TV settings it is best to change to get one of the best image attainable

What is HDR for TVs, and how does it make the picture better?

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

David Katzmaier/CNET

2022 has arrived, and as you set new targets this new 12 months, you might need to spruce up your TV as properly. 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 comfy day and nighttime viewing. This implies watching your favourite reveals, having fun with 4K HDR motion pictures or enjoying video video games can look even higher. You too can give TV calibration a attempt, if you’d like extra choices for optimum TV watching. 

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

Begin with the best image mode

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


The best option to get correct coloration? Put your TV in Film or Cinema mode.

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A spot to start out is switching to the mode known as Cinema, Film, Calibrated or Filmmaker. These will dial again among the image’s extra garish elements. At first, the TV would possibly even look gentle or too heat (“reddish”). We’ll focus on beneath why that’s, however for now belief that you just’re truly seeing extra advantageous element, and the picture is extra lifelike. 

Learn extraWhat’s one of the best 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 could actually trigger complications or eye pressure, waste vitality and, in some instances, trigger untimely put on on the TV
  • Too low and the picture is just too dim and troublesome to see

Almost all TVs may 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 comparable. 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 beneath). 

You need to regulate this setting based mostly on room lighting and private desire. Brighter rooms and daylight viewing will name for a better setting, whereas residence theater or nighttime viewing typically seems to be higher at a decrease setting. On an LCD TV, a shiny 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 eat, for those who’re involved about how a lot electrical energy you utilize. Increased brightness additionally makes OLED TVs considerably extra vulnerable 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 it’s worthwhile to know in 2022


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

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

  • Controls the white or shiny elements of a picture
  • Too excessive will erase element from clouds, snow and different shiny objects
  • Too low will look dim and flat

The distinction management adjusts how shiny the brilliant elements of the picture are. There may be an higher restrict, nonetheless. In case you set the management too excessive, it “clips” the whites, making near-white particulars completely white. This successfully erases any element in shiny objects like clouds with out making the picture truly brighter.

To set distinction by eye, you will want one thing with quite a lot of shiny areas of the picture. Baseball works fairly properly 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 in search of is a shiny picture, however nonetheless with spotlight element. In different phrases, the brilliant areas of the picture nonetheless have element, and are not simply awash in white. 

As soon as you’ve got discovered one thing you assume will work, flip the distinction management up till you begin dropping 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 can be very best. Since all content material is a bit totally different you would possibly must tweak it a bit as you watch different reveals/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 stage

On the left, what the teahouse ought to appear to be. On the best, when the brightness management is ready too low. Discover how the shadows disappear utterly.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

  • Controls the black or darkish elements 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 truly management the TV’s “brightness.” As a substitute, it adjusts how darkish the darkest elements of the picture are. Like with distinction, there is a advantageous 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 Stage.)


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

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

To set brightness, you are in search of the alternative kind of content material from distinction. Darkish motion pictures, like Aliens or The Darkish Knight, are excellent for this. Some famously darkish TV episodes could be too darkish to make use of for this. 

Flip the Brightness management down till every thing disappears into blackness (or one thing shut). From there, flip it again up so you’ll be able to see element in every 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 individuals with hair name it) away from the sunshine generally is a good place to identify shadow element — additionally darkish coats at night time. Once more, you would possibly must attempt just a few totally different reveals or motion pictures to get it proper.


On the left, the unique picture of the partitions of Tallinn. On the best, what it may appear to be for those who 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 advantageous strains
  • Relying on the TV, set to 0 there is no impact, or a slight softening

Consider it or not, the sharpness management does not actually enhance sharpness. In a manner it improves obvious sharpness, however on the expense of precise advantageous element and often with extra 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 outcome seems to be extra synthetic with much less precise element.


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

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

So it could appear counterintuitive, however it is best to flip the sharpness management down, manner down. Some TVs look finest with the management at 0. Others look finest throughout the first 10% or so of this management’s vary. In case 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’d seem gentle at first once you flip it down. Discover some high-quality 4K content material and also you could be stunned how detailed it now seems to be. You need to have the ability to discover the candy spot in your TV wanting carefully for textures in clothes, wrinkles in faces, hair and beards, that type of factor.

Learn extraWhy it’s worthwhile to flip down your TV’s sharpness management

Colour and tint

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

Usually, the coloration and tint controls can 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 route.


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

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Colour temperature or white stability

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

Colour temperature is a troublesome one. Your mind will get used to the colour temp of your TV, so for those who change it, it will appear “unsuitable.” Actually, that is most likely the very first thing you will discover for those who change to the Cinema or Film mode. It will look too heat or “reddish.” On most TVs, that is truly 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.

Try 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 would possibly seem gentle with movement, akin to sports activities

As TV settings go, movement interpolation is a relatively controversial subject. 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. In case 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 individuals prefer it, however lots of people do not. Your new TV nearly definitely has this function turned on in non-Cinema or Film modes. Turning it off would possibly change how you are feeling about your buy.

Learn extra: Tom Cruise desires you to show off cleaning soap opera impact. This is how

Sport mode

  • Reduces enter lag, or how lengthy it takes on your enter to register onscreen
  • Normally disables options which 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 sorts of video games, it could actually 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, often through a function known as sport mode, could make a major distinction. In case you’ve purchased a brand new TV and instantly your scores and rankings have dropped, this could be why. It is not 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 robotically.

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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. 

For more, check out CNET’s lists of the best 55-inch, 65-inch and 75-inch TVs you can buy. You can also take a look at the best 4K TVs available

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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