Samsung QN90A QLED TV

The default colour on many TVs is simply too blue, however a quick tweak can enhance accuracy.

David Katzmaier/CNET

You know that picture settings menu buried deep your TV? All these changes can appear intimidating at first, however just a few straightforward tweaks are value it, whether or not you are watching the most recent streaming TV present, having fun with 4K HDR films or taking part in video video games. Colors can look extra lifelike and correct, brightness could be comfy for viewing in daytime and at evening, and movement can look extra pure. Changing your picture mode is step one, and solely takes just a few seconds, or you may go as deep as you want.

Read extra: Apple TV can now routinely calibrate colour. But does it truly work?

A phrase of warning earlier than we start: Picture setting names are all over. A setting one TV-maker calls “brightness” may management one thing completely completely different on one other set, for instance. We sort out plenty of the variations beneath, however we won’t account for each TV-maker, particularly on older fashions, so your mileage could differ.

Start with the correct picture mode


The simplest way to get correct colour? Put your TV in Movie or Cinema mode.

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Your TV’s picture mode has the most important impact on total picture quality. This one setting controls a number of different settings to change the general “look” of your TV. If you’ve got by no means modified this setting it is in all probability nonetheless the default mode, sometimes labeled Standard, Vivid, Dynamic, Bright or one thing comparable. The TV is its least correct on this mode, with sometimes blown-out colours and image “enhancing” options that may catch the attention on a shelf in a retailer, however at residence may make the TV look worse than it may. 

A spot to begin is switching to the mode known as Cinema, Movie, Calibrated or Filmmaker. These will dial again a number of the picture’s extra garish points. At first, the TV may even look smooth or too heat (“reddish”). We’ll talk about beneath why that’s, however for now belief that you simply’re truly seeing extra high quality element, and the image is extra lifelike. 

Read extraWhat’s one of the best picture mode?

Let’s transfer on to some particular controls.

Backlight or OLED gentle

  • Controls the sunshine depth of your complete show
  • Too excessive and it could possibly trigger complications or eye pressure, waste vitality and, in some circumstances, trigger untimely put on on the TV
  • Too low and the image is simply too dim and troublesome to see

Nearly all TVs can have some management that adjusts the general gentle output of the TV. It’s normally labeled because the backlight management, or OLED gentle, or one thing comparable. On newer Sony TVs this setting is labeled Brightness, and on Roku TVs there are 5 settings (Brightest to Darkest) as well as to a backlight management. Whatever the label, this setting is the precise brightness, which is mostly separate from the management labeled “Brightness” (see beneath). 

You ought to modify this setting primarily based on room lighting and private desire. Brighter rooms and daylight viewing will name for the next setting, whereas residence theater or nighttime viewing typically seems to be better at a decrease setting. On an LCD TV, a vivid backlight can wash out the image considerably and cut back distinction and pop, particularly on fashions that lack full array native dimming

The brighter the TV is, the extra vitality it would devour, for those who’re involved about how a lot electrical energy you utilize. Higher brightness additionally makes OLED TVs considerably extra prone to image retention and burn-in — though that is unlikely with typical viewing habits, even at most brightness. 

Read extra: OLED display burn-in: What you want to know in 2021


On the left, what the image of some pleasant beachside ‘roos ought to seem like. On the correct, when the distinction management is about too excessive. Notice the dearth of element within the sand and the way the clouds are blown out.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

  • Controls the white or vivid components of an image
  • Too excessive will erase element from clouds, snow and different vivid objects
  • Too low will look dim and flat

The distinction management adjusts how vivid the intense components of the image are. There is an higher restrict, nevertheless. If you set the management too excessive, it “clips” the whites, making near-white particulars completely white. This successfully erases any element in vivid objects like clouds with out making the image truly brighter.

