Vizio hasn’t been at CES for several years, but this year it’s back — and it’s back with a bang. It’s announcing that, later this year, it’ll release a software update that will add support for AirPlay 2 and HomeKit to all its SmartCast TVs. Essentially, it’s enabling its smart TVs to all work like they have little Apple TVs built inside them. Which is crazy and strange, for Apple at least, because it effectively means you don’t have to buy an Apple TV.
Just for clarity, AirPlay 2 enables you to a bunch of things on the TV. You’ll be able to instantly stream 4K movies and Dolby Vision HDR shows to the TV, straight from your iPhone, iPad or Mac. You’ll be able to quickly display photos or presentations, too. And it essentially turns your TV into another wireless speaker that you can integrate into a multi-room sound system with other AirPlay 2-supported speakers, like the HomePod.
The support for HomeKit means you’ll be to control all your HomeKit-supported smart devices — lights, plugs, cameras, etc. — using the Home app on the TV or by asking Siri. You’ll be able to incorporate these Vizio SmartCast TVs in a scene with your other smart devices, too, just like any other HomeKit smart gadget.
The only limitation that I can see is that these TVs won’t have iTunes support, so you won’t be able to buy/rent shows and movies directly from iTunes. (Samsung actually just announced that its new line-up of TVs will support AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, too, as well as for iTunes, but those 4K TVs are generally more expensive than Vizio’s.) The other thing is that, since this is a software update, everybody who has bought a Vizio SmartCast TV in the last few years will also get this update. It’s not just affecting new Vizio TVs.
AirPlay 2 and HomeKit support isn’t the only big thing that’s Vizio’s announcing at CES. Its entire 4K TV lineup is improving, including its affordable E-Series, its midrange M-Series and its flagship P-Series Quantum and P-Series Quantum X series. All of the models, compared to their predecessors, are getting more local dimming zones, better peak brightness, reduced motion blur and more powerful image processing — basically they’re going to look brighter, better and way more colorful. Not to mention that Vizio has made its 2019 P-Series Quantum, P-Series Quantum X series and M-Series basically bezel-less, so they’re beautiful pieces of hardware.
Vizio has been making (arguably) the best budget 4K TVs for the last few years — TCL also makes great budget 4K TVs, which are cheaper than Vizio’s models but also not quite as nice in terms of picture quality and hardware– and this year is no different. It’s also worth noting that Vizio isn’t increasing the prices; each size and model will be priced constantly with last year’s.
There’s no exact date for the SmartCast 3.0 update, which will give Vizio SmartCast TVs support for AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. Vizio is saying “later this year.”