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Tips for a great TV picture from Consumer Reports

February 27, 2013 2:35:10 PM PST
This is a great time of year to buy a big-screen TV. Whether your television is brand new or you've had it for awhile, you want the picture to dazzle. There are professionals you can hire to calibrate your TV, but that costs hundreds! Consumer Reports' testers have simple steps you can take that don't cost a dime.

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," Christopher Andrade of Consumer Reports said.

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

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. If not, then look for settings called 'Movie,' 'Cinema,' or 'Pro.' Any one of these settings should give you the most natural-looking picture," Matt Ferretti of Consumer Reports said.

You'll see modes like "Vivid" or "Dynamic," but avoid those! While they might sound good, the picture ends up overly bright and harsh, like this. 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 that you want to turn off, because it's going to make film content look more like a soap opera, which is not ideal," Andrade said.

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

For more tips, please visit ConsumerReports.org.

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