Get the Most Out of Your New TV With These Tricks and Tweaks
Make sure your new TV looks its best with these easy tweaks.
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Did you snag a great TV deal on Prime Day? No matter what model or brand you bought, a TV can look a lot better if you make a few adjustments. That's because even the best TVs, when you first take them out of the box, don't look as good as they could with some minor adjustments. The good news is, these tweaks are easy, and you don't need any special equipment.
Why is this? The stock settings as applied by the factory are OK for that entire product line, but might not be best for your exact TV. Even just changing the picture mode can make a huge difference. It's possible you might need a new cable, or you might not. You might need a new source, or you might not. It's worth learning about the different options and why they're important so you can get the most out of your new purchase.
Most TVs have an initial setup routine where you connect to Wi-Fi, download software updates and agree to license and privacy notices, but after that you're on your own. Here's what to consider next.
Nearly everything you might want to connect to a TV these days uses the same connection: HDMI.
HDMI cables carry high-resolution images and sound over one small cable. Thankfully, HDMI cables are quite cheap. There are expensive HDMI cables, but they offer no additional performance over most cheaper options. Generally speaking, you should be able to get a cable that works perfect for you for around $1 per foot.
It's possible your current HDMI cables will work fine, though. Many older HDMI cables can handle 4K resolutions. If you're not getting the resolution you want, or if the image flickers or cuts out, some new cables might solve the issue. But if what you have works, getting more expensive cables won't make the image or sound any better.
Sources, from cable to streaming to games to sound
Most TVs have built-in smart TV suites for streaming, but in many cases you'll want to connect other stuff too. If you bought a newer streaming box or game console, it will probably autodetect what your TV wants (1080p or 2160p) and send it whichever is appropriate. The same is true for 4K or regular Blu-ray players. For older devices, namely a cable or satellite box, make sure that it's set for widescreen 16:9 video and set to output HD.
Just because the cable box is capable of high definition doesn't mean you're getting HD. Sometimes you need to pay your provider extra and/or tune to the specific HD channel to watch. For example, with my provider, channel 2 is SD, whereas channel 1002 is HD. This is also true for Netflix and other streaming services. For example, with Netflix you can only get 4K if you're paying for a more expensive streaming tier.
Once you have everything plugged in, take a moment to check your TV's picture settings. Most modern TVs will ask upon initial startup if the TV is being used in a home or a store. Pick the one most appropriate to your environment (hopefully "home"; I'm not sure why you'd be living in a Best Buy).
After you run through the TV's setup routine, you'll want to choose the best picture mode for everyday viewing. Even if you don't want to adjust anything else, selecting the right picture mode will go a long way in getting your TV to look its best. The CliffsNotes version? The TV will be its most accurate (in other words, most realistic) in its Movie or Cinema picture mode. It will appear brighter in its Sports or Vivid mode.