Inside the Consumer Reports TV test labs

Ever wonder why we're so good at testing TVs? Check out this video for a sneak peek at the testing process.

Published: June 18, 2014 10:30 AM

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One of my favorite activities here at Consumer Reports is spending time inside the TV Test Labs—and not just to watch a movie or TV show during my lunch break (when I get one). At any given moment, our engineers and techs will be putting up to 30 TVs at a time though their paces. We thought it was about time to show you what I get to see on a regular basis.

I've been covering consumer electronics now for about two decades, and I've never seen televisions tested to the degree that we do here at Consumer Reports. Before we're ready with a recommendation—or not—we will have put every set through detailed testing, using state-of-the-art equipment, industry-standard test materials, and test patterns and programs we've developed here internally. (For example, when 3D launched there were no 3D test patterns; we invented our own.) Then, after all the measurements have been entered, we subjectively evaluate all the sets with real-world material—movies, TVs shows, video clips, etc.—to see whether what we've found in our testing will be noticeable to viewers.

For more tips, and reviews, check our TV buying guide and Ratings.

In addition to our evaluation of pure picture quality—detail, image sharpness, color accuracy, contrast, black level, brightness, motion blur—we test sound quality, judge viewing angle, and see how easy it is to set up the TV and then use it. To help assess new smart TV services with access to online content, we built a special streaming-media lab. And we also measure energy consumption—not out of the box in its energy-saving mode, as many reviewers do, but after we've set up the TV for optimal performance, which is how you actually watch it.

But enough with the words—we've prepared a cool time-lapse video that will give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on for every TV we test. And this year, we'll fully evaluate somewhere between 270 and 300 sets, including a rising number of higher-resolution Ultra HD TVs.

And by the way, guys, nice song. But I wouldn't give up the day job just yet.

—James K. Willcox

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