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It’s Only $250? – Review Geek


Rating:
9/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: 250

The Vizio TV's SmartCast homescreen.
Andrew Heinzman

There’s never been a better time to buy a TV, and Vizio’s latest D-series TVs are proof of that. I’ve spent a little over a month with the D40f-J09 TV, a 40-inch model that costs just $250, and it’s shocking how good this thing looks for the price. But of course, you have to cut some corners to get to this price, and some people won’t be happy with what Vizio chose to cut.

Here’s What We Like

  • Clear, vivid picture
  • Decent built-in speakers
  • Plenty of inputs, including composite video
  • Variable refresh rate for gaming (not FreeSync or G-Sync, though)
  • Chromecast and AirPlay built-in

And What We Don’t

  • TV has no built-in volume buttons, just power and input
  • No Bluetooth
  • SmartCast interface is a bit slow
  • Vizio sells 4K HDR TVs for just $80 more

Before we get into things, I should clarify that I’m reviewing Vizio’s D40f-J09 TV. It’s a member of Vizio’s budget D-series and one of the cheapest sets in the company’s 2021 catalog. Because Vizio’s massive TV lineup is constantly changing, observations that I make about the D40f-J09 may not apply to other sets, especially future models.

Specs

  • Smart TV OS: Vizio SmartCast (Includes free channels)
  • Display Size and Resolution: 39.5-inches diagonal, 1080p FHD
  • Backlight Type: Full array LED backlight
  • Processor: IQ Picture Processor
  • V-Gaming Engine: Auto Game Mode, variable refresh rate, low input lag
  • Voice Controls: Vizio Voice, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Alexa
  • Casting: Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast Built-In
  • Port Selection: HDMI (2), Coaxial, Composite, Digital Audio, USB
  • HDMI Audio Passthrough: Yes, with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
  • Power Modes: Power Saver and Quick Start modes
  • Weight: 12.35 lb

Decent Build Quality and Design

The Vizio TV's remote control.
Andrew Heinzman

I didn’t expect much from the D40f-J09’s build quality, given that it’s a $250 TV. But I’m mostly impressed by what Vizio put together here. Both the D40f-J09 and its included remote feel well-made, without any sharp plasticy corners, loose parts, or other obvious flaws. The speakers also sound great (for TV speakers) and can get very loud without making any rattling noises.

Like most new TVs, the D40f-J09 is impressively thin and light (to the point that it feels fragile), so be sure to keep the box if you move around a lot. That said, I screwed on the TV’s legs on a hard floor, so maybe it’s more durable than what my instincts are telling me.

But unlike other affordable TVs, the D40f-J09 has a decent selection of inputs. Yeah, I could do with more than two HDMI ports, but there’s also optical audio, USB (for files or accessories), a coaxial jack (of course), and composite video ports with solid upscaling. Unfortunately, Bluetooth is missing from this TV, which limits your ability to use wireless headphones.

The VIzio TV's backside.
Andrew Heinzman

My only major complaint about the D40f-J09’s design is its lack of built-in volume buttons. Yeah, you can control the volume from your phone if you lose your remote (Vizio has an app), but it’s still an annoyance.

And while I like the remote’s design, I don’t like that its buttons are so flat and smooth. Some nice bumps and ridges would make these buttons easier to differentiate in the dark and greatly increase this TV’s usability for people who are visually impaired. I’d also like to complain about all the annoying streaming service buttons on the D40f-J09’s remote, but this kind of advertising is par for the course now and makes TVs cheaper—OH WELL.

Who Knew a $250 TV Could Look So Purdy?

The Vizio TV playing Monsters Inc
No, I haven’t been using this at my desk. It’s just hard to take pictures of a TV. Andrew Heinzman

Everything about the D40f-J09’s display impresses me. The picture is vibrant and clear, colors are accurate, and the full-array backlight ensures that the TV is evenly lit. Like most new TVs, the backlight gets nice and bright and can be dimmed through the TV’s settings, which will come in handy if you install the TV in a bedroom.

And while I wouldn’t call the D40f-J09 a “gaming TV,” it’s better suited for gaming than most sets at this price. The so-called “V-Gaming Engine” enables a low refresh rate to keep action games from feeling laggy, while a variable refresh rate prevents screen tearing and other artifacts. Vizio TVs with AMD FreeSync are a better option for hardcore gamers who are on a tight budget, but regular humans will be happy with the D40f-J09’s performance.

Another thing I really like about the D40f-J09 is that your display options, such as backlight intensity or contrast, are saved to each input. So, if I activate the “Cinema” picture mode for HDMI 1, it won’t affect HDMI 2 or any other input channel. Very nice.

I think that most people will be impressed by the D40f-J09’s display quality, but I should point out that Vizio’s V-series TVs offer 4K HDR for just $80-ish more than the D40f-J09. While the difference between 1080p and 4K isn’t always obvious on a 40-inch display, HDR makes colors and contrast look noticeably better on any TV. If that’s your bag, I suggest looking into Vizio’s V-series models.

A Smart TV OS That Doesn’t Suck?

A close-up look at SmartCast
Here’s a close-up look at SmartCast. I wish the apps were on top!

This is my first time trying Vizio’s SmartCast operating system in years, and it’s not as bad as I remembered. In fact, it’s pretty dang good—it’s just a bit slow on this particular model. Navigating the SmartCast system takes longer than it should because the D40f-J09’s processor just isn’t up to snuff. Yes, it’s usable, but it’s annoying and will only get slower with time—thankfully the built-in Chromecast and AirPlay protocols let you cast video from your phone, which may eliminate the need for a streaming stick.

Ignoring the slow processor, I appreciate that the SmartCast homescreen is simple and easy to use, unlike the confusing Tizen system on Samsung TVs. It also comes preloaded with all the apps you could ever need, and it doesn’t throw too many stupid, useless, annoying pop-up ads your way, which is a major plus. The Watch Free+ app is also nice, as it brings in live TV channels from other services (I’ve been using it to watch a Three’s Company channel).

Vizio could definitely improve the SmartCast OS by stripping away the top banner and making the app icons bigger, but of course, the banner ads exist to generate revenue and make the TV cheaper. They will probably never go away. So, there’s that.

If you don’t like the SmartCast system, I suggest buying a Roku or Chromecast with Google TV streaming stick. They’re much faster than this TV’s built-in OS and, in my opinion, have a better interface. But you can definitely get by with SmartCast, even if you aren’t super tech-savvy. Bear in mind that a streaming stick will take up one of this TV’s two HDMI ports, which is kind of a shame.

The Gist: It’s a Great TV for $250

The Vizio TV's logo.
Andrew Heinzman

If you want a $250 TV with a decent interface, solid port selection, and impressive display, then the D40f-J09 is one of the best options available today. It’s a good budget TV for an adult, an outrageous starter TV for a kid, and a straightforward option for older people who are still adjusting to the world of streaming.

But I can’t help thinking about Vizio’s V-series TVs. For just $80-ish more than the D40f-J09, they pack 4K HDR displays with Dolby Vision support, AMD FreeSync for gaming, and Bluetooth. These features could extend the TV’s usability over the coming years, especially if you’re a bit picky or you’re shopping for a gamer.

Here’s What We Like

  • Clear, vivid picture
  • Decent built-in speakers
  • Plenty of inputs, including composite video
  • Variable refresh rate for gaming (not FreeSync or G-Sync, though)
  • Chromecast and AirPlay built-in

And What We Don’t

  • TV has no built-in volume buttons, just power and input
  • No Bluetooth
  • SmartCast interface is a bit slow
  • Vizio sells 4K HDR TVs for just $80 more





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