Samsung’s consumer-friendly version of its larger-than-life The Wall display will eventually be available in a more reasonable 76-inch version—you know, for those of us whose homes can’t actually accommodate 110-inch televisions.
Samsung announced the smaller version of the MicroLED TVs today during its big Unbox and Discover event. While the 76-inch MicroLED will be made available “in the future,” the company said the 99-inch and 110-inch versions of the TV will become available closer to April. (It’ll sell an 88-inch version of the TV as well, and that size is slated to launch in fall.) Samsung previously announced sizes beyond the rather limiting 110-inch version of its MicroLED technology-powered TV during CES earlier this year.
In exciting news for folks eyeing the Frame, Samsung’s most popular TV, the TV will get a big storage boost in its 2021 models with an increase from 500MB of storage to 6GB (which Samsung says supports storage for around 1,200 UHD images). The company will also introduce a new Frame accessory later this year for its 55-inch, 65-inch, and 75-inch frame sizes called My Shelf. It’ll ship in beige, white, brown, and black and is meant to help Samsung’s technology blend more seamlessly into your decor. Think of it as a kind of display board for showing off your TV alongside other art or items.
But that’s not all the TV news Samsung dumped on us today. Samsung is also releasing a new full-sun version of its Terrace television in a 75-inch size closer to summer. Meanwhile, the Frame and all Samsung’s Q70A 4K TVs and up will offer AMD FreeSync Premium Pro for console and PC games, a plus for serious gamers.
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And speaking of gaming, the company’s Odyssey gaming monitor this year will come equipped with Quantum MiniLED enhancements and the company’s Quantum Matrix technology. Additionally, Samsung said its QLED is the official TV of the Xbox Series X in Canada and the U.S., as was the case with Xbox One X in the past. The company’s 2021 Neo QLED 8K, Neo QLED 4K, and QLED 4K TVs are now available either for purchase or pre-order.
Lastly, AirPlay 2 is headed to Samsung’s funky rotating Sero TV, support that in practice sounds eerily familiar to a certain recently deceased streaming service. Per Samsung, iOS devices can be paired to the Sero to “automatically rotate the TV screen based on the phone’s landscape or portrait orientation.” It’s as if even in death, Quibi still manages to find a way. Apple Quibi+ will be supported “soon,” according to the company.
Our readers know what’s up. Whenever we ask a question like “What’s the best projector?”, we know we’ll always get a good mix of thoughtful responses and great product recommendations. As expected, we received both this time around, making for a well-rounded and perfect overview of projector life. The most interesting piece of advice was to stick with 1080p for now until 4K reaches its full potential.
Until there’s a proper, native 4K projector released with a full 32GBps HDMI 2.1 port – I wouldn’t consider upgrading from my current 1080P system.
Even at the recent trade shows, no new projectors have been announced that even meet the full HDMI 2.1 spec. This is especially a problem if you just got that new PS5, Xbox, or PC GPU and want to get that 4K @ 120Hz output. – ImALeafOnTheWind
That’s a good tip to consider for anyone who wants to shell out thousands of dollars for a 4K projectors right now. That said, some of our users made an equally compelling case for going 4K, so it all comes down to what you want to use it for. If you aren’t trying to get the most out of next-gen systems and just want to watch movies at high quality, then there are plenty of good options for you out there. Here’s what our readers had to say.
I’m new to the projector game, but I’m a big fan of my Epson 3200. I felt like it hit the sweet spot of cost for performance. It’s pretty much an entry level 4K (albeit pixelshift 4K) projector. It’s 3LCD so you’re not going to have any chance of the rainbow effect that a small subset of DLP users notice. And the input lag is acceptably low for gaming (I play a decent amount of Warzone without issue). The room I use it in is mostly light controlled (only one window with a nearly black out curtain), but it’s a multi use bonus room, so a lot of times we’re watching stuff with lights on. – ItsDeke
Epson’s EF-12 FTW! Instant on/off and excellent color reproduction and fairly bright for the relatively low lumens it has—also HDR, and good speakers are my main reasons. Also auto focus and a fairly short throw distance are nice. This is a projector that you’d put on a coffee table, in front of you rather than behind you. –dt100
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My projector, purchased back in 2013, it still running strong (have replace a few lamps along the way, a cost of ownership). In my setup (120″ screen in a dedicated room) the picture is still great (I also own an LG 65″ 4K, and I remain happy with the 1080p projector). Yeah, probably will upgrade to 4K when the prices drop, but if I were to recommend a projector today, it’d be a 1080p. –medhat1
I’ve got the Optoma HD39HDR. My projector setup is my main setup. I’ve got no regular TV. We use this projector for everything. What I really liked about it are the brightness and response time. I play video games on it, so a quick response time was a must and pretty much why I pulled the trigger on this one. I don’t have a blacked out living area where this is located, and can still watch during the day (although it is obviously much better at night). –DetFanChiGuy
There once was a badass Greek warrior. Indeed, he was the badassiest of them all. He was the perfect killing machine, except for one little thing which took someone who was otherwise invincible and made him…vincible. Now, Achilles isn’t a perfect metaphor for the EOS R5, which I think is the best camera Canon has ever made, but it does have a weak spot—a vulnerable heel, if you will. Many won’t even notice the issue. For others, it will be a fatal flaw.