To set distinction by eye, you will want one thing with plenty of vivid areas of the image. Baseball works fairly nicely for this — a fly ball, pop fly, residence runs, one thing with photographs of the sky — or snowboarding (relying on season, clearly) or one thing with clouds. What you are searching for is a vivid image, however nonetheless with spotlight element. In different phrases, the intense areas of the image nonetheless have element, and are not simply awash in white. 

Once you’ve got discovered one thing you suppose will work, flip the distinction management up till you begin shedding element. Clouds will stop being clouds, snow will simply be glare. Now flip the management again down until you see element once more. Somewhere on this vary shall be excellent. Since all content material is a bit completely different you may want to tweak it a bit as you watch different reveals/films.

Don’t need to mess with all that? Just go away it on the default for the Movie or Cinema setting.

Brightness or black degree

On the left, what the teahouse ought to seem like. On the correct, when the brightness management is about too low. Notice how the shadows disappear fully.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

  • Controls the black or darkish components of an image
  • Too excessive will look flat and washed out
  • Too low will erase element in shadows and darkish areas of the image

On most TVs, the brightness management would not truly management the TV’s “brightness.” Instead, it adjusts how darkish the darkest components of the image are. Like with distinction, there is a high quality line between too excessive and too low. In this case, too excessive and the image will seem washed out. Too low and all shadows will disappear into black. (On newer Sony TVs, this management is labeled Black Level.)


A closeup from the image above. Notice how one can’t see something within the shadows within the image on the correct.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

To set brightness, you are searching for the other kind of content material from distinction. Dark films, like Aliens or The Dark Knight, are good for this. Some famously darkish TV episodes is perhaps too darkish to use for this. 

Turn the Brightness management down till every little thing disappears into blackness (or one thing shut). From there, flip it again up so you may see element in every little thing, however the image would not look washed out. Another take a look at for this can be a darker scene with somebody with lengthy hair. The underside of their hair (I do not know what individuals with hair name it) away from the sunshine is usually a good place to spot shadow element — additionally darkish coats at evening. Again, you may want to attempt just a few completely different reveals or films to get it proper.


On the left, the unique image of the partitions of Tallinn. On the correct, what it may seem like for those who set the sharpness management too excessive.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

  • Controls synthetic edge enhancement, not image sharpness
  • Too excessive erases image element, provides a halo to high quality traces
  • Depending on the TV, set to 0 there is no impact, or a slight softening

Believe it or not, the sharpness management would not actually enhance sharpness. In a approach it improves obvious sharpness, however on the expense of precise high quality element and normally with extra noise. On practically all TVs the sharpness management provides “edge enhancement,” artificially accentuating any edges the TV finds within the image. The downside is, doing this hides the precise element within the image, so the consequence seems to be extra synthetic with much less precise element.


An in depth-up of the instance above. Note the additional noise and synthetic “halo” across the spires on the correct.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

So it could appear counterintuitive, however you must flip the sharpness management down, approach down. Some TVs look finest with the management at 0. Others look finest throughout the first 10% or so of this management’s vary. If you are used to how your TV seems to be with the sharpness management approach up, because it sometimes is within the Dynamic or Vivid modes, it’d seem smooth at first while you flip it down. Find some high-quality 4K content material and also you is perhaps stunned how detailed it now seems to be. You ought to give you the option to discover the candy spot in your TV wanting carefully for textures in clothes, wrinkles in faces, hair and beards, that form of factor.

Read extraWhy you want to flip down your TV’s sharpness management

Color and tint

  • Controls colour saturation and red-green shift
  • A holdover from the analog TV days
  • Generally shall be right, or shut sufficient, out of the field

Generally, the colour and tint controls shall be fairly shut to right out of the field, particularly in Cinema or Movie mode. You can experiment with their results, but it surely’s uncommon they’re off by a couple of or two steps in both path.


At the highest, the colour temperature is about too low, or heat. At the underside, it is set too excessive, or cool.

