Samsung TV HDMI Black Level Explained: Should It Be Low or Normal for Gaming?

Samsung TV HDMI Black Level is set to Auto

Loved the read? Please share or comment, and we'll deliver even better content!

What To Know

  • The Normal HDMI Black Level setting on Samsung TVs offers a balanced contrast and avoids oversaturation, making it better for gaming than the Low setting.
  • The Low HDMI Black Level setting can cause excessively dark images and eye strain, reducing the quality of the gaming experience.
  • The Auto HDMI Black Level setting adapts to different types of content, offering convenience and automatic optimization for a balanced viewing experience.

In this article, I’ll quickly explain how the HDMI Black Level on Samsung TVs affects your gaming experience and whether you should set it to Low or Normal for the best play.

Let’s dive in!

What Is the HDMI Black Level Setting?

Samsung TV HDMI Black Level setting

If you have a Samsung TV, you may have noticed the HDMI Black Level function in its settings menu. This handy feature controls and enhances your HDMI input image’s black levels while also intensifying its brightness and contrast. 

This function pinpoints an image’s blackest areas and seeks to make them as dark and intense as possible, while still maintaining overall balanced contrast levels. 

In short, the HDMI Black Level feature takes your HDMI input image’s quality from good to great. 

While this feature can help enhance movies’ coloring, it’s particularly useful when gaming. Video games’ graphics make up a huge part of their appeal. So, it’s important that they really pop. 

This function intensifies the graphics’ black levels, ensuring they are dark and uniform without looking overly dim. At the same time, it also enhances the brightness so that the game’s details are visible without the image looking washed out or faded.

HDMI Black Level Low vs Normal for Gaming

When enabling your Samsung TV’s HDMI Black Level function, you will be presented with three different levels: Low, Normal, and Auto

Let’s see how these three different levels compare to one another and impact your TV’s graphics.

HDMI Black Level is set to Auto

To have a better idea about how these levels will affect an image in real time, I tested each one on my Samsung TV by connecting it to my PS4 game console. Remember, this feature works with all compatible HDMI input devices (more on that later), not just game consoles. 

a PS4 is connected to a Samsung TV

To really get the full picture, I pulled up several different games on-screen to see how each one was affected by the Low and Normal HDMI Black Level settings. 

As you can see below, the Low and Normal HDMI Black Level settings made a noticeable difference in the same scene. 

Here, I’ve enabled the Low HDMI Black Level setting. Pay close attention to the darker areas of the image. 

Then, I adjusted the HDMI Black Level setting to Normal. As you can see, there’s a huge difference in the right man’s t-shirt. 

a comparison between Low and Normal HDMI Black Level pictures

My Verdict

The Normal HDMI Black Level setting has a better impact on images than the Low setting, as shown in the above example.

While both setting levels enhance an image’s black levels, the Normal HDMI Black Level setting ensures the image’s contrast levels are balanced and does not oversaturate the black levels. As you can see in the example above, the Low HDMI Black Level setting tends to overly darken an image’s black levels, washing out any detail in the process. 

Normal Setting

Let’s discuss how a Normal HDMI Black Level setting affects an image. 

HDMI Black Level is set to Normal on the PES game

Prevents Oversaturation

Oversaturation is often one of the major downsides of any black level-enhancing features, as they can overly darken any black areas and erase subtle details. Thankfully, the Normal setting subtly darkens the black colors without enhancing them to the point of erasing shadows. 

This makes a huge difference when playing games that have an overall dark theme or various shadows, as certain key details or characters may get lost in a sea of black. 

Balanced Contrast

An image’s contrast levels are crucial to its overall appearance. Here, the Normal setting balances a scene’s contrast without degrading the picture quality or washing out any dark areas. So, the light areas remain bright while the black ones look dark and smooth.

It also helps the dark areas look balanced so that they don’t overpower the rest of the scene, making it difficult to decipher details.

Low Setting

Now, let’s look at how the Low HDMI Black Level changes an image’s overall contrast and brightness.

HDMI Black Level is set to Low on the PES game

Darker Image

As you can see above, the Low HDMI Black Level setting excessively darkens an image’s black areas. 

So, dark spots on-screen (like a character’s clothing) can look like a flat sea of black, void of any detail. While you may not care if you can see clothing’s shadow, this setback can make it hard to play certain games, especially ones that involve finding clues hidden in dark areas of the screen, like in a room’s shadowy corner. 

Eye Strain

Do you notice how you have to squint to see certain details when this feature is enabled? This setting can cause you to constantly struggle to see detail on-screen, leading to eye strain. 

