For a little while now, I’ve been on a quest to find what I felt was the perfect high-end PC display for the money. Until earlier this year, I’d been using a 29″ LG ultra-wide monitor, and admittedly I really loved the cinematic appeal that it had. With a 21:9 aspect ratio, the screen was 33% wider than a “normal” 16:9 display, which was great for gaming (and would be for watching movies as well). However, quite a few games weren’t ready for 21:9 and would either put black borders around the screen or stretch a 16:9 image to fit the panel, which is far less than desirable, and thus began my quest for a larger format 16:9 screen.
At first, I settled on a nice 32″ 1080p Vizio that featured a 120 Hz refresh rate, and was pretty happy with it. For the money (around $220 USD), it offered a good screen size with pretty crisp clarity and a fast motion rate. It also had Clear Action 240, which would simulate a 240 Hz refresh with backlight strobing and the like, ultimately making images have far less motion blur. Yet, I just couldn’t shake the feeling of doing a bit more and going a bit beyond. I also liked the 32″ screen for gaming, but for daily PC use 1080p, while decent, was a bit “soft” looking. As a smaller TV, it would be fine, but sitting just a couple feet away from it made text a bit less clear than I’d like. So, I kept that in the back of my mind and pressed on, but a couple weeks ago I came across an amazing deal on a Vizio M50-C1 – a full 4K 120 Hz TV with smart features and a built in “PC Mode.”
I purchased this set with my own money (at the time it retailed for $899 on several venues, though as of this post you can buy it on Amazon for as low as $550.50 USD through third-party sellers), so this review is strictly based on my opinion and nothing else!
Keep in mind that this was used primarily as a “computer monitor” and not just as a TV, so this review mainly takes that use case into account.
Monitors are inherently designed to have as low of an input lag and response time as possible. TVs, unfortunately, don’t always have that as a primary consideration. Thankfully, this TV has rather good response times. Outside of “Game Mode,” the screen has a 103.6 ms input lag, but in “Game Mode,” this drops to a very respectable 18.5 ms. If you desire to turn on Smooth Motion/Reduce Judder (say, while running a game at 30 FPS or at 60 while wanting extra smoothness), this decreases to 43.9 ms, which still isn’t that bad at all. These times are pretty great for such a large, 4K display, and make both normal PC use and gaming a very smooth experience.
RESPONSE TIME/CLEAR ACTION 360
The manufacturer claims an 8ms response time for this display, though tests done at Rtings seem to report it at around 15.1ms. Both are decent. The TV also features Vizio’s “Clear Action” mode, which when activated will raise the rate at which the backlight strobes and updates the picture in order to improve the response time and significantly decrease ghosting and motion blur. For this product line, the TV features Clear Action 360, which simulates a 360 Hz refresh rate. Some people may be sensitive to the flickering this can cause (especially if the TV itself has an imperfect implementation of it), but others may see that it significant improvement in clarity. While you may or may not like the Smooth Motion options, Clear Action is really nice for PC gaming and definitely enhances the image without adding much in the way of input lag.
Vizio uses its own iffy terminology by stating that the M50-C1 has a “120 Hz Effective Refresh Rate.” Some state that it’s really a 60 Hz panel but uses some kind of built in black-frame insertion or strobing (outside of the Clear Action mode) to approximate a 120 Hz refresh. However, through extensive experimenting, I determined that this TV can handle up to 4096×2160 @ 60 Hz or can handle 1920×1080 @ 120 Hz. I was able to get my Radeon Crimson to easily recognize a 120 Hz option at both 1920×1080 and 2560×1080 (if desiring 21:9 resolution), and I verified that the screen was displaying this by using Bandicam to monitor the frame rate. In all games tested, the frame counter displayed a solid 120 output. Thus, Windows recognizes the TV as 120 Hz, and the graphics card has no problem sending 120 frames to the TV, nor does the TV have any issue outputting at that level.
In terms of intermediate resolutions, such as 2560×1440, the TV will output up to 60 frames per second. It’s possible through some kind of EDID editing with Custom Resolution Utility I may have been able to force a higher refresh (maybe not 120, but possibly 75 or 90), but I did not bother to attempt it.
Through my Radeon Crimson software, I found that I had a couple choices at my disposal with the M50-C1. I could run the display at 3840×2160 or 4096×2160 (cinematic) at 60 Hz with traditional 8-bit color representation (e.g. 16.7 million colors). If I was willing to drop it to 4K at 30 Hz, though, I got options for 10-bit and 12-bit “Deep Color” modes. When running the display at 1080p, the additional color options were available without needing to drop the refresh rate to save on bandwidth. To me, regardless of 8-bit or 12-bit, the color representation was quite good. I would argue that the higher color values looked a bit better, but it could have been a bit of a placebo effect without viewing normal HDR content. Regardless, this was a nice feature to have!
The Vizio Internet Apps that are part of its Smart TV functionality seem pretty spot on. I didn’t make much use of them because I was using this as a computer screen, but I found the menus nice and the amount of applications to choose from refreshing. Furthermore, the six-core processor the TV boasts makes the menu fast and responsive. I never tried to access something and had the TV lag out or hang up trying to open something, which is definitely a plus.
Running the screen at a 3840×2160 resolution in Windows looked really good, but I found that I needed to use the Display Scaling option to display things at 150% in order to make them very crisp and readable. By comparison, the Philips 4K TV I’m using now (review up on Monday!) can run at 100% scaling and it looks very crisp, even on super tiny things.
I felt the Smooth Motion and Reduce Judder settings did their jobs very well. When running at 4K at 30 Hz (before having a proper HDMI 2.0 to Display Port cable), it made the 30 FPS content look very smooth. Once running everything at a full 60 Hz, the interpolation (when on) just made things look even smoother than before. Again, input lag was minimal, though on rare occasion I saw a small screen artifact or two as the result of an improperly interpolated frame.
Unfortunately, the TV had a small two inch crack right out of the box and a couple dead/stuck pixels. I don’t blame Vizio at all for this, as it was the fault of either the store or the courier who brought the TV to the store in the first place, yet I decided that I needed to return the TV and get a refund on it (it was no longer for sale at the store). That, however, doesn’t affect the final score of this review!
The Vizio M50-C1 is a great 4K TV for the money, and so it gets a rating of: