ProsIncredible brightness; bold colors; superb highlights detail; true 120Hz panel
ConsCheap-feeling remote; thick chassis; very slow startup; laggy user interface; energy hog
Special thanks to Vizio for providing a free sample of the Vizio PQ65-F1 Quantum 65" 4K TV for review.
Over the years, we've tested a number of cutting-edge TVs, primarily from the likes of Sony, Samsung, and LG. Last year, however, Vizio approached us with an opportunity to check out its mid-range M50-E1, and while we didn't expect much given its $600 pricepoint, we came away very impressed and eager to see what other surprises Vizio could come up with. Well, the answer has arrived in its brand-new PQ65-F1 Quantum, a 2018 model launched relatively late in the model year. While its bigger competitors had all their cards on the table by May, it wasn't until July that the Quantum finally landed. Well, the big question is whether it was worth the wait....
But first, a little background on the current state of the 4K TV market. At CES 2018, we spent a lot of time with all the major TV manufacturers, which provided us with plenty of material for our in-depth look at the future of 4K TVs. In short, we found that things had slowed down just a little bit. LG's biggest announcement was adding Google Home to its OLED. Sony's only major offering was to back off its radical "kickstand" frame from 2017, going with a more traditional frame for its OLED TV (which it's licensing from LG, by the way). As for Samsung, it offered up a view of the future with its Micro LED demonstration, but it said little publicly about improvements to its current-gen QLED line. As it turns out, its 2018 Q8F QLED, which arrived in May 2018, ended up being the best TV we'd ever tested. Yes, we do mean better than OLED, at least once every aspect of image quality is considered, not just black levels that reviewers seemed transfixed by when it comes to judging OLEDs.
So, if we've already found an LED-based TV that could beat LG's OLED, Vizio may stand a chance to capture the crown for best TV of 2018. In this review, we'll be examining the PQ65-F1 informed by our previous testing of some tough reference designs: LG's C6P and C8P and Samsung's Q8F. Let's see how it does!
Description and Features
Like most 65" LED TVs, the PQ65-F1 is big and heavy. It weighs in at 55 pounds, and measures between 0.5" and 2.75" thick. It's far thicker than any OLED, as shown in the accompanying photo, and it's actually quite a bit thicker than the Samsung Q8F we reviewed earlier this year. Vizio uses a few design tricks to minimize this issue, primarily a thin 1/2"-thick chrome band around the entire frame that catches your eye, and might even make you think it's the entire TV. Alas, if you're looking for a svelte set to hang on the wall, this isn't it (we'd recommend an LG C8P OLED or one of Samsung's slim QLED models that utilize a One Connect breakout box, like the Q7F).
One of the reasons the PQ65-F1 is so thick is probably its full array backlight, which features no fewer than 192 local dimming zones and a peak light output rating of 2000 nits. Also onboard are its namesake "quantum dots", the first time this technology has been available in a Vizio set. While quantum dot technology is most associated today with Samsung's QLED TVs, it's actually not limited to any specific brand, and many TV manufacturers use it. By converting a standard blue backlight into pure red, blue, and green lights, quantum dots allow for more saturated colors. With its combination of a powerhouse backlight, local dimming, and quantum dots, the PQ65-F1 Quantum promises excellent highlights, good blacks, and eye-catching colors.
Before we get into performance, however, we're going to talk about other features that impact the user experience. We'll start with the PQ65-F1's remote, which is the same $10 unit that Vizio shipped with the ~$500 M50 we reviewed last year. To be frank, it's unacceptable on a $2,000 TV. Compared to the LG and Samsung TVs we've tested this year in this price range, it feels like a toy. If Vizio truly wants to compete in this market, it has to step up and design a new remote that is at a minimum made of somewhat higher-grade materials. Even opening the battery box is an exercise in frustration - it feels like it's going to break every time we do it. When we voiced our concerns over the remote to Vizio's representatives, they informed us that Vizio's research shows most people just use the remote that came with their cable box. Well, in our opinion, what most people do isn't relevant to what buyers of $2,000 TVs do. First, most probably use a programmable universal remote, but second of all, enthusiasts in the know aren't using cable! With the rise of streaming options, direct controls via a TV's remote are more important than ever. In other words, even if you have a universal remote, the TV remote may be what you grab if all you want to do is use your Smart TV as, you know, a Smart TV! We do applaud Vizio for at least including direct access buttons for popular streaming services - they'll even turn the TV on for you and go directly to the app (although it will take longer to boot up).
And that brings us to Vizio's StreamCast Smart TV offerings. While they've improved significantly since last year, when many popular apps (including YouTube) weren't even available, they still feel like a poor man's alternative to what LG, and particularly Samsung have on offer. The interface is dark, uninspired, and surfaces some pretty weak content. As shown below, while the new release "Ocean's Eight" was being featured, most of the other content surfaced was pretty lame. This included a few free offerings, which are most likely in upscaled 480p, along with such blockbusters as "How to Eat Fried Worms," "Digimon Frontier", and "Kazaam," the 1996 star vehicle for Shaquille O'Neal. And while YouTube is thankfully included this year, along with the rest of the big names in streaming, there is no option to load any apps beyond what's loaded from the factory - for that, you'll to cast off your phone using the Vizio iOS or Android app. This works perfectly well, but we anticipate that most buyers of a $2,000 TV don't want to be bothered whipping out their smartphone to pull up content.
There's one aspect of the user interface where Vizio is ahead of the competition, and that's in voice control. It easily integrates with both Amazon Echo and Google Home devices (although the feature is oddly buried in the "Extras" menu, rather than in the settings menu). Once we had it set up, Amazon's Alexa was able to take charge of the PQ65-F1, at least in some basic respects. Due to the difficulty in hooking into apps from various vendors, voice controls are almost entirely limited to TV functions, rather than app functions. We found that the following commands worked perfectly: "turn on TV," "turn off TV", "increase TV volume", "lower TV volume", "switch TV to HDMI 2", and "Mute TV". While "Play TV" would start Prime Videos if we were already in one, and "Stop TV" would send you back to the home screen, "Pause TV" didn't reliably work, which was a shame. Also note that you can't do any navigation or launch apps via voice, so honestly, you're still going to have to have your remote at your side.
All right, on the next page we'll get into what it's like to use the PQ65-F1 to consume 4K content.