Help me find a replacement (or fix) for my new motion-blurry LCD TV!
January 12, 2011 4:25 PM   Subscribe

A.V. nerds! Help me find the perfect LCD TV, or tell me the one I have can be sufficiently tweaked. Details inside...

I got super close with the one I just bought (this Samsung). I'm happy with almost everything about this set, EXCEPT: there's bloody motion blur / trailing on some things. Most notably, in dark areas adjacent to light areas. I'm not a gamer or a sports watcher, but I'm seeing it even in no-action dialogue scenes -- especially in dark-lit-yet-contrasty things like Battlestar Galacatica. Sometimes I don't see it at all, other times it's nauseatingly unwatchable. I've tried every permutation on the built-in settings that I could find (including Video Game Mode). As I understand it, the response time (6ms on this set) and refresh rate (60Hz on this set) are to blame, and from what I can gather, I'm not going to be able to get rid of it with this set. But I'd LOVE to be wrong, and not have to trade this set in.
FWIW, I'm currently watching movies & TV shows from a standard DVD player connected with RCA cables, and from a Roku box streaming Netflix. I've been told that an upscaling DVD player could help some, but probably not enough to cancel out the motion blur.

If I do need a new set, I think I'm looking for:
- LCD or LED-LCD (digging the lightness / thinness, lack of screen reflection)
- Response time: 2ms - 4ms
- Refresh rate: 120Hz +
- Size: between 24" and 32" (right for our room size)
- Price range: under $500 (really, non-negotiable)
- Picture quality equal to the current Samsung (sans the blur)
- Good sound quality from the built-in speakers

I've tried searching different online retailers, but am finding that some don't list the refresh rate. Those that do seem to carry only 5ms - 6ms sets in my price / size / desired quality range.

This LG seems to come close, but complaints abound about its jankity volume.

Anyone out there happen to know a set that fits my bill? Or is my current Sammy as good as I'm gonna get within my size / price parameters?
posted by D.Billy to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's pretty hard to evaluate the performance of an HDTV when you are feeding it a low-def analog signal. Connect a computer via a VGA or HDMI cable, and you'll have a lot better chance to see what is an analog issue and what is a TV issue. You would be surprised how bad analog signals can look on a digital TV.
posted by jrockway at 4:28 PM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with jrockway. You are going to cleanup the input signal before you can figure out where the problem is.
posted by Big_B at 4:59 PM on January 12, 2011

The Samsung's LCD are generally pretty good, picture-wise (although I'm not familiar with the US or low-end models like that).

But… "Most notably, in dark areas adjacent to light areas" and "especially in dark-lit-yet-contrasty things"? Adjust the backlight intensity / brightness / contrast properly. Unless you've done it properly, I'll guarantee they're way out of whack and - most likely - too bright. That'll definitely show up MPEG artifacts and some motion-blur-like effects.
posted by Pinback at 5:07 PM on January 12, 2011

6ms response time and 60 hertz refresh ration are pretty fine, especially on a LCD that price.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:14 PM on January 12, 2011

Here are some calibration settings for your current TV. Obviously what works for one set might be off for another, but it's worth a shot. I also Nth getting a better video source + cables.

If you still want a new TV, the AV Science Forum has the smartest people about home theater equipment. Here's the LCD TV sub-forum and here's the specific "Help me choose an LCD TV" thread where you can post your specifics.
posted by sharkfu at 5:17 PM on January 12, 2011

Because of my international credibility in the audio-visual space, when I add my 2nd to the recommendation for avsforum, you know the quality goes in before the name goes on.
posted by Askr at 6:24 PM on January 12, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the input. (Terrible pun, but I'm letting it ride.)

jrockway / Big_B: All of the Roku HD's menus and user interface animations look fine, so I guess it's good with a clean HD signal? I agree that there's definitely a less-than-desirable effect going from analog to digital, and I see that the severity of that effect varies from source to source -- DVD to DVD or stream to stream, in my case. The Incredibles looks great on DVD through RCA cables and only has very minor trailing in a couple of spots. (Dark scenes.) Pushing Daisies looks mostly great streaming through the Roku HD (via HDMI); However the aforementioned Battlestar Galactica looks god-awful both on DVD (via RCA) and streamed via Roku HD (via HDMI), especially since it's shot handheld-style and even the "still" things are moving a little. Most things, though, are in-between. Mostly acceptable, with trailing there if I'm looking for it.
So is it the case that a lot of DVDs and media streams just aren't up for the conversion to a 32" digital HD display, with the blur / trailing being a manifestation of that shortfall? Do you think an upconverting DVD player (like this one), connected via HDMI, will significantly improve the situation for the analog material?

