TV Calibration: 14 tips for getting the best picture quality out of your screen

Don't stick with your TV's default settings!

Don't overdo the picture processing settings

9. Don't always believe the picture processing hype

Nearly every TV these days boasts a proprietary picture processing engine supposedly giving you all manner of video improvements.

But some of these engines are not nearly as clever as they think they are, and can at times actually make pictures worse.

So you should treat all aspects of any TV's processing with suspicion. So much so that we'd recommend that you toggle each of your TV's picture processing elements on and off in turn while watching a tough scene (probably a dark Blu-ray scene with lots of action) to see which settings you like and which ones you don't.


Noise reduction

Noise reduction systems are particularly unhelpful with HD sources, causing softness or image lag. In almost all cases we turn NR modes off when watching Blu-rays or HD broadcasts.

We tend not to like NR with DVDs either, though it can occasionally help suppress source noise in heavily compressed standard definition digital broadcasts. Though even here we'd suggest you only use the lowest power setting for the NR systems.

frame creation

Motion compensation

Another processing area to be especially careful with is motion compensation. All but the most basic LCD and plasma TVs feature some sort of processing system designed to tackle flat TVs' innate problems with judder and motion blur.

But while these sound great in principle, the amount of processing power and cleverness required to address judder and blur in real time is so high that it catches many brands out. Common ugly side effects of motion processing systems include softness, smeared halos around fast-moving objects, and flickering over really fast motion.

If you find yourself troubled by any of these issues, turn the power of the motion processing elements down (most manufacturers provide multiple settings). Or just turn it off entirely.

Some people also dislike the smoothing effect of motion processing systems when watching films, feeling that it makes them look like TV dramas rather than movies.

Motion processing can sometimes be useful with 3D footage, we've found, as this is more prone to judder than 2D on some displays.

Motion processing is also generally more effective with broadcasts. These start out with a higher frame rate than the 24fps we'd recommend you watch from DVD and Blu-ray and don't pose such a challenge to motion processing systems.

So it will probably prove the case that if you want to consistently get the best from your TV, you'll have to revisit the motion processing options quite regularly to suit different sources.

Game mode is the difference between winning and dying

10. Game advice

If you're a gamer you need to do more than just mistrust image processing; you need to hunt it down and kill it wherever it may be found.

This is because any type of video processing runs the risk of causing a delay in the time it takes for a screen to produce its pictures. Such delays are clearly bad news for anyone playing reaction-based games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Forza.

Many TVs helpfully provide a dedicated game preset (sometimes it's tucked away in strange submenus, such as the System/General menu on Samsung TVs, or the Options/Scenes submenu on Sony TVs).

This should turn off most processing for you. But if your set doesn't have a Game preset, you'll have to manually deactivate as much processing as you can for your gaming input.

It's worth adding, too, that sometimes game presets still leave some processing features on, so don't assume that just activating a Game mode will give you the fastest response time. Double check that there isn't any remaining processing that can be turned off to give you that extra few milliseconds of competitive advantage.

11. Try to avoid screen reflections

Position your TV so it's as little affected as possible by direct reflections of either sunlight or the lights around your room. This can profoundly improve your viewing experience. The picture becomes more vivid without you having to crank the contrast up, and your connection with what you're watching becomes more direct.

If you're in the market for a new TV, also bear in mind that some use screens that are much better at filtering out ambient reflections than others.

Managing room reflections is especially important if you're thinking of buying a curved TV, as curved screens tend to exaggerate the scale of any reflections that hit them.