Updated

Our Picture Quality Score And Tests
TVs

Score distribution

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 use.

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:
Score distribution

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 mostly dark scenes.

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

Learn more about this test

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
Score distribution

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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SDR Peak brightness

What it is: How bright the screen can get. Measured with local dimming and with SDR content.
When it matters: Bright living rooms; bright objects; SDR content.
Score distribution

Our SDR peak brightness test evaluates TVs for how bright their screens can get. This is important in SDR content, as it shows how well the TV can fight bright room glare, in case it 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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HDR 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.
Score distribution

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

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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:
Score distribution

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 distribution

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.

Learn more about this test

Black uniformity

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

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 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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Reflections

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

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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Pre Calibration

What it is: TV's color accuracy before a full calibration. The only settings that are changed are those that don't vary from unit to unit, like picture mode, color temperature, and gamma.
When it matters: All video on an uncalibrated TV. This represents most people's use.
Score components:
Score distribution

Our pre-calibration test evaluates how accurately the TV can produce color before a full calibration. 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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Post Calibration

What it is: TV's color accuracy after a full calibration with a spectrophotometer.
When it matters: All video on a TV that has been professionally calibrated. This isn't that useful, because most TVs can achieve a pretty good calibration if you spend enough time on them.
Score components:
Score distribution

This test evaluates the TV's ability to display color accurately after we have performed a full calibration with a colorimeter.

This test is not that useful for most people as they will not professionally calibrate their TVs. However, it is an indication of how accurate the TV can display colors. Also, for most people, it is more important that they like the TV image as it displays on their TV and not how accurate it is.

480p Input

What it is: Quality of a 480p input.
When it matters: Standard definition TV, DVDs.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Score distribution

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

The 480p test evaluates the performance of the TV with 480p content like from DVDs. Depending on the use of the TV, how well it upscales the 480p resolution can be important.

720p Input

What it is: Quality of a 720p input.
When it matters: HD channels, some streaming videos.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Score distribution

The 720p test evaluates the performance of the TV with 720p content like from cable boxes. Depending on the use of the TV, how well it upscales the 720p resolution can be important.

1080p Input

What it is: Quality of a 1080p input.
When it matters: Blu-rays, streaming video, video files, video games.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Score distribution

The 1080p test evaluates the performance of the TV with 1080p content like from game consoles and Blu-rays. Depending on the use of the TV, how well it upscales the 1080p resolution can be important.

4k Input

What it is: Quality of a 4k UHD input.
When it matters: Streaming video, UHD Blu-rays, PC use.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Score distribution

The 4k test evaluates the performance of the TV with 4k content that is becoming more widely available.

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:
Score distribution

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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Color Volume

What it is: How many colors a TV can display at different luminosity levels.
When it matters: HDR content. Includes some streaming videos, UHD Blu-rays and HDR games.
Score distribution

Our color volume test evaluates TVs for how much percentage of the wide color gamuts they can fill, in various luminosity levels. Being able to cover large volume 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 DCI-P3 colorspace.

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 distribution

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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Temporary Image Retention

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.

Note that this is different to permanent burn-in; learn more about permanent burn-in here.

Score distribution

Our Temporary Image Retention test evaluates how long a TV keeps displaying a ghost of an image once the signal is no longer there. The longer an image lingers on the screen the worse experience you will have.

This test mattes if you plan to use your TV as a PC monitor as it will not show a clear image.

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Permanent Burn-In Risk

What it is: The risk of developing persistent image retention, also known as burn-in, after being exposed to a static image for a prolonged time.
When it matters: When watching TV shows, playing video games, or when using your TV as a PC monitor where static content is present.
Score components:
Score distribution

The Permanent Burn-In risk test evaluates if a TV has the risk of developing permanent burn-in. Permanent Burn-in means that some pixels can no longer function properly as they lose the capability of displaying the signal properly. This looks like a burn-in hence the name.

This phenomenon is inherent with OLED TVs and might happen from the cumulative exposure of static content for prolonged periods of time, such as when using the TV as a PC monitor. We are currently investigating the issue further, and you can see our investigation results here.

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Pixels

What it is: The smallest element a screen can display is called a pixel. In color TVs, this consists of three (or more) subpixels. This is a picture of the TV's pixel structure.
When it matters: It can help explain some display behaviors and can indicate whether two panels are the same or not.

This test depicts the pixel structure of the TV. This can help you understand panel similarities, but you should not worry much about this.

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).
  • Dithering. Some TVs use dithering to mix colors to create a target color.
  • UHD premium certification. A label used by marketing, not 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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