Pinback / sharkfu: One of the first things that I did when I got 'er home was to go searching for other users' preferred settings. The settings I found in a product review were really really close to those in sharkfu's first link, and are what I've been using. I also ran the THX calibration utility on one of my DVDs. Sadly, motion artifacts are still there. I'll be sure to comb through AV Science Forum too.

Further insights welcome!
posted by D.Billy at 7:05 PM on January 12, 2011

I would suspect the 6ms/60Hz is your issue, and you want a 120Hz with 2ms or so. The big change from 60Hz to 120Hz is that you have a true refresh on 24fps material such as DVDs and Blu-rays. 60/24=2.5, which causes weird timing 3 refreshes then 2 refreshes to get all of the frames out, and can distort. 120Hz means one frame every 5 refreshes, period.

I took a look around froogle and didn't see any LED-LCDs that were much smaller than 32" and under $650, which will take you back towards regular LCDs. I would consider getting a small set of speakers to go with the LG you listed. I don't care what TV you purchase, the sound coming out of that small frame is never going to be great. LG picture quality has historically been just a hair under that of a Samsung. By going up to 120Hz, it should be a marked improvement.

If you aren't sure, go to a local store and look at TVs. Any respectable retailer will have at least LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Vizio, Sony. I know that around here Fry's plays a demo blu-ray that typically has quite a bit of action on it, and they have been showing off 60Hz next two a 120Hz and a 240Hz to show off the difference in blurring. I know there are no Fry's in your area, but there's gotta be somewhere.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:54 PM on January 12, 2011

The dark/light trails are, unfortunately, often unavoidable in LCD TVs. Not all of them have this problem but many do. It doesn't have to do with response rates, hertz, signal quality, etc - it's just inherent to the technology.

The motion quality of LCDs isn't very good in general, though it's slowly getting better. 120hz/240hz will improve it at the cost of making everything look unnatural and adding input delay. It's a shame that CRTs are so massive and that plasmas generally start at 42".

Also, I wouldn't worry about the rated response time. Blurring is more about how LCDs display images and the way that interacts with our vision, and not really about response time any longer. Google "sample and hold lcd" for more information.
posted by The Lamplighter at 10:34 PM on January 12, 2011

"The big change from 60Hz to 120Hz is that you have a true refresh on 24fps material such as DVDs and Blu-rays."

There's no 24fps on DVD - it's sometimes stored that way (well, 23.976fps…), but it's always interlaced and flagged for 2:3 pulldown (despite what Wikipedia says in some places). Certain players may ignore that and convert it to 24p for output, but it's not a given - most will only output 29.976i with pulldown, or sometimes convert the pulled-down video to progressive

Blu-ray is different, of course - true 24fps without pulldown is a valid format (though I've never been able to get a straight answer as to whether it's actually 24 or 23.976…)

It's also worth noting that an NTSC framerate of 29.97fps equates to 33 1/3ms. Even given the propensity for LCD makers to fudge their specs (e.g. 6ms likely refers to the time taken for a pixel to go from 25~30% bright to 70~75% bright, not 0% to 100%), it's still a fraction of the time required to display a single frame. On modern LCDs, motion blur @ TV/movie framerates is most likely due to poor/excessive processing settings, not panel response time. It does, however, come into play at higher refresh rates e.g. computer displays or higher (e.g. 100/120/200/240Hz) display refresh rates.

(Work it out - 120Hz equates to a tad over 8ms…)
posted by Pinback at 10:46 PM on January 12, 2011

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