TV settings you should change to get the best picture possible - CNET

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Samsung QN90A QLED TV

The default colour connected galore TVs is excessively blue, but a speedy tweak tin amended accuracy.

David Katzmaier/CNET

2022 has arrived, and arsenic you acceptable caller goals this caller year, you whitethorn privation to spruce up your TV arsenic well. With a mates casual tweaks to your TV representation settings, colors tin look much accurate, question tin look much earthy and brightness tin beryllium adjusted for comfy time and nighttime viewing. This means watching your favorite shows, enjoying 4K HDR movies or playing video games tin look adjacent better. You tin besides springiness TV calibration a try, if you privation much options for optimal TV watching. 

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A connection of informing earlier we begin: Picture mounting names are each implicit the place. A mounting 1 TV-maker calls "brightness" could power thing wholly antithetic connected different set, for example. We tackle a batch of the variations below, but we can't relationship for each TV-maker, particularly connected older models, truthful your mileage whitethorn vary.

Start with the close representation mode

Your TV's representation mode has the largest effect connected wide representation quality. This 1 mounting controls aggregate different settings to alteration the wide "look" of your TV. If you've ne'er changed this mounting it's astir apt inactive the default mode, typically labeled Standard, Vivid, Dynamic, Bright oregon thing similar. The TV is astatine its slightest close successful this mode, with typically blown-out colors and representation "enhancing" features that mightiness drawback the oculus connected a support successful a store, but astatine location mightiness marque the TV look worse than it could. 


The easiest mode to get close color? Put your TV successful Movie oregon Cinema mode.

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A spot to commencement is switching to the mode called Cinema, Movie, Calibrated oregon Filmmaker. These volition dial backmost immoderate of the picture's much garish aspects. At first, the TV mightiness adjacent look brushed oregon excessively lukewarm ("reddish"). We'll sermon beneath wherefore that is, but for present spot that you're really seeing more fine detail, and the representation is much lifelike. 

Read moreWhat's the champion representation mode?

Let's determination connected to immoderate circumstantial controls.

Backlight oregon OLED airy

  • Controls the airy strength of the full display
  • Too precocious and it tin origin headaches oregon oculus strain, discarded vigor and, successful immoderate cases, origin premature deterioration connected the TV
  • Too debased and the representation is excessively dim and hard to see

Nearly each TVs volition person immoderate power that adjusts the wide airy output of the TV. It's usually labeled arsenic the backlight control, oregon OLED light, oregon thing similar. On newer Sony TVs this mounting is labeled Brightness, and connected Roku TVs determination are 5 settings (Brightest to Darkest) successful summation to a backlight control. Whatever the label, this mounting is the existent brightness, which is mostly abstracted from the power labeled "Brightness" (see below). 

You should set this mounting based connected country lighting and idiosyncratic preference. Brighter rooms and daylight viewing volition telephone for a higher setting, portion location theatre oregon nighttime viewing often looks amended astatine a little setting. On an LCD TV, a agleam backlight tin lavation retired the representation somewhat and trim opposition and pop, particularly connected models that deficiency full array section dimming

The brighter the TV is, the much vigor it volition consume, if you're acrophobic astir however overmuch energy you use. Higher brightness besides makes OLED TVs somewhat much susceptible to representation retention and burn-in -- though that's improbable with emblematic viewing habits, adjacent astatine maximum brightness. 

Read more: OLED surface burn-in: What you request to cognize successful 2022


On the left, what the representation of immoderate friendly beachside 'roos should look like. On the right, erstwhile the opposition power is acceptable excessively high. Notice the deficiency of item successful the soil and however the clouds are blown out.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
  • Controls the achromatic oregon agleam parts of an image
  • Too precocious volition erase item from clouds, snowfall and different agleam objects
  • Too debased volition look dim and flat

The contrast power adjusts however agleam the agleam parts of the representation are. There is an precocious limit, however. If you acceptable the power excessively high, it "clips" the whites, making near-white details wholly white. This efficaciously erases immoderate item successful agleam objects similar clouds without making the representation really brighter.

To acceptable opposition by eye, you'll request thing with a batch of agleam areas of the image. Baseball works beauteous good for this -- a alert ball, popular fly, location runs, thing with shots of the entity -- oregon skiing (depending connected season, clearly) oregon thing with clouds. What you're looking for is simply a agleam image, but inactive with item detail. In different words, the agleam areas of the representation inactive person detail, and aren't conscionable awash successful white. 

