This is the age of tack-sharp Ultra High Definition televisions, so why is your TV’s picture so blurry or fuzzy?
You might need a new prescription for your glasses. But if there’s nothing wrong with your eyes, you’ll have to troubleshoot to get the best picture.
1. Remove Sources of Interference
Some LCD blur or ghosting issues result from electrical interference or faulty surge protectors. To eliminate this as a cause, try plugging your TV directly into the outlet without any power strips or surge suppressors in the chain. If that solves the problem, you can try using a different power strip.
You should also try switching off devices on the same circuit as the TV. Any device with an AC motor, such as a fridge, air conditioner, or fan can cause electrical interference. It’s unlikely that these devices would be on the same circuit as the outlet for your TV, but it’s worth checking.
If you have fluctuating power coming directly from your mains, a UPS that filters out these spikes may be the solution, but you’ll need an electrician to check your supply.
2. Is Your Source Low Resolution?
One of the most common causes of a blurry picture on a flat-screen LCD TV (or monitor) is a mismatch between the content’s resolution and the native resolution capability of the screen.
LCD, Mini-LED, microLED, Plasma, OLED, or QD-OLED all use different types of technology to make moving pictures. However, one thing they all have in common is a “native” resolution. This refers to the TV’s grid of physical pixels (picture elements). A 4K UHD TV has a pixel grid of 3840 x 2160 pixels. This is four times as many pixels as a Full HD TV at 1920×1080. So, for every pixel of information in a Full HD image source, the TV must fill four physical pixels’ worth of data.
There are various methods of “upscaling” lower-resolution images to high-resolution displays, and they all have varying levels of success. Going from FHD to UHD is straightforward since it involves making groups of four pixels act as a single pixel. Whenever the resolution of the source image divides evenly into the target screen’s resolution, you’ll get a softer image, but it will still look good.
If the source doesn’t divide perfectly into the target, you may get an ugly smeary result. Many of the fixes listed below can help to fix blurry or fuzzy upscaling results.
3. Change Your Upscaling Settings (Or Your Upscaler)
Various TVs and set-top box devices offer different options regarding how they should scale lower-resolution sources to a higher-resolution screen. We can’t be very specific here because different devices and TVs have other names and menu systems. So you’re better off looking in your manual or online for anything to do with “upscaling” and your devices.
One important tip we can give you is to avoid having the TV itself do the upscaling. High-end televisions may have superior upscaling technology, but mid-range and low-end sets generally don’t have the processing power to upscale with good results.
Instead, if you’re using a connected device like a cable box, gaming console, Android TV, Apple TV, or another similar source, set its output resolution to match your TV’s native resolution. Any upscaling will happen on that device before it reaches the TV.
4. Change Your Streaming Picture Quality Settings
If you are watching a streaming video source (such as the Netflix or Hulu app on a smart TV), then the fuzzy image may have nothing to do with your TV and everything to do with your bandwidth or quality settings.
Go to the picture settings of your streaming app of choice and set your quality and bandwidth usage preference. With some streaming apps (e.g., Disney Plus), you can select the preferred quality while watching your content. Change the quality setting from automatic to a setting that matches what your TV was designed to display.
Bear in mind that your internet connection may simply be too slow to stream at your TV’s sharpest quality. It may also take a few seconds for the stream to switch to the higher-quality mode. There are also different quality “bitrates” within each resolution tier. So although you may be streaming at (for example) 4K, if it’s at the lower end of the bitrate for that resolution, there can still be blurring, fuzziness, or other artifacts in the picture.
5. Is the Source Digital or Analog?
HDMI is a digital image standard, ensuring you get the source’s quality without degradation. If you’re using an analog source, such as a DVD player connected using RCA connectors, there can be a significant amount of interference or signal loss based on several factors.
If at all possible, switch to HDMI instead. Returning to our DVD player example, some models provide HDMI output and have internal upscalers designed to make DVD footage look sharper on modern HDTVs.
6. Try a Different HDMI Cable or Port
HDMI is digital, and usually, it works correctly or not at all. We have seen situations, though, where bad ports or cables can cause snow or other image artifacts. HDMI is built to have a certain level of digital error correction. However, if the amount of electrical interference or damage to a cable or port passes a threshold, it may degrade the image.
One fix for a blurry or fuzzy video is to switch out the HDMI cable or move it to another input on the TV to check if there might be something wrong with the cable or the port.
7. Change The Sharpness Settings
Virtually all modern HDTVs offer a form of digital sharpening. This is usually listed under TV settings alongside contrast, brightness, etc. Use your TV remote control to access those menus, usually by first pressing the menu button.
Lowering the sharpness level will soften the image. It might be that your sharpness setting has softened things so much that the display looks blurry or fuzzy. The answer, of course, is to turn the sharpness up until you’re happy with the result.
Increasing the sharpness filter is also an effective way to deal with blurriness in the source footage. Still, there’s only so much that can be done before the image looks over-sharpened and unappealing.
8. Turn On Blur-Reduction Features
Unlike CRT (cathode ray tube) TVs, all modern flat-screen TVs exhibit a type of motion blur known as sample-and-hold motion blur. In addition, lower-end TVs may have inherent blur as the individual pixels change their state too slowly.
Companies like Samsung and Sony have worked tirelessly to create new panel technologies to combat these issues. If you have an old TV, it may not benefit from the fast pixel response times more recent models can achieve.
As for motion blur caused by the sample-and-hold nature of flat panel technology, there are two main features you can activate to combat it. The first is motion smoothing, also known as frame interpolation. Different TV brands have other names, so you’ll have to look for something that refers to motion, smoothness, or do a web search for your TV model with the term “motion smoothing.”
This feature creates new frames from the existing frames in the video to offer liquid-smooth blur-free motion. This is the much-derided “soap opera effect,” but you may prefer the crispness of this mode for some content, such as HD sports broadcasts.
The second feature is something known as Black Frame Insertion (BFI). This inserts a black frame between every frame displayed on the screen. This makes the TV offer motion closer to a pulsed CRT display, thus defeating sample-and-hold blur. However, this comes at the cost of brightness and vibrancy. Newer TVs don’t suffer as much as older models, but either way, you can switch the feature on and decide which image you prefer.
9. Turn Off Image Post-processing
Post-processing features are all of the things that the TV does to the image before displaying it. TV manufacturers have a “secret sauce” of algorithms that help make images look better, but too much post-processing can leave a soft and blurry image.
Turn off as many post-processing effects as possible, using your TV manual as a guide, and then experiment with the ones that offer the best picture without causing too much blur. Noise reduction may be one of the most important settings to adjust if you’re experiencing a snowy or speckled image.
10. Get a Professional Assessment
If nothing you’ve tried above seems to resolve your fuzzy, blurry TV, it’s probably time to have a professional tech support person look at your TV. In some cases, it may be as simple as replacing a relatively inexpensive component. But if there’s something wrong with the core components of the TV, it’s often not worth the expense to replace those major parts. If your TV is still under warranty, you should refrain from letting anyone work on it, even if it is a minor problem. Instead, have it repaired and replaced under warranty.