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Vizio E601i-A3 Review: A Bargain Big Screen TV That Checks all the Boxes

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Vizio E601i-A3

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I love big screen televisions, and for the past few years I have been enjoying my 65-inch Mitsubishi DLP set, but unfortunately she is ready to head to the big TV store in the sky. I entered the now confusing television marketplace in search of a new big screen, and I knew that my budget, and desire for a big screen LED of 60-inches plus, meant I had just a few televisions to choose from, either a Vizio, or a Sharp Aquos. After shopping around for a while I decided on the 60-inch Vizio E601i-A3. Read on to find out why.

The design

One of the big design features these days when it comes to televisions is having a border-less design, and while this particular model isn't completely border-less , the bezel is rather thin, in fact at just three-quarters of an inch thick, the bezel just blends in to the gargantuan 60-inch screen. Perhaps my one complaint about the bezel is that is glossy black, which means it is a potential fingerprint and dust magnet.

The E601i-A3 is just under 2-inches thick, this is because of the edge lit LED's that power the TV. The Vizio while not being thick, is still a big TV, and at 33.5-inches tall when using the included stand, 31.75-inches tall without the stand, and a width of 54-1/8-inches you have to make sure that you have enough room for this TV, both for the car journey home, and for whatever space you plan to put the TV in. In terms of weight the Vizio weighs in at just 54.5lbs without the stand and 61.7lbs when attached to the stand.

In the bottom right hand corner you will find the Vizio logo, and moving around to the left of the television you will see basic controls such as the power switch, input control, menu, channel up and down, and volume up and down. These are always nice to have just for those times you misplace the remote down inside the couch. The right hand side of the bezel is clear. Around the back of the TV you will find your inputs, and this Vizio comes with a fair few to choose from.

When it comes to connecting your A/V equipment you will have no issues thanks to the four HDMI inputs, two USB inputs, one component input, and a set of composite inputs. All of the inputs are easy to access with them half of them facing the off to the right, and the other half facing down towards the bottom of the TV. On the back you will also find the mounting holes for a wall mount, and this Vizio used the standard VESA pattern of 400mm x 400mm.

On the underside of the screen you will find the two 10 watt down firing speakers and the mount for the stand. The stand is just a basic flat slab that attaches with three screws, and it is unfortunately the same gloss black as the bezel around the screen. When on the stand the TV feels very sturdy.

Overall the Vizio E601i-A3 is a nice looking television set. The TV's sheer size is something to behold, and while you might think that the size would make it look out of place, I have to say that thanks to the slim design, it would fit in nicely with any d├ęcor.

What's under the hood?

The screen on this set measures 60-1/25inches when measured on the diagonal, and it has a maximum resolution of 1920x1080 which is full 1080p HD. The screen refresh rate is 120Hz, and the response time is rated at 4ms, and as you would expect, its aspect ratio is 16:9.

The Vizio E601i-A3's dynamic contrast ratio is rated at 1,000,000:1, which when compared to other sets that boast as much as 15,000,000:1 I admit, it looks pretty poor on paper, but don't let this fool you too much. The Contrast ratio is basically the difference between the blackest black and the whitest white that the TV can produce, so basically Vizio is telling us that the white that this TV can produce is 1,000,000 times brighter than the blacks that it can produce, and honestly I have to say that this set produces great blacks and bright whites.

The televisions maximum rated brightness is 350 c/md2, which is more than adequate for home viewing. The television is powered by LED's that are placed around the edge of the screen, and I also have to mention this TV has ambient light sensors built in to the TV, which means that if you have this feature enabled, the TV will automatically adjust the brightness of the set for you based on the amount of light in your room. With this feature turned on, Vizio estimates that the E601i-A3 will cost just $17 per year to operate.

Surprisingly the Vizio E601i-A3 is also Wi-Fi ready (b/g/n), and also sports an Ethernet port so that you can hard wire your TV to a router if you do not have access to Wi-Fi.

Are Smart TV's a good thing?

After getting the TV out of the box, setting it up was a breeze, and within 10 minutes the TV was hooked up and connected to my A/V equipment, and my home network. There are a few things you have to do before you can begin to watch your TV such as setting the time zone, and connecting to your router (if you have one). Once you are connected and have gone through the initial setup (10 minutes) you are ready to start playing.

The first thing I checked after setup were the online features. There are a few apps that come pre-installed such as Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and a suite of Yahoo apps like Yahoo Weather, Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Finance. Along with these apps there is an app store built into the TV that offers both free and paid apps. There were honestly a lot more apps than I thought there would be, including Ebay, iHeartradio, TuneInRadio, WSJ, crackle, YouTube, and many more. In all there are 24 pages of apps to choose from.

To access the apps all you have to do is hit the VIA button on the remote and all of your installed apps appear at the bottom of the screen. Simply select what app you want to use, and hit the OK button. It is as simple as that. The menu system is smooth, fluid, and it is very easy to navigate. Applications load up quickly, and just like the TV's menu system, the apps are easy to navigate. The quality from the streaming services is very good, with Netflix being a particular highlight.

Another plus point for the included Wi-Fi is that the TV can stream media from other devices that are connected to your wireless network. For example, I have a lot of movies and music stored on my laptops, the Vizio is able to see those devices and it can access, and stream all of the media that is stored on them, which again is another great plus for this Vizio TV.

The power of the remote

The remote that comes with this Vizio is quite unique in that fact that one side is just a standard remote control with all of the normal functions you would expect to find. The remote control is actually quite a small device, measuring in at 7-inches in length, and 2.5 inches in width, which is ok, but the buttons are a little crammed together.

