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What is the Difference between an HDTV's Dynamic and Static Contrast Ratio?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2014
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When shopping for a high-definition television (HDTV), a significant consideration is the contrast ratio expressed as 10000:1, for example. An HDTV with a high ratio will produce truer blacks and show more detail in low-lit scenes. This should make it quite simple to spot a good contrast ratio, except there’s a catch. There are two types: dynamic and static. Understanding the difference will help simplify HDTV shopping.

The dynamic contrast is a measurement of the brightest white the HDTV can produce as compared to the blackest black — not necessarily at the same time or in the same scene. For example, some LCD HDTVs use technology that brightens the overall picture in well-lit scenes to achieve very bright whites, and dims the overall picture in low-lit scenes to achieve truer, darker blacks. A measurement of the whitest white in the brightly lit scene compared to the darkest dark in the low-lit scene results in the dynamic contrast ratio specification.

The static contrast measures dark and light in a static shot, or the highest contrast ratio achievable within the same scene at the same time. This is a smaller number but a truer measurement in terms of overall picture quality. It’s the measurement a shopper should take into account more so, perhaps, than the dynamic contrast, but because the dynamic ratio is a higher number, it’s often the number used on the specification card of the HDTV, especially if the static number is poor or average.

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While the best judge of a good picture remains the viewer's own two eyes, specifications come in handy for comparing products that aren’t side by side (or when buying online). Many experts generally recommend a dynamic contrast ratio of at least 10,000:1. Some HDTVs today list ratios of 50,000:1 or higher. As stated previously, however, the static ratio is more important.

A good starting point for the static contrast ratio is a minimum of 1,000:1. Some HDTVs list specifications as high as 1,500:1, 2,500:1, or even 5,000:1. Remember that a high number may be referring to the dynamic specification, though time is bringing improvements to static specifications, so shoppers should be sure to check which type of ratio is being advertised. Plasma HDTVs, for example, tend to have higher contrast ratios overall than LCDs.

Knowing the difference between these two measurements takes the confusion out of seeing an HDTV with a contrast ratio of 1,800:1 (for example), and noting it looks better than the HDTV with 10,000:1 listed. In reality 1,800:1 is a relatively high static ratio, while 10,000:1 is an average dynamic ratio.

Whenever possible, shoppers should look at actual displays before buying. If purchasing online, they should try going to some local outlets first to see the TV in action. Specifications help, but the eyes are the better judge for what will be personally pleasing.

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Discuss this Article

anon157285
Post 24

This is very helpful for new HD tv buyers.

anon155276
Post 23

your web site really helped. thank you.

anon131733
Post 21

I've just come back from Walmart from shopping for a HDTV while there I asked what is the difference between "dynamic" and "static"... After reading this I definitely got the wrong info. Glad I didn't buy. Thank you!

anon124501
Post 20

great explanation. answered all my questions.

anon95931
Post 19

Simple and clear. Thanks

anon89676
Post 18

perfectly said! Thanks.

anon89298
Post 17

Helped a bunch, thanks.

anon87604
Post 16

Exactly the answer i needed. thanks!

anon87587
Post 15

Explained very well. good information.

anon87140
Post 14

Great article! Keep up the good information.

anon85779
Post 13

ditto all the praise for your help.

anon83649
Post 12

Thank you so much! Great, easy-to-understand explanation that just kept me from purchasing the wrong tv for my needs. Thanks again.

anon72301
Post 11

Great description of contrast ratios in easy to understand terms.

anon65680
Post 10

This is my second site to find and explanation. confirmed what the highly techy site said in language much easier to understand.

anon64684
Post 9

Really good article. Thanks.

anon57965
Post 8

great article. crystal clear! phew :)

anon54077
Post 6

I have a much better understanding now and am more confident on choosing the right TV for me.

anon38835
Post 5

This explanation really helped. Thank you!

anon34876
Post 3

this was a lot better than other websites' explanations!

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