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Vizio E550i-B2 Review

55" 1080p Full-Array LED Smart TV

by , Senior Reviewer

Vizio E550i-B2 LED TVVizio's 55-inch entry into the basic lineup of LED TVs has seen some attractive upgrades for 2014. The price is one of those attractive features as well. The E550i-B2 features full-array LED backlighting instead of the edge-lit variety we have seen in the past. The 55 inch size has 12 zones of Active dimming for enhanced contrast, more than the smaller sizes. Vizio Internet Apps Plus is also included in the E series for the first time. The E550i-B2 is available for a price of around $699.99.

“I was surprised by a couple of no-brainers that we have not seen from a branded TV in some years: noise from the TV and aspect ratio problems”

Strengths

  • Very thin bezels compared to previous E-series models
  • Easy to set up on a TV stand or wall mount thanks to the lightweight build
  • Calibration is more than necessary to get the best out of this TV
  • The many different picture modes each have their strong suits
  • The 2 15 watt speakers are plenty loud to fill a room
  • The Black Detail feature increases black saturation and boosts contrast

Weaknesses

  • Fan produces noticable clicking noises when the TV is off
  • High pitch huming heard when the TV is on
  • Aspect ratio issues with standard def programming could not be properly addressed
  • Side angle viewing isn't great, but on par with other LED TVs
Vizio E500i-B1 LED TV
The E550i-B2 has a good quality picture after calibration. This still House of Cards shows good picture depth and detail. Color reproduction is on the weak side, but not terrible

Picture and Viewing Features

The Vizio E550i-B2 is an excellent choice for the entery level E series thanks to more zones for the Active LED Local Dimming. The 55 inch features 12 zones while the 48 inch only has 6. More zones are better because their divisions become less noticable to a watchful eye. We didn't see too much benefit from this feature anyway. The full-array LED backlighting achieves much better peak whites and deeper blacks than seen on previous versions of the E series. Colors are also going to benefit from this backlighting scheme, as there will be less washout and uniformity issues. Also, the 120Hz effective refresh rate with a 180 Clear Action Rate backlight scanning feature imrproves judder and motion blur. The Clear Action Rate may produce negative effects in some circumstances and is probably better left off for movies and regular TV programs.

Picture Quality Rating: 84/100

The E550i-B2 certainly doesn't compete with a plasma display in terms of picture depth and color, but it's a clear winner when it comes to picture quality and screen space for the price. Darker scenes end up looking a bit flat and blacks can look as if there is a haze over them. Colors also seem a tad bit washed out and leave a little more to be desired.

Black levels end up being somewhat flexible thanks to the Black Detail option in the Advanced Picture Settings menu. It provides a much needed contrast boost which gives the picture a more three dimensional quality. Colors pop a bit more too. This is a case where I made a rare exception and use the Black Detail on the high setting. We normally stray away from settings like this since they typically don't benefit the overall picture quality. That's not the case here.

Vizio E550i-B2 LED TV
This is a shot from an HD broadcast. Detail and sharpness are high points here while color seems a bit lacking

The Film Mode does cut down slightly on judder from movie-source programming with no noted side effects. We're typically sceptical of this type of de-judder feature but on the Vizio e-series the effects are subtle enough to be of good use.

Side Angle Viewing, better than expected especially with the Black Detail setting on high. Nevertheless , there is contrast reduction starting at around 20 degrees off center, but becoming pronounced at 30.

Game Mode and Input Lag

Vizio E550i-B2 Input Lag Measurement
Getting to the game mode is a simple change of the picture setting. A 40ms measurement isn't bad at all and will be hard for most to notice

The Vizio E550i-B2 has a dedicated picture mode for gaming. This is for optimal performance when it comes to input lag. The TV responds fairly well in our tests. We measured input lag at 40ms. That's not too bad at all for the average to hardcore console gamer. Shooters, racing, and action games play just fine on this TV. 30ms and below are considered excellent measurements, so this Vizio stands with the best of them. Since the Game mode is its own picture setting, you may have to dial in some of the calibration settings again to get the best picture. Do it once and you are all set.

Picture Modes and Calibration

Choosing the best picture mode for the E550i-B2 is extremely important and Vizio provides some strong choices: Standard (energy saving mode), Calibrated, Calibrated Dark, Game, Computer, and Vivid. The calibrated and calibrated dark modes are the best choices with only the backlight strength being the difference between the two. I think that Calibrated mode will probably be the choice mode for most situations. Here I saw plenty of dark shadow detail combined with a full backlight setting to give the picture a needed punch. Overall, the two calibrated modes available are the way to go when you want the best picture out of this TV. Try the others out if you need to push the brightness a bit more depending on the room the TV is located in. From Calibrated Mode use the following settings for calibrated picture settings:

Picture Settings

Advanced Picture

Backlight: 90 Auto Brightness: Off
Brightness: 54 Black Detail: High
Contrast: 91 Smart Dimming: On
Color: 54 Reduce Signal Noise: Low
Tint: -1 Reduce Block Noise: Low
Sharpness: 30 Film Mode: Off

OPC Control Setting

The OPC (Optimum Power Control) control is very hidden in the menu of the E-series Vizio TV, but it can and should be turned off due to the distracting influx and outflow of light/brightness produced by the backlight. Out of the box, it will be set to On position for any of the preset picture settings. When I recently retested the e-series from Vizio I found it added unnecessary picture noise when light flow moved up or down lagging the picture image. The OPC's purpose is to save energy by manipulating the backlight through the 18 backlight zones, or probably more accurately to lower the Energy rating for Vizio's TVs. But at less than $1 a month total, and just a few cents per month for the OPC feature, you probably prefer a better picture. To turn it off: Go to Picture Settings, scroll down to More, Scroll down and click Advanced Picture at he bottom of the menu, this will finally bring up the Backlight Control as the very last setting. Turn Off.

