Vizio’s overhauled their smart features for 2016. They’ve mostly gotten rid of their mediocre homebrew platform and instead implemented Google’s Chromecast Built-In (previously named Google Cast).
While the platform is versatile and has considerably grown in support from app makers, Vizio’s implementation is far from perfect, and accessing things as simple as the settings can be frustrating with the included tablet remote. Unlike other smart TVs, there are no apps on the TV itself.
Picture quality of Vizio smart TVs
|Smart TV||OS||Remote||Our Reviews|
|P Series||Basic||QWERTY||See review|
|E Series 2015||Basic||Basic||See review|
|M Series 2015||Basic||QWERTY||See review|
|D Series 1080p 2016||Basic||Basic||See review|
|D Series 4k 2016||Basic||Basic||See review|
|E Series 1080p 2016||SmartCast||Basic||See review|
|E Series 4k 2016||SmartCast||Basic||See review|
|M Series 2016||SmartCast||Tablet||See review|
|P Series 2016||SmartCast||Tablet||See review|
|E Series 2017||SmartCast||Basic||See review|
Vizio’s entire lineup this uses Full-array Local dimming VA panels with varying levels of quality across the lineup. They all, minus the outlier E Series (both 4k and 1080p), have good picture quality and are good value for money. You can find our list of those here.
The rest of this article reviews the smart features found in current Vizio models (except the D Series, since it still uses last year's OS). We used the Vizio P series 2016 for this review and will point out differences between the models where applicable.
The tablet remote isn't the greatest, it often has issues connecting to the TV and adjusting it's settings, meaning you have to re-do the first time setup. Fortunately, it's simply an Android tablet with a few apps pre-installed, and you can get the same functionality on your iOS or Android phone with added stability.
The basic remote is the only remote that comes with the E series, but it is also packaged with the P and M series. It's very basic, too much so in fact. It lacks essential controls like arrow keys, so traveling through the limited menus it has control over is tiresome since you have to go through the whole list to go backward.
Since there isn't much to load, the Vizio P consistently launches under 10 seconds. That makes it easily one of the fastest we've tested this year. This is mostly because Smartcast has a "fast boot" feature that essentially keeps the TV in a sleeping standby mode instead of shutting it off completely. From the tablet remote or the Smartcast app, you can enable "eco mode" to have it shut down completely instead. This has the disadvantage of disabling the ability for the TV update automatically.
Since SmartCast doesn’t come with any apps on the TV itself. The main interface is exceptionally simple. Only a customizable picture, the time and date and the network can be seen. You can’t even access settings on the TV itself; everything goes through the app.
Pairing is, fortunately, easy. With the included tablet remote, just launch the app and start the setup, then place it in the bottom right corner.
This TV's entire smart features are reliant on Google's casting platform. If you've ever used a Chromecast before, this will be the same. You use the app you want to send to the TV on your phone, and if you're connected to the same network as the TV, you'll see the "cast" logo at the top of the screen.
Google Chrome allows you to cast a page from a Mac or PC, but you can also cast and mirror the screen of the tablet remote or your phone. This somewhat negates the inclusion of a real integrated web browser, but it makes navigating the internet on the TV a bit cumbersome. It is quite useful however for watching content that hasn't been made available through mobile apps.
Tablet Remote and App
One of the best features from Smartcast is the app that comes pre-installed with the tablet remote. It's not the most intuitive, but it has a lot of depth and it allows you to cast a lot of sources from a single place.
Unfortunately, Vizio's software upgrade also removed the ability to browse through USB drives for content. All it does now is play everything on the drive in a loop. You don't have any control over what's playing, not even play or pause. To enable this feature, just plug in a USB drive when the TV is on and on the main screen. It won't work if it's kept in before starting the TV. Since the Vizio D Series still uses last year's smart OS, it will have better capabilities in this regard.
Most Video formats are supported, but it's not worth using it as anything other than a live photo frame. Unlike competing TVs, the Vizio Smartcast TVs were also incapable of interpreting HDR Metadata from a USB source.
Smartcast is undeniably not for everybody. You're always going to have to use an additional device to browse any content you wish to play on the TV. A lot might be satisfied with this, especially if they like the Chromecast experience. But most other smart platforms today offer similar or, in the case of Android, the same feature while also having a complete platform available. It's hard to recommend Vizio TVs on smart features alone, especially when considering the fierce competition they face in that regard.