Tuner TV

To give you a perfect picture no matter how your room is lit, new TVs automatically tweak their on-screen colors to complement say, the orange glow of incandescent lights in the evening or the bluish tint of midday sunshine. We sat with two new self-adjusting screens by day and night to see if we could notice the changes.

The Claim

Images on TVs have a color cast that can range from a deep reddish tint to a strong bluish shade. On most models, you change the hues by selecting pre-set image modes such as “movie” or “sports” or by manually adjusting controls such as color, tint and contrast. New LCD models from LG and plasma panels from Pioneer include an additional mode that uses a built-in light sensor to automatically adjust colors to match the room lighting.

The Test

On each set, we watched TV recorded in HD and a few flicks on Blu-ray while the room was filled with sunlight, moderate lamplight and near-total darkness. As a baseline, we first used the TV’s pre-set modes, then we turned on the auto color-adjustment mode to see how the image changed.

The Results

Each TV can produce lifelike colors and sharp details if you select the right image pre-set or make manual adjustments for the lighting conditions. If you don’t want to constantly fiddle with controls, you can get good results on the LG 47LG60‘s auto color-adjustment mode. It provides better quality over a range of lighting conditions than leaving the TV stuck in any one mode, and that doesn’t require you to lift a finger. The auto-adjusting mode on the Pioneer Elite KURO PRO-151FD worked well in some conditions but made a mess in others. So you’re better off picking the best pre-set mode.


LG’s Smart Screen
LG 47LG60 (47 inches); $3,000
The LG60’s “Intelligent Sensor” mode was more versatile. By day, it pumped up colors—as in a garden scene with fresh fruit and vegetables from a Food Network program—to keep the picture from washing out in heavy sunlight. In low light, it muted colors and added a rich-looking “warm,” or reddish glow to movies. Some of the TV’s pre-set modes were as good or better: “Standard” worked well by day and “Expert” was best for movies at night. But the Intelligent Sensor gets the 47-inch LCD screen pretty close to optimal, without requiring you to touch the remote.
Auto-adjusting score: 8/10; Overall score for TV: 8/10


Pioneer’s Mixed Bag
Pioneer PDP-5020FD (60 inches); $6,500
The 60-inch Pioneer’s auto-adjusting “Optimum” mode worked best in darkness and moderate lighting. (The tech is also in smaller, less expensive Pioneer sets.) With dim scenes, such as nighttime sequences from No Country for Old Men, the set made details clearer by increasing the contrast. It also added a slight bluish tint to the screen. Since blue is easier for the eyes to see, that blue tint made the whole image easier to see. But when we opened the curtains, the set tried to counteract the sunlight by increasing reds, making the already ruddy-faced characters look sunburnt. Our recommendation: Use Optimum mode if you will be watching the set exclusively in a dark room. Otherwise, use the “Pure” setting, which provides the most accurate color and stands up best to changing light conditions.
Auto-adjusting score: 5/10; Overall score for TV: 9/10