RGB: Full vs. Limited

When using a Blu-ray player or a video game system, you often have many color space selections to choose from. The most common choices available are YCbCr, 4:2:2, 4:4:4, RGB, RGB Full or Enhanced, and RGB Limited. For the most part they output the same content in different ways except for RGB Full. So what does this Color Space control mean, and how should you select it?

When an image displays on your TV, Monitor, or Projector, it uses RGB. Except for a few rare cases, every pixel on your screen is made up of Red, Green, and Blue sub-pixels. Everything sent into your display becomes RGB at some point. Not everything sent to your display is RGB to start with.

So why do we have YCbCr and RGB? That itself could be its own article, but it involves Black and White TV, the transition to color, and human visual perception. RGB treats everything equally while YCbCr allows you to treat Black and White and Color information differently. Since we have a higher sensitivity to Black and White information than to color, this allows us to compress color more (the CbCr part of YCbCr) while leaving Black and White with more detail. Our eyes can’t see the difference but we save lots of bandwidth and storage space.

RGB Full and RGB Limited are a different story. The names are confusing, as you would assume you always want the full information. Why would someone ever choose to have something limited? Well it comes down to TVs vs. PCs and how they handle a video signal.

TVs use a video range from 16-235. It considers levels below 16 to be black, and information above 235 is white. A calibrated TV will never display anything below 16 as anything other than black. Most will also treat everything over 235 as white since it should not exist in video content.

PCs are different and use a range from 0-255. There is no data below 0 or above 255 with an 8-bit video signal as there are only 256 possible values. In short, this is much simpler to understand as the TV concepts of Blacker-than-Black and Whiter-than-White do not exist.

RGB Full and RGB Limited exist because of this difference. TV programs and movies use the 16-235 range of values. Video games and PCs use the 0-255 range of values. Since TVs and PC Monitors use different scales, there has to be a way to convert between the two. Setting this RGB Full and Limited setting does that.

With a TV you should always use the RGB Limited setting. Limited refers to the values being limited to 16-235 and not the Full 0-255 scale. With TV and Movies, it leaves them untouched because they are already in the 16-235 range. When you play a video game, it will convert the 0-255 range to the 16-235 range. If it did not do this, shadow and highlights would be pure black or pure white, and the image will look off. You aren’t losing anything by using RGB Limited, but if you use RGB Full with a TV you are losing details. You’ll want to make sure you have Brightness and Contrast set correctly by using a Calibration Disc like Spears & Munsil.

The image below takes the image at the top of this piece and displays it as a TV will when using RGB Full. You see washed-out highlights while the bottom of the ramp is all black. These are highlight and shadow details we will lose.

Limited to Full

On a computer monitor you use the opposite approach. RGB Full will display video games and other 0-255 content at the correct 0-255 range. TV, Movies and other video range content expands to use the full 0-255 range of a computer display. If you use RGB limited instead, shadows will be gray instead of black and highlights will be dull. You will not take full advantage of the dynamic range of the PC monitor and content will have a washed-out look. The image below is the opposite of that above where now we are missing highlights, they are slightly gray instead of white, while blacks are a dark gray and not black.

Limited on Full Display

While poorly named, RGB Full and RGB Limited allow you to use AV devices (Blu-ray players, Video Game systems, and more) with a TV or a PC Monitor without having to keep adjusting the settings. By using this control correct, you see all the shadows and highlights you should regardless of the display. You also will not need to calibrate your TV twice because of the different types of content. Hopefully this clears up some of the misunderstandings people have about this setting.

August 30, 2014 Update

I’ve noticed a lot of discussion about this and some more misconceptions about how Full and Limited RGB work with video game consoles in particular. Hopefully I can address a few more of these questions to make it easier to understand how to set this up correctly.

Q: Since video games use the Full RGB palette, shouldn’t I use Full RGB when playing video games and then Limited RGB for movies?

A: No. Most video games are designed using the Full RGB spectrum since they are designed on computers which use that. However, when you are playing a Full RGB game and your video game console is set to Limited, it takes this into account. The video levels are shifted from 0-255 down to 16-235 and the gamma curve is adjusted to match a TV as well. You aren’t losing anything as the system is accounting for this.

Q: When I choose limited, I get a washed out image. When I choose full, shadows are crushed. Which is correct?

A: If you are on a TV, then Limited is still correct. The washed-out image is caused by your brightness setting being too high. You should use a calibration disc, like the free AVS 709 disc, World of Wonder, or Spears & Munsil, to set this correctly. Then your black levels will be correct in limited, you will see shadow details, and it won’t be washed out.

Q: My TV supports Full mode, shouldn’t I use this?

A: No. TVs support Full to make them easier to calibrate. Most TVs will not display a black level below 16 because video content should never have it. By letting you see Black 15 or 14, it can make it easier to calibrate the display and get the black level correct. However, you really should not use this as your main setting as most displays are not designed to display levels below 16, and often introduce color tints when doing white levels past 240 or so. Additionally, if you restrict yourself to levels 16-235 you wind up with a brighter image with a better contrast ratio, as you can turn up the contrast level higher. Contrast Ratio is the thing your eye notices most, and so it will produce a more pleasing image.

Also, since any non-video game content will only use 16-235, these picture settings will work for all inputs and sources, not just a single source.

Q: Should I set my video game system to Auto instead of choosing Limited or Full?

A: No. If you can choose Limited or Full, you are best to do this. The system will choose based on the EDID of your display, or your receiver, whatever it connects directly to. Usually this is fine but some devices report incorrectly, or the system interprets it incorrectly. A good example is the Roku 3, which doesn’t let you change this setting. A receiver I was testing reported an incorrect EDID to my Roku, forcing it into Full RGB which crushed all the shadows and made the image look bad. Had the Roku let me change this, I could have avoided the issue. Since you know which you should pick, you should always do it because you can avoid complications.

Q: What about Superwhite mode on a PS3 or PS4?

A: Superwhite enables YCbCr values over 235 (or 240 in the case of Y) to be displayed. It will not harm anything, and you should leave it enabled. Some Blu-ray content has specular highlights, like sunlight off a lake, that can be above peak-white and would be hidden otherwise. This lets you see this content if you want, but otherwise won’t harm the image either. It doesn’t expand the dynamic range, it just allows values greater than the usual peak to pass through.

Hopefully this has cleared up some more of the confusion with this setting. The rule of Limited RGB with TVs and Full RGB with PC Monitors still applies. You might just need to calibrate your TV after you set this correctly to make sure you see all of the data.

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  • dende82

    So, what if I set my Xbox/PS3 to RGB Full and my TV also to RGB Full? Shouldn’t that be the best option as the games don’t have to be converted from 0-255 to 16-235? Or will the games always be converted to RGB Limited in the Xbox/PS3 and RGB Full will lead to the games being converted from 0-255 to 16-235 and then back to 0-255?

    • That would not be ideal. RGB Full on the TV is only telling the TV not to clip the data below 16 and the data above 235 over HDMI. However most TVs are not designed to show data below 16 or above 235/240. Many will not show black levels down to 1 no matter how much you raise the brightness. To show the contrast all the way out to 255 you’re also going to likely reduce the maximum light output of the display.

      The biggest issue is that by doing this to accommodate a video game console you are making every other source look incorrect. TV images will be washed out with dull highlights and grayish blacks, as will any other source. Using RGB Limited preserves the image for all sources, corrects the gamma on the signal to match a TV better than a PC monitor, and doesn’t introduce any harmful effects. Trying to use RGB Full with a TV introduces issues and provides no real benefits.

  • Onaga

    Great articule :)

    l hope you cant respond to this questions, its bad to play PC games in a 4:2:2 tv? my panny plasma only offers 4:2:2 when hock up a PC, it will be lose quality?

