When You Can't Trust Your Eyes, Trust A Test Disc

Smart consumers don’t compare the picture quality of floor models when shopping for a new television; crafty salespeople try to subvert your senses with flashy media that highlights the strengths of expensive models. So how can you objectively judge which television has the best picture? Bring along your own test disc.

The Hollywood Quality Video (HQV) test discs were designed to objectively demonstrate a television’s capabilities:

…the discs have a series of five simple tests that will help a shopper see how well an HDTV or disc player can reduce visual noise, reproduce curved lines without “jaggies” and recreate images with full resolution and picture clarity, among other things.

The discs are $20, and can be ordered directly from HQV. Take that, crafty salespeople. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

When a High-Definition Picture Is Too Good to Believe, See How It Handles This Test Disc [NYT]
HQV Benchmark DVD


Edit Your Comment

  1. roothorick says:

    And exactly how ma

  2. roothorick says:

    And exactly how many stores would let you do something like that? I wouldn’t think too many would appreciate you trying to interrupt their executive approved programming.

  3. brkl says:

    If they don’t let you, you probably should switch to a different store. Find one where giving customers good service is valued.

  4. mopar_man says:


    I have to agree. Every store I’ve ever been into to buy car audio equipment has allowed me to play my own discs. I need to know what sounds good for what I listen to, not what the salesdork wants me to hear.

  5. Hawk07 says:

    While it may seem awkward, I don’t think you’ll run into a problem with any of the retail chains telling you to go away considering video and audiphiles are becoming more mainstream.

    I know there’s one high end video/audio store not too far from where I live and they encourage you to bring in material so that you buy a product that will suit your needs and likes the best. It’s hard to get them to give you a straight answer on what the best TV or speakers they sell are. It’s all about what your sense perceive the best.

  6. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Did the similar thing last time I shopped for a new car stereo – made my own MP3 disk, and took it in with me to check the sound and how fast players would read songs. Neither big chain had problems, but ran into some attitude at Sound Advice (southern flavor of Tweeter).
    Both CC and the other store (where I will not shop) should have no problem with this, they might give you some grief over a player not being hooked up. I found I was able to tell what I needed just by adjusting the display sets to more normal as opposed to the extreme blue/bright/sharp settings which seem to abound there.

    And folks, the sharpness control on the TV (will not make you any smarter, no) once it’s past about 25% is only amplifying video noise (making your picture crispy like KFC).

  7. suburbancowboy says:

    I own a small High End A/V store on Long Island. I always encourage customers to bring their own test discs. It helps them get a real feel for what they are seeing or hearing when they are familiar with the source material. Also, it is a lot easier than me having to figure out what kind of music they like, and trying to select something that won’t annoy them.

  8. MonkeyMonk says:

    “And exactly how many stores would let you do something like that?

    Exactly 100% of the stores you would want to buy an expensive HTV from.

  9. superlayne says:

    Now I want to got to big name stores and test my DVDs on the HDTVs…

    I wonder if they would let me hook my Wii up to give it a test drive…

  10. Hawk07 says:


    Never heard of the Wii, but I have read some people taking their 360’s in to test DLP response time (early samsung and other brand DLP’s were notorious for there being a huge lag in pushing a button and it displaying on the TV).

    Most TVs have a front or side easy access composite/s-video hookup.

    Also, if you want to test DVDs, make sure you use one of the stores upconverting DVD players or bring your own. My standard output dvd player even over component looks like crap on my 62″ DLP.

    You’d rather be safe than sorry with an HDTV purchase.

  11. Trackback says:

    Having dispensed the technical info about HDTV formats and whatnot, TV buyer’s guides often sign off with a common-sense exhortation to go and look at them in the store before you pick one.

  12. shdwsclan says:

    Meh, technology changes, for one thing if your shopping for a tv at a big name / big box, then yeah, you probably need this disk…..

    But if your building a home theatre system you really only need two things….

    A decent display, like runco, some good speakers like klipsch, and an image source, like a computer[not running windoze] which in one box has a computer[obviously], DVR, HD-DVD Player, DVD-Player, Cable Receiver[Cable-card] with hd support, satellite reciver with hd support[dvb ku/ka card] or a C-Band card, digital and analogue local reciever with hd support….palntsc signal/movies ? no problem, since most foreign dvds are region free.

    Now, anti-ailiasing[thats the big worded technical term for cadence], line doubling/deinterlacing, noise reduction, color/gamma/brightness correction, unsharp mask[the big worded technical term for enhancement of details]….

    Also, with hd, big companies like sony and toshiba that dont give a shit about customers, so they change their codes and cause your tv to display a less than high definition signal from a high definition source, no fear, ripping and recording of 1080p material makes those filthy, storebought disk piracy clean again, with no nasty hardware drm…

  13. Papa Midnight says:

    Think I need to get my hands on one of those disc…

  14. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @shdwsclan: ‘big companies’ give a shit about your money, but they’re in bed with the MPAA and RIAA, so they give you copy protection to kiss the MPAA and RIAA’s asses.

    That’s the biggest reason the HD Tivo took so long to come out, they had to deal with CableLabs ‘certification’ to ensure the average consumer couldn’t get the HD off the Tivo.

    You don’t ‘own’ music and movies anymore, according to these shits who have the gov’t in their other pocket.

  15. Cary says:

    1. EVERY television comes out of the box with the brightness (black level) set far too high.

    2. EVERY television comes out of the box with the white set waaay too blue.

    3. EVERY television comes out of the box with the colors waaay too saturated.

    This is done because they don’t know which unit is going on the sales floor and these are the settings that sell. Comparing mis-adjusted sets is a waste of time because it doesn’t even come close to showing what the sets are capable of. USE REVIEWS or buy from a small dealer that will calibrate the stupid thing properly.

    A few other points: I was in a Circuit City about a year ago and noticed that all the Sony TVs looked much better than every other brand. When I looked behind I discovered that the Sony’s were all hooked up with component cables and EVERY other brand in the store was connected with S-Video cables! That’s right folks… only the Sony’s were getting a high-def signal. Wonder which brand they were pushing?

    Finally, one personal observation: I’ve always loved Sony’s tube and always preferred their processor. Don’t know why but I just like the way Sony TVs look… even knowing that they come out of a Samsung factory. But beware – their component inputs are crippled and can not be set to white. The HDMI and VGA inputs have Cool, Neutral, Warm1 and Warm2 (Warm1 is correct) but the component inputs only have Cool and Neutral settings. This has been the case on every Sony LCD I’ve seen of late. This makes those inputs useless. Stupid.

  16. bbbici says:

    Ha, as if a store wouldn’t let you play the disc. Just start walking out of the store and see what happens.

    There are about a zillion competing stores to buy electronics at.