Originally posted on August 21, 2014
Updated on April 15, 2015: clarified specs and testing details (see Testing notes)
The critical specs of the P-Series include:
- 3840 x 2160p screen resolution
- Full-array local dimming LED backlight system
- ~64 active dimming zones
- 70-inch model has 72 zones
- ~64 active dimming zones
- 120Hz refresh rate with backlight scanning
- 50-inch model is 60Hz
- Quad-core GPU + Dual-core CPU
- 802.11ac WiFi
- HEVC H.265 codec
- HDMI 2.0 + HDCP 2.2
- HDMI 1, 2, and 5 are HDCP 2.2
- HDMI 5 is HDMI 2.0 (others are 1.4b)
- Smart TV features with UHD streaming options
Update 1/13/2015: Vizio has released a new P-Series firmware update (v1.1.14) that has mostly corrected the stuck sharpness algorithm noted below. This update also added new 4K video streaming options from Amazon, Toon Goggles, and UltraFlix. Testing the new firmware revealed no improvement for the observed clipping and loss of fine color (chroma) detail with component-encoded video sources. Vizio claims the new update also added new picture quality enhancements to the TV's full-array local dimming (FALD) backlight system and improved sharpness and motion controls for a wider range of video and film-based sources.
How to update
Internet connected Vizio televisions perform regular checks for software updates and should require no user interaction. However, if a P-Series owner wishes to check for software updates, follow this procedure:
Go to MENU > System > System Information > Service Check > press 'OK' > select 'Yes' to perform update check. Then turn TV off and wait at least 20 minutes for the update cycle to complete.
Readers have commented that while it is possible to check for a software update, a serial number system used by Vizio determines when a particular TV receives the updated software.
The P-Series has five HDMI ports that are compatible with 4K input: ports 1-4 accept 4K UHD video at up to 30Hz and HDMI 5 allows 4K input at 60Hz - confirmed with DVDO AVLab TPG (read review). HDMI ports 1, 2, and 5 are HDCP 2.2-enabled for use with copy protected 4K sources like the Sony FMP-X10 Media Player (read my review). However, the FMP-X10's 60Hz output would require the use of HDMI 5 for full output format compatibility. Also, HDMI 5 provides no video processing for common video formats like 480i, 720p, or 1080i resulting in reduced picture quality compared to the use of other HDMI inputs on the TV; the TV does warn the user to change inputs if an attempt is made to use this port with sub-4K video sources. For P-Series owners who prefer to feed the display though a single HDMI connection, use of HDMI 5 would require a capable AVR or external scaler to perform 4K upconversion. Otherwise, use of multiple HDMI inputs on the TV are needed to properly handle common SD/HD formats and 4K60 input.
IPS vs VA
Also, it has been reported and confirmed by Vizio that the P-series LCD panel technology varies with screen size. The 55 inch version features an IPS panel whereas the other screen sizes in the series feature VA panel technology that produces deeper black levels for improved picture contrast and apparent color saturation. For optimal picture performance with the P-series televisions, screen sizes of 60-inches, 65-inches, and 70-inches are the recommended options as they would provide a VA panel with a greater number of zones of local dimming.
"Photoshopped" picture quality
A test session with a 50-inch P-series TV confirmed that its original firmware suffered from mediocre 1080i video processing and a broken sharpness control that added harsh edge enhancements to the picture. This "stuck" sharpness filter added virtual detail not present in the original video signal, and it was clearly evident in all examined content including still images, Blu-ray movies, and 4K video.
Update 1/13/2015: Both images below show the Vizio P-Series running the updated v1.1.14 firmware with TV's sharpness setting at 0 (off). The ringing artifacts in image on the right appeared when feeding the P-Series a 4K UHD source and remained visible when switching to HD formats like 720p or 1080i on the same input. The ringing artifacts would vanish again if the sharpness setting was adjusted at all. Thankfully, use of TV's 4K UHD video streaming apps didn't trigger the reappearance of the sharpness artifacts, and only users who are switching between 4K UHD and HD video formats on the same HDMI input are likely to encounter this issue.
Vizio released another firmware update (v1.1.19) for the P-Series that is reported to fix the sharpness setting so that it doesn't reset under the conditions I found with firmware v1.1.14 (described above). This update is also reported to stabilize color with HDMI 5 when configured with certain picture presets.
Another oddity noted during picture setup was that component-encoded video sources (YCbCr) like a Blu-ray player or the DVDO AVLab TPG (read my review) fed to the P-Series resulted in crushed dark detail below digital level 16 and clipped peak bright detail above level 235. Reducing the TV's color control revealed levels in the 242-243 range but resulted in an unacceptably desaturated picture. Full RGB input (0-254) appeared to be properly displayed.
Not so factory calibrated
The P-Series features two factory calibrated presets: Calibrated and Calibrated Dark. The latter of these otherwise similar presets defaults to a reduced backlight level and slightly increased gamma (2.1 vs 2.2) that's better suited for viewing in a dimly lit environment. Grayscale measurements revealed overly blue hues compared to the more neutral D65 standard used in film and video production. The P-Series adds an 11-point grayscale setup in addition to the 2-point tools that many TVs provide. These controls proved effective at taming the bluish grays.
Color management needed
The menu used for grayscale calibration also features 6-color controls for adjusting hue, saturation, and brightness. I've had the opportunity to spend more time with the P-Series color management setup, and fine tuning the display via careful calibration can greatly improve its color accuracy. However, some fully-saturated colors (blue in particular) were uncorrectably out of spec.
The Vizio P-Series Ultra HD television isn't videophile-grade, but the latest update barely nudged it into a value 4K UHD recommendation. Calibration benefits any TV, and it's a must for the Vizio P-Series to fully realize its picture potential. Vizio has (mostly) corrected my biggest image quality complaint about the P-Series, and I look forward to seeing what other improvements can be achieved with future updates. Also, the P-Series' 4K file support includes H.265/HEVC but not 4K video files encoded into the H.264/AVC format like those produced by the new GoPro HERO4 Black. Vizio was hesitant to provide a firm answer as to if or when we can expect 4K H.264/AVC file support to be added to the P-Series. Stay tuned!