    • You will lose some quality, as it has to do chroma subsampling to get 4:2:2 from 4:4:4. On something like a game you would not really notice, but if you are displaying text or other fine, still images then you can notice a slight loss in quality.

      • Onaga

        Thanks for the reply!!! pretty hard to find detail of this subject.

        Do you consider the slight losst quality worth to prevent? my panny plasma only do full rgb but downsample everithing to 4:2:2, my only interest is for games, as you say, it will be hard to notice?

        Sorry for bad english, greetings for Colombia!! can i use you articule for some college lecture?

  • Mike Kofman

    Great article but I do have several questions. So if I am reading this correctly setting my XboxOne to RGB Full (PC) and my Samsung TV to Full will not actually give me 0-255 range? Is there downside to doing that? I

    Second question – when I play my XboxOne, a lot of the text in games is white on black background. However that strains my eyes – is it possible that my Backlight setting is set too high? Currently it is set at 8 (out of 10), as it gives a lot of radiance in games. How do I properly set the Backlight setting?

    Thanks for the help!

    • The downside is that if your Samsung has shared picture settings, every other source is going to appear to be washed out. Whites will be slightly gray and blacks will be a dark gray instead of black. You also will reduce your contrast ratio most likely, since the brightness will have to be increased and the contrast/picture setting decreased relative to a video level setting to make those shades visible.

      As far as the backlight setting, that is likely too high. Most calibrators would set a TV to be around 30 foot-Lamberts bright in a dim room, and 40-50 fL in a bright room. Since many LCDs can easily get to 80-90 fL at their maximum setting, that means you might be getting 60-70 fL with a setting of 8 which is too bright. If you have a window with reflections you are trying to overpower you might want it that high, but in most settings you probably want to reduce it. The only way to measure that level is with equipment, however.

      • Mike Kofman

        Thanks for the reply! Since I play in a very dark room, I will definetly turn the Brightness down. And Limited seems like the way to go as well (what was weird is when I tried to calibrate the TV using XboxOne’s calibration tool when everything was set to Full, the Closed Black Eye that is used to get the Brightness calibration would disappear…weird right?)

        Ok so additional questions. 1. Does using Game mode make any difference besides the fact that it turnings off all post processing features? Should I use it?

        2. Dynamic Contrast option – I know that everyone states not to use it, but I feel it gives the games a bit more pop and contrast. What is the downside for using it?

        Really appreciate the help!

        • Game mode will disable all processing, so for non-gaming it should be disabled. It will cause jaggies in interlaced content (TV) and when it upscales 720p images, as well as possible color issues since it will bypass some of the internal circuitry for that.

          If you like how Dynamic Contrast looks, then use it. However, they usually work by causing crushing of shadows and blowing out highlights so you’ll lose those details.

  • Tiago

    Great article! I have two questions, if you don’t mind:

    1 – Does YCbCr follows the same logic as RGB? Limited on TV’s and Full on Monitors? I have this option in my Ps4.

    2 – Also, when playing a game, i get some “ghost-like effect” when in darker areas and when I move the camera (the black lines follow the movement). When I put it on Full, this effect is a little reduced, but i get oversatured colors. If limited is the correct for TV’s, could be that this “ghost effect” is caused by the bad quality TV and not by the calibration settings?


    • I don’t have a PS4, but at least on the PS3 there are flags for Limited (with RGB) and Superwhite (with YCbCr). All that Superwhite does is allow Y levels past 240 to be displayed, but it doesn’t change that no blacks below 16 are displayed. There isn’t supposed to be data above 240 (and in a video game there would not be), but in films there can be rare highlights (like sun off of water or snow, or a bright spotlight) that can be past 240.

      The issue with ghosting is something with the response time of your display. Every pixel has a lag when switching colors, and some switch from certain colors to others quicker. So in this case, it is probably that it can change from (random example) 10 to 35 faster than 19 to 46 (since they values are different in Full). Or your eye is just more sensitive to it.

  • Michael

    Chris this is a really helpful article. I was just wondering about my TV in particular. Its a 2014 Sony KDL50W800B, and is specifically catered to PS4/PS3 gamers like myself. Sony also happens to make the PS4. In the TV’s Pro Picture Setup, there is an option to change the Dynamic Range to Full or Limited for each of the TV’s HDMI inputs, which I have done for the PS4’s input. Is it possible that this TV, along with the rest of the BRAVIA series TVs by Sony, are actually capable of displaying the full 0-255 RGB that the PS4 is capable of outputting? This TV was basically designed for the PS4, that’s why I ask.

    • On any TV, I’d still stick to limited for a gaming system. You aren’t losing anything, and you aren’t adding extra complexity by having inputs calibrated totally differently. Just because a TV can do that doesn’t mean that it should do it. It might make it easier to work with a HTPC, which is a benefit, but that’s about it. Limited and Full are there to support both TVs and PC Monitors, and it’s best to stick with the one meant for your display.

      • Michael

        So do all PS4 games does use the 16-235 system? Like blu-ray movies do? And if this is true, do you recommend the Disney WoW calibration disc? I figure if the disc is meant for blu-ray movies, and the PS4 games use the same color standard as blu-ray (16-235), that it would be worth the investment. Is my logic correct?

        • Games use 0-255 but when you select limited, it remaps those down to 16-255. It also adjusts the gamma, which helps to get the shadow details correct. TVs and PC monitors usually use different gamma curves, and using the incorrect one leads to shadows being either too dark or washed out.

          If you use WOW, since it uses the limited color space, it won’t convert from 16-235 if you select limited. If you select Full, it will expand it to 0-255. Since all Blu-ray video content uses the limited range, this is fine. The PS4 will know what to do correct if you select the correct Limited or Full setting.

          • Michael

            I’m slightly confused, but to confirm, I should set the TV’s RGB setting to limited, the PS4’s RGB setting to limited, buy the WOW disc, and calibrate everything properly to get the best (most accurate) possible picture out of the PS4?

          • Set the PS4 to limited and you can set the TV to Full, but it shouldn’t matter. If you set it to Full, it will make values below 16 and above 235 visible, which makes using the WOW disc easier. If you have it limited in the TV, it just won’t display them. You can still set it up just fine, but it might not be as easy.

          • Michael

            But everything related to Full settings is irrelevant because my TV cannot properly display the full 0-255 anyway, because it is an LED TV and not a PC, right? I mean if the TV cannot display this properly there is no point in even using it at all for anything if it is just going to crush the 0-15 blacks and mess up the 236-255 whites? Why is it even an option on the TV?

  • Rom Capprotti

    Chris i have 2 pioneer kuro a 151 elite and a 150 elite should i use 16-235 when watching a Blu-ray movie and set it to auto when I’m watching regular TV?

    • Regular TV only uses 16-235 as well. The only content that goes beyond 16-235 for a TV would be a home theater PC, if not configured correctly, or a video game system when set to full. Correctly fixing that would be to fix those, and not the display, so you can run 16-235.

      • Rom Capprotti


  • MelvinSmiley

    What about pc games on a desktop pc hooked up to a led tv? I have this setup with a nvidia gpu and toshiba tl 938g 4:4:4 led tv and while I understand that limited rgb range is required for bluray and video played from the pc, full rgb range option toggled in nvidia driver colour settings gives me black crush, even though the colours in games look much more vibrant.

    I find this really annoying, if my tv doesn’t support full rgb range it should just say so instead of enabling it with black crush. My Toshiba TV tells that RGB (Full) is enabled when I press HDMI Info (after changing the driver setting). Just wanted to aks what you think about this?

    • If you are getting shadow crush when enabling Full RGB, it’s because your TV is setting the black floor at 16 instead of 0, so those lower 16 values are all coming across as pure black instead of shades of dark gray. Most TVs don’t display values below 16 well, since they aren’t designed to, which is why you should use limited on the TV and calibrate it using a Blu-ray disc with calibration patterns for setting brightness and contrast correctly.

      A TV can accept a Full RGB signal, and it can be useful for calibrating brightness or contrast, but no content should actually use it.

  • Dan3

    But in theroy, if I use my gaming console _solely_ on gaming and my TV is capable displaying 0-255 then I would get better dynamic range by using full RGB. Since games do not contain BTB or WTW data there’s possibly nothing lost.

    • That’s incorrect. If the TV is setup correctly, the contrast ratio would be identical. You are adjusting the black point and white point using the Brightness and Contrast controls, so that peak white output will be the same at 255 or 235, and black level will be identical at 0 tor 16.

      The console will then adjust everything from 0-255 to be 16-235 while you will have the same contrast ratios and light output as if you used full. The only way the contrast ratios would decrease is if you used a limited devices on a screen calibrated for full.

      Also, BTB and WTW only apply when you are using the Limited range. The idea of BTB and WTW do not apply to content mastered in the Full 0-255 range. Unless you are also using a TV for a PC monitor, with a PC that can only do Full, there is no reason to run it Full instead of Limited, it just makes it more complex.

      • Dan3

        Thanks for fast response.
        But you do get more shades of grey with full range, no?
        Games are mastered on PC using full range. It’s the console hardware that remaps the levels if it’s set to limited. If you tell console to output full range then this additional conversion does not take place in display chain.

        • In theory you get 15% more shades of gray, yes. However, since you’re going to have the console outputting the incorrect gamma curve for a TV compared to a PC monitor, those extra shades aren’t going to display correctly even if the TV is in full range. You also aren’t going to notice the difference in real life, and you’re more likely to see fewer shades because the TV is crushing the very dark shades since it isn’t designed to display levels below 16.

  • Darwin Allen

    Fantastic article. I previously had no clue about how the two color spaced differed. Looks like my TV (or at least the mode it’s using for inputs) needs a calibration. It’s washing out my inputs for some reason and blacks are looking quite gray. For example: When running Netflix on the built in TV app it looks great, when streaming it from my Roku or Xbox it looks washed out (both going through my AV receiver / amp).

    Edit: when I pop up my receiver’s audio menu (piped to the TV via HDMI) it looks nice and black. Looks like the issue is actually further upstream. Odd that it’s happening from two separate sources though. Time to start messing around with cables and troubleshooting. Ughh.

    • HDMI cables won’t make a difference, if it works, it works. Unless your signal is dropping out or you’re seeing sparkles/snow, save yourself the money and time testing a cable.

      One possibility is that the Roku has no color space selection, and sometimes it will default to Full RGB on a TV instead of Limited if your receiver or TV has an EDID it isn’t used to. Or since the internal Netflix app is going to use a different picture preset than external inputs, you can check to make sure that both of them are setup correctly.

      • Darwin Allen

        Thanks Chris. It definitely seems to be something along those lines. The cable “idea” was just a shot in the dark. I’ll see what my Google-fu can pull up on the Roku and my particular hardware.

  • Henry

    Adding to 360 discussion, partially in response to Chris.

    Interesting thing is that official Microsoft support site suggests to pick Expanded for HDTV that should correspondend to full range.
    Reference: http://support.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-360/system/improve-video-quality

    Only thing that needs adjustment is HDMI black level that should be on Normal, that is on Samsung displays. Before anything else I did calibrate black and white levels using PC and monitor test patterns. And TV was capable of displaying shades 1-15. There was no black and white clipping in games.
    I don’t have spectrometer to measure actual output levels, but pure visual comparison did not reveal any major gamma differences.

    • I’m not sure who wrote that page for the Xbox 360 support, but before writing this piece I talked to someone that did development for the video section of the 360 and Xbox One. Their recommendation was the same as what I’ve said here: If you’re using a TV, you’re best off using the limited range because it will best match the TV and won’t force you to adjust the settings to be different for other devices.

      If you’re using a PC monitor, then use full (as Brightness on a PC monitor typically changes the level of light output, not the level of black). It’s the way it is designed to be used.

  • Timerider

    I use a PC monitor (Asus MX279H) with an Xbox One, but whenever I try to use the PC RGB setting on the Xbox, it crushes the blacks. The dark gray blocks in the built-in calibration screen are black and I can’t distinguish the whitest sections. Just like it did on my old Toshiba TV.

    • That’s the display not being setup correctly, or not being able to display those. A PC display should be able to, so you should try adjusting the settings so you can see them, but I haven’t used that display so I can’t offer any advice on it.

      • Timerider

        It has a built-in sRGB mode that locks most of the settings and it doesn’t seem to work in that mode either.
        I’ve heard that the calibration screen might be incorrect and that it actually looks correct in a game, but I don’t know. I don’t have a separate calibration disc to test it with. The Xbox does have a color calibration screen that requires a color filter.

  • viruzz

    Im confused a bit, so i found this FULL RGB tester image that if viewed on FULL, you can see every dark square (use the link with your console browser)
    My PS4 on Sony 55w905A TV both set to full and I can see every black square (just like on PC screen)
    When I change both the TV and PS4 to limited I cant see almost half the squares,

    I did the same test on Xbox one (I use it in Limited RGB on HDMI 2 and TV also set to Limited, unlike the PS4 and PS3, Xbox one has broken Full RGB, even if both the X1 and my TV set to Full it wont show half the black squares, just like in Limited mode, PS3 and PS4 work properly and show every square in FULL and half the squares in Limited)

    Here I made a short URL for ease of use with console browser: goo.gl/9zPL7T goo.gl/9zPL7T

    based on this simple test there is clear benefit of full RGB on PS4 and PS3 you can see more shades of black not visible before.
    or im doing something wrong?

    Thanks you

    • iMak

      Do you mean that If I set my PS4 to Full RGB and my Sony 55HX929 to Full RGB, then I should see all the squares? What if I couldn’t see all of them? What adjustments then need to be done in order to see all the squares? Gamma adjustment?

      • MegaFalloutFan

        First check your gamma and then other setting.
        You should see all every square, the first 2-3 might be sort of invisible because of your settings BUT you should see them when you adjust the settings.
        The point is: if you set your TV and PS4 to RGB Limited, then no matter how you play with the settings you wont be able to see all the squares.
        So if you set the settings to full and you checked and verified that you can see all of them, only then adjust your settings.

        P.S. Dont forget to enable the ‘Game mode’ on every HDMI input that has game console or PC connected (if PC used for gaming, if PC used for watching movies then set it to Movie mode).
        Also disable every type of image processing on these inputs, they add Lag also video games are not compressed they dont need no image processing/enhancements, just the basic settings thats all.

        Here is the list of basic things you have to do on every HDMI input that has console or PC for games:
        1. Enable Full RGB on both devices
        2. Enable Game Mode on TV
        3. Disable every type of image enhancer/processing/frame interpolation etc.
        4. In the TV settings find the one that sets Input image size to 1:1 (my Sony has such option, most TVs do)
        5. And the last thing on your list, after you enabled the game mode and disabled everything, now its time to Adjust Brightness, Contrast, Color and Sharpness
        (Sharpness should be set at default value, usually its either 0 or 50% depends on the TV, dont increase the Sharpness in video games, it makes the Aliasing more pronounced and in some cases adds shimmering effect around some objects, so keep ta always at Default value or even bit lower:

        Tip you can decrease the Sharpness to Soften the image and reduce the perceived aliasing around transparent objects and things like fences, grass, tress etc)

        • iMak

          @MegaFalloutFan:disqus Thanks for your input. When I get back home this will be my first exercise. I will report back the my findings. Regards

        • klepp0906

          Oooobviously didn’t read the article.

          No matter how often people tell the kids not to use full, they will anyways.

          By all means, make things more difficult on yourself – it has no benefit whatsoever and only adds complications and potential problems.

          • MegaFalloutFan

            Welcome to the 21 century.
            Time to upgrade your antiquated hardware.

