9 fast TV settings adjustments that’ll vastly enhance your image high quality

9 quick TV settings changes that'll hugely improve your picture quality

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

David Katzmaier/CNET

Your TV’s image settings menu will be overwhelming, however that does not imply you may’t make just a few small adjustments to make watching your favourite exhibits, having fun with 4K HDR motion pictures and enjoying video video games even higher. With a pair straightforward tweaks to your TV image settings, colours can look extra correct, movement can look extra pure and brightness will be adjusted for snug day and nighttime viewing. It solely takes just a few seconds to alter your image mode. You may even give TV calibration a attempt, if you’d like extra choices for optimum TV watching. 

Learn extra: Finest TV offers for Black Friday 2021 to this point

A phrase of warning earlier than we start: Image setting names are all over. A setting one TV-maker calls “brightness” might management one thing completely totally different on one other set, for instance. We sort out quite a lot of the variations under, however we will not account for each TV-maker, particularly on older fashions, so your mileage could fluctuate.

Begin with the proper image mode


The simplest method to get correct coloration? Put your TV in Film or Cinema mode.

Sarah Tew/CNET


Brett Pearce/CNET

Your TV’s image mode has the biggest impact on total image high quality. This one setting controls a number of different settings to alter the general “look” of your TV. When you’ve by no means modified this setting it is most likely nonetheless the default mode, usually labeled Commonplace, Vivid, Dynamic, Shiny or one thing related. The TV is its least correct on this mode, with usually blown-out colours and picture “enhancing” options that may catch the attention on a shelf in a retailer, however at residence may make the TV look worse than it might. 

A spot to begin is switching to the mode known as Cinema, Film, Calibrated or Filmmaker. These will dial again a few of the image’s extra garish elements. At first, the TV may even look delicate or too heat (“reddish”). We’ll focus on under why that’s, however for now belief that you simply’re really seeing extra high quality element, and the picture is extra lifelike. 

Learn extraWhat’s the most effective image mode?

Let’s transfer on to some particular controls.

Backlight or OLED mild

  • Controls the sunshine depth of the whole show
  • Too excessive and it will probably trigger complications or eye pressure, waste vitality and, in some circumstances, trigger untimely put on on the TV
  • Too low and the picture is simply too dim and troublesome to see

Practically all TVs could have some management that adjusts the general mild output of the TV. It is often labeled because the backlight management, or OLED mild, or one thing related. On newer Sony TVs this setting is labeled Brightness, and on Roku TVs there are 5 settings (Brightest to Darkest) along with a backlight management. Regardless of the label, this setting is the precise brightness, which is mostly separate from the management labeled “Brightness” (see under). 

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

The brighter the TV is, the extra vitality it’ll devour, in case you’re involved about how a lot electrical energy you utilize. Greater brightness additionally makes OLED TVs considerably extra inclined to picture retention and burn-in — though that is unlikely with typical viewing habits, even at most brightness. 

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


On the left, what the picture of some pleasant beachside ‘roos ought to appear to be. On the proper, when the distinction management is about too excessive. Discover the shortage of element within the sand and the way the clouds are blown out.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

  • Controls the white or vivid components of a picture
  • 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 picture are. There’s an higher restrict, nonetheless. When 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 picture really brighter.

To set distinction by eye, you will want one thing with quite a lot of vivid areas of the picture. 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 picture, however nonetheless with spotlight element. In different phrases, the intense areas of the picture nonetheless have element, and are not simply awash in white. 

As soon as you have 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. Someplace on this vary will probably be excellent. Since all content material is somewhat totally different you may have to tweak it a bit as you watch different exhibits/motion pictures.

Do not need to mess with all that? Simply depart it on the default for the Film or Cinema setting.

Brightness or black degree

On the left, what the teahouse ought to appear to be. On the proper, when the brightness management is about too low. Discover how the shadows disappear fully.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

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

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


A closeup from the picture above. Discover how one can’t see something within the shadows within the picture on the proper.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

To set brightness, you are searching for the alternative sort of content material from distinction. Darkish motion pictures, like Aliens or The Darkish Knight, are good for this. Some famously darkish TV episodes is perhaps too darkish to make use of for this. 

Flip 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 picture does not look washed out. One other check for this can be a darker scene with somebody with lengthy hair. The underside of their hair (I do not know what folks with hair name it) away from the sunshine could be a good place to identify shadow element — additionally darkish coats at evening. Once more, you may have to attempt just a few totally different exhibits or motion pictures to get it proper.


On the left, the unique picture of the partitions of Tallinn. On the proper, what it might appear to be in case you set the sharpness management too excessive.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

  • Controls synthetic edge enhancement, not picture sharpness
  • Too excessive erases picture element, provides a halo to high quality traces
  • Relying on the TV, set to 0 there is not any impact, or a slight softening

Imagine it or not, the sharpness management does not actually enhance sharpness. In a manner it improves obvious sharpness, however on the expense of precise high quality element and often with further noise. On practically all TVs the sharpness management provides “edge enhancement,” artificially accentuating any edges the TV finds within the picture. The issue is, doing this hides the precise element within the picture, so the end result seems to be extra synthetic with much less precise element.


A detailed-up of the instance above. Notice the additional noise and synthetic “halo” across the spires on the proper.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

So it might appear counterintuitive, however you need to flip the sharpness management down, manner down. Some TVs look greatest with the management at 0. Others look greatest inside the first 10% or so of this management’s vary. When you’re used to how your TV seems to be with the sharpness management manner up, because it usually is within the Dynamic or Vivid modes, it would seem delicate at first while you flip it down. Discover some high-quality 4K content material and also you is perhaps stunned how detailed it now seems to be. You need to be capable of discover the candy spot in your TV trying intently for textures in clothes, wrinkles in faces, hair and beards, that sort of factor.

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

Coloration and tint

  • Controls coloration saturation and red-green shift
  • A holdover from the analog TV days
  • Usually will probably be appropriate, or shut sufficient, out of the field

Usually, the coloration and tint controls will probably be moderately near appropriate out of the field, particularly in Cinema or Film mode. You may experiment with their results, nevertheless it’s uncommon they’re off by a couple of or two steps in both path.


On the high, the colour temperature is about too low, or heat. On the backside, it is set too excessive, or cool.

Geoffrey Morrison

Coloration temperature or white stability

  • Controls how heat or cool the picture seems to be
  • Too excessive and the picture will probably be too blue
  • Too low and the picture will probably be too purple

Coloration temperature is a troublesome one. Your mind will get used to the colour temp of your TV, so in case you change it, it may appear “flawed.” In truth, that is most likely the very first thing you will discover in case you change to the Cinema or Film mode. It may look too heat or “reddish.” On most TVs, that is really probably the most correct and lifelike. Your TV has been mendacity to you for years! 

Change to your TV’s heat coloration 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.

Take a look at my article on coloration temp and why it issues for more information.

Movement interpolation or smoothing (the cleaning soap opera impact)

Soap opera effect smoothing tom cruise Vizio

David Katzmaier/CNET
  • Controls how “easy” 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 delicate with movement, comparable to sports activities

As TV settings go, movement interpolation is a fairly controversial matter. Many individuals, together with movie purists and just about everybody who works in Hollywood, hate it. It makes motion pictures appear to be an inexpensive cleaning soap opera or a video you’d shoot in your telephone. When you’ve ever checked out a brand new TV and simply felt one thing was off, or the picture simply did not look actual, it is most likely this. Some folks prefer it, however lots of people do not. Your new TV virtually actually has this function turned on in non-Cinema or Film modes. Turning it off may change how you are feeling about your buy.

Learn extra: Cleaning soap opera impact: Tom Cruise needs you to show it off. This is how

Recreation mode

  • Reduces enter lag, or how lengthy it takes on your enter to register onscreen
  • Often disables options that may make the picture higher
  • Helpful for any sport that requires timing or aiming, particularly on-line multiplayer

Enter lag is how lengthy it takes so that you can press a button on a sport controller after which to have an onscreen impact within the sport. For many individuals this delay, measured in milliseconds, is not noticeable. For others, particularly with sure varieties of video games, it will probably make a large 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, often through a function known as sport mode, could make a major distinction. When you’ve purchased a brand new TV and abruptly your scores and rankings have dropped, this is perhaps why. It isn’t one thing you need to depart enabled on a regular basis, because it often disables processing options that may enhance the TV’s image high quality.

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

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Further steps

As mentioned above, the next step to fine-tuning your TV to perfection is getting a setup disc. The Spears & Munsil disc is a great option because it gets you right to the patterns without any extraneous fluff. If you just want someone else to do it, ideally with specialized test equipment, see if there are any TV calibrators in your area.

Lastly, make sure any sources you have, like a streaming stick or a cable or satellite box, are set to your TV’s resolution (4K for 4K TVs, etc). Generally speaking they should do this automatically, but it’s worth digging into the settings to be sure. Your 4K TV won’t look its best without 4K content. You might need to pay for a higher tier to get that, depending on the service. 

Lastly, HDMI. Chances are whatever HDMI cables you have are fine. If you try to send 4K from a media streamer and it doesn’t work, it’s possible your HDMI cables can’t handle the additional resolution. Fortunately, new HDMI cables are cheap. If your TV is getting the resolution you want from your sources, new HDMI cables won’t make the image look or sound better, so you can save your money. 

As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarinesmassive aircraft carriersmedieval castlesairplane graveyards and more. 

You can follow his exploits on Instagram and YouTube, and on his travel blog, BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, along with a sequel

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