Geoffrey Morrison

Color temperature or white stability

  • Controls how heat or cool the image seems to be
  • Too excessive and the image shall be too blue
  • Too low and the image shall be too crimson

Color temperature is a troublesome one. Your mind will get used to the colour temp of your TV, so for those who change it, it is going to appear “wrong.” In reality, that is in all probability the very first thing you will discover for those who swap to the Cinema or Movie mode. It’s going to look too heat or “reddish.” On most TVs, that is truly essentially the most correct and lifelike. Your TV has been mendacity to you for years! 

Switch to your TV’s heat colour temperature mode and watch it for just a few days. If it nonetheless appears off to you, attempt the usual mode. I promise the cool mode will look far too blue when you get used to heat.

Check out my article on colour temp and why it issues for more information.

Motion interpolation or smoothing (the cleaning soap opera impact)


David Katzmaier/CNET
  • Controls how “smooth” movement is by artificially creating new frames of video
  • Too excessive, and even enabled in any respect, it may be annoying to some
  • Too low and the TV may seem smooth with movement, reminiscent of sports activities

As TV settings go, movement interpolation is a reasonably controversial matter. Many individuals, together with movie purists and just about everybody who works in Hollywood, hate it. It makes films seem like an affordable cleaning soap opera or a video you’d shoot in your cellphone. If you’ve got ever checked out a brand new TV and simply felt one thing was off, or the image simply did not look actual, it is in all probability this. Some individuals prefer it, however lots of people do not. Your new TV virtually definitely has this function turned on in non-Cinema or Movie modes. Turning it off may change how you are feeling about your buy.

Read extra: Soap opera impact: Tom Cruise needs you to flip it off. Here’s how

Game mode

  • Reduces enter lag, or how lengthy it takes in your enter to register onscreen
  • Usually disables options that may make the image better
  • Useful for any recreation that requires timing or aiming, particularly on-line multiplayer

Input lag is how lengthy it takes for you to press a button on a recreation controller after which to have an onscreen impact within the recreation. For many individuals this delay, measured in milliseconds, is not noticeable. For others, particularly with sure kinds of video games, it could possibly make an enormous distinction. From leaping puzzles to pixel-perfect goal in a first-person shooter, getting the timing proper in lots of video games is essential. 

Minimizing enter lag, normally through a function known as recreation mode, could make a big distinction. If you’ve got purchased a brand new TV and instantly your scores and rankings have dropped, this is perhaps why. It’s not one thing you need to go away enabled on a regular basis, because it normally disables processing options that may enhance the TV’s picture quality.

Some TVs and consoles now assist switching to this mode routinely.

Further steps

As talked about above, the following step to fine-tuning your TV to perfection is getting a setup disc. The Spears & Munsil disc is a good choice as a result of it will get you proper to the patterns with none extraneous fluff. If you simply need another person to do it, ideally with specialised take a look at gear, see if there are any TV calibrators in your space.

Lastly, ensure any sources you’ve, like a streaming stick or a cable or satellite tv for pc field, are set to your TV’s decision (4K for 4K TVs, and so forth). Generally talking they need to do that routinely, but it surely’s value digging into the settings to ensure. Your 4K TV will not look its finest with out 4K content material. You may want to pay for the next tier to get that, relying on the service. 

Lastly, HDMI. Chances are no matter HDMI cables you’ve are high quality. If you attempt to ship 4K from a media streamer and it would not work, it is doable your HDMI cables cannot deal with the extra decision. Fortunately, new HDMI cables are low-cost. If your TV is getting the decision you need out of your sources, new HDMI cables will not make the image look or sound better, so it can save you your cash. 

Now taking part in:
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Calibrate your TV by eye


As nicely as overlaying TV and different show tech, Geoff does picture excursions of cool museums and places world wide, together with nuclear submarineshuge plane carriersmedieval castlesairplane graveyards and extra. 

You can observe his exploits on Instagram and YouTube, and on his journey weblog, BaldNomad. He additionally wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, together with a sequel

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