If prior years have taught us anything, it's that Vizio's M-Series TVs really know how to impress while keeping prices at a place most folks can afford.
And that's not something that's going to change in 2018.
To that end, Vizio's 2018 M-Series improves upon last year's models in a big way, ramping up the contrast ratio and upping the amount of local dimming zones.
It's still not likely to be a real threat to OLED or Samsung's ultra-bright QLED screens, but these small improvements are likely to make this year's M-Series the best yet.
If you've yet to see them, Vizio's M-Series TVs have a sleeker look compared to their lower-priced brethren, the D-Series and S-Series, as Vizio emphasizes their black bezel-less appearance on three sides.
The top and sides of the M-Series have thin borders that are flush with the glass, while the bottom piece is somewhat larger and projects out slightly.
On the TV itself, you'll notice a return of SmartCast – Vizio's proprietary OS that blends Google Cast with a small library of streaming apps.
Why is this a good thing? Well, Vizio's updated SmartCast OS concentrates on prioritizing apps that supply free content but adds such essentials as Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu and YouTube to its home screen for ease of use.
On top of that, though, you have the option to "cast" any additional content from your phone to the TV using the built-in Chromecast. This can be cumbersome – even though this year's SmartCast OS added a universal search feature – but it's handy if you ever host a party where multiple people want to toss videos up on your TV.
We were unable to tell in our short demo if the new software is faster than last year's, but we did hear from Vizio that YouTube TV will be coming shortly.
Also new for 2018 is smart assistant support via Alexa and Google Assistant.
While Alexa is capable of turning the TV on and off, adjusting the volume and playing or pausing, Google Assistant is a bit more skilled. You can actually ask it to stream something from Netflix, YouTube and other apps. You'll need to have a Google Home or Amazon Echo to take advantage of these features – they're not built into the TV or accessible via a voice remote – but they're handy nonetheless.
According to Vizio, you can expect the 65-inch version of the TV (the Vizio M65-F0) to be the most popular size in 2018, but in case you're looking for something smaller or larger, the M-Series is also available in 55- and 70-inch sizes with 32 and 48 local dimming zones, respectively.
The M-Series has some small improvements over last year's model, such as full array backlighting and up to 48 local dimming zones in the case of the 70-inch model.
In a briefing with Vizio, we were told that the company will use VA panels for this series – which will allow better brightness and contrast albeit with weaker viewing angles. That being said, there is a decrease to 600 nits (using what Vizio calls "UltraBright 600") which may cause some of the peak color to be lacking.
But, in better news, we thought the color was good for this mid-priced TV – though it was hard to tell given that it was right next to the E- and P-Series.
All M-Series models include HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG for better picture color and contrast, four HDMI ports, Clear Action 360 (allowing a 120Hz refresh rate) and the addition of ATSC tuners – a nice improvement from years prior.
The Vizio M-Series looks like it'll be a strong selection for those who want a TV for a price that is affordable. While the black levels are not at the top of the range they're certainly passable and this series, more than any other in Vizio's line-up, has always struck the best balance between price and features.
Will this be the best mid-range TV of 2018? We'll just have to wait and see.
- Speaking of line-ups, here's the entire Vizio TV 2018 Catalog