Video: TV Contrast Ratio
Steve Kindig has been an electronics enthusiast for over 30 years. He has written extensively about home and car A/V gear for Crutchfield since 1985. Steve is also a volunteer announcer in the folk department of community radio station WTJU, where he is one of the regular hosts of "Atlantic Weekly."
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Learn about contrast ratio — what it means for a TV's picture quality, and how to use contrast ratio numbers when comparing TVs.
Video TranscriptSteve: Hi. I'm Steve and I'm here in the Crutchfield studio to talk about TV contrast ratio. Contrast ratio measures the difference between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks that a TV can produce. The higher a TV's contrast ratio, the better it will be at showing distinct details especially in the darkest areas of the screen. Now you might see contrast ratios ranging from 5,000:1 to 5,000,000:1. Now if you're shopping for a TV it might seem obvious to just compare the contrast specs between TVs, and buy the one with the highest contrast ratio. But actually you need to keep two things in mind when comparing these numbers.
First of all, you'll find that some TVs list two different contrast ratio specs. Static contrast ratio measures the difference between the brightest and darkest images a TV can produce simultaneously. Dynamic contrast ratio measures those same differences over time, so that number is always much higher. For example, a TV with a static contrast ratio of 3,000:1 may have a dynamic rating of 100,000:1 so make sure you're comparing apples to apples.
Second, there is no agreed upon industry standard for measuring either type of contrast ratio, and measurements of dynamic contrast ratio are especially varied. While static contrast ratio is a more real world measurement, there are still likely to be differences in how that number is calculated across different brands. The bottom line: The contrast ratio spec is most useful when you're comparing different TV models from the same manufacturer. Just don't rely on it as the most important factor when assessing picture quality. You can learn about other HDTV terms and technologies at crutchfield.com/chooseTV, or you can always call our experts at 1-800-555-9408.