3 TV Settings That Might Be Dulling Your Picture Quality

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Upset woman watching TV
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Many of us have a greater appreciation for our televisions than ever before, thanks to a solid year of being trapped indoors during the pandemic.

But if you have a nagging suspicion that your TV is not delivering the best picture, it’s possible a feature that does more harm than good is activated.

Consumer Reports says many TVs leave the factory with default settings that are not optimal for projecting the best image.

So, before giving up on that expensive new set, CR says you should check the following.

Noise reduction

This feature is intended to remove things that degrade your image, such as the “snow” that was common on old analog TVs. But CR says deploying noise reduction can rob your picture of detail and fine texture, making the picture “soft” and “smoothed.”

So, turn off this feature if it has been activated. CR notes that digital sources — such as high-definition signals from cable and satellite TV services, streaming service signals and Blu-ray discs — usually provide a noise-free image on their own.

Sharpness control/edge enhancement

Yes, detail and fine texture typically enhance your picture. But as with so many things in life, you can have too much of a good thing.

Activating a feature called sharpness control or edge enhancement can actually oversharpen images, adding “a halo around objects” that masks detail, CR says.

CR recommends turning this feature either way down low, or off altogether. However, if your model allows you to reduce the setting below zero, don’t do it — that can soften the image into blurriness.

Motion smoothing

CR notes that on some sets — especially LCD-based TVs — the image can blur during fast-moving scenes. TV manufacturers have created a host of technologies to try to eliminate the problem.

But in many cases, these technologies are married to judder reduction, or “motion smoothing.” The word “judder” refers to a slight stuttering effect that can occur in some situations, such as when a camera pans across a scene.

While motion smoothing can reduce judder, it also can make “even classic, gritty films look like video, something referred to as ‘the soap opera effect,'” CR says.

So, what should you do? CR suggests two options:

  • If you have a TV with 120Hz and higher refresh rates, you may be able to turn off motion smoothing separately from blur reduction. If this option is available, use it.
  • If the motion smoothing and blur reduction are tied together as a single feature, just turn it off.

Fortunately, a new technology known as Filmmaker Mode is now found on the latest TV models. It eliminates motion smoothing and a handful of other features when it detects that a movie is playing. That gets rid of the soap opera effect.

New televisions from Hisense, LG, Samsung and Vizio come with Filmmaker Mode. A similar technology — Netflix Calibrated Mode — only works with Netflix movies and shows. It can be found in some newer Sony Android and Google televisions.

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