Flat Panel Break In

I heard you recommend "breaking in" a plasma TV for around 100 hours before calibrating it. Do you also recommend something similar for LED-illuminated LCD TVs?

Ronnie Klejka

First, let me explain the overall importance of breaking in flat panels before calibration. Most manufacturers run their TVs at the factory for some period of time before shipping them out, but users have no way of knowing how long that was done—perhaps the company wants to get the product out the door quickly, so it shortens the factory break-in period. Since all light sources—phosphors, fluorescent lights, LEDs—change over time in one way or another, and you don't know how much the TV you just bought was broken in at the factory, it's a good general rule to run it for around 100 hours just to be sure the light source has stabilized.

Plasma phosphors generally exhibit more initial instability than LED and CCFL (cold-cathode fluorescent) light sources in LCD TVs. Also, plasma displays are more prone to image retention at the beginning of their life, making break-in more important for plasma than LCD TVs. This is why we break in plasma TVs but not LCD TVs before calibrating them in the review process.

That being said, it's still a good idea to break in an LCD TV before calibration in the home. The intensity of LEDs changes over time, especially with edgelit models because there are fewer LEDs being driven harder than in backlit sets. And CCFL (cold-cathode fluorescent) backlights change in both intensity and color over time, so breaking in CCFL LCDs is more important than with LEDs. But I would run any flat panel for about 100 hours before calibrating it for home use.

When breaking in a flat panel, use full-screen (16:9) moving images or a solid gray field. Don't leave the TV tuned to a 4:3 channel or watch mostly 2.35:1 movies, which leave black bars on the sides or top and bottom of the screen. The entire screen should be stimulated equally during the break-in period.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to askscottwilkinson@gmail.com.

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uavTheJoBoo's picture

Great answer!

Scott Wilkinson's picture
"He sticks the landing"...I love it! Thanks for the kind words...
JustinGN's picture

I made use of a plasma break-in slideshow set I found on the AVSForums. It was a simple series of 1920x1080 JPEG images, each in a solid color, over one hundred slides total covering all primary and secondary colors, as well as several steps between black and white through gray. I put them on an SD card, popped the card into the memory card slot into the TV, and just let the slideshow run at the fastest possible speed for a week before I used it (then on and off for several more weeks after that). That broke my Plasma in fairly well, and the fact the pictures were the exact size of the panel meant every single pixel in that panel was broken in evenly.

For Plasmas, I highly recommend making use of the anti-image retention features at all times, and using the "scrolling bar" (white bar moving across an all black background, though other manufacturers have variations) after viewing periods or every hour or so during gaming sessions. I play mostly games on my Plasma, and this regimen has kept the plasma free of everything but minor, temporary image retention for almost a year now.

Speaking of games, I'd also recommend reducing the opacity of the game HUD in games that support such a function (Fallout: New Vegas is one that lets me do so), that way it's not entirely static or opaque and thus, doesn't burn into the TV as quick.

Plasmas may require a little more TLC than an LED or LCD television, but I can't see myself going back for the time being.

krbmedia's picture

What about burn in that's already there? Can someone point me to some free tools to remove or minimize burn in? I got a Plasma for cheap with this one issue.


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