Canon’s first full-frame mirrorless camera, the EOS R, came out in 2018, and I really wanted to like it, but I couldn’t. It felt a bit thrown together, as if Canon knew it was last to the full-frame mirrorless game, and had to just get something out there, even if it was missing a lot of stuff. I am happy to report that the EOS R5 corrects virtually every one of those issues, and then some. It shoots 45-megapixel uncompressed RAW stills at a very respectable 12fps clip with the mechanical shutter engaged (or 20fps compressed RAW with the electronic shutter), with excellent image stabilization and autofocus tracking. Generally speaking, these photos look phenomenal.
But let’s dive into the hardware. The EOS R5 has some serious heft to it. There’s a big, beefy grip that DSLR shooters will generally love. The EOS R had a capacitive touch-bar as one of its control mechanisms, and it was pretty terrible. It’s gone now! Yay! Instead, the R5 has a standard joystick which is much easier to use—though it does depress a little easily which would lead to accidental clicks when I was just trying to scroll. The R5 also adds a lower thumb wheel on the back, which I love, but I prefer Sony’s implementation, in which it doubles as a four-way D-pad. All of the other buttons and wheels have a good amount of click and enough separation that I was able to adjust settings even when wearing heavy winter gloves. I mostly shot with Canon’s workhorse 24-105mm f/4.0 zoom and its incredible 50mm f/1.2 prime. Both lenses are heavy and chonky, but they are so good I genuinely didn’t care (especially that 50mm).
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The R5 has an electronic viewfinder with 5.76 million dots of resolution and a refresh rate of 120Hz, so things look smooth and very sharp, but it’s still a ways behind from the Sony A7S iii’s EVF with a bananas 9.44 million dots. The R5 now has two memory card slots: one SD UHS-II, and the other for a CF Express Type B. CF Express is newer and more expensive, but it’s also a hell of a lot faster, and you’ll need it for some of the higher-end video modes, which can’t be shot to the SD card. I made the mistake of buying a 128GB Hoodman Steel CF Express card for this review and I kept getting an error saying: “Movie recording has been stopped automatically. Slow card write speed.” On paper the card should be fast enough, but I later read other reviews saying they had this same issue with this camera and this card, so spend the extra $20 or so for a Sony card if you would like to avoid this headache.
The EOS R5 is the first camera to get Canon’s new autofocus system, dubbed Dual Pixel CMOS AF II, and it somehow covers 100% of the image sensor. It is absurdly good. Its Eye-AF was incredibly accurate, nailing the retinas of subjects, both human and animal. It’s now at least as good as Sony’s Eye-AF, but then it goes one better: When it can’t find an eye, it diverts to subject tracking automatically. It does this in still and video mode, and you can adjust how sensitive you want it to be and how smoothly you want it to shift focus. It also works at up to six stops below optimal exposure (-6Ev) if you’re shooting with a f/1.2 aperture lens, meaning it can focus in the dark better than a lot of humans. In busy scenes with more than one potential subject, it was prone to getting confused about which was the important thing to you, but that was easy to fix with a quick tap on the back of the screen.
The original EOS R didn’t have any in-body stabilization, and that was not so great. The R5 has five-axis stabilization that’s as good as any I’ve used. It has a maximum compensation of between 6.5 and 8 stops, depending on what lens you’re using. I wasn’t able to measure that metric scientifically, but I can tell you that I was able to take handheld photos that I had no business taking. The shot above, with the focus on the icy needles at the top of the tree and the stars in the background, was shot with a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second. My hand is not that steady! I typically try to keep things above 1/60.
