the TV covers 93.5 percent of the DCI-P3 color space, which is excellent for a budget screen. It also covers 80.5 percent of the wider BT.2020 color space, which is again in line with Vizio's stated specs (and for reference, no consumer display can cover BT.2020 completely yet).

Because the M7 is relatively dim, we recommend maxing out the backlight setting if you plan on watching it with any significant overhead light in the room. Setting the Active Full Array setting to Medium or High will also help. With these settings configured in Calibrated or Calibrated Dark mode, the TV's excellent color performance comes through even in a well-lit environment. This is clear when watching BBC's Planet Earth II. Colors like the greens of plants, the blue-greens of water, the tans of dry grass, and the browns of lizard scales look vivid and natural. It's a balanced, crisp picture that can display any color accurately out of the box.

The red of Deadpool's costume in Deadpool looks accurate in the opening sequence, and doesn't appear purple-tinted under the cool, overcast lighting. The yellows and oranges of the flames in the burning lab fight also look bright and vivid considering the relatively dim panel. The mediocre contrast of the TV is apparent in the shadows, where details can look muddy or, with the Black Detail setting turned up, slightly washed out.

The party scene in The Great Gatsby displays admirable detail considering the M7's low contrast. With Black Detail turned up, the cuts and contours of the black suits can be seen most of the time, though muddiness occasionally still obscures some lapels. The bright whites in the scene look lively enough to provide a good sense of contrast despite the panel's range, and skin tones look saturated and natural.

Input lag is the amount of time between when a TV receives a signal and the display updates. In Calibrated mode, the M7 shows an input lag of 58.2 milliseconds using an HDFury 4K Diva HDMI matrix as a lag tester. This drops to a much better 14.4ms in Game mode, putting the TV under the 20ms threshold we consider to be among the best TVs for gaming.

The Vizio M7 series of TVs genuinely impresses with its color performance. It hits the DCI-P3 color gamut with excellent accuracy out of the box, which translates to a very good overall viewing experience. However, it lags far behind in contrast, with a relatively low peak brightness and disappointing black levels. At $800 for the 65-inch model we tested, we expect a brighter panel with better contrast. Considering the Hisense H8F series can get much brighter and darker for $100 less, and the TCL 4-series offers similar contrast performance for two-thirds the price, the M7 feels a bit too expensive for what you get even after taking into account its superior colors. If you can find it for less than list price, though, it's worth a look.

Bottom Line: Vizio's M7 series of 4K TVs show remarkably accurate color out of the box, but contrast levels aren't quite up to snuff.

Will Greenwald has been covering consumer technology for a decade, and has served on the editorial staffs of CNET.com, Sound & Vision, and Maximum PC. His work and analysis has been seen in GamePro, Tested.com, Geek.com, and several other publications. He currently covers consumer electronics in the PC Labs as the in-house home entertainment expert... See Full Bio

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