Vizio’s $1,300 55-inch OLED TV is a game-changer

Caleb Denison

Vizio has finally unveiled its next generation of TVs, the company’s 2021 lineup, and among them is the company’s first-ever OLED television, priced at $1,300 for the 55-inch model and $2,000 for the 65-inch model.

These are the lowest introductory prices for an OLED TV that  we’ve seen in the U.S. and the first time a competitor has undercut LG, which for many years was the only brand making OLED TVs. That news alone is a game-changer, but it gets better: These will not be “budget TVs” from the standpoint of picture quality and overall performance. I expect these TVs to give LG, and possibly Sony, a run for their money.

First a trickle, then a downpour

To put Vizio’s pricing in perspective, LG’s least expensive OLED model this year, the BX, is presently priced at $1,500 for a 55-inch set and $2,200 for a 65-inch. Granted, that’s just a $200 difference, but consider that the BX OLED does not have LG’s best processor. Vizio’s OLEDs will have the company’s all-new processor, which subjectively looked excellent to me during demonstrations at CES 2020.

Continuing the price comparisons, Sony’s least expensive 2020 OLED TV, the A8H, is priced at $1,900 and $2,800 for the 55- and 65-inch models, respectively. The A8H is an outstanding TV — perhaps the best picture quality you can buy this year — but you’ll pay a premium for it.

Vizio 2021 elevate soundbar

What’s most encouraging to me is that, with Vizio’s move into OLED TV territory, the competition is heating up, which almost always means prices will drop considerably, both over the course of this year and for years to come. The drops in price will be small at first, then they will grow more substantial.

It is finally safe to say that OLED TVs are no longer prohibitively expensive, though I should point out that LG is currently the only supplier of OLED TV panels and may be able to control pricing to a certain degree.

Next-level gaming

Until recently, competitive gamers have relied on computer monitors to give them an edge. TVs have historically had higher input lag, more latency, and no support for variable refresh rates. As such, first-person shooter games, in particular, have suffered on TVs. As of this year, however, an increasing number of TVs are supporting HDMI 2.1 elements such as 4K 120Hz resolution, variable refresh rates, and unprecedentedly low response times. Finally, TVs like Vizio’s OLED are in a position to effectively replace computer monitors for gaming.

What makes OLED TVs so special — aside from being impossibly thin — is in the way that they produce light. Unlike LED/LCD televisions, which require an LED backlight system and color filters, OLED TVs use organic materials to produce red, green, blue, and white subpixels, a feat we call self-emissive. The benefits are perfect black levels and, therefore extremely high contrast.

Put simply: Games, movies, and TV shows look their absolute best on OLED screens.

You can also view an OLED TV from virtually any angle without the picture washing out, a problem commonly associated with LED/LCD TVs. Those who watch the same TV channel for 6 or more hours a day, day after day, month after month should look elsewhere, however, as the organic materials in OLED TVs are susceptible to an effect called burn-in, which can leave the impression of a static image, like a news ticker or station logo, permanently etched into the screen.

Vizio is sending along one of its OLED TVs for review, so I’ll be able to share more about how the TV stacks up to the competition, and just how much value there is to the $200 in savings over LG’s BX TVs,. But as history has shown us, the price of these TVs will go down as we near the holiday season at the end of the year — and at that point, a Vizio OLED may be a no-brainer for anyone who was previously on the fence.