Bigger numbers sell better in the eyes of the manufacturer. It’s hype.
Understand the difference between dynamic contrast ratio and static contrast ratio.
The dynamic contrast ratio is a measurement of the brightest white the HDTV can produce as compared to the blackest black â€” 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 ratio 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. Itâ€™s the measurement a shopper should take into account more so, perhaps, than the dynamic contrast ratio. But because the dynamic contrast ratio is a higher number, itâ€™s often the number used on the specification card of the HDTV, especially if the static number is poor or average.
While the best judge of a good picture remains your own two eyes, specifications come in handy for comparing products that arenâ€™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 contrast ratios as high as 15,000:1 or even 18,000:1. However, as stated previously, the static contrast 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, 1,800:1 or 2,000:1. A contrast ratio of 5,000:1 is likely referring to the dynamic specification, though time will bring improvements to static specifications so be sure to check which type of contrast ratio is being advertised.
Knowing the difference between these two measurements takes the confusion out of seeing an HDTV with a contrast ratio of 1800:1 (for example), and noting it looks better than ‘the HDTV with 10000:1’ listed. In reality 1800:1 is a very high static contrast ratio, while 10000:1 is an average dynamic ratio.