10 Common Mistakes People Make When Setting up a TV

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You’re not getting the most out of your TV. Today’s sets include tons of features to make your viewing experience intense and immersive, but unless you have a Ph.D. in home theater set-up, you’re bound to make some mistakes. Here’s how to take full advantage of your new favorite toy.

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Don’t hang it high.
Hanging the TV over the fireplace mantle seems like such a perfect place. Wrong. The ideal height for a TV is eye level from where you watch it most — sitting on the sofa. While that’s not always possible, keep it as close to that as possible. Similarly, consider viewing angles from secondary spots like an arm chair so that your guests don’t see a washed out picture — most HDTVs have a max viewing angle of 45 degrees.

Don’t miss the stud.
Today’s flat panel TVs are much lighter than those 10 years ago, but you still want to make sure your wall mount hits a stud to keep it securely fastened to the wall. Otherwise, you risk a shattered screen when the unit falls. If you can’t find a stud where you want the mount to be, use dry wall anchors that exceed the weight of the mount and the TV.

Don’t use the built-in speakers.
As TVs got thinner and lighter, the first things to go were decent built-in speakers. If you have space, go for a 5.1 surround-sound system, with an audio-video receiver and center, left, right, and back speakers, plus a subwoofer. Even a soundbar will dramatically improve the resonance of dialogue and effects.

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Don’t pick speakers that are too small.
Sound is as much a part of the experience as vision when watching TV. If you have a 60-inch HDTV, don’t match it with a 32-inch soundbar, or the visuals can outweigh the impact of the audio — bigger is better when it comes to sound, too.

Don’t use analog audio connections.
Many soundbars lack HDMI inputs, the easiest way to get the audio signal from your TV to the speaker. The next best option is optical or coaxial digital audio — they are capable of Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound signals. The old red-and-white analog RCA cables only transmit left-right stereo signal.

Don’t be too sharp.
When your TV arrives, the picture settings will be wrong for your room — every time. You should calibrate the picture to look best in the place you’ll be watching it. If you don’t have time for a full calibration, correct the most common mistake: lower the sharpness. You’d think more sharpness would be a good thing, but it’s the opposite: instead of making the picture more detailed, sharpness set too high introduces artifacts and makes the picture less appealing.

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Don’t leave on “soap opera effect.”
Motion blur happens when action on the screen is faster than your TV can keep up with. To help with this, TV makers created motion smoothing, also known as the “soap opera effect.” The TV adds frames to fill in the gaps, and the result usually makes the picture look less real. You can turn on this effect in the settings on your TV.

Don’t use analog video connections.
Your set-top box likely offers several ways to get the video to your TV. Use HDMI whenever possible to get digital video and digital audio in one cable. If you have to use analog, component video is your second best choice, as it can still transmit HD quality video. Skip the composite option because it can only handle standard definition (480i) signals.

Don’t forget to update your firmware.
If you have a smart TV that connects to the Internet, the first thing you should do after you turn it on is update the firmware (usually found under Settings). Firmware updates can eliminate a lot of the bugs that have been fixed since your model was manufactured. If your TV doesn’t connect to the Internet, check the manufacturer’s site for updates — you can often get the latest firmware and update it through a USB thumb drive.

Don’t cheap out on a surge protector.
One stray bolt of lightning or surge of electricity can bring down your entire set-up. Make sure you get a surge protector — not just a power strip. Look for a surge protector that clamps down a surge to 400 volts or less. And remember to replace your surge protector every few years, as they wear out over time.