The Death of Contrast Ratio
Many of you have done hours upon hours of research looking for the best HD TV to compliment your home and be the front line of your entertainment system. In your research, you find that there are stats that are similar to each other and then there are stats, mainly one that drastically varies from model to model. Resolution, refresh rate, all standard numbers with a direct way to measure them, which you used industry wide. However, there is no industry standard for contrast ratio; that leaves manufacturers free to list anything they would like to list. By the time you’ll finish reading this, you’ll get a clear understanding of why this figure means nothing.
What is contrast ratio, you may ask? Simply put, it is the measurement of shades between the blackest black and whitest white; 30,000,000:1, starting from blackest black to the whitest white, says that the brightest white is 30 million times brighter than the “black”. There is no way to truly measure this accuracy, allowing manufacturers to boast overly exaggerated numbers without limitations. Since there is no standard of measurement, many manufacturers begin to leave this spec out, as it is useless in measuring the quality of the picture you’ll receive. Moreover, LEDs typically tend to be brighter than their plasma counterparts, but plasmas offer arguably the best picture quality of any panel currently in production.
In reality, the higher the resolution, the more you can expect the colors of the image to be washed out; blacks tend to look gray, which is why these TVs have some sort of dimming technology built-in to compensate the brightness. If the industry were to create a standard to measure contrast ratio, you can expect many television to be roughly around 100,000:1, with plasmas being significantly lower because they do not have panel backlighting. We, as humans (unless you’re an alien), can only distinguish a contrast ratio of about 1,000:1. Up until a 1,000:1 contrast ratio, there are noticeable differences. The high contrast ratios that you see are called “dark room” contrast ratio, also known as dynamic contrast ratio, it shows you the range you will see over time, not at any given moment; the ratio of white-to-black brightness measuring only the light produced by the display itself. You measure the levels with absolute no other light sources; this is not what you get in a real world application. The actual contrast of the display is usually less than a tenth of the specified value. So what do you do? Use your eyes to measure contrast, not a number!