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Why Do 4K Colors/Videos Look Washed Out?


Everyone is talking about 4K video. To many, if a TV or projector can’t play 4K video, it’s not worth buying. 

But with every good comes a little bad. There have been consistent reports of customers buying a 4K monitor or TV, only to find that the screen looks washed out when playing 4K content. 

Here’s everything you need to know about why your videos and colors look washed out, along with a few troubleshooting options. 

Why Does 4K/HDR Look So Washed Out Compared to 1080p?

The technology required to play 1080p videos versus 4K videos is different, which means some televisions need to be set to handle 4K (also known as Ultra High Definition). Therefore, it’s not the TV itself that’s the problem, but rather how it’s processing the video information and displaying it on the screen. 

 

TV with blur image

Tone-mapping is a technique that processes the pixels in an image which helps tone the image, making it more or less saturated (depending on what it needs). If your TV isn’t set to perform tone mapping on the image, it can end up looking underwhelming. 

The TV or monitor needs to process the source information and Ultra High Definition (UHD). Putting an HD signal is a UHD gamut (the range of colors available for the technology), the color will be washed out. 

The good news is, there are ways to fix this. After all, what’s the point of watching 4K if it’s going to be under-saturated? At that point, it might just be worth watching everything in 1080p. 

Possible Ways to Fix It 

Before you give up on enjoying 4K, here are a few things to do to saturate and brighten your 4K viewing experience. 

Check What Kind of TV You Have

Sony 4K Ultra HDR LED Smart Google TV
Click the image for more info

Not all TVs are HDR compatible. If your TV is slightly older or more simple, it may not process the 4K HDR video information, thus rendering the image lackluster. 

The simplest way to check this is to look at the manual. It may also be in the TVs name, as companies like to promote this feature to draw in more customers. 

You can also go into the preferences of your TV and see what picture mode it is in. It will need to either say “HDR-Vivid” or “HDR-Video”. Remember, “HD” and “HDR” are not the same thing, although HD video quality is high enough to enjoy most content comfortably. 

Enable HDR

Is HDR enabled on your TV? Just because a TV or monitor is compatible with HDR doesn’t mean it’s automatically enabled. So, it might be as simple as clicking a few buttons. 

Woman hand holding TV remote in front of TV screen

Enabling HDR will look different depending on what TV you have. Usually, you can go to the Picture Settings and see what resolution your monitor is displaying. 

You can also go to the Expert Settings and enable HDR+. Enabling HDR will brighten your picture and give you that colorful look that many people are left without when switching to 4K content. 

You will not have to do this if you’re watching something in 1080p. It’s only when you switch to 4K that you’ll notice the difference in image quality. 

To turn HDR on for gaming, you will need to go to General Settings and select HDMI ULTRA HD Deep Color. This will need to be enabled on all the ports you’re using to plug in your video game consoles and devices. 

Check What Port You’re Using 

If you turn your TV around, you’ll notice the HDMI ports are labeled in some way. Not all HDMI ports are created equally, even on the same device. 

connect HDMI cable to HDMI port on TV

Typically, a TV will only have one HDR point. Although, if you’re lucky, you’ll exclusively have HDR ports. Check the manual to know for sure. If you threw out the paper manual when you unboxed your TV, you should still be able to find it online. 

You should also check what kind of cable you’re using. Most HDMI cables these days are high speed, but if you happen to pull an old one out of a closet, just double-check what generation it is. 

Typically though, this will not be the cause of the washed out look. 

Adjust TV Picture Settings 

Remember, your TV can play 4K videos well, it just needs to be adjusted to process the information correctly. 

Another way to troubleshoot this issue is by going into your picture settings. As previously mentioned, you will need to check that HDR is enabled. Afterward, see what picture mode you’re playing in. It either needs to be in Standard or Movie Mode. 

a 4K Ultra HD TV

Hopefully, this should change the appearance of your display for the better. 

You can also go into the color settings and expand the colors, allowing your TV to display a wider range of hues. You may have to manually change the colors. We recommend writing down the original color settings if you make a mistake and need to revert them.

You may also see the option ‘expand gamut’. If you do, select it. This will allow the 4K gamut to be processed and displayed properly. From there everything should look clear, bright, and colorful. 

Wrapping Things Up 

Having to play around with your TV settings and HDMI ports is annoying, but it will help you get the best image quality. 4K images should be bright, realistic, and incredibly clear. If you find that you’re underwhelmed with the 4K display, we encourage you to look at your settings and see if everything is in order. 

Also double check what kind of TV you have and if it’s even compatible with HDR. If not, you may be better off watching videos in 1080p. 

Manually adjusting the colors might prove finicky, so adjust them a little at a time, checking the image quality in between adjustments. 

Have you found that 4K looks washed out on your display? Do you have any tips or tricks to fix that? Let us know in the comments below. 

Good luck!


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