Generally speaking, photos look excellent. When the lighting was good, many photos I took needed almost no tweaking at all. They looked sharp and vibrant, and while they came off as realistic, they also have a film-like quality that I love. The only way that it doesn’t measure up to my current go-to camera (still the Sony A7R iii) is in dynamic range (meaning the difference between the lightest thing and the darkest thing within a photo where both are still usable). It isn’t quite as good at recovering blown-out highlights, but even more importantly, the shadows aren’t nearly as flexible. When attempting to push shadows back up to recover detail, noise becomes a real problem, and it frequently has a purple-ish hue. I had to lean on the Noise Reduction panel in Lightroom way harder than I would like to, which can’t hide all sins and sacrifices sharpness, too. Dynamic range on the EOS R5 is good, but it isn’t great.
“OK, OK,” you say. “This all sounds quite good! Where’s the damned Achilles heel you teased?” Well, if you’re strictly a photographer, there isn’t one. And if you’re almost exclusively a photographer who just takes a tiny bit of video here and there, then you’re probably OK, too! But if video is important to you, well, here comes the poison arrow.
The EOS R5 is capable of shooting 8K RAW video at 30fps, something even the mighty Sony A7S iii can’t do. Most of us don’t really need 8K yet, but the camera has a neat trick where it can take that whole 8K frame and compress it into a super high-quality 4K image (HQ mode) at up to 30fps. Best of all, the massive 1.7x crop from the EOS R is gone, so you’re able to really use all of that Canon glass as it was intended. If you’re shooting in Canon Log (a flat color profile) you can shoot 10-bit 4:2:2 video in camera, which gives the footage a lot of flexibility for color correction and applying cinematic looks. That is all great news. The 4K HQ C-Log mode is truly gorgeous and is what I would recommend using all the time…except you can’t, because the EOS R5’s overheating issues are mind-bogglingly bad.
Let me qualify this. If you’re out in the field, mostly shooting photos, and occasionally shooting short 4K HQ videos, you’re probably going to be just fine. If you want to shoot longer videos, though, it’s a non-starter. I found that the camera overheated after just 24 minutes of shooting in HQ mode. That’s bad, but what’s worse is how long it takes to recover from overheating. We’re talking upwards of an hour until it’s fully back to normal and you can shoot more than a minute or two of video again. If you are shooting for a client, or at a wedding, that will get you fired on the spot. I shoot interviews and documentary-type stuff, and here, again, this camera would be useless. Same for vloggers.
Now, it does have a regular 4K mode, and that mode doesn’t suffer from overheating problems. It looks…fine, until you compare it to the HQ footage and then you realize how much detail you’re missing. It’s significant. The regular 4K mode looks downright mushy by comparison. There are other drawbacks that indicate that video was really an afterthought for Canon, despite the fact that the company hyped 8K and HQ 4K at launch. Changing from stills mode to video mode is kind of a pain. You can hit the record button in stills mode and snap a quick video, but instead of defaulting to your last-used video settings, it shoots 1080p30 for some stupid reason (if there is a way to change this, I haven’t figured it out, and Canon didn’t respond when I asked). It has a high-frame rate mode that shoots 4K at 120fps, but then it slows it down in the camera to 30fps, which is annoying if the rest of your project is 24fps. Changing between video modes (HQ, high-speed, C-Log, etc.) is unintuitive and takes way more clicks than it should.
This is all tremendously frustrating. This was poised to be the camera that would bring me back to the Canon ecosystem with all its tasty glass, and on paper it really looked like it would. I consider myself a hybrid-shooter, though, meaning I shoot a lot of photo and a lot of video. More and more that’s becoming the rule, not the exception, for content creators. This camera simply cannot keep up with those demands, and ultimately, I don’t think it should have launched until it could. Sony took forever to come out with the A7S iii, but when it launched you could shoot 10-bit 4K120 until the cows came home in slow-motion and the thing wouldn’t overheat. It just feels like Canon fumbled and face-planted on the one-yard line, and that really sucks.
