Manufacturers of consumer grade speakers, TVs and electronics publish the specifications of their products at least partially in the hope that their “numbers” will seem more impressive than the other guys “numbers” and help persuade you to buy their shiny new thing. Much of this is meaningless, a lot of it is misleading and serves to confuse rather than clarify. The specifications game also makes my job a lot harder, especially when we try to provide systems that are actually better rather than only appearing better.
Here are the worst offenders:
Contrast Ratio: The difference in the amount of light between the “darkest black” and “whitest white”.
I have seen claims of up to 30,000,000:1 contrast ratio. Higher is better of course, but since there is no official, standardized way to measure contrast ratio for a system or its parts, nor is there a standard for defining “contrast ratio,” comparing the contrast ratio between products is a waste of time. A real world no BS contrast ratio is more like 240:1. Some manufactures are inflating the numbers by a factor of over 10 million! (We try not to do business with manufacturers who lie about their products for many reasons).
Lines of Resolution: This refers to the measurement of the number of lines that can be displayed or resolved. In camera’s it is expressed as Megapixels, or the number of “dots” that make up the image.
The difference in the image quality between my phone and my camera is huge, even though they are the same “resolution”. The lens, the video processing, the ability to deal with light and more each has a huge effect on the end result. Same goes for a home theatre projector – essentially a camera in reverse. Any deficiency in the system degrades the image, no matter how many lines of resolution in the specification.
Watts Per Channel: This one has been around for over 50 years, and is easy for us to grasp – more is better of course, but there is much more to this than meets the ear.
Many manufacturers of audio video receivers make claims that defy physics. For instance,180 watts per channel in a 7 channel receiver – this adds up to 1260 watts – sound impressive but is not possible using a typical household electrical outlet and typical Class A/B Amplifier topology, there is simply not enough power at the wall socket to allow such a claim.
This does take some math to disprove their claim; if you have nothing better to do check Wikipedia on Class A/B amplification efficiency and electrical outlet wattage.
1080p Resolution: This refers to the lines of vertical resolution, usually on a TV. 1080p provides 1,920 x 1,080 pixels of resolution. Studies have shown most consumers can’t tell the difference between 1080p and 720p resolution, especially on smaller screens.
Mark Cuban (owner of HDNet) was asked why he chose to broadcast in 1080p. He famously deadpanned, “It’s a bigger number. It’s always easier to market the bigger number.”
And as with the other “specifications” this one is meaningless unless the rest of the system, including the room, viewing distance and more is all taken into account.
Here is a real world example of how specifications do not tell the real story, even when they are not inflated.
We have a projector that uses LED’s instead of a traditional bulb in our showroom. In a side by side comparison, it generates 1.6X lumens in perceived luminosity compared to a bulb based projector of similar cost and quality. On paper however it seems less bright; in real life it has a much more saturated color space, which we perceive as 60% more brightness. Check out the work of Hermann Von Helmholtz for more on this (if you are a total geek of course)
No matter the hue (whether Red or Purple), colors toward the outside of this model are more saturated and, as this diagram shows, are seen a substantially brighter even if they contain the same value and even if the reflected measurement of that color off a screen surface is the same.
Manufacturers of good equipment don’t rely on bogus specifications; rather they rely on partnering with companies that are experienced and trained to design and install systems properly, own the proper test and calibration equipment to confirm it is all working properly, and the integrity not to BS their way into your project.
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