  • sunny

    Hello ur article is great i have learned alot from it thank you very much but i just have a question i have a 2014 sony hdtv 55w800b which has an option for rgb full or rgb limited and i only use my ps3 and ps4 for gaming i dont watch videos or anything i strictly use my systems for gaming only so my question is should i still use rgb limited or full for games? Thank you very much!!

    • Since this comes up a lot, you should leave the console in Limited mode. The main reason to use RGB Full on a TV is that with it set to Limited, it just clips the data below 16 and above 235. With it hard-clipped, it can be harder to set brightness and contrast correctly.

      However, you won’t gain anything in contrast ratio, or dynamic range, by setting the TV to RGB Full and the console to Full. If you are using a PC that you can’t set to video level, then by all means try to calibrate the TV for that. But with a console, the standard limited levels will work best.

      • sunny

        Chris I really appreciate that you took the time to replay thank you very much for your fast response!!! Finally the frustration of full and limited is over thank you! It totally makes sense i will definetely stick to limited on tv+console & from experiencing it myself games seemed to look better in limited but i just wanted to confirm with a professional bcoz i was going crazy with this full limited stuff thank you very much for sharing your great knowledge with us!!! One last question chris if you can tell me should i use this deep color option on ps3 & ps4? When i do use it i see that on my hdtv it says 12bit not sure if its a good thing or a bad thing towards games i was reading in the forums that “keep it off because it can cause some color issues in games”? Thank you once again!!!!

        • Deep Color is an extension to allow for more bit-depth over HDMI. However, nothing uses it on the consumer side (some professional graphics cards can). You’d also need to have a TV that can display 10-bits of color depth instead of 8, and the first models with that are appearing this year. There is also no content that uses it, so there is no reason to enable it. Most companies barely test it, if at all, so it’s only going to cause problems.

      • dejan

        Hi chris, do i need to use full rgb or limited on my pc monitor for games.

        • Use Full RGB if it’s a PC monitor, or you’ll have blacks that are dark gray instead.

  • AL

    What about connecting a TV to a PC? Shall we treat the TV as a monitor if it can accept an RGB 0-255 signal?

    • You should see if the control panel for your video card lets you specify Video or PC levels. If you can specify Video levels, it makes everything much easier.

  • Brandon Ottinger

    I have a Samsung Plasma 3Dtv that has a HDMI/DVI port that I use for my PS4. I set it the full on the ps4 and normal in my TV setting and I have a beautiful picture. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen

  • klepp0906

    Most of this is correct, however towards the end you get hypocritical and debunk your own arguement.

    If your TV supports full, and your console supports full, use full. No reason not to and a larger gamut is potentially better assuming the source supports it.

    • A couple of things:

      – There are no real-world sources that support a larger gamut today. Those that do are coming out later this year and use the DCI/P3 color gamut. The only thing you could possibly use today are photographs taken with a DSLR that supports the AdobeRGB color gamut, and you’d need a TV that supports that, and to calibrate it for that and this is so rare as to just be confusing for 99.9% of people.
      – You can use the expanded 0-255 grayscale range on a TV that supports it, but the problem then is that your content is in the sRGB gamma and not the 2.2 or 2.4 gamma that a TV uses. Since sRGB has a linear gamma below 10% stimulus while the TV would be trying to use a power curve, this is going to wind up crushing all shadow details. Since this gets rid of any benefit of running full range, using the limited output will result in a better image. This will convert the sRGB gamma to 2.2 and result in a better image.

  • Code2005

    Ok how about this
    I have a ps4 and a led samsung tv with game mode turned on and all other enhancements off
    As far as im aware it supports full range rgb ( full vs limmited )
    Now as for calibration
    I have a calibration bluray is there anything diffrent i should be doing like with the brightness and colours ect
    As obv all the calibration blurays are made to make your tv and films/ normal tv like freeview and satellite look good
    So obv since tv and films r limited rbv i take it the bluray caibrations r made for source that only had limmited rgb like a blueray player or usb maybe how do we clibrate a ps4 or Xb1?
    Are the instructions the same?

    • If you have your PS4 set to full-range and use a limited range Blu-ray, it will expand it from 16-235 to 0-255, so the calibration for brightness and contrast should still work fine. I’d still recommend running in limited mode but you can do it this way.

  • This will run you through correcting it (though it’s designed more around forcing 0-255 instead of 16-235, but it works) as I don’t have an AMD card connected over HDMI to test with.


  • Fred C N Fernandes

    Is there a small gadget to convert hdmi limited to full? Wii U doesn’t output full and my monitor doesn’t process limited correctly.

    • I don’t know of anything affordable that can do that. A Lumagen probably can but that costs more than a TV would.

  • kareem

    Hello great information on your website but i am a still a little confused about rgb limited or full because every other forums i go to says if your hdtv supports full then go full since games are rgb full and i read that since ps4 and ps3 is like a pc because they have a graphics card and motherboard so it should be set to full only if hdtv supports it. Ok let me tell you about my tv I have a 2014 Sony hdtv which does have a dynamic range option either i can set to full or limited. Now my ps3 and ps4 i ONLY use these consoles for gaming. For bluray movies i have a seperate bluray player connected and for online movie sites like netflix or youtube i have a internet on my hdtv so i watch them thru my hdtv apps. Now my question is since i strictly use my consoles for gaming which setting is best for playing videogames? I would really appreciate your response! Thank you very much!

    • So if you want to share calibration settings between inputs, you’ll want to run Limited. Myself, I’d run Limited anyway no matter what. When writing this I talked to someone I know that worked on the Xbox development teams (both the 360 and One) and knows as much about the video output on that as anyone. He’d tell everyone to use Limited as well, because there’s no real benefit to be gained from Full, only extra complexity.

      On my own system, as much of a video nut as I am, I’d set them to limited because it’s going to work best with my TV and everything else.

  • John Deltourno

    Hi Chris,
    I’m curious, if a TV set (or bluray player) can’t display the blacker than black bar, is that an issue? I.e., if when we calibrate sets we ensure that we are 1 brightness step above the blacker than black, do we care that a bluray player or set can’t display blacker than black?
    I ask because I have heard the new M series (2015) Vizio’s may not be able to display blacker than black, which I found quite odd. But given the transition in the market right now, it seems to be a decent choice for an inexpensive 4K TV to “get me by” until FALD/HDR, possibly OLED, etc. becomes more main stream.

    • You can calibrate just fine without them, it is just easier if they are there. If you can’t see BTB then the easiest way is to turn the brightness way down, then raise it until 17 appears on a test pattern. Then set contrast, then come back (you’ll have to do this a bit) and fix brightness. There is no reason for anything to crop BTB or WTW but some things still do. It’s easier to calibrate with them there, but not essential.

  • 4:4:4 is a setting for YCbCr and not for RGB. So if you are using RGB Limited and RGB output instead of YCbCr output, it should not matter. However, you can turn it on and it shouldn’t cause any negative effects with the RGB settings.

  • Just BringIt

    Hi Chris, I have some questions for you. I recently purchased the new Sony late 2014 Model 4K UHD 55in TV (XBR55X800B) and was wondering if I should use full or limited RGB Range and automatic or off Deep Color Ouput on my PS4 because my TV is really new only about 6months old since it came out in December, and if I put both settings (RGB Range and Deep Color Output) on automatic, my TV has them on Full and automatic. Does this mean by default my TV has them on those settings for calibration purposes as you said on your article, which is true for majority of the TV’s out there or is it since my TV is 4K and a new higher model Sony television that it does support these black and color levels? Please let me know as I use this console primarily for gaming purposes and secondarily for netflix but I want an answer in terms for gaming. Thanks.

