The TV that Vizio has spent years working on is finally here: today the company officially launched its Reference Series, the most advanced television that Vizio has ever produced, and one that showcases new technologies like Dolby Vision that dramatically enhance the viewing experience. Vizio first announced the Reference Series at CES 2014, so it's taken some time to actually reach the shipping model.
But cinephiles with some serious cash to burn will be rewarded for the wait. Vizio's latest TV comes in two sizes: a 65-inch model for $5,999.99 and a mammoth 120-incher that's priced at — and this isn't a typo — $129,999.99. Yes, there's an enormous difference in pricing there; the bigger Reference Series is for a very specific kind of customer, and Vizio is well aware of that. But the $6,000 version isn't far off from the prices that 4K TVs once started at. And make no mistake: the Reference Series is about way more than 4K.
This ranks as perhaps the best-looking TV I've ever seen, and sets Vizio up to inherit the crown from beloved home theater centerpieces like the Pioneer Kuro and Panasonic's best plasmas. It's not OLED, but the incredibly wide color gamut and full-array LED backlight (with 384 individual LED zones) give the Reference Series a stunningly vivid picture — and an accurate one. Vizio isn't going for any stunts or visual tricks here; the goal is to show you movies just the way that directors intended them to look. And when those movies support Dolby Vision, they'll offer increased brightness, color accuracy, and even higher contrast for an experience that blows away traditional TV viewing.
Right now the list of films you can watch (through Vudu) is small, with titles including The Lego Movie and Mad Max. But Netflix has already committed to give its original shows the Dolby Vision treatment, and gradually more studios will be signing on. The content that is in Dolby Vision is pretty stunning; scenes will get bright enough for your eyes to dilate and sometimes you'll be tempted to shield them during explosions and fire-heavy sequences. And blacks are inky to the point that they're impossible to discern from the TV's outside bezel. The picture you're seeing is more true to life than it's ever been before, and the improvement is striking and immediate. This is about way more than a jump in resolution and clarity.
Eventually this level of picture quality will trickle down to other Vizio sets
Other manufacturers are going for a similar experience with HDR (high dynamic range). Both Sony and Samsung have implemented HDR in their high-end 2015 TVs, which also offer brighter whites, darker blacks, and a wider color gamut than sets that've come before. But Vizio thinks Dolby Vision is the better option.
The Reference Series is available now through Vizio's website, and you can also expect the 65-inch model to be sold at some retail stores. But if you want the 120-inch monster, you'll have to arrange delivery and white-glove setup with a custom installation company. Then again, anyone dropping $130,000 on a TV is probably already familiar with that sort of thing.
We'll have much more to say about the Vizio Reference Series in the weeks to come. Is it the new king of the living room? Perhaps. But if it's out of your price range, don't worry; Vizio CTO Matt McRae told The Verge that the company is actively working to bring some of the features that make this TV look so good down to its other lines.