Professional tuner says Apple TV’s auto-calibrator doesn’t deliver

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Professional tuner says Apple TV's auto-calibrator doesn't deliver

Apple introduced a TV calibration feature with the new Apple TV 4K in April. the color balance option uses the front-facing sensors on an iPhone with Face ID to optimize the output of Apple’s streaming box (including the 2017 model). Consistent with Apple, viewers will see “much more accurate colors and improved contrast” after calibration. But, the analysts at HDTVTest believe the feature doesn’t always deliver on its promises. and that they know a thing or two about visual quality having poked holes within the Mandalorian’s true HDR claims.

In a new video, HDTVTest’s Vincent Teoh armed himself with an older Apple TV 4K box and an iPhone 12 Pro to use Apple’s calibration across a trio of 55-inch TV sets: An LG OLED TV, a Samsung QLED, and a Sony Bravia LED LCD TV. The AV buff also ran side-by-side comparisons on a Sony LCD mastering monitor with reference class color accuracy. 

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Across all three TVs, Apple’s color-balanced result appeared bluer than the first output, Teoh said. On the Sony LCD LED display, which was set to the foremost accurate out-of-the-box custom preset, Apple’s calibration gravitated towards a bluer white point than the D65 standard used within the printed industry. It caused the color accuracy to deteriorate with a rise in delta errors, Teoh noted.

Apple introduced a TV calibration feature with the new Apple TV 4K in April. the color balance option uses the front-facing sensors on an iPhone with Face ID to optimize the output of Apple’s streaming box (including the 2017 model). Consistent with Apple, viewers will see “much more accurate colors and improved contrast” after calibration. But, the analysts at HDTVTest believe the feature doesn’t always deliver on its promises. and that they know a thing or two about visual quality having poked holes within the Mandalorian’s true HDR claims.

In a new video, HDTVTest’s Vincent Teoh armed himself with an older Apple TV 4K box and an iPhone 12 Pro to use Apple’s calibration across a trio of 55-inch TV sets: An LG OLED TV, a Samsung QLED, and a Sony Bravia LED LCD TV. The AV buff also ran side-by-side comparisons on a Sony LCD mastering monitor with reference class color accuracy. 

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Across all three TVs, Apple’s color-balanced result appeared bluer than the first output, Teoh said. On the Sony LCD LED display, which was set to the foremost accurate out-of-the-box custom preset, Apple’s calibration gravitated towards a bluer white point than the D65 standard used within the printed industry. It caused the color accuracy to deteriorate with a rise in delta errors, Teoh noted.

On the Samsung QLED TV in filmmaker mode, Apple’s balance also resulted during a bluer image, with Teoh’s objective measurements confirming this blue shift. And, on the LG OLED television receiver to technicolor expert picture mode, contributing to improved color accuracy with reduced delta error figures. But, it had been still nowhere near the results of a properly conducted calibration using specialized tools and software, consistent with Teoh.

Another shortcoming is that the feature’s inability to profile between different display technologies. This does not bode well for the broader range of display tech on the market, consistent with Teoh. Think LED LCDs with a standard or PFS phosphor backlight, QLED TVs with quantum dot enhancement film, and WRGB OLED TVs. While certain 2021 OLEDs even have a replacement green-emitting layer. 

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As Teoh states within the clip, all display techs have different spectral power distributions (SPD). So, to realize an accurate end in terms of luminance and color measurement, a colorimeter must be profiled against a spectral radiometer. However, the analyst notes that an iPhone likely won’t be profiled to a spectral radiometer, explaining why color balance produced different results between OLED and LED LCDs. 

Giving Apple the advantage of the doubt, Teoh claims it’s going to be possible for Apple to “identify the TV through the edit” and apply the required EDR offset supported the known spectral response of the display tech. But, that depends on whether the TV manufacturer is providing the right info and Apple is following that process. 

Teoh also admits that Apple’s color balance could work well for fewer accurate TV presets. Yet, even when the image quality was inaccurate, Apple’s calibration introduced posterization into the image. This is often when low color bit depth leads to defined “stepping” from one color gradation to a different versus a smooth, continuous gradation. Finally, Teoh emphasized that Apple’s calibration feature only works for the Apple TV output instead of all of the TV’s sources. 

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The analyst concluded that the feature couldn’t match a correct calibration that needs overriding many TV settings, from the black video level to superfluous edge enhancement and noise reduction to optimizing motion interpolation. In a nutshell, simply selecting the foremost accurate out-of-box picture preset is “more important than running the color balance procedure,” Teoh said.