Again, if you really only care about shooting stills and just want to shoot a bit of video here and there, I recommend this camera without hesitation, especially if you already have Canon lenses. I loved shooting with this camera and the photos it produces are beautiful. For everybody else, I’m sorry—this camera is just a massive tease. It showed what it’s capable on the video side, with truly beautiful 8K and HQ 4K footage, but it can’t be relied on to produce enough of it, at least not for those of us who want to capture high-quality 8K video on a regular basis. Canon has received a massive amount of criticism for the overheating issues, and I’d bet good money that its engineers are working hard on solving it for the Mark II version. I think that camera would eat everybody else’s lunch (as this one could have done), but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Gorgeous 45MP RAW photos at up to 12fps uncompressed (20fps compressed)
Best eye and face focus-tracking I’ve used
Optical image stabilization is excellent for stills
8K and HQ 4K video looks stunning, but camera suffers from debilitating overheating issues
For a while it seemed like Sony’s high-end digital filmmaking cameras were on a collision course with its Alpha mirrorless cameras as those shooters became more capable at capturing video. Today the inevitable was confirmed: Sony officially revealed its FX3 with features from both the company’s digital cinema and Alpha lines, giving creators a more affordable way to capture Hollywood-caliber content.
An image of the FX3 leaked a few weeks ago led to speculation that Sony’s compact cinematography tool would be able capture video at 8K resolutions, but the full-frame, back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor the camera is using is limited to resolutions of up to 4K, or 16:9 QFHD at up to 120 frames per second. Although even with a cooling fan and a vent design that encourages natural heat dissipation, the FX3 can only record uninterrupted at 4K, 60P. Higher frame rate shooting is limited so the camera doesn’t overheat. Skipping 8K is a choice Sony made to either keep the FX3’s price tag down, or to ensure it doesn’t compete with the company’s pricier digital cinema cameras—or both.
When shooting video, the FX3’s ISO settings can be pushed to an impressive 409,600 which might come in handy the next time you find yourself filming on the dark side of the moon and can’t see the sun. The camera’s 627-point autofocus system includes features like AF Transition Speed, which ensures that automatic focus changes happen smoothly so as not to be jarring to audiences, and Touch Tracking, which allows operators to simply tap an object on the FX3’s flip-out touchscreen display to tell the camera what it should keep focused in frame, even as the subject is moving around.
With the battery and memory cards installed (both dual CFexpress Type A and SDXC cards are supported), the FX3 weighs just 1.58 pounds and includes a hot shoe mounted grip, making it easier to hold, operate, and maneuver the camera at low angles. Keeping a lightweight camera steady while shooting handheld is a real challenge, so the FX3 employs five-axis in-body image stabilization for smooth videos even while filming with a lens lacking any stabilization of its own. The applied stabilization is also captured as metadata while filming, allowing it to be tweaked during post-production.
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Most filmmakers will want to keep the optional grip attached, because it not only offers quick access to several controls, including ISO, iris, white balance, and zoom, it also features 15 custom buttons that can be programmed as shortcuts to 140 different functions normally buried in a software menu. The grip also has a mount for a microphone, a pair of balanced XLR/TRS audio inputs, and a 3.5-millimeter stereo two-channel jack while the camera can capture four-channel 24-bit audio when multiple mics are attached.
The FX3 will officially be available starting sometime in March with a price tag of around $3,900. That isn’t pocket change, but it’s also $2,600 cheaper than the new $6,500 Sony Alpha 1, which many people will be considering as their next video shooter. It is, however, $1,400 more expensive than the recently announced $2,500 Blackmagic Design BMPCC 6K Pro, which offers 6K shooting and an HDR rear display, although 120 fps high-speed recording is limited to 2K. But for video content creators who already have a bag full of Sony E-mount lenses, or already have a workflow involving Sony’s higher-end digital cinema cameras, the FX3 sounds like an easy choice.
As powerful workstations slowly but surely work to remaster all the world’s old film and video footage to higher resolutions and frame rates using machine learning techniques, you’d assume that one piece of footage would have been a top priority. But apparently Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” music video has only just been given the 4K, 60 FPS upgrade, and your eyes may never forgive you.
Watching the original music video again, which boasts a respectable 871,696,897 views on YouTube at the time of writing, it looks like “Never Gonna Give You Up” was shot on professional-grade video tape, presumably Sony’s Betacam format, giving it that recognizable ‘80s video look.
The remastered version, which was created using Topaz Video Enhance AI to boost the resolution to 4K and the Flowframes video interpolation tool to boost the frame rate to 60 frames per second, looks like it was filmed on a modern smartphone just yesterday. We now have the ability to Rickroll someone so that they’re not only inconvenienced, but also feel like they’re actually on set with Astley while this video was being shot. Astley may never desert you, but your eyes will want to.