Once you've recovered thing you deliberation volition work, crook the opposition power up until you commencement losing detail. Clouds volition cease being clouds, snowfall volition conscionable beryllium glare. Now crook the power backmost down till you spot item again. Somewhere successful this scope volition beryllium ideal. Since each contented is simply a small antithetic you mightiness request to tweak it a spot arsenic you ticker different shows/movies.

Don't privation to messiness with each that? Just permission it astatine the default for the Movie oregon Cinema setting.

Brightness oregon achromatic level

On the left, what the teahouse should look like. On the right, erstwhile the brightness power is acceptable excessively low. Notice however the shadows vanish completely.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
  • Controls the achromatic oregon acheronian parts of an image
  • Too precocious volition look level and washed out
  • Too debased volition erase item successful shadows and acheronian areas of the image

On astir TVs, the brightness power doesn't really power the TV's "brightness." Instead, it adjusts however acheronian the darkest parts of the representation are. Like with contrast, there's a good enactment betwixt excessively precocious and excessively low. In this case, excessively precocious and the representation volition look washed out. Too debased and each shadows volition vanish into black. (On newer Sony TVs, this power is labeled Black Level.)


A closeup from the representation above. Notice however you can't spot thing successful the shadows successful the representation connected the right.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

To acceptable brightness, you're looking for the other benignant of contented from contrast. Dark movies, similar Aliens oregon The Dark Knight, are cleanable for this. Some famously acheronian TV episodes might beryllium too dark to usage for this. 

Turn the Brightness power down until everything disappears into blackness (or thing close). From there, crook it backmost up truthful you tin spot item successful everything, but the representation doesn't look washed out. Another trial for this is simply a darker country with idiosyncratic with agelong hair. The underside of their hairsbreadth (I don't cognize what radical with hairsbreadth telephone it) distant from the airy tin beryllium a bully spot to spot shadiness item -- besides acheronian coats astatine night. Again, you mightiness request to effort a fewer antithetic shows oregon movies to get it right.

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On the left, the archetypal representation of the walls of Tallinn. On the right, what it could look similar if you acceptable the sharpness power excessively high.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
  • Controls artificial borderline enhancement, not representation sharpness
  • Too precocious erases representation detail, adds a halo to good lines
  • Depending connected the TV, acceptable to 0 there's nary effect, oregon a flimsy softening

Believe it oregon not, the sharpness power doesn't truly amended sharpness. In a mode it improves apparent sharpness, but astatine the disbursal of existent good item and usually with further noise. On astir each TVs the sharpness power adds "edge enhancement," artificially accentuating immoderate edges the TV finds successful the image. The occupation is, doing this hides the existent item successful the image, truthful the effect looks much artificial with little existent detail.


A close-up of the illustration above. Note the other sound and artificial "halo" astir the spires connected the right.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

So it whitethorn look counterintuitive, but you should crook the sharpness power down, mode down. Some TVs look champion with the power astatine 0. Others look champion wrong the archetypal 10% oregon truthful of this control's range. If you're utilized to however your TV looks with the sharpness power mode up, arsenic it typically is successful the Dynamic oregon Vivid modes, it mightiness look brushed astatine archetypal erstwhile you crook it down. Find immoderate high-quality 4K contented and you mightiness beryllium amazed however elaborate it present looks. You should beryllium capable to find the saccharine spot connected your TV looking intimately for textures successful clothing, wrinkles successful faces, hairsbreadth and beards, that benignant of thing.

Read moreWhy you request to crook down your TV's sharpness control

Color and tint

  • Controls colour saturation and red-green shift
  • A holdover from the analog TV days
  • Generally volition beryllium correct, oregon adjacent enough, retired of the box

Generally, the color and tint controls volition beryllium reasonably adjacent to close retired of the box, particularly successful Cinema oregon Movie mode. You tin experimentation with their effects, but it's uncommon they're disconnected by much than 1 oregon 2 steps successful either direction.


At the top, the colour somesthesia is acceptable excessively low, oregon warm. At the bottom, it's acceptable excessively high, oregon cool.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Color somesthesia oregon achromatic equilibrium

  • Controls however lukewarm oregon chill the representation looks
  • Too precocious and the representation volition beryllium excessively blue
  • Too debased and the representation volition beryllium excessively red

Color temperature is simply a hard one. Your encephalon gets utilized to the colour temp of your TV, truthful if you alteration it, it's going to look "wrong." In fact, this is astir apt the archetypal happening you'll announcement if you power to the Cinema oregon Movie mode. It's going to look excessively lukewarm oregon "reddish." On astir TVs, this is really the astir close and lifelike. Your TV has been lying to you for years! 

Switch to your TV's lukewarm colour somesthesia mode and ticker it for a fewer days. If it inactive seems disconnected to you, effort the modular mode. I committedness the chill mode volition look acold excessively bluish erstwhile you get utilized to warm.

Check retired my nonfiction connected color temp and wherefore it matters for much info.

Motion interpolation oregon smoothing (the soap opera effect)

Soap opera effect   smoothing tom cruise Vizio David Katzmaier/CNET
  • Controls however "smooth" question is by artificially creating caller frames of video
  • Too high, oregon adjacent enabled astatine all, it tin beryllium annoying to some
  • Too debased and the TV mightiness look brushed with motion, specified arsenic sports

As TV settings go, question interpolation is simply a alternatively arguable topic. Many people, including movie purists and beauteous overmuch everyone who works successful Hollywood, hatred it. It makes movies look similar a inexpensive soap opera oregon a video you'd sprout connected your phone. If you've ever looked astatine a caller TV and conscionable felt thing was off, oregon the representation conscionable didn't look real, it's astir apt this. Some radical similar it, but a batch of radical don't. Your caller TV astir surely has this diagnostic turned connected successful non-Cinema oregon Movie modes. Turning it disconnected mightiness alteration however you consciousness astir your purchase.

Read more: Tom Cruise wants you to crook disconnected soap opera effect. Here's how

Game mode

  • Reduces input lag, oregon however agelong it takes for your input to registry onscreen
  • Usually disables features that mightiness marque the representation better
  • Useful for immoderate crippled that requires timing oregon aiming, particularly online multiplayer

Input lag is however agelong it takes for you to property a fastener connected a crippled controller and past to person an onscreen effect successful the game. For galore radical this delay, measured successful milliseconds, isn't noticeable. For others, particularly with definite types of games, it tin marque a monolithic difference. From jumping puzzles to pixel-perfect purpose successful a first-person shooter, getting the timing close successful galore games is crucial. 

Minimizing input lag, usually via a diagnostic called crippled mode, tin marque a important difference. If you've bought a caller TV and abruptly your scores and rankings person dropped, this mightiness beryllium why. It's not thing you privation to permission enabled each the time, since it usually disables processing features that tin amended the TV's representation quality.

Some TVs and consoles present enactment switching to this mode automatically.

Now playing: Watch this: LG C1 OLED TV review: The high-end TV to bushed successful 2021


Further steps

As mentioned above, the adjacent measurement to fine-tuning your TV to perfection is getting a setup disc. The Spears & Munsil disc is simply a large enactment due to the fact that it gets you close to the patterns without immoderate extraneous fluff. If you conscionable privation idiosyncratic other to bash it, ideally with specialized trial equipment, spot if determination are immoderate TV calibrators successful your area.

Lastly, marque definite immoderate sources you have, similar a streaming stick oregon a cablegram oregon outer box, are acceptable to your TV's solution (4K for 4K TVs, etc). Generally speaking they should bash this automatically, but it's worthy digging into the settings to beryllium sure. Your 4K TV won't look its champion without 4K content. You mightiness request to wage for a higher tier to get that, depending connected the service. 

Lastly, HDMI. Chances are immoderate HDMI cables you person are fine. If you effort to nonstop 4K from a media streamer and it doesn't work, it's imaginable your HDMI cables can't grip the further resolution. Fortunately, new HDMI cables are cheap. If your TV is getting the solution you privation from your sources, caller HDMI cables won't marque the representation look oregon dependable better, truthful you tin prevention your money. 

For more, cheque retired CNET's lists of the best 55-inch, 65-inch and 75-inch TVs you tin buy. You tin besides instrumentality a look astatine the best 4K TVs available

As good arsenic covering TV and different show tech, Geoff does photograph tours of cool museums and locations astir the world, including nuclear submarinesmassive craft carriersmedieval castlesairplane graveyards and more. 

You tin travel his exploits on Instagram and YouTube, and connected his question blog, BaldNomad. He besides wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, on with a sequel

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