Vizio's new TVs sport Google Cast, HDR and Android tablets

So long, smart TV apps -- hello, Chromecast-like streaming.

Vizio's latest P-Series 4K HDTVs are more than just an annual upgrade -- they also completely redefine how you'll be accessing media. The TVs, which range from 50- to 75-inches, are still technically "smart," but they don't have any apps of their own. Instead, you'll have to stream content with built-in Google Cast -- a first for any TV set. You can shoot media to the sets using the Vizio SmartCast app, either from the included Android tablet remote, or any other iOS or Android device. SmartCast also serves as the central hub for discovering media, and it controls all of your TV settings.

On top of all that, the new P-Series finally brings HDR and Dolby Vision support, as well as ultra-wide color spectrum, down to Vizio's more affordable sets. There's also full array backlighting, with 128 active LED zones (the more the better, when it comes to achieving rich black levels). Previously, all of those features were only available on the company's pricier Reference Series.

With all of its work integrating Google Cast, Vizio ended up being the first company to use that platform for 4K and HDR video. Still, the reliance on casting could be an issue: It's not supported with Amazon's Prime video, for example, even though Vizio's previous smart TVs all have an Amazon app. Ultimately, Vizio will just have to wait until Amazon decides to fully support Google Cast. If you want to watch Amazon's video in high quality with a P-Series TV, you'll need a separate set-top box.

Another potential issue: The P-Series sets don't include TV tuners. Vizio reps tell us they expect customers to use their own set-top boxes. But that's an additional purchase if you're used to watching over-the-air channels with a tuner-equipped HDTV.

The 6-inch Android tablet that comes with every P-Series set isn't very exciting on its own: It's got a 1080p screen and a V8 octa-core processor. But it's significantly more interesting than the traditional remotes most TVs ship with. The tablet felt pretty solid in my hand, and it also charges wireless through a nifty charging dock. Vizio also includes a small infra-red remote that does basic things, like changing the volume or channels.

As for that SmartCast app, it's surprisingly well designed. You can search for TV shows and movies, and it'll point you right to it on the appropriate streaming service. Sending content to the P-Series sets isn't any different from using Chromecast: Simply find the TV in a Cast-compatible app and select it. The TVs had no trouble taking streams from the remotes, or mobile phones from Vizio's reps. Vizio also plans to introduce SmartCast-enabled speakers later this year.

I checked out one P-Series set in a pitch-black hotel room, and I was mostly impressed by its ability to reach inky-deep black levels. It was hard to tell the black imagery on screen from the opening of Man of Steel from the surrounding darkness. Honestly, it's enough to convince me to leave my plasma TV sometime soon.

Vizio's HDR technology also shined -- everything popped a bit more than usual in a clip from Mad Max Fury Road. The red flames and costume from the guitar-jamming mutant in that film also looked more deeply red than on a typical TV set. Vizio reps noted that the benefits of HDR and expanded color gamut allow them to display reds, in particular, better than ever before.

While HDR demos used to make TV shows and movies look slightly weird, the latest batch I've seen show that there's plenty of promise behind the technology. HDR is a far more striking visual change than 4K alone, and now we're finally seeing more media take advantage of it.

Starting today, you can snag a 50-inch Vizio P-Series TV for $1,000, a 55-inch model for $1,300 and a 65-incher for $2,000. And if you really want to go all out, there's a 75-inch version for $3,800. We're hoping to test one of these models out soon, so keep an eye out for updates.