How to Judge Picture Quality

What comprises good picture quality?  There are a lot of factors such as black levels, color accuracy, and contrast ratio but the one that really sets a TV apart is its processor.  You want to know how well the TV can handle various types of pictures sent to it from different devices.  A great TV can handle dark movies on Blu-ray, live action sports on cable, your favorite DVDs in your library, and the most detailed images with crisp accuracy.

A low quality TV won’t perform well in all categories.  They can freeze, make the picture look blurred, cause jagged edges, or miss details on dark scenes- only to name a few.  A great test for any TV is a live sporting event.  Watch how it handles the edges of the players’ jerseys, the lines on the field, panning across the crowd, or the numbers on the players’ back.  On a low quality set, you will see a lot of jittery edges and blurred details.

How do I choose a set that will perform well under all circumstances?  The best way is to read reviews by the pros- NOT CONSUMERS.  Try magazines and websites like CNET and Home Theater MagazineConsumer Reports does an adequate job as well, but they don’t have the expertise that others do.  A good review performs a battery of tests and provides an honest review.  Home Theater Magazine and CNET have been my go-to sources for years.


The engineers at TV Company A know they will be competing against TV Company B on the showroom floor.  They know we are going to look at the picture and say things like, “Wow, look how bright the picture and colors look compared to the other TVs.”  For that reason, they crank up the brightness and colors to the max to make them pop on the showroom floor.  The picture you see at the store is not the picture you will see at home.

Big box stores have a variety of TV’s from low quality to mid quality (they don’t get true high quality sets).  They know what will show the TV’s weakness so they protect it by only showing certain types of images.  Computer animation is a big box store favorite because it will look great on any set of any quality.  They would never show a live sporting event or they would never sell a low quality set again.  Everything they show is processed to look great on all their displays.

If you would like some one-on-one advice, please feel free to call.  We carry almost every TV on the market, even exclusive high-end models that are only available to custom installers.  Even if you make your purchases elsewhere, we can still point you in the right direction.