    • sunny

      Hello just bringit, i have a sony hdtv from 2014 as well it is not 4k like yours but 4k has nothing to with rgb full or limited anyways my hdtv clearly supports full or limited under dynamic range settings. But i was told by chris that i should still stick with limited rgb for my ps4 bcoz that is the standard for hdtvs but if you are using ur ps4 with a monitor only then you should choose full.

      • Just BringIt

        thanks for the input sunny. I’ve had my TV for almost two weeks now and have been messing around with the settings. I found settings on it that allow me to put the TV’s RGB to Full and also the Deep Color to automatic, which means on, and when I turned both of these settings on and also RGB range and Deep color on on my ps4, I noticed the complete difference. Before I had discovered my TV’s settings for these two features, and had only the ps4 settings on for them, it was kinda blurry and dark, but when I found out these features were present in my TV and I immediatley turned them on I saw the difference. Not only is the picture clear but it is also a lot better and richer looking with the colors showing deeper blacks and enriched reds, blues, and greens. It produces a better image over all and I made sure of this by turning both the ps4 and the Tv’s settings to limited and off for deep color. When I turned em off, it looked all washed out and plain.

        Bottom Line: If your TV supports it like my does, only after messing around with the settings I was able to find out, then have both RGB full and Deep Color to on. Also, you said that 4k doesn’t matter vs 1080P in terms of rgb full and deep color, let me tell you it does because these newer models TV’s that have 4k also have a butt-load of features that are not on the normal 1080p models. It depends what two models you are comparing and also depends on the 4k model. My TV supports it and I confirmed it also on my Xbox one with the settings to RGB on. The colors are not crushing like they were on my old Sony that came out in late 2011, 1080p 55in.

        I wouldn’t limit myself and my TV’s potential if it can support it put it on; so what if somebody says that it is the standard? Chris did not even take the time to reply to my comment 11 days have passed lol. I figured it out myself. I don’t think he even knows the answer. Monitors are out of the equation when you are talking 4k man. Also, if your TV supports it put it on and compare it side by side by turning it off and on for both your TV if you can find the settings for it. If you cannont find Full RGB and deep color on your TV, chances are your TV does not support those features. But if it is 2014 like you said it probably should if there is no difference between 1080p and 4K in terms of these features like you said but I told you there is and you will probably see that for yourself if you cannot find these settings on your TV.


  • Vitor DallAcqua

    Nice article! But what about the following situation 2013 4k Sony TV used as a monitor using HDMI connection (HDMI 1.4 instead of 2.0)

    The TV only supports 4k at 60hz with chroma subsampling so it’s YCbCr 4:2:0.

    As far as I can tell the TV does reproduce 0 – 255 when set to Full mode. But what is the correct limited or full in this situation? Is this ok for games and movies on pc?

    • Are you using it for a PC and non-PC things? The ideal way would be to set the HDMI output on the PC video card to use the Limited space, so the same settings work correctly on both. This should also account for the difference in gamma between PC and TV content.

      • Vitor DallAcqua

        I’m using a PC for everything, movies, games, youtube etc.

        The interesting part is using this test: http://i.imgur.com/AfO4paZ.jpg

        when I boot the computer straight to 4k 60hz I can’t see anything under the square marked at 16 (tv set to limited). If I still leave the tv to limited and change from 4k 60hz to 30hz I can see all the black levels, also, if I switch back I can still see it. All this with my tv set to limited.

        I believe this test is using 0 – 255 and the nvidia drivers or windows is changing the image to be visible at 16 – 235 level, but I’m not sure.

        • I’m assuming you’re connected over HDMI for this, so the likely reason here is due to chroma subsampling. All video content right now is distributed using 4:2:0 chroma subsampling, so anything in that format the TV might assume is automatically video, and the same with the video card. With HDMI 1.4 bandwidth (10.8 Gbps) instead of HDMI 2.0 bandwidth (18.0 Gbps) you need to use 4:2:0 to get 60Hz at 4K resolutions. So, when you select 60Hz all the content is going out as 4:2:0 most likely.

          Now if you drop down to 30Hz, you can use RGB or 4:4:4 YCbCr instead. In that case, the video card or TV is probably going back to FullRGB and showing all the content but with 4:2:0 it’s automatically assuming it’s video content.

          I hope that makes sense.

          • Vitor DallAcqua

            Yeah, that makes sense. I understand all the problems with hdmi 1.4 and chroma subsampling, specially for games and desktop use.

            The only thing I’m not sure is: should I be seeing under 16 in that picture if the TV is in limited range?

            If I understand correctly your answer I’m seeing it because of a miss alignment of the range between the video card and the TV.

            I’m asking this mostly for games that I believe will use the range that the video card output.

  • Josh Taf

    What if your using a tv as a pc monitor ?

    • If you are only using it as a PC monitor and not for anything else, you have two options. You can calibrate the TV for FullRGB if your TV supports that. It might not, but you can try. Or you can set your PC video card to use the LimitedRGB space. Both Nvidia and AMD cards can do this with the proper settings over HDMI.

      • Josh Taf


  • dave andrade

    Should I check that my video card exports full through HDMI? I initially thought it was my television (Magnavox 40ME324V) – but the general consensus is that new televisions support this (even though I dont see it in the menu, and now I am hearing it can be set on devices/computers? I hook up my laptop to my tv sometimes and I also have a Roku device.

    • Current video cards should do this, and most also give the option to send limited but it can be harder to find. If you know what video card you have, you can Google for it (something like “Nvidia limited rgb”) to find links on how to set it to limited or full.

  • It depends on the TV. Some will expect a 0-255 input, some just have it as a name for the input and don’t really do anything.

  • Paul

    I have a poprcon a400. I can set the output to YCbCr auto. Would this be then converted to RGB in the projector before being outputted. Would there be any difference in Picture quality if when using my PC i outputted in RGB limited and would the projector not need to make any further conversions as it would output in RGB?

    • Eventually everything is converted to RGB because that is what TVs and Projectors use to display images. YCbCr is used because it is a more efficient way to store the data and take up less space.

      The best way to test for picture quality with these two would be with test patterns from the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark V2 Blu-ray disc. It has test patterns that you can compare in RGB and YCbCr modes to see which your TV handles best. You’ll need a device (Blu-ray player, etc..) that can output them in both modes to test it, but that’s the best way to determine for sure which your display does best with.

      • Paul

        Thanks for the quick reply! I am just trying to understand how the video process works for optimal PQ. I am hoping to setup my HTPC with madVR to rival or surpass the Popcorn a400 with VXP, which so far I have been very happy with.

  • Denny

    I want to buy a new TV to replace my monitor, so I hope I can get a TV that can display full range RGB, instead of setting the TV and display card to limited range, since I will watch my PC content on the TV most of the time.

    Are there TVs that can display full range RGB like monitors? If yes, how can I tell if a TV can actually display full range RGB?

    • I don’t test TVs to see if they can handle full range RGB, because home video content isn’t that way and so I have no need to. You might be able to find a thread at AVSForums or somewhere else that does. I know they usually maintain a thread on 4:4:4 chroma subsampling, which is also related to using a computer with a TV.

  • Wayne Botha

    So let me see if I understand this correctly, are you saying the best setting is HDMI Black Level: Low on the TV and RGB Full Range (HDMI): Limited on the PS3?

    • Yes, that is correct.

      • Wayne Botha

        Thank you for the reply. One other question, for Samsung HDTV’s when using the TV to play games on a video game console, what do you recommend between setting the TV to Game Mode or PC Mode (renaming the HDMI1/DVI input to PC). I have heard that this PC renaming “trick” can reduce input lag even more than Game Mode. What would you recommend?

        • On some older Samsung TVs this was the case, but on recent models it hasn’t done anything.

  • omarcominyo

    Just noticed that my new bravia tv (which is set to auto(recommended)) has been selecting Full rgb for all these months and I’ve never noticed any black crush. My old Tv had terrible black crush when I tried full rgb on it once

  • NS22

    Hi Chris, I had a quick question on RGBLimited and Chroma Subsampling 4:2:0 if you don’t mind!

