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Erin Lawrence

Vizio-M551dYou’re probably not familiar with VIZIO TVs. They are a brand-new entry into Canada, launching just last fall. VIZIO markets their TVs as ‘smart’ TVs. So what makes them smart? Well, they have a lot of built in features that allow you to access social media, YouTube, Netflix and other streaming services, it’s all built right in, and it all works seamlessly.

I tested out a 60 inch M-Series model. For its size, the TV is extremely thin and light. There is only a very small bezel around the TV itself; it’s tall and lean and slim and beautiful.

My testing focused mainly on the social media and other included smart apps in the TV package, mainly because that’s what differentiates this TV from many others.

What Smart TV is included?

Apps in the VIZIO package include YouTube, Yahoo News and Yahoo Weather, Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, and Crackle.

Setupvizio remote

The setup was very easy. Straight out of the box I just hooked it up to the power, connected to Wifi, and it was ready to go: nothing complicated. One of my favorite things about this TV is its remote control. There’s a regular remote on the top, but flip it over and there’s a full backlit keyboard on the bottom of the remote. Pure genius. That makes it so much easier to enter passwords into Twitter or Facebook to get them up and running, which you’re going to want to do on this TV, since that’s one of the features that makes it so fun to use.

Yes, someone thought of the keyboard remote before, but including it in a Smart TV is the perfect marriage of click and QWERTY.  Plenty of streaming TV devices give you a remote, yes, or allow you to input passwords or write social media postings on-screen, but having the keyboard remote makes it as easy as can be, because, after all, no one wants to use the on screen keyboard. N-O–O-N-E.

Social Media Integration

The social media apps run in a smaller window to the left of the screen; almost a picture in picture setup. I really like this because during a season finale of a TV program, or during a big game, or other event, I could definitely see myself loading up a hashtag in the twitter window, while watching the program itself to the right side of the screen. It basically lets you watch things unfold both live, and online, all at the same time. It’s the ultimate way to multitask.

One of the things I didn’t like so much was that in order to link up another family member’s social media accounts, you have to log out completely, and then the other person logs in. Plus the log out screen is buried deep inside the social media menus; not exactly quick and easy.  A nice add on for the next generation VIZIOs would be to have the ability to switch back and forth between user accounts without starting over.

Picture Quality

Though I was mainly focusing on videos from services like Netflix, and YouTube, the video quality and speeds were great. The picture was clear, crisp and didn’t appear to me to need any kind of re-calibration or adjustment.

vizio2So who is this “VIZIO”, anyway?

VIZIO bills itself as “America’s #1 Smart TV Company, #1 Large Size LCD Company and #1 Sound Bar Brand”.  The company is based in the USA, in Irvine, California, and its mission is all about making great TVs that are user friendly, but also TV that come, “at a significant savings that we can pass along to our consumers”.  As I mentioned earlier, they launched in Canada in September 2014.

VIZIO has started out its lineup in Canada with the brand’s popular E- and M-Series Full-Array LED Smart TVs and a range of audio solutions, including 2.1 and 5.1-channel sound bar systems.

The Bottom Line

One of the things I like best about the VIZIO TVs, are how easy they are to use. (I just had the displeasure recently of testing out a gadget that was definitely not user-friendly and was a huge headache right from box opening, so I’m all about simplicity this week!) I could see anyone from a teenager, to a senior, having no problems running any apps or programs on this TV; you can turn it on, and basically figure out exactly what you need to do, and don’t need a complicated and unwieldy manual to help you figure it out.

Yes, you could get yourself a streaming TV stick or peripheral to use things like Netflix or YouTube, and yes, you can access Facebook and Twitter on your phone, but the way more and more of us are using TVs, is not just for TV watching.  For starters, TVs are increasingly becoming the main home computer; we’re watching streaming video there, and using it to communicate with others (think about the way video game players are using services like Twitch), so it’s only natural that instead of having a phone, a tablet and a TV, we’re finding a way to integrate what they all do into one device.  Remember back when you carried a clamshell phone, a camera, a Palm Pilot or other organizer, a watch, and a calculator?  This is where TVs get a chance to fold all the good stuff into one package too. It makes sense, and when it’s as easy to operate as the VIZIO pack, it’s a treat.  In fact, between the easy to use features, the slick and slim profile, the great picture quality, not to mention the great value, the people I work with were so impressed with the 60” VIZIO M Series we tested, we purchased it on the spot so we wouldn’t have to give it up.

Now that’s saying something.

**This review was originally published on the Future Shop Tech Blog.  Watch for it to reappear on the Plug In blog soon. VIZIO TVs are available at Best Buy.

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