A revamped design based on last year's E-Series, Vizio's E55-D0 has ditched the moribund smart TV interface in favor of a new Google Chromecast-based approach. It's a more flexible smart TV design for providing streaming entertainment. The E55 is a member of Vizio's budget line, which means that it doesn't support 4K or HDR (high-dynamic-range) programming. However, a full-array LED backlight design with local dimming provides for a punchier picture and makes the $480 E55 a very attractive choice as a budget TV.
Design: Simply smart
The E55-D0 comes in Vizio's basic black with feet bolted onto either side for tabletop placement. The legs look machined and perforated, as if they're designed to reduce weight, giving it a high-tech, industrial look.
Vizio included just the right number of connections, as well. The TV has built-in Wi-Fi (to support the streaming services) and three HDMI ports, which should suffice for most home theater setups. There are also Ethernet and USB connections, and unlike Vizio's 4K SmartCast M55-D0, this set has a digital TV tuner so cord cutters can easily add an antenna and skip the cable or satellite TV bill.
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Performance: Bright contrasts
Vizio TVs tend to favor a particular personality when it comes to how their pictures are tuned, and the E55-D0 is no exception. In its best preset video mode — dubbed Calibrated — it yielded good color accuracy, and overall it tends to push contrast levels more than some other 1080p sets, such as the LG 55LH5750.
When we watched our suite of test Blu-ray-based movies, the Vizio set delivered deeper blacks than the comparable LG model. However, it lacked some of the subtleties of LG's slightly more detailed-looking picture, favoring instead more extreme contrasts.
On the Vizio E55, you can see more details in shadows, such as Bond wrestling with a villain in a dark tunnel (thanks in part to the full-array local dimming). But in bright desert scenes, the Vizio set can be dominated by yellows and look a little washed out.
The effects can vary from scene to scene, as well. For example, one can clearly make out details in the brides' chamber in Mad Max: Fury Road that were lost in darkness on the LG set.
The Achilles' heel of the Vizio E55 is its built-in sound system. The audio that emanates from its speakers is thin, tinny and reedy. And there's not much of it — even with the volume set to halfway, the Vizio E55 failed to deliver much in terms of sound pressure levels. Female vocals, like Adele's, sounded as if they were being broadcast from a cheap AM radio — something users cannot improve upon without digging into the smartphone app's settings.
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Interface: Smart but clunky
As with its M-Series line of TVs, Vizio has dumped its old Yahoo-backed smart TV interface in favor of SmartCast, which is based on Google's Chromecast. The TV comes with a small, very basic remote control, but Vizio intends for you to control all the streaming smart services (and access many deeper settings like sound profiles) using a free Android or iOS app on a smartphone or tablet. However, unlike the more expensive M-Series and P-Series models, Vizio does not include an Android tablet with this TV; you have to bring your own.
The big advantage of this approach to smart TV services is that Chromecast supports a very wide array of apps and streaming services, including Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, YouTube and HBO Now. You can also search or browse for content across multiple apps at once, which makes it easier to find something to watch. Furthermore, there's the promise of more features and services down the road, thanks to Google.
I found one drawback to this approach, however: The software is somewhat slow to respond, making the Android tablet an inefficient TV remote. Using a dedicated remote can be quicker, but smartphone-centric owners may be more forgiving.
Anyone who wants a good-size set that can handle a library of DVDs and bring in entertainment from multiple streaming services will be happy with the Vizio E55-D0. Its accurate colors and contrasty picture will please most viewers, so along with the LG 55LH5750, Vizio's E55-DO is one of the main contenders to consider among budget 1080p TVs.