To evaluate actual program material, we use both HDTV shows and Blu-ray discs, and we base our scores on a display’s technical as well as visual performance. We also disable most so-called “picture enhancement” functions prior to viewing and taking measurements, as they more often than not degrade overall picture performance.
Do look over our recommended settings for a tested display, as they’ll put you “in the zone” of best picture quality if you own or decide to purchase that set, and by all means do have a test disc or two on hand for setup (Digital Video Essentials is available in both DVD and Blu-ray versions).
When setting up your display, adjust brightness (black level) and contrast (white level) prior to doing any other adjustments; they’re the settings that need to be right before making any further changes. Note, too, that these two key settings are source-component dependent, which is why we don’t list brightness and contrast settings in our recommendations (i.e., our settings wouldn’t necessarily work with your source components).
Once you’ve got your set tuned up via your disc player, you’ll be in a better position to adjust for any other sources you have (most sets have multiple picture settings memories, and some have picture memories for each input).
Once we’ve found the optimum combination of settings for a display, we check it out with reference-grade HD clips on various Blu-ray discs, and we also evaluate the set with HD material from Blu-ray movies and HDTV programs. We also test each set’s ability to properly deinterlace 1080i to 1080p and look at any special processing modes that a display might have (such as 4:4 or 5:5 pulldown, 24p mode, etc.) and highlight other standout features.
Our overall intent is to answer several key questions concerning each TV or projector we review:
We hope that, once you are armed with this information, you’ll be able to choose and use TVs and displays that will give you great movie and TV-watching experiences for years to come.