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How to get the best picture on today's big-screen TVs

March 22, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A big-screen television can turn your home into a theater. But you want that picture to be perfect. Consumer Reports shows you some simple steps to getting a great picture.

Huge flat-screen TVs look great in the store, but what about when you get one home? At Consumer Reports, before every TV is tested, engineers adjust them for the best picture quality.

"In the stores, the TVs are set up to really pop and catch your eye underneath those bright fluorescent lights. But that's not the lighting you're going to have in your living room," said Consumer Reports tester Chris Andrade.

The first thing you'll likely see when you turn on your new TV is the option that indicates a "Home" or "Store" setting. Select the "Home" setting.

Next you'll want to select the picture mode. Freeze the set on an image with faces and plenty of detail.

"Check the picture options in your menu. If your TV has a 'THX' mode, then go with that," said Consumer Reports tester Matt Ferretti. "If not, then look for settings called 'Movie,' 'Cinema,' or 'Pro.' Any one of these settings should give you the most natural-looking picture."

You'll see modes like "Vivid" or "Dynamic," but avoid those. While they might sound good, the picture ends up overly bright and harsh.

There are also a number of settings you should turn off completely, including "Noise Reduction" and "Edge Enhancer." You should also turn off the "Power Save" mode.

"In general, you want to turn the 'Blur Reduction' features on to get the sharpest picture in fast-moving scenes. But this is often coupled with a 'Motion Smoothing' feature which you want to turn off, because it's going to make film content look more like a soap opera, which is not ideal," said Andrade.

Follow this advice to get a great picture on your TV. After all, that's why you bought it.

Keeping your TV screen clean also improves the picture quality. But Consumer Reports says never use window cleaner, alcohol or ammonia, which can damage the screen. Instead turn off your TV, let it cool down, then wipe it gently with a microfiber cloth, not a paper towel. That leaves lint.


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