An announcement comes today by way of Pioneer, maker of the ever-popular Kuro HDTV line, saying that its new Kuro sets are five times blacker than the Kuro line on the market today (which we reviewed as the TV with the deepest blacks out there
So wait -- does that mean they're selling us mere gray
It's generally known that the sharpest television images come from the highest ratio of contrast -- black to white, all else equal. And Pioneer's known for it's tricks: at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the company demonstrated a prototype plasma set that, when turned black, was literally invisible in a dark room.
But how black is black?
“The black level itself is beyond measurement," according to Russ Johnston, Pioneer’s executive vice president of marketing and product planning, by way of theNew York Times Bits blog. He added, “some of it is subjective and some of it is calculation."
Here's where Bits' Eric Taub makes a great point:
No one denies Pioneer’s superior ability to create plasma TVs with deep, rich blacks. But trying to compare one television manufacturer’s claim of high contrast ratios to another’s cannot be done by looking at numbers.
The problem, according to Peter Putman, president of ROAM Consulting, a video engineering firm, is that different manufacturers use different methods to do the measuring. One company he knows measures the contrast ratio of a plasma screen before it is covered with the standard anti-glare glass and an electronic shield, both of which reduce contrast.
Nor is the ratio of black to white the only criterion. The number of shades of gray — how the light transitions from off to on –is also very important. If the gray scale is small, a man who runs into the shadows will disappear, rather than looking like a dimly lit figure in a dark area.
At the other extreme, LCD displays, which are known for their very bright images compared to plasma, often “crush” the white end of the scale, so that if a white rabbit walks across the snow, all you see is snow.
Naturally, a bright room (like that of a convention) with a ton of ambient light changes the whole game: if you take contrast measurements there, the formerly high contrast ratio of an image will decrease.
So how, exactly, does one determine the blackest TV set on the market?
The most reliable and mobile method is to use the old-fashioned way: your eyes.
Test a super-dark DVD -- Batman Begins
comes to mind, the Times
says, and I agree -- and let 'er rip.