If you’re looking for an affordable TV, the Vizio M-Series Quantum is likely on your radar. It’s an HDR-compatible 4K TV line with quantum dot technology to improve its color performance, and at $439.99 for the 50-inch M50Q7-H1 we tested, it’s pretty friendly on the wallet. It indeed offers a wide color gamut, as well as a gaming mode with incredibly low input lag and a strong set of connected features. The M-Series Quantum is a solid buy for the price, but its contrast levels fall behind slightly more expensive models like the Hisense H8G series.
A Simple Design
The M50Q7 is a very simple, plain-looking TV, with a thin black plastic bezel that runs around the sides and top, and a wider strip on the bottom edge bearing the Vizio logo. It isn’t particularly svelte, thickening out to three inches deep in the middle. It’s a very utilitarian design, with few flashy elements. The TV sits on two thin metal V-shaped legs, or it can be mounted on the wall.
Aside from the power connector on the left, all ports can be found on the right side of the back of the TV. Two HDMI ports, an RCA composite input, and a USB 2.0 port face directly right. Two more HDMI ports, an Ethernet port, optical and RCA audio outputs, and an antenna connector face down. A small cluster of buttons (power, input, and volume up/down) sit on the lower right corner of the back panel.
The included remote is a thin, black, button-laden wand with a large, circular navigation pad near the middle. Menu, power, input, and dedicated service buttons for Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, Redbox, Vudu, Xumo, and Vizio’s own Watch Free selections can be found above the pad. Volume and channel rockers, along with a number pad, can be found below it. This is a simple infrared remote; it doesn’t have a microphone or any other special features.
The M50Q7 uses Vizio’s SmartCast smart TV platform. It’s a fairly basic but useful connected TV interface that provides access to many major streaming services including Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube. It’s a modestly broad selection of apps and services compared with platforms like Google TV and Roku TV, but it covers most bases.
More importantly, SmartCast features support for AirPlay 2 and Google Cast, so you can stream video from your Android or iOS mobile device, or your Mac or PC. It lacks a voice assistant feature, but it’s nicely equipped in terms of displaying content.
Contrast and Color Performance
The M50Q7 won’t impress you with its contrast. In Calibrated (Dark) mode, the TV shows a peak brightness of 186.334cd/m^2 for a full screen of white and 216.619cd/m^2 for an 18% white field, with an average black level (while displaying white on the screen) of 0.153cd/m^2. That results in a mediocre effective contrast ratio of 1,416:1.
Using the default Calibrated mode doesn’t appreciably affect peak brightness, and harms the black level for an even lower contrast ratio. Setting the Calibrated (Dark) mode’s backlight to maximum bumps up the peak brightness a bit, but more than doubles the black level in the process. Basically, you won’t get the kind of contrast you’ll find in the TCL 6-Series here (74,326:1), or even the Hisense H8G series (20,486:1).
While its contrast isn’t great, the M50Q7’s color is surprisingly strong, thanks to the panel’s quantum dot technology. The above chart shows an SDR signal compared with Rec.709 broadcast standard color levels on the left, and an HDR signal compared with DCI-P3 digital cinema color levels on the right.
Out of the box, in Calibrated (Dark) mode, it hits Rec.709 levels nearly spot-on, with whites, magentas, and yellows running just a bit warm. With an HDR signal, it actually exceeds DCI-P3 levels, though yellows and magentas drift a bit toward the more deeply saturated reds than ideal. It’s strong color performance for a budget TV, even if it isn’t the most accurate without calibration, compared with the aforementioned Hisense and TCL models.
The TV’s strong color gamut comes through when displaying BBC’s Planet Earth II on Ultra HD Blu-ray. The blue-greens of water and the greens of plants really come through vibrantly, and occasionally a bit oversaturated. The fine details of animal fur can be seen clearly, especially when well-lit, though shadow details tend to get a little muddy due to the mediocre contrast and black levels. It’s an eye-catching and colorful picture for the price, but it’s not the brightest, darkest, or most natural.
The red in Deadpool’s costume looks properly saturated and skin tones are natural in Deadpool’s overcast opening scene. The burning lab fight later in the film doesn’t look particularly bright in the flames, or dark in the shadows, due to the TV’s contrast. Details tend to get lost in the darker parts of the frame, especially against the orange-yellow of the fire.
The M50Q7’s mediocre contrast performance is especially apparent in the party scenes of The Great Gatsby, where textures and fine details get easily lost in the dark parts of the stark, near-monochrome shots. Skin tones generally appear natural, but occasionally look a bit oversaturated, while the contours of lapels of black suits get swallowed by darkness.
Input lag is the amount of time between when a TV receives a signal and the screen updates, and it’s important for video games to feel responsive. We test input lag using an HDFury Diva HDMI matrix, which measured a lag of 44.4ms for the M50Q7 under default settings.
Turning on the Pro Game Engine Game Low Latency feature, however, slashes that lag down to a blistering 3.1ms. That’s comparable with some gaming monitors, and easily puts the M50Q7 on our list of the best TVs for gaming.
Good for Gamers on a Budget
The Vizio M-Series Quantum TV line offers impressively wide color range for a budget-friendly price. Unfortunately, the contrast performance doesn’t match up, resulting in muddy shadows and a picture that isn’t particularly bright. The Hisense H8G series offers much better contrast for a slightly higher price. And if you don’t mind spending a bit more than that, the Hisense H9G and TCL 6-Series both stand out as fantastic performers on the top edge of the “budget” realm. The M-Series Quantum is compelling if you’re a gamer and you want a super-responsive screen for a low price, but cinephiles should consider spending a bit more for a much better picture.