Your TV Could Look a Whole Lot Better: 9 Setting Changes for the Best Picture

What’s occurring

Picture settings in your new TV may not be preferrred proper out of the field.

Why it issues

Getting the greatest picture doable out of your TV will make all of your reveals and films pop.

What’s subsequent

We break down all the settings you will want to regulate to get the greatest image high quality.

Your TV does not truly come trying its greatest proper out of the field. It could also be stunning, however the default settings that your TV makes use of earlier than you make any modifications do not all the time ship optimum efficiency. If you need the best out of your TV, you will probably want to regulate your image settings. 


That is precisely what we do right here at CNET as a part of our TV review process. We instantly dig into the menus to regulate the image settings to ensure the televisions we’re testing have optimum image high quality. 

Fortunately, you do not have to be an skilled to get your TV trying nice. Every TV has quite a few changes, together with completely different picture modes and controls for brightness, backlight, sharpness, smoothing and extra, that you may change to enhance the TV shows, movies and video games you watch day by day.

We’ve damaged down all of the settings you will want to vary as a way to get greatest image out of your TV. Just needless to say image setting names can fluctuate from one manufacture to a different. A setting one TV firm calls “brightness” may management one thing completely completely different on one other set, for instance. We sort out a lot of the variations beneath, however we will not account for each TV-maker, particularly on older fashions.

Start with the proper image mode

Your TV’s image mode has the largest impact on total image high quality. This one setting controls a number of different settings to vary the total “look” of your TV. If you have by no means modified this setting it is in all probability nonetheless the default mode, usually labeled Standard, Vivid, Dynamic, Bright 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 eye on a shelf in a retailer, however at house may make the TV look worse than it may. 

Picture Mode set to Movie on a TV screen

The best solution to get correct coloration? Put your TV in Movie or Cinema mode.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A spot to start out is switching to the mode referred to as Cinema, Movie, Calibrated or Filmmaker. These will dial again a few of the image’s extra garish features. At first, the TV may even look mushy 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 picture is extra lifelike. 

Read extraWhat’s the Best Picture Mode?

Let’s transfer on to some particular controls.

Backlight or OLED gentle

  • Controls the gentle depth of the complete show
  • Too excessive and it may possibly trigger complications or eye pressure, waste power and, in some circumstances, trigger untimely put on on the TV
  • Too low and the picture is simply too dim and tough to see

Nearly all TVs could have some management that adjusts the total gentle output of the TV. It’s often labeled as 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) along with 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 alter this setting based mostly on room lighting and private choice. Brighter rooms and daylight viewing will name for a greater setting, whereas house theater or nighttime viewing usually seems 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 local dimming

The brighter the TV is, the extra power it’ll eat, if you happen to’re involved about how a lot electrical energy you utilize. Higher 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. 

Read extra: OLED Screen Burn-In: What You Need to Know in 2022


On the left, what the picture of some friendly beachside ‘roos ought to seem like. On the proper, when the distinction management is ready too excessive. Notice the lack of element in 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 shiny elements of the picture are. There is an higher restrict, nonetheless. If 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 a lot of shiny areas of the picture. Baseball works fairly nicely for this — a fly ball, pop fly, house runs, one thing with photographs of the sky — or snowboarding (relying on season, clearly) or one thing with clouds. What you are trying for is a shiny picture, however nonetheless with spotlight element. In different phrases, the shiny areas of the picture nonetheless have element, and are not simply awash in white. 

Once 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. Somewhere on this vary might be preferrred. Since all content material is a little completely different you may must tweak it a bit as you watch different reveals/films.

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

Brightness or black stage

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

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.” Instead, it adjusts how darkish the darkest elements of the picture are. Like with distinction, there’s a high-quality line between too excessive and too low. In 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 Level.)

Comparison of brightness levels

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

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

To set brightness, you are trying for the reverse kind of content material from distinction. Dark films, like Aliens or The Dark Knight, are excellent for this. Some famously dark TV episodes could be too darkish to make use of for this. 