    Basically, I installed a small program that tells me certain information on .mkv video file I analyse with it. If the program tells me the chroma subsampling is 4:2:0 for the video file, is it safe to assume that the file was encoded in RGB Limitied (16-235) dynamic range?

    This as opposed to if the program told me the video file was 4:4:4, which would mean the video file was encoded in dynamic range full 0-255, right?

    I just need a way to tell if a video file is 16-235 or 0-255 is all! Thanks for the help!

    • It’s impossible to say that everything 4:2:0 is limited and everything 4:4:4 is full range RGB. While Blu-ray and HDTV broadcasts are 4:2:0, someone recording one could easily be doing so after it’s converted to 4:4:4 (as it will be in the display before you see it). I can’t think off-hand of any full-range RGB content that would be 4:2:0 so you can probably assume 4:2:0 is limited, but can’t assume that 4:4:4 is not.

      • NS22

        That’s good news then, as I want to stay with 16-235 video files as much as possible (that’s the way my HDTV was calibrated). Thanks for the prompt response!

        By the way, would you happen to know if there is a method in which I can determine if a video file is in the limited range or the dynamic range? This would make everything a whole lot easier!

        • I don’t. You’d probably have to write something to analyze the video files, focusing on areas below 16. Video content can have highlights above 235 (things like reflections of the sun off water or snow). They shouldn’t have them, but they can. But calibrating to account for those rare instances leads to a picture with worse contrast overall for very little gain. And HDR will now fix this.

          • NS22

            I see, makes sense! Well there’s always the option of looking at the video on a PC monitor set to full and also on my HDTV set to limited, then just seeing which video looks more correct and natural. I made sure my Nvidia graphics card allows me to switch between limited and full.

  • jimd

    Problem with Vizio M Series 4k TV: Using Oppo bdp-105 as source, test disc with pluge test will not show blacker then black strip. TV set for YCbCr, Oppo set for same. Have tried Auto settings for both same problem.

    But if I set TV and Oppo for RGB the pluge test calibrates fine. I have heard that Vizio set clip blacker and whiter signals. Does this make sense? Am I still getting “optimal” video using RGB settings? Have not yet had a chance to wring out and compare (night viewing) if YCbCr and RGB show any major differences. Daytime viewing appears to be more or less the same after basic brightness/contrast/color adjustments.

    • I’ll have to see what the settings were for testing here, but blacker-than-black I was able to have appear without an issue. The M-Series will not display whiter-than-white, that’s a known issue with it.

      To know if RGB or YCbCr will have major differences, I’d recommend the test patterns on Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark 2nd Edition. They have a pattern that will show the pixel mis-alignment caused by using one or the other, so you can determine which looks best on your display. Usually it only varies by around a half-pixel or so, but you can check to see.

  • BigRuss730

    Do you have recommendations for certain TV’s? I bought a Sony KDL-32W705B after hearing good things about it on various forums, but when looking at black tester images I am never able to see the top line.

    • iMak

      Did you try to increase the Gamma?

  • Jimmy Otis

    So just to confirm; because I have heard very mixed things concerning Roku 3. Should my Toshiba Rezga be set to limited or full for the roku 3? reading this following blurb I am very unsure whether or not the roku 3 should be an exception to this rule…..any insight would be appreciated, thanks!

    “Roku players just don’t do any level processing, it’s a hands-off policy – or GIGO, if you will. if you make it play content with 0-255 levels, it will output 0-255 levels on HDMI. If the content is 16-235, then that’s what will head to the TV. No stretching or compressing of the levels is done and that’s why there is no setting to change. Roku does not do level processing, so in whatever swing the content you watch is encoded – that is send to the TV. Make sure the TV input is set to the matching studio or full level range – or the TV will squish darkest and lightest colors – or will have grayish blacks and darkish whites, depending which is the mismatch. Given a choice, use 0-255 range content.”

    • The Roku 3 is a weird case where it depends on the set sometimes. I’ve had the Roku 3 work fine on some displays and then on others I have to set it to full RGB because the Roku will crush shadows otherwise. I actually have an email conversation going on with them about this, because it’s very annoying and can make it hard to correctly use a Roku on some displays.

      • Jimmy Otis

        Thanks for the swift reply, Chris. Ah, bummer….Yeah i am still very confused with my 2009 Toshiba Rezga…When I set it to limited the colors are much darker and I have to crank up my brightness +25, for a picture equivalent to “full range mode” and brightness at neutral or “0” but the main purple menu does appear somewhat ‘crushed’…..not sure if this gives any insight into which I should be using? Once the brightness IS calibrated both full and limited look very good so its hard to say.

      • Jimmy Otis

        In any case I would love to hear any info you get on the matter. Think I’ll just use my ps4 set to limited for streaming services in the meanwhile

      • Jimmy Otis

        So odd that there just isn’t a quick simple answer to the question “Does the Roku 3 output Full or Limited RGB range?” Very frustrating. I will leave it at limited for now since I’m not seeing any negativeness in doing so. Would love to know if you ever find an answer about it!

        • EnTerr

          There not being a simple and single answer seems to make sense if indeed as @chrisheinonen:disqus implied, Roku adjusts it’s output range based on what the display reported to it in EDID. And if what was reported was wrong, it makes sense that manual setting might be needed

          • Roku confirmed there was a bug in something it was doing and are working on a fix for it. I’ll update when I get more details from them about the resolution.

          • Ian Gerald

            I purchased the Roku 3600 stick which was just released, and it has the same problem. Fortunately my Panasonic plasma S60 HDMI input can be set to detect both RGB formats. I have also contacted Roku in regard to this issue.

          • Ian Gerald

            Chris, according to a discussion we had a year ago on
            RHT you commented on the RGB issue with the Roku 3. I posted at the
            time (see below), I was having the same problem with my Roku 3600. I have to set my
            Panasonic S60’s HDMI input to full range or auto, (the default is
            limited) or I experience crushed blacks. The Roku is plugged directly
            into my Pioneer AVR, which is pass through. Have they ever addressed
            this issue with an update? I haven’t got any feedback from the Roku
            forum, in regards to a solution, even though there are members who are
            having the same problem. I have also spoke to Tyrone at corporate, who
            said he would investigate the issue, but I never heard back from him.

    • EnTerr

      @jimmyotis:disqus i seem to recognize what you quoted as something that i wrote in Roku forums and it is my understanding of how Roku works but please note i do not work for RokuCo and don’t have the insider knowledge. Ping me if you figure the truth for sure, ditto @chrisheinonen:disqus ?

  • Will Hurt

    I’m using a nvidia shield for a project and need to buy a TV to go with it. The shield only outputs RGB Limited and everything looks washed out on my old TV (which doesn’t have a black level adjustment) do all modern TVs have the ability to display a RGB Limited signal. I’m looking at the Samsung 55inch ue5100 and the odd manual has a setting called

    “HDMI Black Level : Selects the black level on the screen to adjust the screen depth”

    option could this be an RGB limited mode?

    • iMak

      My Sony 55HX929 is now about 5 years old, and I have the option to choose, Auto, Full RGB and Limited RGB. I think with the newer TV’s you should be fine.

    • MegaFalloutFan

      Yes HDMI Black Level is the setting.HDMI Black Level or RGB Full/Limited is relatively new option.
      Every TV by default works in Limited Mode, so if you have old LCD tv that doesn’t have such option it means that its works in Limited mode

  • iMak

    I need to know this as well as I am using PS4 for gaming.

  • siouxchief

    Hi, great article. Does owning an OLED which can do perfect blacks mean I should try using full on the TV and my Nvidia shield which now has this option?