Sony’s camera division has been on a warpath lately with the recently announced Alpha 1 serving as a direct response to Canon’s EOS R5. But now info has leaked about a new Sony cinema cam that could pose a serious threat to both Canon and Black Magic.
Based on a tweet from respected leaker Nokishita, the new Sony FX3 has a few interesting things going on. That’s because even though it carries the FX tag like Sony’s high-end cinema cams, it also sports Alpha branding from Sony’s consumer mirrorless camera segment, which suggests that Sony may position the FX3 as an option for both pros and more advanced home users.
And while there aren’t any detailed specs available for the FX3 just yet, MirrorlessRumors.com claims people are speculating that the FX3 could support video capture at 8K, UHD 8K, oversampled DCI 4K, and high frame rate UHD 4K. If true, that would land it right in the sweet spot for a lot of experienced content creators looking for a powerful but still relatively portable dedicated video cam.
Additionally, the positioning of what looks like an AF joystick on the top side of the camera (instead of in the back where it would usually be), suggests that the FX3 might have a huge built-in screen to better monitor footage, similar to what you get on a Black Magic Pocket Cinema cam. Elsewhere, the inclusion of multiple mounting threads should make the FX3 easy to slip into a cage, giving users extra flexibility for tacking on additional components and accessories.
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Either way, the big picture is that with the FX3, it looks like Sony is specifically targeting competing video cameras like Canon’s EOS C70 and the Black Magic’s range of dedicated cinecams, as it looks to gobble up even more of the mirrorless camera market share.
Unfortunately, there’s no word on pricing just yet, but current rumors say Sony is expected to officially announce the FX3 prior to the CP+ show, which is slated to take place virtually starting on Feb. 24.
The Speedtest app for iOS has added a new data point for you to complain about to your internet provider.
Ookla, which makes Speedtest, announced on Monday that it has added a video streaming test, which tells you the best resolution to stream video content on all your devices without annoying buffers or hiccups.
The video test is entirely different than the standard speed test, which tells you how fast your connection is. Instead, as Ookla explains, the video test “plays an actual video to specifically measure the performance of video streaming on your network at any time,” which is necessary “because video traffic cannot be simulated across a network.” The video runs through a variety of resolutions, up to 4K, to judge which resolution is best given your wifi’s capabilities.
Of course, good video streaming is a must these days. The covid-19 pandemic has forced workers and students alike into an endless series of video calls, while the entertainment world has shifted its focus to streaming services, which have become overwhelmingly abundant. As many of us have been stuck at home over the past year, our streaming consumption has exploded, according to Nielsen findings.
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“During second-quarter 2020, Americans watched more than 142 billion minutes of streaming video,” Nielsen wrote in an August 2020 report. It also found that “streaming consumption across all video options is up more than 74% from last year—accelerated by COVID-19—signaling that streaming is now the present and future of content creation.”
You can find Speedtest’s new streaming analysis feature at the bottom of the screen within the app. Just click “Video” and hit the giant yellow play button in the middle. A video of what appears to be fiber optic cables will soothe you through the test, which you have to leave up and running for it to complete. (Don’t check a text in the middle, or you’ll have to start over again.) In the end, it’ll give you an assessment of your network’s streaming situation. For example, it recommended I only stream at a maximum resolution of 1440p, which is wonderful news since I just blew a few hundred dollars on a 4K TV and ditched cable for YouTube TV. Oh well!
The video streaming test is only available on Speedtest for iOS at the moment, but Ookla says it plans to roll out to other platforms in the future. If you already have Speedtest, just update the app and you’ll see the new feature. Otherwise, go download the app—it’s free! And a good tool to have the next time you need to negotiate your internet bill down a few dollars.
Fine, fine! A TV in the sub-$20,000 category you say? Reader, the TV for you is the LG CX OLED. For shoppers looking to upgrade their TVs in 2020, this was the OLED to buy. Gizmodo’s senior reporter Sam Rutherford actually has the LG GX, which has a gallery design, and here’s what he says: “Even though it was pricey, my TV has quickly become the best home tech upgrade I’ve ever made. It’s got gorgeous colors and a beautiful design, and honestly, it makes me question my love for traditional movie theaters.”
