How we review HDTVsNatali Del Conte takes a tour with David Katzmaier of the CNET TV testing labs, where he explains the review process and shows off the workspace.
[ MUSIC ] ^M00:00:04 >> Hi, I'm Natalie DelConte with CNET TV, and we're going to show you how we test high-definition televisions today. I have David Katzmeyer here with me. He is a senior editor here at CNET in charge of all high-definition television reviews. >> Well, thanks, Natalie. Let's go check out the miniplex. >> Okay. ^M00:00:20 [ MUSIC ] ^M00:00:30 It's a nice office you have here. >> [Laugh] Actually I do try to spend as much time as possible in this room watching TV. >> So what's the first thing you do when you get a new TV like this in? >> First thing I do is break it out of the box, and I get it photographed. We do all our custom photography here. And then I bring it into this room and kind of line it up alongside similar TVs. So that enables me to do a real side-by-side comparison. I'm pretty sure we're the only reviews outlet that does that on a regular basis for every single review. >> So you just sit here watching TV all day. >> Kind of. >> And once you've unboxed the TV from start to finish, how long does the review process take? >> From unboxing to reboxing, because we do have to send all these TVs back, it takes me about 3 to 5 days, because it's a really wide theme. Some TVs are really easy to do, but you know for the most part it's about a four-day process for your average HDTV. >> What kind of gadgets and electronics do you use when you're testing TVs? >> The main thing I use is a CS-2000 spectroradiometer by Konica Minolta. There's also an HDTV signal generator, a smaller light meter, and of course my trusty power meter. >> How much does a device like that cost? >> The Konica Minolta's around 27 grand, so I'm really careful not to drop it. >> So what is it you're watching when you watch TV all day? Is there a software that you use or a specific kind of disc, BluRay? >> Well, we generally use BluRay, so I use a Blu -- a specific BluRay disc called Digital Video Essentials HD Basics, which is my set-up disc. I use that for calibration and also because it has some nice video downloads on there, some of which are right here, that allow me to, again, compare video that I'm very familiar with. I also use, try to use a different BluRay movie with every review. So I'll go out and, into our little BluRay collection here and put in a new disc and spin it up and see how it looks on all these TVs. >> Are there any movies you're absolutely sick of watching on HDTV? >> Well I was sick of I Am Legend before I even saw it, but since I use it constantly, it's got a really good scene with an aircraft carrier for judging video cadence and film cadence. I am pretty sick of that one. There's a few out there that, you know, I've kind of ended up tossing after a while, but that one's a really good one. >> We all want our electronics to be environmentally friendly these days. What are your green tests? >> We do measure all the TVs that we test for power consumption under the Energy Star standards. We also have a couple tests that we made up ourselves, including one that measures the TV that's calibrated. I like that test best because it does kind of encompass all of the TVs' parameters and provide a level playing field, so really that provides the best comparison. >> Why do you need to calibrate a TV in the first place? >> There's two really good reasons. The first one is that readers who go to our site and read the review can actually look up our picture settings on the review and put their own settings of the calibrated TV right onto their own TV, so it's kind of like getting a free calibration. At least they can try out the settings and see if they like them. The second reason for me is that the calibration provides a level playing field. So I can go in and have the TVs set to the same brightness, the same color standard, so that really enables me to look at the TVs, you know, again, on the same level playing field. >> So you said you choose which TVs to compare, but why do you need so many lined up like this? >> Because I have a distribution amplifier with eight outputs, of course. No, the real reason is because it does make it a very thorough comparison to be able to line up as many TVs as you want. I have a reference TV. I have pri -- similar size and price TVs, so again, I try to use as many as I can because it really does provide a much more thorough look at how the TV performs. >> You're testing for great picture, but what about sound? How do you test for sound? >> I don't. I figure if you want good sound quality, you're going to have to, you know, invest a little more in an extra sound system. So nobody's really asked me to do sound reviews. I've never had any readers who say, "Hey man, you know, what TV sounds the best?" And so I really don't look at that. There's too many other things to test for in terms of video quality. >> Actually we don't get to keep anything at CNET, right? >> No, we actually are bound to return every single review, although we do have some extended loaners that we keep around for comparison purposes, but we have to send them all back. >> In addition to all the fantastic video reviews you do, you also write up a full review. What's the write-up process like? >> The written review is actually the most in-depth process because, you know, they're 2000 words and up. But it's a lot of cutting and pasting, you know. A lot of TVs are very similar, especially from the same manufacturer. So I do have some shortcuts, but I try to write the performance section itself, and I sit here with a laptop on this couch with the TVs right in front of me. And I notice something, I'll write it down and go back and forth. And, you know, it's definitely an in-depth process. >> Well, thank you for the tour of your office. >> No problem. >> It was really fun, and I'm going to see about getting a couch like this in my office now. >> Oh yeah, room and board, it's like 2500 bucks. You'll love it. >> I'm Natalie DelConte; this is David Katzmeyer, and we are with CNET. Thank you for watching. ^M00:05:05 [ MUSIC ]