Ask LH: Should I Bother With Preset Picture Modes On My TV?

Dear Lifehacker, Whenever my son uses our HD TV to play Xbox, he switches the screen to “game mode”. I’m now wondering what all the other settings like “cinema mode” and “PC mode” do. Should I be using them or is it just a gimmick? Sincerely, Keep It Simple

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Dear KIS,

Your TV’s different picture modes are essentially presets for colour, tone and contrast. They save you the trouble of calibrating your TV manually for different viewing situations.

For example, movie/cinema mode adjusts the contrast, brightness, colour, tint and sharpness of the picture to offer deeper blacks and brighter whites. The idea is to make the image look more cinematic, particularly in the dark. Game mode cuts down on image processing in an attempt to reduce input lag so that games run faster with better response times. PC mode typically adjusts the image quality to make text appear sharper.

All of the above modes can be achieved by tweaking the picture settings yourself — the only difference is the time it takes to set up. (Some people will argue that proper calibration provides better results, but there really isn’t must in it — especially if you’re using a mid-size TV.)

If you’ve never calibrated your television before and are happy with how everything looks, you can continue to safely ignore them. On the other hand, if you wish your movies had a bit more “oomph”, give cinema mode a try: after all, reverting back to standard mode is just a button press away.


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