Vizio hasn’t had a significant presence at CES since 2014. That year, the company actually went to the effort of issuing a press release to say it was done with the big trade show and would instead introduce TVs, soundbars, and other products at its own media briefings on its own schedule. Fast forward to today, and Vizio is making a return to Las Vegas with an all-new 2019 lineup. Not much about CES has changed; a lot of tech company executives will tell you that its importance continues to shrink with each passing year.
But things have certainly changed for Vizio. It took a gamble and ditched built-in apps and the traditional smart TV experience in favor of “dumb” displays — without a TV tuner, even — that required customers to cast apps like Netflix and YouTube from their phones. Remember the tablet remotes? The company ultimately doubled back on that decision and made it easier to access popular streaming apps on the TV itself (while retaining the useful Chromecast functionality). Vizio was supposed to be purchased by LeEco at one point, but that deal came undone so badly that it led to a lawsuit between the two. And then there was the invasive tracking of customer viewing habits, which drew the ire of the FTC and resulted in a $2.2 million settlement.
But all the while, Vizio has reliably been producing some top-notch 4K TVs at appealing price points. We haven’t published a review, but last year’s P-Series Quantum delivered the best picture quality outside of OLED sets from LG and Sony. So it makes sense that Vizio is making its way back to CES and focusing on, well, more TVs.
For 2019, the company is launching the P-Series Quantum X, its flashiest 4K HDR TV yet. The Quantum X has more local dimming zones than ever before: there are 480 in the 75-inch model, which is more than double the company’s previous best. (More zones is generally a good thing because it allows the LEDs behind the TV’s LCD to be more granular and precise about what sections of the screen are being lit up, allowing for deeper blacks and improved contrast. ) The Quantum X can also reach peak brightness of 2,900 nits, making it Vizio’s brightest TV yet. The P-Series Quantum — no X — is being upgraded for 2019 as well. It only came in a 65-inch version last year, but now there will also be a 75-inch model with 240 dimming zones. Both sizes can hit 1,000 nits at peak brightness.
The step-down M-Series is adding quantum-dot color for the first time to enhance its existing Dolby Vision HDR. Vizio claims “viewers will appreciate a broad range of more distinguishable hues and tones that allow details in movies and TV shows to pop. And again, Vizio is upping the dimming zones here; the M-Series comes in sizes from 43 to 65 inches, with the latter offering 90 zones of local dimming, which Vizio says is almost twice that of last year’s. And there’s a new entry-level V-Series, which is apparently a “reimagined” E-Series “with up to 16 zones of local dimming and up to 400 nits of entry-level peak brightness.”
Aside from new hardware, Vizio is also forming an alignment of sorts with Apple: all of its 2019 TVs will gain AirPlay 2 functionality for playing music, videos, displaying photos, or mirroring your Mac or iOS device on the TV screen. And “eligible” existing SmartCast TVs will also gain AirPlay 2 with an upcoming software update. A beta is set to start sometime this quarter before a public roll out in Q2.
Apple announced yesterday that multiple TV makers including Samsung will soon support AirPlay 2. Vizio notes that it will also be supporting HomeKit, which will allow you to power it on / off, change inputs, or add it to one of the rooms in your home for automated routines. Apple says “with AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, you can use Siri on your iPhone to send a video to your TV. Better yet, ask Siri to play a specific show in a specific room.” Samsung didn’t mention anything about HomeKit alongside its announcement of AirPlay 2 support, but all other TV makers (so far) are integrating both.
Vizio is also refreshing its soundbar lineup with yet more Dolby Atmos-capable options and a redesigned subwoofer that should be easier to hide away somewhere near the TV. The 36-inch 5.1.4 sound system is at the top of the pile, but all of the Atmos soundbars include Chromecast support (in addition to Bluetooth).
Pricing and release date for all of Vizio’s 2019 products will be announced closer to their release in the spring.