Across the top of the remote you will find dedicated buttons for the most popular apps on the TV, Amazon, Netflix and M-GO. Hit one of these buttons and you are taken directly to that app. Under the top row of buttons you will find play, stop, pause, rewind and fast forward controls. The middle of the remote is dominated by the directional pad and enter button, and the VIA app button to access your apps, and then under these you will find the normal 0-9 keys.

When you flip the remote over to the back side you will see a full QWERTY keyboard, and like the front of the remote, I have found myself using the keyboard very frequently since purchasing this TV simply because it makes using the built in apps that much more enjoyable, for instance while searching for YouTube videos, it is quicker to type on the remote than it is to navigate the onscreen keyboard.

Overall the remote control serves its purpose well, even if it is a little on the short side. The remote is comfortable to hold, the buttons have a nice texture to them, and the quick link keys are a nice touch.

How does it perform?

I will be honest, out of the box the Vizio will not overly impress you. Why Vizio decides to send their TV's out with the settings the way they are I will never know. The bad thing about this is that when you see the TV in the store, it will have the factory settings in place, and while they are not terrible, they certainly will not make you giddy with excitement, but trust me and look past this at the store simply because you can only truly tell how a TV will look once you get it home, and get it calibrated to your environment.

I calibrated my TV using the Disney WoW (World of Wonder) Calibration Blu-Ray, and after 20 minutes I had a TV that looked just as stunning as televisions that cost three times as much, and I am being truly honest here, and i'm not over exaggerating.

The level of picture customization on this Vizio is nothing short of incredible, especially when you consider that this is an entry level TV. You can adjust all of the normal settings such as back-lighting, contrast, color, tint, brightness and sharpness, but you can also dig much deeper into the menu's and adjust color temperature, red, green and blue gains and offsets. As well as completing your own calibration, there are a number of presets built right into the TV too, including presets that have been designed specifically for watching various types of sports, but I highly recommend you take the time to calibrate the TV yourself so that it looks the best it can in your home environment,

You will also find that with this being a 120Hz TV that there are various motion and picture smoothing options. These options are the ones that cause the so called 'soap opera effect' that makes everything you watch look unrealistic. Honestly the panel in this Vizio TV does not need to utilize these features because it's that good. I watch a lot of sports (especially soccer and football) while there is a slight hint of motion blur while watching these fast paced games, it is no where near as bad as LCD sets used to be. The same can be said for playing games too. I play a lot of XBOX 360 games and the TV performs flawlessly while looking gorgeous.

The color reproduction after calibration is simply jaw dropping; one would never expect a TV in the sub $1000 range to look as good as this set does. While watching various shows and movies it is clear to see that skin tones look natural, greens and reds are not over saturated, blues are not overly cool, and blacks are as inky as they ever need to be.

The amount of detail present while watching content is excellent, for example while watching Batman: The Dark Knight Rises (which is a particularly dark film) there's no detail lost while Batman is doing his thing. Shadow details are wonderful, and the contrast between the various blacks on the screen are excellent. While the black levels are not the absolute best, the performance in this price range cannot be beat.

Another reference Blu-Ray would be Planet Earth, and even though I have watched this series countless times on Plasma's, DLP's and other LED televisions, I have never seen colors pop off the screen quite like they do on the Vizio. High definition channels via Dish look stunning too, and the TV produces just as much clarity using this source as it did from the Blu-Ray, even standard definition channels (while obviously poorer) still looked good on this Vizio.

Viewing angles on the Vizio are also good. Vizio claims that you can see the picture clearly from an angle of 176 degrees, and while that is true, the picture quality does suffer just a little bit when you move off center. If you are watching from a central position or just off center the picture quality does not degrade in any way, but at extreme angles the colors do become a little washed out, but not enough to ruin your viewing experience.

One thing that always put me off of LCD and LED sets in the past have been light bleed issues (where bright white light is visible while there is nothing but a black screen) which is also known as clouding. Light bleeding usually occurs around the corners, and along the edges of TV sets, but I am pleased to say that the unit I have has virtually no light bleed. There will always be a little, simply because of the technology and the way it works, but there is nothing here that will you notice unless you are right in front of the screen and looking for it.

There is one downside to this Vizio though, and that would be the sound. This should not come as much of a surprise to anyone really, simply because there is no way for manufacturers to fit good sounding speakers in a case that is barely 2-inches wide. The sound produced is tinny, and has no bass whatsoever, however the sound that is produced is loud, clear and distortion free. There are a few sound options located in the menu such as auto leveling, and SRS surround sound, but neither of them really do much to improve the quality or level of sound produced. The speakers are the only weak link to this Vizio TV, but all of the pros far outweigh the cons.

Conclusion

In my honest opinion the Vizio E601i-A3 is a wonderful HD television that produces one of the best pictures I have seen on any TV for a long time, When you couple this with the fact that this Vizio is a smart TV, and that it costs less than $1000 (I paid $699), you begin to understand that this TV is a phenomenal value for money.

The picture quality is up there with televisions that cost three times as much, even the comparable set from Sharp with the same features costs $400 more than the Vizio, and it does not look as good, both in terms of design and picture quality.

The ease of setup, the internet enabled apps, and ease of use, make this TV an absolute steal. If you are in the market for a new TV in the 60-inch range and want to spend under $1000, I highly recommend you pick up the Vizio E601i-A3.

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