If your television’s picture is looking a little dim, you might be inclined to head into the settings and bump up the “brightness”. But that’s actually the wrong setting to mess with.

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Televisions have an awful lot of confusing settings. Not only do you have to watch out for settings that affect things like overscan and the soap opera effect, but you also have settings like “sharpness”, “tint”, and “color” that probably don’t make a whole lot of sense if you’re not sure what to look for.

But there is one confusing setting that rises above them all: the brightness setting.

What the “Brightness” Setting Actually Does

Unlike “brightness” on your phone or computer screen, the brightness setting on most televisions actually doesn’t control how bright or dim your TV is. Instead, it controls the black levels. (A better word for this setting might be “lightness”.)

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Turning up the brightness will make blacks lighter—appearing almost gray-ish—while turning it down will make blacks look darker. This setting is designed to help you calibrate your TV. No matter how much you adjust it, your screen won’t actually get brighter—so it won’t help you see the screen better in a well-lit room.

Use the “Backlight” Setting to Make the Picture Brighter

So how can you make your screen shine brighter, so it isn’t at odds with the sun streaming through your window? There’s another setting that does that, and it’s usually called “Backlight”.

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It might be called something different on your specific model, but on most big TV brands that we’ve tested, including Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Insignia, it’s called “Backlight”.

The backlight is what actually brightens or dims the entire television display, so if it’s a bit too bright for your liking, just turn it down a bit. And if it’s not bright enough, crank it up to a level that’s suitable. However, make sure to leave the “brightness” alone unless you’re re-calibrating your TV’s picture. For day-to-day adjustments, backlight is what you want.

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Craig Lloyd is a smarthome expert with nearly ten years of professional writing experience. His work has been published by iFixit, Lifehacker, Digital Trends, Slashgear, and GottaBeMobile.
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