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Professional customizer criticized Apple TV’s auto-calibration feature

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In April, with the introduction of the new Apple TV 4K, Apple also introduced the TV Calibration feature. It uses sensor readings from iPhone smartphones with Face ID (including the 2017 model) to fine-tune color reproduction. After calibration, Apple says users get “much more accurate colors and improved contrast.” However, the specialist HDTVTest, who, as they say, ate the dog on the TV set-up, claims that this function does not always work properly.

To test, he used an old Apple TV 4K and an iPhone 12 Pro smartphone, trying to calibrate three 55-inch TVs using Apple tools: an OLED TV from LG, a QLED TV from Samsung, and a Sony Bravia LED LCD TV. The reference for comparison is a Sony master monitor with reference color accuracy.

In short, on all three TVs, Apple’s color calibration was bluer than expected, as measured. In addition, in the case of the Sony TV, the calibration has shifted the white point from the broadcast standard D65, which effectively degraded color accuracy.

For the sake of fairness, it should be said that in the case of an OLED TV, calibration led to an increase in color accuracy, but the result was far from the results of a correct calibration using specialized tools and software.

The function has a fundamental flaw – the inability to take into account the features of various display technologies widely available on the market. To get an accurate result in terms of measuring brightness and color, a colorimeter must be profiled with a spectral power distribution analyzer. When using the iPhone as a colorimeter, this is not possible, which leads to differences in color balancing of different types of displays. This could be accounted for with ready-made profiles, but TV manufacturers hardly provide them to Apple.

When trying to correct the color rendition when the original TV setting is incorrect, the function can provoke posterization, that is, make color transitions more noticeable. Finally, keep in mind that Apple Calibration only works with the Apple TV’s output, not all sources connected to the TV.

The expert’s conclusion is that proper calibration requires a lot of TV settings, so it is impossible to perform it using Apple tools, so simply choosing the most accurate ready-made picture preset is “more important than performing the color balance procedure.”

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