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    Understanding Contrast Ratio

    Understanding Contrast Ratio

    The word contrast refers to the degree of difference between things or quantities having similar or comparable natures. In the world of displays, the thing that we are comparing is the brightness of the brightest and the darkest pixel. The parameter that measures this difference is known as contrast and the ratio of these two brightnesses is called contrast ratio. In another way: white/black=contrast ratio. Contrast ratio is an indicator of the quality of an image that a display can reproduce.

    Having a high contrast ratio is generally preferred as this translates to better image quality and detailing. A higher contrast ratio means that the TV or a projector can display deeper blacks, improving the overall picture quality, especially when watching content in bright rooms.

    Types of Contrast Ratios
    Dynamic Contrast Ratio - The Dynamic contrast ratio is a contrast ratio measurement that applies mainly to images in motion (films. basically). Dynamic Contrast is calculated by looking at the difference between the darkest blacks and the brightest whites when compared at different instances during playback. For example, the brightest white is calculated on a “bright” mode of the projector on a light image, whereas the darkest black is calculated on the darkest “cinema” mode that the projector can produce on a dark image.

    This is usually the number that manufacturers publish to lure customers as dynamic contrast ratios can have appealing values such as 1000000:1. This looks good in the frame of “high contrast value equals greater picture quality”. But one must understand that the high values measured by DCR are achieved by some level of backlighting variation and other trickery and hence do not depict the native capabilities of the display technology.

    Static or Native Contrast Ratio - The static or native contrast ratio is a measurement that applies to a still or a static frame. This measurement provides contrast ratio values of an image and not images in motion or films. Native contrast ratio is the ratio of white and black measurements from the same image at the same time. Static is also often referred to as "native" or "onscreen."

    How do these things matter to you?
    TV contrast ratio is one of the most controversial specifications when comparing televisions because the industry does not have an agreed-upon standard of measurement.
    Without a standard, we don't know exactly how each manufacturer tests their own displays and how their process differs from others. As a result, industry experts recommend using contrast ratio only when comparing HDTVs made by the same manufacturer.​

    The general thought among industry experts is that static contrast ratio is a more reliable measurement because it is more consistent with how the viewing display will show content rather than a "what if" scenario that dynamic contrast ratio employs.

    Two bits of advice for using this metric as a comparison
    - Use contrast ratio only when comparing HDTVs made by the same manufacturer. For example, Sony to Sony—not Sony to Samsung.
    - Compare either static to static or dynamic to dynamic, but avoid comparing static to dynamic.
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