Hands on: Vizio E-Series (E65-F0/E55-F1) review

Vizio's vanguard TVs deliver 4K HDR at a price most can afford

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Vizio's middle-of-the-road E-Series is recommended for those who are looking for an inexpensive TV that's capable of 4K HDR and packs in modern picture features. The E-Series TVs on deck this year could be a tinge brighter - but we appreciate the increase in local dimming zones and full array back-lit panel.

For

  • ATSC Tuners included
  • Full Array Backlighting
  • Increased local dimming zones

Against

  • Black levels could be better
  • Limited viewing angle
  • SmartCast OS still limited

Vizio has long been known as the epitome of affordable TVs that deliver consistent (if, at times, underwhelming) performance for customers, with its E-Series leading the charge as its vanguard.

To up the ante for the series in 2018, Vizio is packing in several new features - like smart assistant integration and ATSC tuners, alongside a bump up in local dimming zones - while remaining at a price that's affordable for most folks.

The problem that we saw during our limited hands on time with the TVs was that the E-Series still didn't deliver cutting edge performance: black levels certainly could've been better, while the limited viewing angle makes this less of a living room TV that's shared between the whole family and more appropriate for an apartment or dorm room.

Vizio's E-Series comes in sizes ranging from 43" to 80" and all 2018 4K models have HDR 10, HLG and Dolby Vision HDR content viewing - so it's not all bad.

Design

Overall, the 2018 E-Series design is traditional and very simple.  Its black bezel is wider than almost all of Vizio's other models - but it doesn't call much attention to itself like some of its silver or aluminum brushed counterparts from Samsung or LG might.  

The feet on either side of the TV are at an angle similar to a spread out slanted upside down "V." This is something you should consider if your furniture is narrow or shorter than the TV size being purchased. While this may seem like a poor design decision, Vizio told us that both the position and type of feet are requirements of the government to protect children from having the TV tip over on them.

For fans of over-the-air broadcasts, ATSC tuners were added back in to all models in 2018 which is significant to those who do not subscribe to cable or satellite, allowing you to snag those over-the-air HD signals for free.  

One major pain point with the E-Series is that Vizio's SmartCast OS is a bit too similar to 2017 and, ultimately therefore, is weak in its offerings.  

Fortunately, though, having Chromecast built-in is a plus and Vizio tells us that an app for YouTube TV is coming soon.

New for 2018 is the Alexa and Google Assistant integration. These smart assistants will allow you to stream content using voice control - but through those products, not through the TV itself.  

If you've never used a smart assistant in the past, Alexa will turn on the TV, turn off your lights, lock your door, etc... while Google Assistant will allow users to stream content directly using voice control.

Performance

In terms of performance, the E-Series packs full array backlighting and up to 16 zones of local dimming with up to 400 nits of peak brightness (up from 2017's 350 nits).  Though, it's worth noting that the 65" has just 12 zones of local dimming - which can make for less-than-stellar images.

HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision HDR content is supported in the 2018 E-Series and Clear Action 240 aids fast-moving scenes with powerful image processing and a 120Hz refresh rate in a 60Hz TV.  

Vizio uses a mix of IPS and VA panels in the E-Series without specifying which models have which panel.  The VA panels usually distribute better quality contrast and image quality as compared to the IPS panels - so make sure to check the specs before you go all in on one.

All inputs on all of the models have been upgraded to HDCP 2.2/HDMI 2.0 allowing more HDR devices to be directly connected to the TV.  Inputs, of course, vary by the size of the display with the majority of screens offering three HDMI-In ports.

Early verdict

All said, the E-Series remains Vizio's stalwart budget option. It's not likely to win any awards for its performance in 2018 - but, as a trade-off, it's unlikely to do any lasting damage to your wallet. If you're after an affordable 4K TV, this is it.

That said, the features included in these models are uncommon in an entry-level display - especially the full-array back lit panel and SmartCast OS. In spite of some decent features, however, the TVs don't produce deep blacks or a fantastic picture.    

To that point, if you're planning on purchasing a larger E-Series screen, we'd  suggest you shell out a bit more for the upgraded M-Series model that offers deeper blacks and a better-quality picture which is noticeable to the naked eye.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.