Aspect Ratio Choices and Quality

Normal, Wide, Stretch, and Zoom modes are controlled by the diminutive "wide" button on the bottom left of the remote face. With HD programming your normal and wide selection will appear the same and of course there is no problem with this aspect rendering. The following pics from Nat Geo Wild show what your choices will look like with normal non-HD cable. The order is:

Vizio E550i-B2 Wide Aspect Ratio
Wide: Obviously you will have bars left and right as well as top and bottom, but everything is sized perfectly without distortion. You just lose half the screen space!

Vizio E550i-B2 Zoom Aspect Ratio
Zoom: Looks decent but the picture is stretched vertically too much and is not proportional. As well, you are losing some of your picture top and bottom, notice the NBC logo

Vizio E550i-B2 Normal Aspect Ratio
Normal: This is your 4:3 format picture. Wide aspect almost took off as much on the side bars as 4:3.

Vizio E550i-B2 Stretch Aspect Ratio
Stretch: As you can see you get the full width but the algorthmic scaling leaves a lot to be desired. His face is not even close to being proportional. It's much more evident with faces on the left or right side of the screen.


Features Rating: 83/100

Vizio Internet Apps Plus

The Vizio E550i-B2 has the Vizio Internet Apps Plus platform included. The built-in wifi allows for instant access and plenty of speed for HD content streaming. The 'Plus' in the name means the interface is much more user friendly and the overall performance is faster than before. Some of the most useful apps included are Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, VUDU, MGO, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Facebook. There are plenty more too.

Some notable apps included this time around are:

Spotify: This music streaming app gives your Vizio access to just about all the music you'll need. You can search albums, tracks, and artists to create personalized playlists instead of leaving it up to the app to decide what is next. There are ads, but premium subscription models are offered for those who really enjoy the experience.
Lyve: LyveHome gives the TV the ability to compile all of your content from Android, Apple, and Windows devices and access them from one place. Vizio Internet Apps Plus users can easily sort, view, share and their photos and videos right on the big screen.

Vizio E550i-B2 Streaming Netflix
The Netflix app works wonderfully on the Vizio Internet Apps Plus platform

The Smart TV gets good marks as far as performance goes. There were a few initial hiccups in the set up process, but all was smooth once we got past those and connected to our wifi network. Streaming content loaded up quickly and provided a high quality image over wifi. This is a big plus since not all smart TV platforms handle streaming so well.

Vizio E550i-B2 Streaming Netflix
This still from House of Cards displays decent picture depth and contrast levels. Getting to the Netflix app only involves a single button press

Standard Remote

The Vizio E-series does not include a remote with any special capabilities. No motion control, voice recognition, or QWERTY keyboard. But that's okay. It's a small remote with efficiently laid out small keys that give quick access to the necessary controls. That's really all we need in a remote after all. The buttons to access video streaming apps quickly will be some of the most used.

Vizio E480i-B2 Remote
The small black remote is clearly labeled with plenty of room for the channel and volume buttons. The number buttons may be a little too small for those with bigger hands

Appearance and Design

Vizio E550i-B2 LED TV Design

The E550i-B2 has also recieved some upgrades to the appearance. The bezels are now slimmer than they were last year, at a mere 10mm thin. Not bad for an entry level set. The profile has also seen a reduction of 30%. These aren't nearly as bulky as they have been in the past. The black plastic square stand is nothing special, but it doesn't take away from the sleek look here. All in all, this is an average looking value LED TV.

Value Rating: 93/100

The Vizio E550i-B2 presents a strong value on all fronts. The $699 retail price tag isn't too shabby for the amount of screen space. Similar TV's from major brands sell in the mid to high $700 range. Strong contrast and picture depth from front and center is the highlight in the picture quality realm. Vizio Internet Apps Plus don't do anything new for the platform, but everything works well and doesn't leave much to be desired. Some downsides are a non-backlit remote, 2-point white balance, and a non-swivel stand. But these aren't dealbreakers by any means. The 55-inch size class is highly competitive in the LED TV arena. Vizio has a lot going for it when it comes to budget TV shoppers.

Overall Rating: 87/100

Standout Features

  • Full HD 1080p
  • Diagonal Screen Measurement: 54.64"
  • 120Hz Full Array LED Backlit
  • 12 Zones of Active LED Dimming
  • Speaker output: 15W x 2
  • 802.11n wifi built in
  • 10mm thin bezel for frameless appearance
  • 4 HDMI, 1 USB inputs
  • With Stand: 48.46”W x 29.96”H x 10.24”D
  • Without Stand: 48.46”W x 28.15”H x 2.48”D


Jack Burden Jack Burden has been reviewing and writing reviews in the consumer electronics category for 7 years with CEAG. He considers grayscale gradation, film patterned retarders, and focus field drives to be fun topics. Read more about Jack

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