Your eyes can become strained from constantly adjusting to an overly dark and shadowy image and trying to focus on certain oversaturated areas of it. Not only can eye strain give you a headache, but it can also take away from your overall gaming experience as you’re trying to simply see the video game, rather than play it. 

Reduced Picture Quality

I don’t know about you, but I judge a game’s overall picture quality based on how detail-oriented and immersive it feels. So, when I enabled the Low HDMI Black Level setting, I noticed that the game felt flat and lacked those specific elements that normally brought it to life. 

The shadows disappeared into the background and the picture quality generally seemed lower, making the game look more 2D and feel less engaging. 

Auto Setting

Finally, we’ll examine how the ever-changing Auto HDMI Black Level setting affects an image’s quality. 

HDMI Black Level is set to Auto on the PES game


The Auto HDMI Black Level setting enhances an image’s black level depending on the input signal. This is helpful if you view various types of content on your TV that have different black levels.

So, if you’re playing a brightly-colored, fast-paced game, like Super Mario, your TV will change its settings to enhance those graphics. Alternatively, if you’re playing a dark-themed and spooky game, such as BioShock, your TV will enhance its black levels while still maintaining a visible level of brightness. 


If you love your games to look as high-quality as possible but hate constantly adjusting your TV settings, the Auto setting is right for you. 

This setting will automatically enhance your TV’s picture according to whatever content you have on-screen, be it bright and colorful or dark and mysterious. So, you can always experience the highest-quality graphics possible without spending hours fiddling with your TV’s graphics settings. 

Why Is HDMI Black Level Greyed Out?

Usually, you can enable the HDMI Black Level setting on your Samsung TV in a few simple steps. However, if this setting is greyed out on your unit, don’t worry. There’s a simple explanation for this. 

Samsung announced that this function only works when your TV is connected to certain inputs. 

More specifically, the HDMI Black Level feature is only accessible when your input signal is set to RGB444.

Otherwise, the feature will be unavailable and can not be accessed or enabled. 

I tested this out by connecting my Samsung TV to my PC (as shown below). 

Display Name is SAMSUNG in Intel Graphics Command

Then, I adjusted my PC’s output color format to YCbCr444

Color Format is set to YCBCR_444

Since the color format was not set to RGB444, the function promptly became unavailable, preventing me from enabling it. 

HDMI Black Level is greyed out

Luckily, changing your device’s color format to RGB will instantly colorize the HDMI Black Level setting. 

Color Format is set to RGB

Now, you can select it and choose which mode to apply. 

HDMI Black Level is available on Samsung TV

This example demonstrates how crucial it is to ensure your input device’s output settings are compatible with your TV. Failure to ensure this compatibility will prevent you from accessing certain features and taking full advantage of your TV’s picture output. 

To learn more about the RGB and YCbCr color formats and how they compare to each other, continue to the following section. 

RGB vs. YCbCr Color Formats

Digital imaging and video (e.g. your TV, PC, etc.) primarily use two color formats: RGB and YCbCr.

Consult the comparison table below discussing how these two formats differ in color, use, bandwidth, and more. 

Aspect RGB YCbCr
Color Components Red, Green, Blue (RGB) Luminance (Y), Chrominance (Cb, Cr)
Primary Use Computer graphics, monitors, cameras, scanners Video compression, broadcasting
Image Rendering Approach Direct color representation; each channel is treated equally Divide the image into brightness (Y) and color information (Cb, Cr)
Suitability Favored for computer applications due to its straightforward approach Preferred for video formats (e.g., Blu-ray, DVD, TV broadcasting) due to its efficient alignment with human color and brightness perception
Focus Amount of each primary color Separating brightness from color
Bandwidth Efficiency Standard across all channels More efficient in certain non-444 schemes

Wrapping Things Up

Is your video game looking a little bland and flat? Try enabling the HDMI Black Level feature on your Samsung TV!

This function instantly enhances an image’s dark areas, making them appear smooth and uniform while also balancing your video game’s overall contrast. 

After testing each HDMI Black Level mode (Low, Normal, and Auto), we found that the Normal mode looked best while Auto was the most convenient for those who play a variety of content. Meanwhile, the Low mode oversaturates images which can lead to problems like eye strain.

If your TV’s HDMI Black Level function is greyed out, make sure your input signal is set to the RGB color format rather than the YCbCr color format. 

What’s your experience using your Samsung TV’s HDMI Black Level function? 

Let us know in the comments below!

Loved the read? Please share or comment, and we'll deliver even better content!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *