Why You Definitely Need to Calibrate Your TV

When you drop hundreds on your HDTV, you expect it to work right out of the box. However, somehow in 2016 we will still have to tweak the color settings, adjust the brightness and make other adjustments to get the best possible image. How is it possible that despite all the technological breakthroughs that televisions have made over the years, televisions still need to be calibrated?

For newbies, calibrating your TV means setting it up so that the image is as close as possible to the original footage from the studio that created the movie or show you are watching. We’ve walked you through calibrating your TV before . It’s not a complicated process, but it seems completely unnecessary in an era when our phones and laptops leave the factory and look neat. So why can’t the TV be calibrated? It boils down to two main factors.

HDTVs look great in the store, not in your home

On most televisions, the default settings exist for one purpose: to sell the television. As noted by the Telegraph , this means the TV is calibrated to stand out from the nearly identical TV next to it in the showroom.

Wired suggests that this usually means the image is too bright and oversaturated. It works like a flashy showcase in a store, but looks odd in your home. Some TV models have a special mode for this, called “demo mode” or “showroom mode”. Turning off this mode and switching to Cinema or Cinema mode in the TV settings is often enough to get the picture you want. The movie mode is probably not entirely accurate, but it is usually the closest to it, which you will get right out of the box.

Also, your TV might come out of the box too dim, which usually means Power Saving is on. This sounds great if you want to save energy or money on electricity, but it also darkens the image. Again, switching to Movie or Movie mode fixes this.

It can also show up in any gimmicks your TV might have. TVs come with all sorts of advanced settings like auto dimming, blur reduction and motion interpolation ( the soap opera effect everyone hates) turned on by default because they look better in the store. Then you take your TV home and realize that most of these settings make your TV look weird. In many cases, it is best to give up these tricks . Just doing it alone will give you a better picture.

Each home has its own viewing environment

Finally, it’s worth remembering that every home viewing environment is different. In an ideal world, we would all have televisions in a suitable dark room with adequate lighting, but not too much. We sat at the ideal angle and distance from the TV for optimal viewing. Of course, few of us actually watch TV that way.

Regardless, you will probably always have to make some adjustments to your TV’s settings, at least when it comes to brightness and contrast. If your TV is in a brightly lit room, you will need to increase the brightness and decrease the contrast. If it’s in a dark room, you need to do the opposite because the brightness is almost always too high to display. You may even need to adjust the time of day you watch TV most often and the lighting at that time. There is no point in calibrating your TV in the morning when the light is pouring through the window if you are watching movies at night when it is dark.

None of these tools are impossible for a TV to look good out of the box, though. In their review, Wirecutter notes that one of their favorite TVs , the absurdly expensive LG E6 , didn’t require any calibration at all. Many other TVs have similar results. Rtings conducted an extensive color fidelity test that examined pre- and post-calibration accuracy on a range of HDTVs. Their results show that many HDTVs at different price points look great without any additional adjustments. However, even so, several AVforums members point out that components can change during production, so there can always be slight variations in accuracy, even between models.

Everyone’s eyes are different, and even if TV manufacturers can achieve standards for color, picture, brightness and contrast, TV calibration is a topic that audio / video enthusiasts will debate for years. At this point, it is still important to make at least a couple of adjustments when you first purchase your new HDTV home so that it is viewable and delivers the image you paid for. Feel free to jump into these settings.


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