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Does my TV have a break-in period? (Morrison's Mailbag)

Reader Joe asks if TVs have a break-in period, and if he'll lose his settings if the TV loses power. Geoff helps him out.

CNET reader Joe writes:

I recently purchased a Samsung PN59D8000. My question is what is the best procedure for the break-in period? I've read different things online talking about leaving contrast and brightness levels down. I looked through the PDF manuals for this model and didn't see anything mentioning a break-in period. Is this something that was only required on older plasmas? Thanks for any help.


All TVs age, and as you're looking at a TV that David tested in his long-term plasma TV test blog post, we don't have to speak in generalities, we can quote specifics. In the first 1,500 hours, (approximately 10 months of 5.2 hours/day viewing) the TV drops from an initially measured 6,500 kelvin to 6,200 kelvin. The black level also goes up slightly. These are both changes that can be calibrated out. It's not like the TV is permanently warmer, it just drifts that way, and is adjustable back to accurate.

It's not like a car, though; you don't really need to do anything special. Just watch TV like you normally would. So yes, it's good to let it "break in" a bit before you have it calibrated. If you're not having it calibrated, don't worry about it.

In the case of plasmas, they are most susceptible to image retention in the first 100 hours or so, but modern plasmas don't "burn in" like many rumors would have you believe. At least not spontaneously.

If you see signs of image retention, just watch something else for a little while. Static images, video game HUDs, and black bars on 2.35:1 movies can all cause image persistence, so just keep an eye out for the first few weeks. Image persistence only leads to permanent burn-in if you just leave something on the screen for days straight.

I recently reviewed this TV for, ahem, a different Web site, and found that even when new, it showed little sign of image retention. It's also a pretty fantastic TV.

As the phosphors burn off impurities, they're less likely to show image persistence. So just enjoy your TV.

In a follow-up e-mail, Joe asked another good question:

I ordered a Spears and Munsil calibration Blu-ray. I'm thinking of having someone come calibrate it, but then I think about the first time it loses power, all the settings going away and losing $200. Is this the case? Thanks again for the info.

I'm a big fan of that disc. The Disney WOW disc is another good one, as it has a bunch of excellent tutorials. I'd wait to have it calibrated until after the first 100 hours, for the same reasons as listed above. Some calibrators say 150 hours or more. Check with what your local calibrator recommends for your TV.

You should definitely get it calibrated, though. After calibration, it's one of the most accurate TVs I've ever reviewed.

As far as losing power, I don't want to generalize for every model, but for the most part, the TV isn't going to lose its settings. At least, it shouldn't. If you live in an area where you might lose power often, ask your calibrator for a copy of the post-calibration settings. With the Samsung, the color and color temperature adjustments are all in the user menu. If it resets, you could enter these back in yourself. Though this isn't the case with all TVs. Some require getting into the service menu, which I don't recommend unless you know what you're doing.

You could go the extreme route and get an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), but it's doubtful any would last long enough to make a difference if your home loses power. Plus, most are drastically overpriced for what amounts to a battery. The "cleans up power" and other marketing jargon is, shall we say, overly optimistic. But like I said, chances are it won't lose its settings.

Got a question for Geoff? Click Geoffrey Morrison below and then "Email Geoffrey." Put "Morrison's Mailbag" somewhere in there. If it's witty, amusing, and/or a good question, you may just see it in a post just like this one. I can also offer advice on how to grow a crappy beard. I cannot, however, tell you what TV to buy. You can also ask him on Twitter.