Today I'm proud to announce the relaunching of one of our most popular services here at CNET Reviews: providing picture settings for HDTVs. Now and for the foreseeable future, HDTV picture settings information will live in its own dedicated forum at CNET, where readers can search for our official settings to apply to their own TVs. The format also allows readers to post their own settings and share advice on HDTV setup in general.
In case you didn't know, for every HDTV I review I publish the exact picture settings I use during picture quality evaluations and comparisons. I arrive at these settings through a formal calibration process, employing high-end equipment and industry-approved methods to adjust the myriad user settings found on today's HDTVs to achieve the best home theater picture for a dark room.
The idea of publishing the official CNET picture settings is to allow owners of the TVs I review to try out my settings at home to see if they like the picture. I won't guarantee that everyone will love the look of the picture produced by these settings, but I will say that the image quality, especially from a color accuracy standpoint, nearly always surpasses that of any of the presets built into the HDTVs themselves. But don't take my word for it; try the settings and see for yourself.
A bit of history: CNET was one of the first places to post settings for HDTVs, and we've been doing it since mid-2006. Every HDTV review links to the picture settings in the Performance section, but I've always tried to provide a central place where readers can find the settings without having to page through the review. The first iteration took advantage of our Tips & Tricks database, but that area of CNET is (regrettably) no longer being maintained. So I switched to posting settings at the bottom of blog posts; a cludgey solution at best. The forum is our latest attempt to make CNET's HDTV picture settings accessible, and it has the added advantage of allowing users to submit their own settings and comments.
The forum currently lists settings for 116 HDTVs. That might sound like a lot over the last two and a half years, but it's not nearly the majority. So chances are good that your new HDTV won't be one of the ones listed in the forum. But chances are also good that I've reviewed a model similar to yours, at least from the same manufacturer, perhaps with a different screen size or slightly different model series. If that's the case, go ahead and give the similar model's settings a shot. They might be an improvement anyway over the TV's picture presets.
I'm also not claiming that my settings are the definitive calibration for a particular TV. A professional, ISF-style calibration takes into account your entire system, including the room, lighting conditions, playback devices, and even inevitable variations among display devices. It also typically costs a couple hundred bucks. My settings are free, so what do you have to lose?