Price: Currently, the 77-inch version is on sale at Best Buy for $3,300, but Costco shaves about $50 off that price and includes Hulu and Allstate protection credits in the amount of $100 each.
We’re all guilty of lusting over top-of-the-line gadgets despite the fact that a cheaper one will usually do. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Vizio M-Series 5.1 M51a-H6 soundbar. It’s a good, solid option that supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for a not-so-ridiculous price. Still, it’s hard to feel hype about it.
Part of this is because this is meant to be an affordable, middle-of-the-road alternative to the sleek, higher-end soundbars out there. It’s hard to get pumped about “good” when “great” is out there. Another reason is even expensive Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbar systems also don’t always live up to their own promise, let alone cheaper alternatives. In many cases, soundbar-centric home theater systems are the pits at simulating height. It leaves you with a decent, but imperfect effect. The M51a-H6, depending on how you configure the two satellite speakers, has the same problem. It’s not bad. You might cluck your tongue, shrug your shoulders, and get on with your day.
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The first two words that come to mind as I think about the M51a-H6 are competent and convenient. As a 5.1 system, you get a soundbar, a subwoofer, and two satellite speakers that can go on either side of the soundbar or sit behind you as rear speakers. The soundbar itself is low-profile, and rather nondescript looking with a dark gray matte body, fabric grille, and physical controls up top. Inside, Vizio says it’s got 9 speakers, with separate tweeters and woofers. It measures 36 by 2.2 by 3.5 inches (WHD), making it a good option if you have stubby TV legs or a smaller console. The satellite speakers look like mini soundbars, laying flat instead of standing up vertically. The 6-inch wireless subwoofer is also shorter than most I’ve tested, but depending on your space this could be a good thing. As with most soundbars, you also get a remote. It’s incredibly fine. If you’ve used one remote, you’ve used them all. It is mildly annoying to add yet another single-use battery-powered accessory, but it does give you a more convenient way to toggle through specific pre-set sound settings.
In the back, the M51a-H6 has an HDMI input and output (eArc/Arc compatible), an optical input, a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack, and a USB port for updates. It also supports Bluetooth—so it can double as a speaker for your phone—and you can use it to amplify Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa devices that might not sound too hot on their own. Unlike some other Vizio soundbars, you don’t get the option of using SmartCast, a Vizio app that lets you control home theater gadgets from your phone. This might be a bummer, but personally, I was fine with the omission—I find that app to be a bit finicky.
Setup was blessedly simple. You plug the appropriate HDMI cords where they’re meant to go and bada bing, bada boom, you have a working soundbar. There are no pairing shenanigans you have to contend with either. All you do is plug it into the power source, and press the power button. The only thing that requires much thought is how you might want to configure the satellite speakers. In my space, I was able to place them behind me to my left and right, with the subwoofer off to the side of my couch in a “traditional” 5.1 setup. But if you don’t have that capability, you could alternatively have all the speakers in a front-facing configuration. That said, this isn’t ideal for true surround sound. The connecting cables for the satellite speakers are sufficiently long and color-coded, but depending on your layout, you might want to invest in some cable ties to prevent yourself from tripping. (I’m not kidding, those cables are very long.) You can wall-mount the M51a-H6, but I can’t say how easy that process is as I didn’t do that myself.
So far, this is all standard soundbar stuff! Nothing flashy or gimmicky here, which is actually a blessing when it comes to Dolby Atmos soundbar marketing. But convenience isn’t the only reason why you’d buy a particular soundbar. At the end of the day, you want a much better audio experience than your TV’s crappy native speakers.
As far as regular 5.1 surround sound goes, the M15a-H6 is pretty good. I watched all of Netflix’s Umbrella Academy and season 1 of Amazon’s The Boys and everything sounded peachy. Cars zoomed in the right directions and explosions boomed—though they weren’t quite as rumbly as systems I’ve tested with larger subwoofers. I have a hard time hearing dialogue sometimes, but that wasn’t much of a problem. And even at louder volumes, there wasn’t any noticeable distortion. So I was sort of surprised when I tested how the soundbar handled music.
