I bought a new 46″ Sony Bravia TV in January of this year from Circuit City in the Sugarhouse area of Salt Lake City (Store#3350 801-463-4600). Being a pretty technical guy, I tweaked the brightness, contrast, color temperature and other settings to my content. The picture looks great, but I was told from friends that it’s good to have the TV calibrated from a professional as they have access to a service panel that your normal everyday consumer can’t get to. They’re supposed to tweak the settings according to ambient light in the room, and an end result is they also reduce power consumption making the TV last longer.
So I went back to Circuit City on January 28 and asked about calibration. I specifically said “are you going to do more than just tweak the brightness and contrast settings? I heard that you have access to a panel that I can’t get to” The guy in the TV department said “yes, they’ll tweak settings that you don’t have access to, and they’ll use a DVD to help calibrate the TV.” So I said great, sign me up. I paid $104.74 and he told me Firedog would call to set up a time to come to my house. The technician came to my house that week. I was surprised that he only walked in with a clipboard. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I waited to see what he was going to do. He picked up the remote and tweaked the brightness and contrast settings. About 5 minutes later he was done. I said “wait, is that all you’re going to do?” He said he can use his eyes to calibrate the TV and my picture looked fine. So I told him the story about my conversation with the sales guy at CC and he said they only use the DVD if the picture doesn’t look right. So I tell the technician to make note of my disappointment on my records and that I would be calling for a refund. He sympathized and said no problem.
I waited a few days to call as I wanted to make sure that the technician had time to notate the experience. I called the Sugarhouse location and spoke to someone in the TV department about my experience. He said he had to research it with Firedog and he would call me within 2 days. I never heard from him so I called back about 2 weeks later and that same employee wasn’t available. Sugarhouse is a little bit of a drive for me, so after a couple more weeks, I drove back out to the store location and spoke to Jared, a manager, about the problem. He tried for about 5 minutes to figure out the problem and ended up saying he would have to call me back. I told him about the last time someone at Circuit City said they would call me back, and he said he would absolutely call me back within about a day.
Here it is 5 days later with no call from Jared or anyone at Circuit City so I call back to speak to Jared or another manager. I’m told that they are both busy and one of them will call me back. Again, I reminded the employee about my experiences being called back and he said he’d deliver the note “right now.”
So now, 2 days later, I still haven’t had anyone call me back, and all I want is my $104.74 refunded. It’s very clear why Circuit City stock is in the tank and Best Buy’s stock is up. I guess I have to drive back up to Salt Lake City again this weekend and be very loud about my problem.
Well, good news Brandon. Professional calibration does exist, but it isn’t what Circuit City sold you. We’re actually not sure what Circuit City sold you. If you bought the service with a credit card, feel free to do a chargeback.
If you’re actually looking to get your TV professionally calibrated (whether you should or not is another debate for another blog) you should look for a technician in your area who has sophisticated color sensing equipment. It’ll probably cost you a few hundred bucks to have the tech over to your house, but he or she will do more than look at your TV and mess with the contrast. After it’s all over, they should be able to give you a print out that shows what they did to your TV.
You can also buy a DVD that will help you do it yourself for about $30. Personally, if our picture already looked great we’d save ourselves the money and just tell our friends “Oh, yeah we had that done. Totally.”
As for prolonging the life of your TV, ESPN said this about calibration in 2004:
TV sets are usually calibrated in the factory to look good on a showroom floor. In order to stand out on a showroom floor the most important factor is a bright picture. In a bright store setting, TVs are competing with both the ambient light in the room and all of the other TVs on display. The best way to draw attention to a TV is by having a bright picture.
When you take your TV home though, you are not competing with other TVs (unless you have a really cool TV room) and you can control the ambient light. If you are installing your TV in a home theater setting you will probably find it blaringly bright. And, when dealing with Plasma and Rear Projection TV’s, these settings can reduce the life of the set and increase the risk of “burn in.”
In short, turn the brightness down, buddy.