Mixed Results on Calibrating HD

Associated Press technology editor, Peter Svensson, set out to calibrate some new plasma and LCD displays and came up with mixed results for at least two of the three options attempted, perhaps proving once again that you usually get what you pay for. He began with the knowledge that many HD units are factory-set as possible floor models and often have their blue and brightness turned up higher than necessary, in order to look sharper and provide a more satisfactory picture in a lighted showroom.

He first tried the "HDTV Calibration Wizard" DVD. "This was the cheapest option...and the least thorough. It's simply a DVD that shows video loops with voice-over narration that tells you how to adjust your set's image using the basic controls accessed with the remote," he wrote. This method had its problems, but he said the DVD nevertheless "got points" for including instructions that helped adjust sharpness, size and aspect ratio.

Next he used the SpyderTV color meter. At a price about seven times the $30 spent on the earlier Wizard calibrator, the SpyderTV kit included a light sensor that attaches to the screen and connects to a home computer with a short cable. A DVD produces test patterns that are measured by the light sensor and recorded on the computer using proprietary software. But he found this more sophisticated calibration method a bit trickier. "My results were mixed. It improved the image on one LCD set, but didn't take away an unpleasant greenish tinge to dark areas." On another LCD monitor, he wrote, better color detail became more evident.

Finally, for about $50 more than the cost of the SpyderTV unit, he received an in-person professional calibration from a New York firm, Nu Sound Concepts, which deals largely with home theaters. Svensson concluded that the human calibrator "has a number of advantages over amateurs"--including access on some models to hidden menu settings for fine-tuning, and calibrating for inputs other than from a DVD, including broadcast signals.