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Five Tips For Judging Flat-Screen Displays

New tool could upset current flat-screen owners by pointing out display problems.
Consumers have a new resource for judging and comparing flat-panel displays, but the creators warn it could spoil the fun for those who have already made their purchases.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology announced an online tool this month for checking the quality of flat-screen displays. It provides tips as well as screen shots that allow online visitors to judge the quality of the display they use to access the site.

"Knowledge of the following guidelines for evaluating display performance will cause you to become aware of some of the subtle differences in displays so that identical images no longer look alike on different displays," the tip sheet explains. "Some people have found that the following material has reduced their ability to enjoy their flat panel television. You have been warned!"

Here are the top five tips from NIST:

  • Check out the display in lighting similar to that in which you will use it. Some displays are better in dark surroundings. Some are better in light.

  • Look at the black areas and determine whether they're washed out and gray, lacking in detail, or crisp and full of detail.

  • Look for whites and detail in bright areas.

  • Check for problems with light reflection.

  • Use static images to judge quality. Moving images are more likely to fool the eye.

    The tool provides still images that allow viewers to determine the quality and distinction in gradations of gray, detail in black areas, and glare in white areas. It also provides slides and tips for judging contrast, highlights, and viewing angles.

    "Unfortunately, specifications claimed for displays cannot always be used to compare them," NIST states in its consumer guide. "They may not employ measurement standards properly but use their own methods. Use and trust your eyes. What you see can be exactly what you get."

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