The next time you go shopping for a new HDTV, keep in mind that the brightness and contrast settings don’t adjust brightness and contrast, and most of the fancier-sounding image quality controls don’t do anything except possibly degrade the image. Also, motion blur in live video is largely imaginary, which is good because advertised response times are highly exaggerated. And hey, that impressive “dynamic contrast ratio” the manufacturer is crowing about? Most of the extra contrasty goodness happens when there’s no image on the screen.
Is the world of HDTV marketing really this bad? Raymond Soneira says it is. He’s the founder of DisplayMate Technologies Corp, an industry-leading display calibration company, and he’s just written a geeky and eye-opening article about the reality of HDTV display technology in Maximum PC magazine.
According to Soneira, deciding on an HDTV based on manufacturer specs is sort of like buying a digital camera based on megapixel specs–you’re relying on a lot of technical-sounding nonsense that won’t guarantee a better product.
All of the manufacturer specifications that consumers use to decide on which model to buy are being exaggerated by tremendous factors – some exceeding 1000 (thousand!) percent. More than snow balling… it’s an accelerating runaway train that has to be stopped.
Competition between display and HDTV manufacturers has gotten so brutal that marketing gimmicks and misleading/fraudulent specs that take advantage of most consumer’s lack of technical knowledge and understanding is playing a large role in driving sales and market share.
Soneira says it’s become a contest where the “biggest liar wins,” with manufacturers and their marketing departments one-upping each other on imaginary product features that end up making it harder for consumers to buy wisely.
His solution: create an industry standard that everyone agrees to follow. However, getting manufacturers to agree to that sort of self-policing model has proven difficult.
It’s both shocking and sad that display specs have been exaggerated to the point of meaninglessness. And you’re not the only one who suffers—innovative manufacturers that develop new and better display technologies can’t trumpet their hard work with superior performance specs. Instead, they’re forced to play the game or lose significant business.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) could help, but its display division was terminated in 2009. The only realistic solution that I see is the creation of an organization (that is completely independent of the manufacturers) to develop a set of straightforward, objective standards for measuring and advertising display specs.
I proposed this back in 2003, but it went nowhere because too many manufacturers resisted the idea. But it’s high time for this solution to finally be implemented—or just imposed. It’s in everyone’s interest except for the subset of manufacturers that can only compete using fraud.