Sony is one of the few companies to sell OLED TVs along with LG, Panasonic, Vizio and now Samsung. But how good are Sony’s OLEDs? Good enough to regularly appear on our mailing lists. best OLED TVs and the best 4k tvsalong with top offerings from these other brands.
Earlier, we offered suggestions on ways to improve the picture quality of Sony TVs. That list covered the basic tweaks you’d find on any Sony device, with advice on choosing the right picture preset (Cinema in most cases), avoiding the light sensor and Eco modes, bypassing noise reduction, and choose the correct motion processing option. More importantly, he warned of the dangers of selecting the Vivid picture preset – a general rule that should apply to any TV.
Having just analyzed the new OLED TV A80K and spent more quality viewing time with it, I wanted to come back and offer specific suggestions for tuning Sony’s OLED TVs to optimize their picture quality. This list will delve into some of the unique image adjustment options found in the company’s OLEDs. The following will give you a sense of which menu options – some of which are confusingly named – are important and which ones you can leave on autopilot.
If you own a Sony OLED TV, it’s a fair bet you’ve spent a good chunk of change on it. Here’s how to access your device’s image menu and adjust it for the best performance.
1. Select the correct video signal settings
Okay, first, what are video signal adjustments and why do they have their own submenu on Sony OLED TVs? These settings apply to input signals and make general changes based on whether the signal is in 4K format with high dynamic range or regular old high definition.
If you’re using a 4K/HDR source like an external streamer or Ultra HD Blu-ray player, or just streaming in 4K/HDR using the player’s built-in apps, you can simply leave most of these settings (HDR mode, HDMI Video and Color Space) in Auto mode. This way, the TV will automatically adapt to regular 4K/HDR and HD input sources and display them correctly. The advanced color adjustments in this menu are primarily intended for use by professional TV calibrators and are something most viewers don’t need to play around with (and probably shouldn’t).
2. Make the correct brightness adjustments
Sony bundles several important settings into its image brightness submenu. There is, of course, a brightness setting that will adjust the overall brightness of the device’s screen, but that’s just the beginning.
A key setting in this menu is HDR tone mapping. If you’re watching 4K/HDR shows, you’ll definitely want this turned on as it will optimize the contrast range of movies and TV shows with varying overall brightness levels. The Sony A80K model we reviewed has lower light output than some other OLED TVs, so this setup proved to be particularly important for streaming strong highlights in 4K/HDR programs. Two related settings, Gradation Preferred and Brightness Preferred, are available for HDR Tone Mapping, but we don’t notice much difference between them.
3. Use the black level setting to adjust the black
While this might seem like a completely obvious point, most viewers use the TV’s brightness setting to adjust the level at which absolute black is in images. But Sony’s OLED TVs have a separate setting called Black Level (also in the Brightness submenu) that must be used to make this adjustment. Once we made this discovery and applied it, the shadows on Sony’s OLED looked considerably deeper, and this gave the overall image a higher level of contrast.
4. Don’t neglect peak luminance
The Peak Luminance setting, here again nested within the Brightness submenu, has proven to be very important in making 4K/HDR images look their best on Sony’s OLED TV, especially with dark movies. The results you get will vary depending on the specific show or movie you are watching, but similar to adjusting the Black Level, it can affect the overall contrast of the images. We suggest starting at the Medium setting and adjusting to taste. And if you’re the type who prefers not to regularly adjust your TV’s picture settings, you can simply leave it on Medium.
5. Use reality creation – sparingly
Sony TVs have apparently forever included a picture tweak called Reality Creation (in the Clarity submenu). And while 4K images already look quite real without any additional processing required, you can use these tweaks to give the images a slightly more detailed look. (As long as you don’t overdo it, in which case they’ll end up looking too sharp and unnatural.)
Another important adjustment in the Clarity submenu is the Smooth Gradation. This can help eliminate the “banding” artifacts that are sometimes seen in regular HD images and that often appear as rough-looking patches of color in image background elements, such as a clear blue sky.