Monday, December 18, 2006

Not What I Expected

I recently became the proud owner of a 37" LCD flat panel TV.  I won it in a charity raffle, but that's another story and I can't go into details.

I got it hooked up Saturday night just as SNL was coming on.  I was horrified at the picture.  Seriously, it looked awful.  Here I was with a thousand-dollar television and the picture looked like crap.  SNL was on a 4-shot and the digital distortion was so bad you could barely make out facial features.  My wife, who can't see the difference between a composite and S-video signal, even asked, "What's wrong with the picture? Why does it look so blurry?" and she was 10 feet away.

I turned off the local channels to a non-broadcast channel like TNT or something and it looked better but you could still see the distortion from 6-8 feet away.

Before I panicked, I sat down at my computer the next morning.  I went over to AVS Forums and headed for the LCD/Plasma forum where I posted a message about my woes.  I asked, simply, is it the satellite signal, my DVR, my TV or just the nature of the beast?

After sifting through the normal amount of accurate but unhelpful answers, I learned several things:

1. Flat panel displays are designed to handle High Definition signals and do not generally reproduce standard definition signals well - LCDs especially.
2. The distortion is partly due to scale - both it being such a large television and that the image is stretched to fit the 16:9 aspect ratio. 
3. Using progressive or component outputs on your video source devices will help, but not a great deal.
4. This is MOST IMPORTANT - One respondent suggested turning the sharpness setting on the TV all the way down stating, "on an LCD, all this setting does is add artificial edge enhancements, which also enhances pixellation on SD images. I would guess that most of the reports of "fuzzy picture" on LCD is due to improper settings."

The last item made the most dramatic difference.  My new television is finally watchable... I'm so excited.

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