If you’re investing in a flatscreen that’s going to work hard for the next few years, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting peak performance.
The TV should be installed at eye level when you’re sitting on the sofa. Placing it higher or lower eventually puts strain on your neck and shoulders. You will need to sit at least 1.8 m away from a 102 cm (40”) TV, or else the picture might seem a bit grainy.
2. Upgrade your hardware
To squeeze the most from your screen, upgrade your players. If your DVD player or console can’t connect via HDMI, don’t bother. An acceptable starting point is a Blu-ray DVD player and HD set-top boxes. If you have fast broadband, open an account with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, where most of the content is in HD.
Upscaling means upgrading standard definition video to HD quality. This uses a combination of hardware and software. On budget UHD TVs, it’s often best to allow your player to do the upscaling. High-performing 4K players and TVs have better upscaling potential than low-cost panels. If you have a full home-cinema system, let the AV receiver do the heavy lifting.
4. Bias lighting
LCD TV screens behave differently according to ambient light levels. Because LCD is a backlit display technology (LED lights behind the screen are shone through the liquid crystal layer in order to create the picture) it becomes increasingly torchlike in a darkened room, and blacks will become grey. To improve contrast, try placing a light behind the TV screen. This is called bias lighting.
5. Explore the presets
Your TV usually has a number of preset picture settings. For most content, the Standard (aka Normal or Natural) setting often provides the best starting point. On lower brightness panels, the Dynamic setting can give surprisingly good results too. Cinema modes are designed to be viewed in low light, and can have a slight yellow hue.
6. Contrast is king
Keep contrast high. Many image presets default at 100 per cent, in order to keep pictures snappy. Remember, LED LCD TVs do not suffer from image retention or burn-in, like old plasmas did, so a cranked-up contrast setting is your friend.
7. Optimise audio
Don’t underestimate the value of well-organised TV sound. This can contribute a lot to your overall multimedia experience. TVs have several sound profiles to choose from including sport and gaming modes. The best TVs have a setting that accentuates voices, often called Clear Voice, or something similar. This is useful to hear dialogue in videos when you have the volume turned down so as not to disturb others.
8. Cable over WiFi
WiFi is useful if you can’t run a LAN cable from the router to the TV However, connecting using a cable is preferable as the connection will probably be faster and certainly more reliable, too. Another advantage is that by running a single cable to the TV you could use a simple network hub to split the connection for your gaming console, decoder and other devices too.
9. Sound bar hi-fi
Sound bars have become a popular accessory for TVs. Spend a bit more for a bar with some bass, and you can use your TV like a proper hi-fi. Now, by plugging in a hard drive or connecting to your PC, you can use your remote to navigate your music collection. Some TVs even produce funky on-screen effects to liven up your impromptu house party. For top-notch audio performance, check if you have an optical port on both your TV and sound bar.
As streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix become more popular, it quickly becomes tiresome to type in search terms using the TV remote control. Most wireless keyboards will work with your TV when you plug in the tiny USB dongle. Some keyboard manufacturers are now making smaller models specifically for use with the TV. At a push, you can also plug in a regular USB keyboard, too.
If your remote control dies when your friends are on their way over for movie night, don’t panic. It’s often not immediately obvious, but all TVs have some very basic buttons built in for powering on and off, changing channels and adjusting volume. If you can’t see these buttons, run your finger carefully around the frame of the TV until you find them.