Sound Advice: How to stop the 'soap opera effect' on your TV

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The 2020 TCL 5-Series Television. -

Q. I am looking for a large TV. I see the Samsung 75-inch Q6 series for about $1,500 while the Samsung TU7000 is around $850. Will I note that much difference between them? I did check the TCL TVs but am concerned about the “soap opera effect.”

— J.S., Wisconsin

A. For readers unfamiliar with the “soap opera effect” it is a picture quality defect caused by motion processing that is supposed to help the TV render moving subjects better. Whether it does help is debatable, and there are horrible side effects such as blurred details and unnatural motion. When I see TVs in stores it is usually obvious to me which TVs have the motion processing turned on because to my eyes, it makes humans look like CGI characters when they move across the screen.

Most every manufacturer includes this feature in their televisions but calls it different names. For example, Samsung calls it “Auto Motion Plus” and TCL uses “Action Smoothing.” Having this feature in a TV makes for good ad copy but in the real world, using it is a disaster. Fortunately, it can be turned off. Everyone reading this, please go to your TV’s picture settings menu and find the motion processing feature. Turn it all the way off for each input (most TVs let you use different picture settings for each input, including the antenna) and you will be rewarded with a more natural picture.

Now we can discuss your TV choices. Samsung and TCL are my two favorite brands of television and I own two of each. For top-of-the-line performance Samsung is hard to beat. I use a 75-inch Samsung Q90 as my reference set and it remains to this day my favorite television ever. The Q6 is from Samsung’s QLED series of TVs, a few steps down from my Q90, and with a good signal source it will look noticeably better than the TU7000. If you love TV and movies it is worth the investment. Some salespeople and TV fans advocate going to the Q8 in a 75-inch size because the Q8 has local dimming zones, an improvement over the more primitive edge lighting in Samsung’s Q6 and Q7 series. The local dimming zones provide better contrast and deeper blacks but even without them, the Q6 is a fine television and I would not hesitate to buy one in a 75-inch size.

I would not rule out TCL now that I have explained how to eliminate the soap opera effect. I have the Action Smoothing turned off on both my TCL 5-Series and 6-Series sets and I do not have any picture quality issues at all. Both the TCL 5- Series and 6-Series received big upgrades for 2020, the new 5-Series line being especially noteworthy. It includes both QLED technology and local dimming zones at a budget price, features that were previously considered to be the exclusive domain of high-end sets, even when offered independently. Being offered together is a real breakthrough and if you would have told me last year that in 2020 you could get a $449 55-inch TV with QLED, local dimming and a truly fantastic picture, I would not have believed you. The 65-inch 2020 TCL 5-Series is $629 and all TCL TVs offer built-in Roku, the leading streaming platform.

The 5-Series maxes out at 65 inches so you must go to the 6-Series to get a top quality 75-inch TCL. The 2020 6-Series uses QLED and MiniLED backlighting for $1,399. It belongs on your shopping list, too.


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©2020 Don Lindich