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Big screens benefit the most from higher 4K Ultra HD resolution, so it's not surprising that the 65-inch Vizio D-Series D65u-D2 makes a big impression. In many respects, it's a great, expansive picture for only $1,100. However, the LED LCD TV is something of a throwback to Vizio's earlier models. It is based on the company's older graphical interface, which is lackluster and limited but stable. More important, the D-Series does not support the latest high dynamic range (HDR) video formats that boast more colors and better brightness. Still, if you're simply looking for an inexpensive 4K big-screen, the Vizio D-Series is a pretty good deal.
Design: Big bad boy
There are no breakthrough design elements here. Sitting on two end-mounted, splayed legs, this big bad set rests sturdily enough on a tabletop. The D65u-D2 isn't the thinnest or the most stylish set, but its all-black bezel and chassis are utilitarian.
It also includes all the necessary home-theater hookups, including built-in Wi-Fi (802.11ac), five HDMI ports and plugs for a cable box/TV antenna, USB device and surround-sound system.
Performance: Not without flaws
In many ways, the D65u-D2 is a TV marked by contrasts. Quite literally, it delivers excellent contrast, yet it suffers from poor viewing angles. It is able to render subtle details in shadows, yet it has trouble smoothing out various shades of color. It can ably upscale video to its 4K Ultra HD resolution, yet it had trouble properly playing some 4K programs in our tests.
The D65u-D2 model uses a VA (or vertical alignment) LCD panel with a full-array LED backlight that has 16 active zones. In the VA display's best preset calibrated mode, it makes for some great contrast ratios. This allows you to clearly see Bond struggling with a villain in a dark tunnel or appreciate the detailed reflections in a rain-soaked, cobblestone London street in Skyfall.
The active backlighting also helps prevent odd halos that can appear around bright objects when they appear against a dark background. In Gravity, Sandra Bullock's panicked astronaut spinning out into space is rendered with clarity and without the false flashing that can happen with sets that use an edge-lit LED design.
Conversely, the VA panel of the D65u-D2 means that side-viewing angles are less than optimal. As you move away from the sweet spot or ideal center-viewing position, colors begin to drain from actors' faces, and the whole image can look desiccated by the time you get out to the edge of the viewing area.
Because this 4K Ultra HD set does not support HDR or its expanded color space, the display can look rough when compared to sets that do offer this support. For example, in The Martian, there was some banding rather than a smooth transition between shades of red in the morning Martian sky. There was also often blotchiness around other areas of transition, such as a jetpack-equipped astronaut slicing through a darkened sky.
In many other respects, the Vizio D65u-D2 delivers an admirable picture. It produced no artifacts, such as streaking or blurring, when upscaling HD content to 4K resolution. Colors were also generally accurate.
We did encounter one issue: The set would not play the audio portion of 4K movies we had downloaded to a Sony X10 player. While 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs worked, movies downloaded to the Sony device played without sound. Vizio could not account for the compatibility problem, but it's something buyers should be aware of.
Audio: Modest at best
For such a big screen, the D65u-D2 produces a relatively mousy sound. It has two 15-watt speakers, but the audio is marked by muted bass and weak output. Don't expect it to fill a large living room with plaster-shaking explosions. And you can't tweak the audio; there are no advanced sound modes, just surround sound on or off. The bottom line: Get a sound bar or surround system to properly complement this set.
Interface and Remote: Old gray mare
The D65u-D2 has a foot firmly planted in Vizio's past. Rather than using the new Android tablet-based remote and apps such as that employed on the P-Series and M-Series sets, the 65-inch D-Series uses the old gray menus for adjusting settings, inputs and picture elements.
The home Vizio insignia button on the set's basic wand-style remote invokes supported apps that pop up along the bottom of the screen. It supports 4K-capable apps, such as Netflix, Vudu and YouTube. But since Vizio has clearly moved to a new software platform, don't expect the offerings here to expand much in the future.
The primary decision that buyers face with the 65-inch Vizio D65u-D2 is picking what matters more, screen size or resolution. For roughly the same price or even less you can get a more advanced, HDR-compatible 4K set such as Vizio's own P-Series, but in a smaller, 55-inch screen size. Conversely, if you want a TV to fill a larger room with a big picture now, the D-Series is a more than capable 4K option. Just don't forget to supplement its audio with a sound bar.
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John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. For Tom's Guide, he has reviewed televisions, HDTV antennas, electric bikes, electric cars, as well as other outdoor equipment. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and the CBS News television program.