Q. I bought a TV about six months ago and I can’t understand why the picture isn’t as good as it was when I saw it in the store. It’s been driving me crazy!! I’m actually thinking of buying a new TV for the Super Bowl because I am just not as happy as I should be with the one I have. Do you have any advice on which TV to get. Should I pick the one that looks best in the store? — Russ, Dunkirk, Maryland
Russ, you may not need a new set. The TVs in the store sometimes seem to look better compared to how they look when you bring them home. They don’t really look better, but it seems that way.
Now what do I mean by that? Let me explain. This is important advice for anyone who has recently purchased a new TV, or plans to for next month’s Super Bowl.
Retail stores purposely tune some sets on the floor to look as bright as possible to get your attention. It’s easy to do. Just raise the Brightness level of the set and set the picture mode to Vivid. At a glance, the TV’s picture will then look so bright and sharp that you will want to grab it and bring it home.
But here’s the problem: If you look at the in-store set more than a minute or so, you will start to notice that the detail is a little fuzzy. That’s what happens when you turn up the Brightness level too high. (Some argue that the Vivid setting can also reduce detail.)
You may also notice that excessive brightness starts to wear on your eyes, making them tired or worse. It’s like staring at a bright lamp. At first, you appreciate the added light that the lamp provides, but stare too long and you start to see spots before your eyes.
Retailers understand this, of course, but they have concluded that the Brightness/Vivid trick works quite well. Few consumers spend more than a few minutes looking at the in-store set. If they are in the buying mood — and they are attracted to the picture — they will go to the salesman to make a deal.
(Some retailers are even crafty enough to raise the Brightness level only on the sets that produce the highest profit margin; have you ever noticed that some sets in the store look more bright than others? It’s rarely a coincidence.)
So what can you do to avoid this little tomfoolery?
Do your research before you go to the store. Check out some solid TV review sites, such as CNET.com, and find out what they say about a particular set you might be interested in. If CNET or Consumer Reports (or another reputable site) gives the set the thumbs-up, then go to the store.
Then, when you go to the store, don’t be swayed by how the set’s picture looks. Just keep in mind what the reviewers said and keep your eye on the set’s price. Make sure you get a good deal.
Of course, you could just buy the TV online and not worry about the salesman trying to sell you how Bright the set looks — or an extended warranty, for that matter. But that’s your call.
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann