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Eight tips for improving TV picture quality

Just got a shiny new television or want to get the best out of the aging but ultimately reliable one you still have? Here are five tips for improving TV picture quality.

1) Use the ‘warm’ setting

Warm is good in your home and it is also good from a colour accuracy perspective. Although it may seem jarring at first, especially if your TV was set to a cooler setting or you are used to incandescent lighting, the ‘warm’ setting is usually (but not always) the most accurate to go with.

Stay away from ‘game’ unless playing games as that tends to look a bit odd (it is designed to reduce input lag, not make colours accurate after all). Usually all you need to do is navigate your TV remote to settings and then picture to make the change.

2) Buy a calibration disc

You can buy calibration discs that let you adjust everything from specific colours to brightness to ensure what you see is what was intended. Or, at least, as close as. Wow: World of Disney is one option but you can also find free software out there – a lot of people swear by AVS HD 709.

You will need a Blu-Ray player to run the disc so bear that in mind before taking the plunge, plus have an hour or few spare to complete the process. It is a surprisingly time-intensive job to do properly so pop the kettle on.

3) Buy a calibration meter

Using calibration discs can hone the picture to how it is meant to look, although the end result largely depends on the flexibility of your TV’s settings, your eyes and the lighting in the room, which is why many people shell out money for an actual calibration meter that does the job far more accurately.

Paying at least £100-odd for an additional gadget to use on a on a £500 TV is overkill, but perhaps not for a high-end 4K monster that costs more than a car. Alternatively, just pay a professional to do it for you and be sure to jot down all the settings in case you need them again. Ensure the calibration provider is reputable by looking up online reviews.

4) Lower the brightness

In the summer you may have to crank up the brightness to see what you are watching, especially if you have a typically dim plasma set, but doing so will affect the darkness of blacks. If you are really keen, your TV may let you create two picture setting profiles, one for day viewing and one for night. Or you can just pull the curtains or get blackout blinds to keep the level of light consistent as that is the key.

5) Turn off picture settings

Various TV manufacturers do their best to try and enhance the picture, in the same way some music amplifiers try to enhance the bass or treble. This means the end result is never quite as it should be.

Spend some time switching off picture modes such as ‘Advanced Picture’, ‘Dynamic’ or ‘Smoothing’ because they are probably having a detrimental effect. Inaccurate colours, weird motion glitches or artefacts are all possible. Some games and live sports benefit from a touch of smoothing and whatnot, but it is best to find out for yourself.

6) Put a light behind your TV

Putting a light behind a TV – a technique called ‘bias lighting’ – sounds odd but it can help accentuate the picture. Some people go crazy with special lighting that is exactly the right white (6500k is the typical colour temperature), others just stick on some Ikea LEDs and hope for the best.

Either way, even the wrong colour lighting will decrease the strain of watching TV on your eyes, which will be good in the long run, and the right colour will help improve the image and contrast. Plus it looks quite pleasing, as the picture above shows.

7) Google TV calibration settings

Perhaps the best thing about tech is the level of positive nerdery that drives people to do the job for you. Even though two TV sets may be slightly different in terms of colour, brightness, contrast etc, using a popular setup on AV Forums is likely to be a good place to start.

Just Google your TV model followed by ‘calibration’ and see what comes up. Then adjust the settings and see what you think – it may just save you from having to do any of the more complicated or more expensive tips in our list.

8) Start again with a new TV

This may sound like a cop-out but you pay more money for a better picture so your aging CRT monitor, although very good for Call of Duty, will not do Avatar justice. 4K is much more affordable now, which means you can pick up a very capable, HDR-toting TV for under £1,000 (especially around Black Friday).

Failing that, you can pick up one hell of a 1080p set with the smart TV trimmings and a sublime picture for considerably less. Even with a 4K set in one room, our aging plasma still looks fantastic. It’s not the number of pixels that matters, but what you do with them.

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