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Vizio M501d Review (M501d-A2R)

50 inch 1080p Passive 3D 240Hz Processing LED TV

by , Senior Editor


Vizio M501d LED TV
  • Excellent balance of features, options, price, and value
  • Passive 3D quality is up there with some of the best
  • 4 HDMI inputs along with 2 USB ports for plenty of accesibility for the home theater or video game junkie
  • Smart TV Apps selection offers just the right amount of useful apps for streaming video, news, and music


  • Screen Uniformity problems arise when the backlight is too high
  • Side angle viewing sees contrast and color degrade at harsh angles
  • No control buttons on the side of TV
  • Remote control/menu functionality and options


  • The open square stand
  • TV frame and cabinet design
  • Overall 2D picture quality
  • Passable black levels

    The Vizio M501d is not the smallest of the M series, but it is the smallest that incoportates all of the advanced features like 240Hz processing and Theater 3D. The smaller TVs still have local dimming, but only feature a 120Hz panel. This 50 inch also presents an excellent value for a TV with a fast refresh rate and 3D for less than $900. That's going to be hard to beat this year. 50 inch TVs from Toshiba, Samsung, LG, and Sony are going to be the biggest sources of competition for the M501d.

    Picture Quality Rating: 8.2/10

    The overall 2D picture quality of this TV will depend a lot on the picture mode you select. Black levels are reasonably saturated, and the TV certainly has plenty of brightness in whites. Image edges are not as crisp as some of the better Sony TVs on the market (denoting strong video engine processing) but they were far from bad. From a calibrated picture setting, we felt the TV exhibited some push toward yellow/green in color rendition. There is only a 2 point calibration option and no Warm white balance settings. See our calibration settings for more on picture settings.

    Included Preset Picture Modes

    Vizio always has lots of Picture Modes to choose from, never as good as a calibrated picture setting but it's nice to have choices:
    Vivid – Over-amped in every way
    Standard – Comes with contrast set to 80 and brightness 50, backlight
    Game – Some TVs have hidden the Game mode but Vizio makes it easy to find right there in the Picture mode settings. It's specifically designed to reduce lag time during gaming using a combination of LED lighting, panel refresh rate, and internal processing.
    Computer Mode – Very unusual but useful to have this right there in the Picture mode options.
    Calibrated – Another very unusual but useful mode to choose from, this is the best setting out of the box, but the TV may have a slight yellow, green ;push here.
    Calibrated Dark – Obviously this mode is for use in a dark room environment. We thought it was overly dim.

    Note: From Calibrated Mode we found it unusual that there was no Warm color temperature setting. The color temp setting in the more adavnced menu was set to normal when in Calibrated mode. The other color temperature options are Cool, Computer, and Custom.

    Smooth Motion Effect Feature

    The effective 240Hz panel speed did a pretty good job eliminating judder and motion lag when combined with the Smooth Motion Effect setting. When viewing anything but live sports, you will likely want to turn the Smooth Motion Effect setting off as it adds the unwelcome cardboard cuttout fake effect by eliminating too much background blur. The effect is more subtle on the Vizio M551d than on many LED TVs we've reviewed. It doesnt overcompensate as much. We noted just a slight amount of lag in fast motion material.

    Effective 240Hz Processing

    The M501d features a panel with a 240Hz effective refresh rate from what is likely a 120Hz panel. We think this is a great addition to the overall picture quality on this LED TV. Sports programming is one of the biggest reasons to have a 240Hz refresh rate. Gaming also benefits from a fast panel in a big way. There are many situations where this extra push in image processing won't be needed, luckily it can be disabled. This way unwanted side effects in programming that doesn't include a lot of fast action won't be an issue.

    Advanced Local Dimming

    Local dimming (Smart Dimming feature) on the M501d works to control brightness and contrast in specific areas of the TV. Though we do not see a whole lot of difference when utilizing the feature, it provides a glimpse at better processing and LED lighting on this TV vs. lower end. The specific areas are known as zones and the screen on this TV is divided up into 16 of them. That's not as many as some of the other local dimming LED TVs out there, but the effect is subtle but good. The zones are able to darken individual areas of the screen for higher contrast in dark scenes.

    Passive 3D - Excellent

    The M501d uses Vizio's Theater 3D. This is the passive 3D method for displaying 3D content. We have noticed better 3D picture quality on passive 3D TVs from LG, Vizio and Sony than the active variety. Plus it's less complicated, you get 4 pairs of glasses free, and extra pairs are cheap. The M501d has a very nice deep rich 3D quality picture and I highly recommend this aspect of the TV to those leary about 3D.

    Features Rating: 8/10

    Internet Features

    The Vizio M series pushes the Vizio Internets Apps, or V.I.A. smart TV platform. It brings just about all the Premium Apps you are really going to use, or need, to the living room. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Hulu Plus, M Go, Netflix, Pandora, Rhapsody, VUDU, Amazon, and Yahoo! TV Widgets are a few of the long list that can be accessed right out of the box. Vizio's Apps selection and menu seem somewhat out of date and with the exception of the dedicated Apps buttons on the remote does not work extremely efficiently. The V button in the middle of the remote accesses Smart TV function is not labeled.

    The Apps options choices are very complete except for Skype.

    Appearance and Design – Not too Flashy

    The M501d has an ultra slim black bezel that surrounds the edge to edge glass of the screen. The base and neck are made out of metal to give it a solid construction and feel. The profile is razor thin and competes with the best LED TVs on the market. Unlike other manufacturers Vizio places their logo on the bottom right of the TV which leaves the middle bottom front looking somewhat empty. Overall a good B-grade design.

    Wifi Direct Remote Control

    The buttons on the remote are too small in many cases. There are dedicated Smart TV and 3D buttons as well as Netflix, M Go, and Amazon for quick access to those Apps.

    Vizio M501d Remote

    This TV includes Wifi Direct universal remote. That means the remote works with the TV's built in wifi. You won't need line of sight like traditional remotes for the TV to pick up a button press. It's a great addition and adds to the ease of use Vizio is going for.

    Value Rating: 8.9/10

    The 50 inch M501d sells for a modest $990 and is well-priced. The Toshiba 50L7300U is about the same price and the Panasonic TC-L50E60 lays down some tough competition at around $899.

    Overall Rating: 8.3/10

    Quick Specs

    • Diagonal Measurement: 49.5"
    • Dimensions With Stand: 44.13” W x 27.79” H x 8.54” D
    • Dimensions Without Stand: 44.13” W x 25.89” H x 1.75” D
    • Weight With Stand: 43.40 lbs
    • Weight Without Stand: 39.18 lbs
    • 1920 X 1080 Full HD Resolution
    • 4 HDMI and 2 USB Ports

    Robert Wiley Having reviewed and written about Television Technology for over 10 years, Wiley never tires of researching the newest qualitative trends related to the technology. Most people do not get excited about possibilities behind the latest video engine...Wiley does. Read more about Robert
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