The M15a-H6 had a pretty neutral sound profile with the Music EQ setting—not too bass-heavy, not too muddy on the mids, etc. Again, it wasn’t as thumpy as some other soundbar systems I’ve tested but you wouldn’t expect that from a smaller subwoofer. The trouble came when I put on Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” to test treble. The treble itself was fine! Stevie’s vocals were crisp if a bit hollow. What was weird was I heard a subtle popping noise. I didn’t have the volume at max, so that was a little concerning. I switched to Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License,” a more bass-heavy song, and I heard the faintest pops there too. Just to be sure I wasn’t hearing things, I asked my husband if he heard any popping, and lo, it wasn’t just me. Bafflingly, the popping disappeared on Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” a song I use to test how soundbars handle dynamic shifts in volume. There was no crackling or distortion, but it also didn’t do that song justice either. All in all, the M51a-H6 would be fine for casual house parties, though I wouldn’t crank it up too loud.
For Dolby Atmos content, I watched several scenes from The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Disney+ with the Movie EQ setting. The sound was pretty good, there was a mildly tinny, hollow quality to it. I admit it’s not that noticeable unless you’ve heard a really great soundbar and happen to have a few others on hand for comparisons. The Sony HT-G700 is another Dolby Atmos soundbar on the more affordable end, and it handled regular dialogue and music without that hollowness. But unless you’re a serious audiophile, it doesn’t majorly detract from the content you’re watching.
As for spatial sound, you get a good sense of depth and lateral space. You can clearly hear which direction spaceships are nyooming and where the explosions are occurring. Again, explosions didn’t rumble quite as much as I’d have liked, but it sounds better than single soundbar solutions like the Sonos Arc or the Panasonic SoundSlayer. During Kylo Ren and Rey’s Force Skype sessions in The Last Jedi, it did a decent job of recreating that echo-y sound effect and signaling where a certain character’s voice was projecting from. It just wasn’t as crisp or well-done as Vizio’s higher-end soundbar system, the Vizio Elevate.
Where it struggled was in simulating height. This isn’t a problem limited to the M51a-H6. Like the Sony HT-G700, this soundbar doesn’t have any upward-firing speakers. The only reason I felt any degree of height is the way I configured my setup, the satellite speakers sit above ear level. But I only heard spaceships flying overhead when they were swooping from the front to the rear. If the sound didn’t play on the rear speakers, I simply didn’t get a sense of anything happening above me. If you were to use a front-facing configuration, I doubt you’d get any sense of height at all.
The overall sound quality is fine—not great, but also pretty decent considering this soundbar has a suggested retail price of $350. (It’s currently listed as $250 on Vizio’s website, and you might also be able to find it for even cheaper at Costco.) And compared to the SoundSlayer, which retails for $300, this is a much, much, much better investment provided you have the space.
Look. I am a cheapskate. I dug the $1,000 Vizio Elevate’s rotating speakers and sound, but I would have a hard time forking over that kind of moolah when my TV cost just $600. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels sort of silly to skimp on your TV and then go ham on your home entertainment system. Compared to the $500 Roku 5.1 Surround Sound System and the $600 Sony HT-G700, the M51a-H6 holds its own, and for a couple hundred less. You don’t really have the ability to add on additional speakers, in case you ever wanted to expand your setup, but for under $350? Eh, it’s really hard to beat that kind of value.
To be honest, if I were making a wishlist for someone else to buy me a 5.1 soundbar system with Dolby Atmos, this probably wouldn’t be my No. 1 pick. I’d probably choose something more expensive, with upward-firing speakers. If I were paying with my own money? I’d be plenty happy with this soundbar.
An inexpensive 5.1 Dolby Atmos compatible system that doesn’t sound like total crap
This is a no-fuss system; easy to set up and should fit nicely in smaller spaces
It’s not going to outperform some higher-end speakers, but you get good sound quality for the price
You’re not going to get the best Atmos experience, because there are no height channels
It really is hard to beat the price, and it can be found discounted further at Costcos and Sam’s Clubs
When finding a new TV, balance is important. You want a big screen and high resolutions, but not necessarily the price that goes along with that. There’s always a little finagling, where you have to talk yourself down a size to get something in your price range. Well, here’s an excellent all around option that you don’t have to think as much about. Best Buy is currently selling a 58″ Westinghouse Roku TV for $300. First and foremost, this is a 4K TV at a really reasonable price point considering the screen size. Secondly, it’ll give you access to tons of streaming apps like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and more. Roku even acquired Quibi’s library of shows recently, so you’ll probably be able to watch Quibi shows on it. Okay, that last one isn’t really a selling point, but it is very funny. Regardless of that: 4K? 58″? $300? That checks quite a few boxes.