Updated

Image Retention on TVs
Burn-in

What it is: How much a static image is retained on a TV screen after a certain amount of time.
When it matters: When watching TV show, playing video games or when using your TV as a PC monitor.

Image retention (also called burn-in when it is permanent) happens when an image gets imprinted on screen after being displayed for an extended period. Once the image retention occurs, you will notice it after a change of content or input. After a change of content, the imprinted image will appear as a faint remnant, visible through the new content. As an example, this is most obvious when elements from a video game such as life meters are still visible on top of a TV show after playing a video game for a long period. This is really more an issue for people playing video games, using their TV as a PC monitor, or watching sports and 24 hour news channels due to static banners or logos.

When testing for image retention we take photos at predetermine times, to analyze the amount of the original image that gets retained after being displayed for a specific time.

Test results

When it matters

The image retention test is relevant when some parts of the screen are static, like when playing video games, using the TV as a PC monitor or using the TV as a display during an office meeting. It is also important when watching long sporting events or news coverage due to static graphics. It tends not to be a problem for people who only watch normal TV shows or movies since in those cases it is very rare to have a static image displayed on the screen for an extended amount of time. 

Picture taken before the burn-in scene
First picture after the burn-in scene

It takes a while of displaying a static image before image retention begins to be visible, so depending on your use it may not be noticeable. This is why it is usually going to be gamers or PC users who experience it the most as they often have parts of the screen that are static, like a progress bar or the start menu from a PC. While the static image is being displayed the retention won't be visible, as it is only when changing content such as watching a movie that the image retention is going to be noticed.

Our tests

Image retention test video

 
Image Retention test video

Our image retention test video is made to test the resistance of the TV panel to image retention. It is made up of 3 different specific scenes:

  • 15% gray scene: These scenes are used as a pause to take the test pictures needed to analyze the image retention. There are 7 pictures in total, the first one is the reference picture taken before the 10 minute burn-in scene and 6 more, taken at 2 minutes interval to document the recovery. The 15% gray makes any retention as visible as possible. On other colors or saturation, the retention is usually less visible.
  • 10 minutes burn-in scene: This is the scene that really tests the TVs which are prone to image retention. It tests specific colors and backgrounds to make it most obvious which are most effected. Note that a moving white square is used on each side to try to mitigate the dimming that some TVs apply when there is a static image for a long period.
  • RGB recovery scene: This is made up a 3 full screen red, green and blue alternating images, and is intended to get each of the 3 sub colored pixels to return to their usual performance.

To evaluate the image retention and stay consistent across all TVs, we adjust the backlight on the 15% gray scene to 2 cd/m², with the TV at calibration settings and with any local dimming features disabled. We play the video and take pictures of each 15% gray scene.

IR after x min recovery

What it is: Image retention measured after a recovery time of 2 minutes.
When it matters: When changing channels while watching TV, right after changing the type of content (i.e. stopping playing video game to watch a movie) or changing input.
Good value: 0 is perfect
Noticeable difference: 0.015%

To determine the amount of image retention, we compare our reference image taken before the static logos with pictures taken after the 10 minute burn-in scene. These recovery photos are taken at 2 minute intervals, to provide an idea of the amount of image retention over time. We can then determine how much image retention is left.

TVs which continue to display image retention after a longer period of time (such as 10 minutes) generally present more of an issue, as the retention continues throughout normal content. This is worse than a TV which recovers quickly.

Related Settings

  • Contrast: Maxing out the 'Contrast' setting will generally increase the risk of image retention and burn-in on both LCD and OLED TVs.
  • OLED Light: The brighter you set the luminosity of the screen on an OLED TV, the more image retention there will be.

Conclusion

Not all TVs suffer from image retention. Here is the information about the different type of TVs:

  • IPS TVs: IPS TVs are the most common type of TV that suffer from image retention. Not all IPS TVs have the same degree of image retention though. See our table above for comparisons.
  • VA TVs: VA TVs are practically all free of image retention. 
  • OLED TVs: OLED TVs are another type of TV that suffer from temporary image retention, and in some rare cases the image retention can be permanent. OLED image retention does not look the same as that seen on IPS TVs since the display technology is not the same. Unlike IPS TVs, OLED TVs come with a special function in the TV operating system specially aimed at getting rid of more durable image retention.

In any case, whatever the type of TV, image retention is usually not a permanent problem but more a temporary annoyance.

 

 

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Questions & Answers

3 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
4
I have just one question about the Sony X700D 55 inch. I've been researching it for some months now and I'm considering purchasing because I think it provides a great value for its size and picture quality. However, on the review you did, you mentioned that the image retention on this TV is pretty bad. I plan on using this TV for gaming, television, and an occasional movie. But I found the image retention could be troubling. Is the image retention on the X700D really that bad? Should I just go with X800D instead?

Yes the image retention is pretty strong, but it is not permanent and you may notice it only in really specific conditions, like if your video game has a lot of static portions of the screen and then you change to watch normal TV. So if you know that from the get go and are aware of it, then it won't be too much of a surprise to you if you notice it and in the end, it should not be too problematic.

As for the X800D, we only tested the 43" version which is a VA TV and is image retention free. The 49" version is a IPS TV and may be prone to image retention, but since we did not test it we cannot really comment on it.

3

I wanted to reach out to you concerning my experience with LG OLED E6. It is a wonderful TV flawed by image retention. I have had this TV for 7 months now. First weeks of me having the TV I noticed image retention. This image is still there after 7 months, multiple clear panel noise, contacting LG about it with a negative response taking no responsibility.

I know there are other people who have posted about this and I also read a lot in your posts that you say image retention on these TVs is not permanent, but in this case it really is.

The IR is most noticeable when the TV displays warm colors such as red or orange. It also noticeable in blues and greens, it blends much more into other colors such as gray or black.

I am attaching photograph so you can take a look. This has been a very bad experience for me as I have always believed posts about the image retention going away after normal usage I have tried everything possible but my IR is completely permanent. It is faint but very permanent! Sent photos outside and inside a game where you can see the same horizontal bar.

I believe other users should be warned more about this.

Thanks for all your great reviews

Thank you for letting us know. This is the first instance of permanent image retention we have seen in the 2016 OLEDs. We have updated the articles with this new information.
1

Hello RTINGS-TV-Reviewers,
I found an ERROR - '...we no longer accept questions outside the US...' - REALLY? Some delay in case of high volume of questions seems OK - but that restriction is unacceptable!

Maybe one important question no US citizen is interested in...:
What about the best and expensive OLED displays if you play a game for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week - is the image retention temporary or permanent? How long does it take for a full recovery after a 4 hour game session if you want to watch a movie? Is the recovery time dependent on the playtime? Could you add a 'real life burn-in test' for gamers?

Maybe you decide to answer the question or extend your nearly perfect tests.
Thank you very much

a citizen of the internet

It is unfortunate that we have to restrict questions to the US. We used to accept questions worldwide, but we received too many questions to keep up.

Image retention in modern TVs is almost never permanent under normal use. The image retention will be worse the longer the image is left but after it's been left for ten minutes it doesn't change much after that. The image retention after leaving an image for four hours will not be much different than after ten minutes like in our test. However in some rare cases the image retention can last for much longer; OLED TVs often have a Clear Panel Noise feature for those cases, where the TV spends an hour clearing the image retention while it appears to be off.

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