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Contrast Ratio

One of the principal factors in any flat panel TV would be contrast ratio. Now what is contrast ratio you might be asking? Well the answer is simple. The contrast ratio of flat panel TV measures the difference in brightness between the white (lightest point) and black (the darkest point). Huh?

OK, think about it this way. Imagine that you are watching a movie and suddenly the camera pans upright and you see full moon and dark sky. If the TV has high contrast ratio the moon will be as white as snow and the sky will be black as night. If the TV has low contrast ratio the moon will be white (or near white) however the sky will not be full black but it will resemble dark shade of gray. “Well, that is OK, I don’t care” you might say. However, the moon and dark sky give you only 2 colors; black and white. Now what if you are watching a movie that takes place during a day? Imagine a landscape in the fall. Colors range all over the spectrum.  It is quite a beautiful site to see in person, however if you watch it one flat panel TV that has low contrast ratio the same “gray” effect will translate to colors. Now I am not saying that the colors will look gray, but they will not be as saturated, crisp and life like.

Contrast ratios are specified by a “number” to” 1”; such as “1000:1” or “30,000:1.” Higher the first number the better; the second one will always be 1. So, TV with higher first number will look better that similar model with lower contrast ratio.

Now here is a twist for you. If you take virtually same two TV’s from two different manufacturers with same listed contrast ratio, one might look less gray that the other; even if they are both calibrated equally. Why? Well, different manufacturers have different way of measuring their products contrast ratios. Just as if you would buy 2 large shirts from 2 different companies, one will be bigger that other, or longer, or shorter. The difference will not be earth shattering, and most people will not see it, but it is there. You have to see both TV’s at once to see the difference, if any.

low vs high contrast ratio

Personal Observations:

Just because one TV has lower contrast ratio than other, it does not mean that it is not worth buying.  If you have seen the TV and image looks good to you that is all that matters. Also keep in mind that you can play around with TV setting to get the picture to look “optimally” good, however that requires a lot of patience and tinkering. You can also turn the dynamic contrast ratio on and then play with the settings until it looks good in both light and dark scenes.


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