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Our Picture Quality Score and Tests
TVs

Score components:

Picture quality is the most important aspect of a TV. We define picture quality as the ability of a TV to represent as closely as possible the intent of the producer of the content. This means great blacks and accurate colors visible from any position or lighting condition. It doesn't mean an over-saturated or over-processed picture.

We test a lot of components of picture quality. They don't all matter at the same time. For example, the blacks related tests (contrast, black uniformity, local dimming) matter more in a dark room, while some other tests matter more in a bright living room (viewing angle, peak brightness, reflections). Therefore, you shouldn't really look at that score. Instead, you should look at our usage ratings, which picks and choose what is important for each usage.

Test Results

Our tests

Contrast ratio

What it is: Brightness difference between white and black. This is the main component of picture quality.
When it matters: Always, but especially when watching dark scenes.
Score components:

The tests we perform for contrast verify the ratio between black and white on a TV. A higher ratio means deeper, darker blacks, and a lower one means blacks look light gray. How dark black looks is very important for the appearance of any dark object that appears onscreen, and is therefore especially important for scenes that are mostly dark.

Contrast is one of the most important parts of picture quality in general. It especially matters in a dark room.

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Black uniformity

What it is: Evenness of blacks.
When it matters: Dark scenes viewed in a dark room.
Score components:

Our black uniformity testing checks to see how evenly a TV can display solid black across the screen. This is an important test for dark scenes, as poor uniformity could mean some parts of the scene are not lit in the manner intended by the source, thus affecting the kind of mood that is established.

This isn’t really that important for people who watch TV in a room that has lights on, but it’s quite important for people who watch TV in darker rooms.

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Local dimming

What it is: The lights behind the LCD layer adapt to the picture displayed, improving the contrast ratio.
When it matters: Dark scenes viewed in a dark room.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

Our local dimming tests check to see how well a TV can increase contrast by dimming the backlight on certain portions of the screen. If you want to make blacks extra dark, or are interested in HDR (which makes use of local dimming), you should get a TV that has good local dimming implementation.

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Peak brightness

What it is: How bright the screen can get. Measured with local dimming and over HDR signal (if supported).
When it matters: Bright living rooms; bright objects; HDR content.

Our peak brightness test evaluates TVs for how bright their screens are able to get. A big part of the promise of HDR is that highlights in an image can be made extra bright, meaning a TV’s maximum brightness is an important factor in evaluating how good HDR media will look.

This also matters for non HDR content, especially if the TV will be used in a bright room. The more bright a TV can get, the more it can overcome the reflections.

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Gray uniformity

What it is: Evenness of colors onscreen (not just gray).
When it matters: Solid colors. Sports, panning shots.
Score components:

Our gray uniformity tests evaluate TVs for how well they can display a solid gray screen. The results of this test apply to pretty much all solid colors you can see on the TV, which means it’s important for all the (mostly) solid-colored courts, rinks, and fields you might look at while watching sports.

Gray uniformity defects tend not to be noticed by most people, unless solid colors are displayed, so this weight a little bit less in this category.

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Viewing angle

What it is: Color accuracy when viewed from the side.
When it matters: Large living rooms with multiple viewing positions.
Score components:

Our viewing angle test evaluates TVs for how well they retain picture quality when viewed from the side. This doesn’t matter for people who sit right in front of their TV, but anyone who has varied seating should consider this test when planning a purchase.

This is an important test for anyone who would like the option to enjoy good picture quality from somewhere other than directly in front of their TV.

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Color accuracy

Our color accuracy tests evaluate TVs for how accurately they can produce color. How well a TV can reproduce color affects the appearance of everything your TV displays, so it’s something worth considering when making a purchase.

Most people don’t see much difference if color is a little bit off, so this test doesn’t hold much weight in our scoring.

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Resolution

Our resolution tests evaluate TVs for how crisply they can display video of different resolutions. Most people watch a mix of resolutions on a TV, and so a TV that can display them all in a way that looks good will help viewers get the most enjoyment out of what they’re watching.

Fuzzy picture is never desirable, and the continual release of more 4k UHD material means being unable to play that resolution is increasingly a downside, so we consider resolution a very important part of our testing for picture quality.

Color gamut

What it is: How many colors the TV can display.
When it matters: HDR content. Includes some streaming videos and UHD Blu-rays.
Score components:

Our color gamut test evaluates TVs for how large a percentage of the wide color gamuts they can fill. Being able to cover large portions of these gamuts means a TV will be able to achieve the more saturated, more colorful picture required by HDR, so this test is quite important.

This test doesn't matter for normal content though, since most TVs have no problem covering the standard Rec 709.

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Gradient

What it is: How finely levels of color can be displayed.
When it matters: Details in shadows, sky and skin tones. Matters more for HDR content.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

Our gradient test evaluates TVs for how well they can display gradual differences in color, which is important for reproducing subtle details in color. More detailed color is one of the advantages HDR is meant to have over regular media, so this test is pretty important.

This test doesn't matter much for normal content, since most content is transmitted in 8 bit.

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Reflections

What it is: How much light is reflected by the TV.
When it matters: Bright rooms.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

Our reflections tests evaluate TVs for how reflections will look on the screen. If you have light in the room with your TV, you’ll want to get a TV that handles any resulting reflections well, or else you won’t be able to see the picture.

This is a pretty important test for people who have light in their TV room, so it holds a fair amount of weight in our scoring.

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3D

What it is: Optional 3D video capability on TV.
When it matters: 3D movies and videos.
Score components: Subjectively assigned

Our 3D test checks for the presence and quality of 3D capability on every TV. People who like watching 3D material at home and want the best 3D experience possible should take a look at this category.

Because 3D’s popularity has died down a bit in the past couple of years, this test doesn’t hold much weight in our overall scoring. Poor 3D, or a complete lack of it, doesn’t really hurt a TV’s score very much, but having good 3D does provide a bit of a bonus.

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What is not included

A few elements that you might care about are not included in this score:

  • Shadow details. Shouldn’t be an issue on most TVs (with good settings).
  • Image retention. Could be an issue for PC monitors. We will add that test in the future.
  • Dithering. Some TVs use dithering to mix colors in order to create a target color.
  • UHD premium certification. Label used by marketing, not really verifiable.

If you feel there is an item missing that should be included, please let us know in the Q&A section.

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