What Vizio Needs to Do to Stage a Comeback | Digital Trends

I have to be brutally honest here: Vizio has been struggling for a few years. But there may still be hope for the TV maker. In fact, it’s possible that Vizio is staging a comeback. And that may be some of the best news for consumers.

My first flat-screen TV was a 37-inch Vizio, and there has always been a soft spot in my heart for the brand, long outstripping its weight class with quality sets that simply weren’t that expensive as you would have expected. So it’s been hard for me to watch Vizio dig itself into a hole over the last few years.

But that’s what happens when you double down on something that doesn’t work. In this case, I’m referring to Vizio’s smart TV operating system, SmartCast. It’s my guess that there may have been stubbornness among Vizio’s upper echelons that kept the company steadfastly dedicated to that system. Unfortunately, I think SmartCast has made Vizio as a TV brand suffer.

Remember, Vizio was the king of undisputed value when it came to TVs. And while he’s managed to gain recognition for his soundbars recently, his TVs have waned in popularity.

But I feel that things are changing for the better. And while I’ll stop short of saying I’m excited, I’ll say I’m really encouraged. Even lifted. But why? What’s changing?

Out with the old man

In short: Vizio is finally abandoning its SmartCast smart TV platform and replacing it with a brand new interface. But is that really enough to resurrect a brand on life support? In this case, I think it could be.

As I’ve reviewed my Vizio TV reviews over the last few years, there’s definitely a recurring theme where SmartCast is the albatross around Vizio’s otherwise very sturdy neck.

The old Vizio SmartCast home screen

I’ve even gone so far as to suggest that you should bypass SmartCast entirely by using a Roku or Fire TV or Chromecast anything that isn’t SmartCast. It’s not a good look. While SmartCast has improved, Vizio has managed to reduce lag, increase app load times, and strengthen app support, the layout has continued to annoy me.

While we’ve gotten to a point where even though Roku, Google TV, Fire TV, and even Samsung Tizen and LG webOS all have their differences, there is a common theme in how you navigate and manage those systems simple things like the menu layout, app layout, and organization. These essentials are familiar. SmartCast never really had that. It always seemed to take too much work. And if that’s too much work for me a TV expert, then you can bet it would be even worse for someone who’s new to smart TVs or has gotten used to a competing platform.

Getting into the problem

I believe that Vizio solved this successfully. Its new interface is simply called the Vizio Homescreen. While I may have gone for a different name, I have to admit there is nothing wrong with that nickname and more importantly, it is a good representation of the experience you get when using it.

Start | The new VIZIO home screen

There is a menu on the left sidebar of the home screen. As you scroll through the menu, you can access what each section contains, which is displayed on the rest of the screen. There’s a header at the top, so you can scroll further down under that. As you make your selections, the banner populates with new graphical content.

It just looks better. It’s a dark interface, the tiles are just the right size, and the font is nice too. And it’s even better to navigate. There is also an on-screen virtual keyboard.

It’s still a full operating system with its own apps, though I haven’t yet been able to dive deep enough to determine what app support looks like. Most of the apps you want to access are here, but some questions remain unanswered. For example, I haven’t been able to confirm on an app-by-app basis whether it supports Dolby Atmos. This was one of the problems I had with SmartCast: new apps were slow to become available on the platform, and when they did, they were sometimes not as fully featured. My hope is that that aspect improves as well.

The children and family category page
The Vizio App Catalog
The Hulu app detail page
Details for a movie
The game day hub
The home screen search page

The Vizio Homescreen is definitely a huge step in the right direction because no matter how good the picture quality is, a TV that’s a pain to use will make you wish you weren’t using it.

However, for Vizio to stage a comeback, it will also need to nail picture quality. So where is Vizio on that front?

Image quality

Vizio was already doing quite well in the image quality department. I don’t think Vizio has a long line to hoe in terms of making its TVs competitive with TCL and Hisense. But it has to remain competitive, particularly in the brightness, contrast and backlight control departments. These are areas that all TV manufacturers are focusing on and are areas that consumers also recognize as important.

Ultimately, Vizio has to offer something that TCL and Hisense are not.

The new batch of Vizios TVs are to offer high brightness, and historically, they have solid black levels. One area that could use improvement is backlight control. We need mini-LED backlight systems with a high backlight density, divided into as many small zones as possible. And the backlight control algorithm needs to be snappy so you don’t see active brightening and dimming on the screen. Vizio can do it, it’s just a question of whether it will.

Vizio’s performance in the areas of color accuracy, color volume, and upscaling is already in a good place, but one area where Vizio has an opportunity to lead the competition is motion resolution. If Vizio can offer the best movement for the price, then that would be another flagship. Because ultimately, Vizio has to offer something that TCL and Hisense are not. To me, that space is smooth cinematic content with motion resolution and blur-free sports with no soap opera effect. This is Vizio’s true differentiation opportunity.

Price and performance

And then, of course, there’s the price. Vizio needs to shed the notion that just because its brand has been on the market longer than TCL and Hisense, it can justify slightly higher prices. It can’t unless it can offer the best quality control in the mid-range market. If Vizio can consistently produce clean displays that produce consistent image quality, I’d assume Vizio could charge just a little more because, again, that could indicate real superiority in a specific area where others struggle. .

Otherwise, Vizio has to meet or beat TCL and Hisense in terms of price-performance ratio and features.

And then the final piece? It will need a massive branding campaign which I believe will require significant spending. TCL has partnered with the NFL and Hisense has partnered with the NBA, meaning those brand names will be plastered across both of the biggest sports in the U.S. Vizio will need to applaud with something just like of impact, if not even greater impact.

So to answer the question I asked earlier: Is a new smart TV OS enough for Vizio to stage a comeback? No. Vizio will have to do more.

But I will say that the new Vizio Homescreen is a huge step in the right direction. With a few smarter and arguably expensive moves, Vizio could be the comeback story of the decade.

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