Turn the Brightness management down till the whole lot disappears into blackness (or one thing shut). From there, flip it again up so you’ll be able to see element in the whole lot, however the picture does not look washed out. Another take a look at for that is 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 gentle could be a good place to identify shadow element — additionally darkish coats at evening. Again, you may must attempt a few completely different reveals or films to get it proper.


On the left, the unique picture of the walls of Tallinn. On the proper, what it may seem like if you happen to 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 strains
  • Depending on the TV, set to 0 there is not any impact, or a slight softening

Believe it or not, the sharpness management does not actually enhance sharpness. In a manner it improves obvious sharpness, however at 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 in the picture. The downside is, doing this hides the precise element in the picture, so the consequence seems extra synthetic with much less precise element.

A close-up of the previous comparison

An in depth-up of the instance above. Note the further noise and synthetic “halo” round the spires on the proper.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

So it could appear counterintuitive, however you must 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. If you are used to how your TV seems with the sharpness management manner up, because it usually is in the Dynamic or Vivid modes, it would seem mushy at first whenever you flip it down. Find some high-quality 4K content material and also you could be shocked how detailed it now seems. You ought to have the ability to discover the candy spot in your TV trying intently for textures in clothes, wrinkles in faces, hair and beards, that form of factor.

Read extraWhy You Need to Turn Down Your TV’s Sharpness Control

Color and tint

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

Generally, the coloration and tint controls might be fairly near right out of the field, particularly in Cinema or Movie mode. You can experiment with their results, nevertheless it’s uncommon they’re off by a couple of or two steps in both route.

Comparison of different color temperatures

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

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Color temperature or white stability

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

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

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

Check out my article on color temp and why it matters for extra information.

Motion interpolation or smoothing (the cleaning soap opera impact)

The Reduce Motion Blur option highlighted in the Motion Control options

David Katzmaier/CNET
  • Controls how “clean” 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 mushy with movement, equivalent to sports activities

As TV settings go, movement interpolation is a slightly controversial subject. Many folks, together with movie purists and just about everybody who works in Hollywood, hate it. It makes films seem like a low cost cleaning soap opera or a video you’d shoot in your telephone. If you have ever checked out a new TV and simply felt one thing was off, or the picture simply did not look actual, it is in all probability this. Some folks prefer it, however a lot of individuals 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: (*9*)

Game mode

  • Reduces enter lag, or how lengthy it takes for your enter to register onscreen
  • Usually disables options which may make the picture higher
  • 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 in the recreation. For many individuals this delay, measured in milliseconds, is not noticeable. For others, particularly with sure forms of video games, it may possibly make a huge distinction. From leaping puzzles to pixel-perfect intention in a first-person shooter, getting the timing proper in lots of video games is essential. 

Minimizing enter lag, often by way of a function referred to as recreation mode, could make a vital distinction. If you have purchased a new TV and all of the sudden your scores and rankings have dropped, this could be why. It’s not one thing you need to go away enabled all the time, because it often disables processing options that may enhance the TV’s image high quality.

Some TVs and consoles now help switching to this mode automatically.

Further steps

As talked about above, the subsequent step to fine-tuning your TV to perfection is getting a setup disc. The Spears & Munsil disc is a nice 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 area.

Lastly, ensure any sources you will have, 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 many others). Generally talking they need to do that routinely, nevertheless it’s price digging into the settings to make sure. Your 4K TV will not look its greatest with out 4K content material. You may must pay for a greater tier to get that, relying on the service. 

Lastly, HDMI. Chances are no matter HDMI cables you will have are high-quality. If you attempt to ship 4K from a media streamer and it does not work, it is doable your HDMI cables cannot deal with the further decision. But new HDMI cables are cheap. If your TV is getting the decision you need out of your sources, new HDMI cables will not make the picture look or sound higher, so it can save you your cash. 

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

As nicely as masking TV and different show tech, Geoff does picture excursions of cool museums and locations around the world, together with nuclear submarinesmassive aircraft carriersmedieval castlesairplane graveyards and extra. 

You can comply with 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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