    • Not really, no. You aren’t going to gain any dynamic range (OLED, much like plasma, is limited in maximum light output because of power issues) and the video processing on the LG OLEDs isn’t as wonderful as other sets. I didn’t test it on the OLED I reviewed, but it might further accentuate the black flames issue that occurs in really dark areas if you try to push the black floor down.

      Really, you’ll gain nothing by doing it unless the Shield isn’t processing correctly, but I believe mine does.

      • siouxchief

        Thank you

  • ATk CharLy

    Hello i play ps4 with the asus vp247h. When i choose limited on my ps4 games are dark and when i choose full rgb game are a little washed. Do you know if my monitor support limited or full? Thank you.

    • Computer monitors are all designed to be run in RGB Full. Likely you have the contrast or brightness pushed too far. You can use the test patterns on this site (http://www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/) to set your brightness and contrast correctly, and that should improve the image.

  • NewToAV

    Hi I have a simple question. I am trying to understand the world of video coming from photography and I can’t help but run into this RGB limitation of 16-235.

    I understand other concepts like interlacing/deinterlacing and that in video formats/compression mostly everything is done with a chroma subsampling of 4:2:0.

    So then is this 16-235 another industry standard that comes bundled alongside with 4:2:0 chroma subsampling but is unrelated, existing to reduce bandwidth/data rates further?

    So for example, typical TV content could display limited RGB (16-235) with a chroma subsampling of 4:2:0, interlaced versus PC with full RGB, 4:4:4 and progressive?

    Seems like cable companies would go to many lengths to squeeze out the most economical picture quality possible. (they don’t care about picture quality)

    • The 16-235 range exists as part of the analog video signal domain. 16-235 provides head room and foot room in the signals, since often you’d have a signal that wasn’t at full strength. This also let you use that area for packing in other information such as timing codes. Now with digital video this is no longer necessary, but still exists because of the huge amount of content that exists in this domain. Otherwise everything displayed before the switch would look wrong on a TV without proper metadata to tell it what to do. We’ve really been using this range since the 1950’s, so it’s not a space conservation thing, but more what had to be done. By the time we went to PC imaging, those limitations were long gone.

  • Brandon Doskocil

    Hello. Thank you for a great article! I have a HTPC with Intel HD 4000 connected to a Samsung HU8550. In the Intel Graphics options, I can “turn on” YCbCr output. When I turn this on/off, I get “YCbCr 4:4:4 8 bit” output vs “RGB 4:4:4 8 bit” (this is per my Denon Receiver). I primarily use this HTPC for watching Blu-Ray quality movies, not for gaming. Which would be the preferred mode for movies?

    In addition, in my Samsung TV option, should my black level be set to “Normal” or “Low”. Again, I’m just watching movies, not gaming. Thank you in advance!

    • Uncle

      In PC settings set your TV to YCbCr 4:4:4 8 bit and it will automatically set the dynamic range to limited.

      And your TV Black Level to Low. If you have Automatic option, its better to just once set to LOW and you PC to YCbCr 4:4:4 8 bit.

      BTW this answer is correct for every TV brand and model, even OLED.

  • Axion

    I disagree.
    I have an lg oled b6 and is streaming netflix with my ps3.

    When i sett my ps3 to full rgb and my tv setting to black level high. I see a much more deeper and detailed picture. And set to limited rgb and black level low the image apear more flat and less detailed almost like 3d vs 2d.

    Yes the black in the picture look more grey with full rgb but i see more shadow details.
    Maybe my new modern tv from 2016 can handel full rgb? The articel was written in 2014 so its kind of old.

    So i prefer full rgb with my ps3 and tv.

    • No, with it setup correctly for Limited you would see all the shadow detail and get the pure blacks that an OLED can do. Are you using a disc like the Disney WoW or Spears & Munsil to set brightness correctly for the Limited RGB mode, and disabling any of the contrast enhancing features on the LG? If you’re having to accept gray blacks with the OLED to see shadow details, than the OLED settings are incorrect, having had one here and tested it.

      • azevin

        Chris, thank you for your thorough explanation and engagement, though I must say I’m still a little confused. I have a BenQ HT1085ST projector, running an HTPC and Xbox One through an A/V reciever. Trying to calibrate with WOW. As you suggest, I have the Xbox set to limited. Below you say you can set the projector to PC in order to more easily calibrate (without it you don’t get any daa below 16 so you cannot see the stars and checkerboard in WOW). But, with the HT1085ST, when you switch between “Video” and “PC” it visibly changes the blacks (PC looks a bit more washed out). So should I calibrate using PC and then just leave it, or should I calibrate using PC and then switch back to video, with everything getting a bit darker?

        • The PC will look washed out because it’s now using 0 for a Black floor instead of 16, and you’ll need to adjust the brightness accordingly. If the ST1085 supports Full correctly (which it may or may not, I haven’t tested it) then you can lower the brightness and get the same black level as limited. If it doesn’t fully support it, then you won’t be able to.

          • azevin

            I think I was a bit unclear. The HT1085 HDMI modes are labeled PC and Video for the Full and Limited modes respectively. And I believe the HT1085 is just a HT1075 with a short throw lens. So, Assuming it works correctly then the strategy is to set the pj at full, set the Xbox and htpc to output limited, calibrate with WOW, and leave it like that. Yes?

  • There is a big mistake in this article – most of games designed for consoles and tv and supposed to be in 16-235 limited range, but devs are lazy and when they port games to PC they, in most cases, don’t change post processing tweaked for limited range to full, so in result colors that supposed to be black and white are both shades of grey in most of pc games, they looked washed out and dimmed, like you have a fat layer of dust on display. So for most PC games that came from consoles, you have to use limited color range in display settings, or if its not supported – sweetfx has black levels shader that simply turns full range into limited and restore intended look of game. Even biggest games on pc has this problem due of lazy and incompetent porting, to name few; GTAV and Witcher 3 (try to turn limited range and see how colors bounce and nights actually becomes dark and days becomes light). Movies will also bounce in limited range on pc, the only problem with that – windows UI will still output in full range, which will make colors oversaturated on overburned, I don’t know yet if there is a way to force windows ui desktop to render in limited range, that’s why whenever I start game or movie, I’m selecting limited range and than turning back full for desktop.

  • Dominik

    Hey Chris, great article! Though I still have a serious problem: I use a Xbox one with the lg 24gm77 over hdmi and what I already found out: the pc (rgb full) setting on the Xbox crashes seriously blacks and whites! So I decided to use the standard range (limited) setting on Xbox with that monitor. The monitor itself has no specific setting for the rgb range. BUT: no matter which settings I try with the monitor: the picture either is to bright (this is the issue with the suggested settings of a review-article, where they also serve an specific icc-profile for download, with best settings for this monitor to use with a windows-pc) OR crushes immediately blacks, when I try any setting that darkens the picture. Games I’ve tested are halo ce and halo 2-both anniversary- and gta5. Could you give me an advice or forward me to someone who knows a bit about picture quality in reference to console games (maybe more specific >Xbox games)?! I hope this can put even more quality to this whole threat! Many thanks in advance!

  • Jonas

    If I understand you correctly I should use the limited RGB setting on the game console and on the 4k capable pc and low black levels on my oled tv to get correct colours. But what about the Color Gamut setting on the tv? Should that be set on standard or wide and how does it relate to the black level? And should I really use these settings for HDR content as well? I think HDR content on the ps4 look washed out when using limited RGB and standard colour gamut.

    • HDR I have not tested or researched yet, but will do that and try to get that information added. You wouldn’t want to use standard gamut here because for HDR, you have to use the larger color gamut of Rec.2020, which would be wide. Using Wide with non-HDR content will result in over-saturated colors that are incorrect. So I would set that to Wide, but for full vs. limited I’ll have to actually research how the consoles are handling that before I can tell you for certain.

