Vizio, one of the biggest TV sellers in the U.S., continues to revive a once-declining (and expensive) technology for high-contrast LCD TVs by bringing full-array LED backlighting to its mainstream M Series TVs. It's a significant upgrade from the mainstream edge-lit tech in the current M series, but at lower prices.
For example, the 32-inch M321I-A2 currently sells for $350, while the edge-lit replacement, the M322i-B1, is priced at $330. Offerings currently on the Vizio site range from the aforementioned 32-inch model to an 80-inch model for $3,200. Vizio's 50-inch model, a popular size for new TVs, sells for $700.
MORE: 10 Hottest TVs for 2014
Higher contrast ratios – specifically by increasing the depth of dark tones or "blacks" — are becoming an important feature as TV makers look to up their offerings. Full-array backlighting is the most promising technology. By moving the LED from the edge of the screen back to behind it, Vizio and others create zones that can be individually dimmed or brightened to boost the contrast between different portions of the screen.
Sony is also reviving the technology, but on it's high-priced X850, X900 and X950 lines, starting at $3,000 for a 55-inch screen. Sony doesn’t disclose the number of LED zones in its TVs, but Vizio is making its info public. The new M Series has up to 36 zones. (Presumably, the number of zones goes up with screen size, meaning this would apply at least to the 80-inch model, and perhaps smaller sizes.)
Vizio is instead bringing high tech to mainstream sets. Starting with the 32-inch model is surprising, as sets so small are generally of lower quality from all TV vendors because of the narrow profit margins. Higher-end tech and performance now tend to first appear at around 50-inch and larger screens.
Vizio has also included smart TV features across the line, starting even with the 32-inch set. All TVs have Wi-Fi and several video and music streaming apps, such as Netflix Amazon, Hulu and Pandora. Vizio is now adding streaming music app Spotify to its M Series.
At this year's CES, Vizio got the most attention for announcing its upcoming P Series of 4K TVs that would start at $1,000 for a 50-inch model — considerably cheaper than any mainstream rivals. Vizio has not yet announced the availability of it the P Series, however.