      • Jonas

        Thanks for your answer! I will use the standard color gamut setting for the pc and the wide setting for the hdr ps4 pro then (as long as there is no hdr content on the pc). Looking forward to hearing your thoughts regarding the full vs. limited question in the future

      • rafallooo8989

        Just for your information – whatever you will choose – limited or full in/console and tv – ps4 pro after enabling hdr in game locks those options and switches to automode – just tested on few models(ju6400,ks7000,ks8500). The same with resolution – ps4 pro in hdr mode ignores everything even when you switching options – everything stay the same. Very useful is video output info in console – u can use that during the game.

  • rafallooo8989

    Got the same dillema – i got ps4 pro and samsung ju6400 which been updated with hdr(although its only 8bit panel). For hdr should i use native color space in tv +full rgb? Or set everything to auto?

  • thelanceleader

    I have a gaming laptop with a brand new Nvidia graphics card. I usually connect it via HDMI to my 1080p LED HDTV. In the video settings menu for my graphics card, when connected to the TV it defaults to RGB, 8 bpc color depth, and Limited dynamic range. I also have the option to switch to 12 bpc and Full dynamic range. When I select the latter, but leave my TV at Limited, colors look faded. But if I also set the TV to Full, colors look brighter, almost iridescent. I also notice that there are more shades of colors than in Limited. If I leave the TV and computer at their default Limited settings, colors look a bit darker and deeper, but also looks like some color gradients are missing. Which of those is correct? I feel like Full on both looks “shinier” but slightly off, while Limited on Both looks “deeper” but somewhat “restricted”.

  • Leonheart

    can I change the HDMI port of PlayStation 4 to PC mode and change the black level to low? Is it alright?

  • LaMaLaWa

    When playing a Full RGB game and video game console is set to Limited, it takes this into account and the gamma curve is adjusted to match.
    Is it some pallette will be lost?

    In correct range settings,
    Is “Play Full range source with Full range monitor” more better than “Play Full range source with Limited range monitor”?

  • dave

    Hi I have a PlayStation PRO and a PC (non 4K) connected to a Sony X930D 4K HDR. Sometime when I am playing a HDR game on the PRO the color will look real washed out. And the game will flicker once in a blue moon. I use the TV as an extended screen. The only way I can solve the washed out color problem on the PRO is to unextend the PC screen; or by turn off Enhanced HDMI Mode on the TV for the PS PRO And then turn it back on.

    I have I have everything set up as Automatic on the PRO. And the TV should automatically detect HDR games and switch to HDR Video from Game mode, which it doesn’t and that’s why the color looks washed out.

    Any tips? Thanks!

  • SuprX BR

    i think this analysis is outdated.. now we have tv with 10bit painel n HDR. i think this change a lot of info.

  • GuestAnon

    The Spears and Munsil disc has a “Clipping” pattern that is supposed to show shaded concentric rectangles within various color blocks. I find that if I set the contrast on my projector high enough to make whites above 235 disappear, the concentric colored rectangles also disappear, leaving a solid color. Is this a problem, or are those color shades also above reference level? (For the record, I have my Oppo blu-ray player set to output RGB Video, but apparently that allows above-reference whites to go through, since my projector will display them when set to allow “super white.”)

    • Those would also be above reference level. I’d be careful to make sure they are all visible up to the required level, as sometimes one color might clip sooner than others. In the case you’d need to lower the contrast ratio until they are all free of clipping until 235, even if that pushes white out a bit.

  • Wetpapertowel

    So you’re telling me that even though I have a full rgb capable tv, a ps4 that will run full rgb, and a game that supports full rgb, I still shouldn’t run full rgb because my tv isn’t a computer monitor? That doesn’t make sense

  • Joshua


    I understand that for movies, the Greyscale range has to be set at 16-235.

    However, usually, if I view a .bmp image of a greyscale on a device, where I had followed the calibration patterns for movies (such as a PS3), then I will see a range on a bitmap image of 0-255.

    The other issus is that, while a test pattern might be labeled a certain way by its authors, if I set a bitmap image to display 16 or lower, then I KNOW that the value is 16, and I KNOW how it is displayed (usually as grey, not black).

    Therefore, my question is this:

    Should I make sure to set it so that, on a PS3 or PC for example, that any BITMAP image presented on a TV/Monitor, with a value of 16 or below is shown as BLACK, or should I see all steps from 0-255 when displaying an image????? (Which is what Lagom website suggests).

    —- Different Video Games have different brightness patterns, with some requesting that black be at 0, and others suggesting 16 (such as older Playstation games).

    Otherwise, while my Skybox might output a film identically to a calibrated PS3 (where there are no flashing grey bars below 16 on test patterns), it is still quite obvious that a BITMAP image will be displayed as 0-255, with all steps visible, hence my utter confusion on this subject.

  • Joshua

    If I put a BITMAP image of a greyscale onto my Blu-Ray player or SmartTV, then should my TV brightness be set so that steps between 0-16 are visible, or obscured?

    • You can’t do that because how a TV or Blu-ray player handles a bitmap can be totally different than how it handles YCbCr 4:2:0 content, which is what video will be.

      • Joshua

        Thanks for reply.
        I think you have hit upon the confusion that I am having.

        The question is: How many black/grey squares should I see when looking at a displayed PC image?

        All of them? Only 16 & higher?

        I’m generally talking about a TV hooked up to a Computer.

        Some Game brightness patterns seem to go for having everything from 0-255 as visible, while others very clearly declare that anything below 16 should be black, hence the confusion and content mismatching.

        On most phones & tablets, an image will be displayed so that everything from 0-255 is visible by default.

        • Cell phones and tablets use full range RGB, 0-255, so video content is expanded to fill that (extra content isn’t added, existing content is just stretched out). A computer hooked up to a TV can do with 16-235 or 0-255, depending on the settings in the video card control panel. If you are setting it to 0-255, content will be expanded to fill that range. If you do 16-235, then all other video content you watch on the TV can use those same settings (including internal streaming apps, a Blu-ray player, game console, etc…) and you won’t have any meaningful or visible decrease in image quality.

          • Joshua

            The other issue is, when presented with an option to calibrate using Calman/HCFR, there is the option to choose between SMPTE (16-235) or FULL (0-255).

            What this does is it displays those colours within a range, as they are presented by the GPU through to the TV

            However, calibrating with ‘FULL’ using FULL on my GPU settings, of course does not look the same as using ‘SMPTE’ with Limited.

            There is the option to calibrate to ‘FULL’, while using GPU ‘Limited’ output, which is presumably what many people do, and what I usually consider doing.

            All in all, there seems to be a big difference between the idea of ‘FULL and Limited range output’ versus actally calibrating your TV or Monitor to either of those standards/ranges.

            What the GPU Limited/Full output does is it lightens or darkens the scale, it doesn’t seem to do much else.

            I understand that a movie should display anything under 16 as BLACK (i.e the same shade as 16).

            Does this this work the same way for video games? Some brightness patterns suggest yes (16-235), and others suggest no (0-255). Does it depend on the game?

  • clyde

    Just wanted to say thanks for the article. It’s great. Many video enthusiasts wonder about these settings!

  • Martin

    Amazing explaining ! Thanks, was actually looking for some detailed description about FULL/LIMITED RGB. But I have two doubts, if I’m using a PC on a TV for playing PC games, Limited is still the best choice ? And what about a PC connected to a Led Projector (LG PW1000G for example) ? Thanks ! Great article.

    • With a PC it depends on how you have the PC setup. With most graphics cards you can set the HDMI output to be full range or limited, and so the TV or projector needs to match that. The easiest would be limited, as then the settings work for all components you connect to it, and any difference between full and limited are very minute and unlikely to ever be seen aside from test patterns.

  • Joseph M Cutcher III

    What if I’m on a PC, playing a PC game (or console port), and i’m recording a video for youtube? Should i still be using Full? or should i record in partial?