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10 Dec 2021

6 things everyone needs to know to make the most of a new TV

Recently bought a new TV or want to make the most of the one you've got? Here's how
Two people positioning a new TV on a wall

There's no feeling quite like unwrapping a new TV, delicately peeling back that protective plastic and pushing the on button for the first time.

Any new gadget promises improvement, a better experience and an enriched life. With a new TV that promise is a sharper picture, richer colours, warmer sound, faster interaction and whatever new features the manufacturer has thrown into its latest releases.

Thousands of people have or will upgrade to a new TV over the coming months as prices drop to their lowest points, so we've thought of six things (plus a few little bonus ones) everyone should do first when they buy a new TV and get it home.

Even if you haven't just bought a new telly, you can still use our top tips to help you make the most of the one you've got.

Thinking of buying a new TV? Make sure you check out our TV reviews - our tough lab tests mean we can easily help you pick the right model for your budget from hundreds, of all sizes and prices.

Before you start - unpacking your new TV

Most TV manuals recommend having at least two people on hand when unwrapping and setting up a TV - and they aren't kidding. This isn't some precaution, like when Ikea tells you to have an entourage of people to put together a bedside table. TVs are heavy and delicate.

Whenever you're maneuvering the screen, you're likely to need two people to move it around, even if you've just competed in a deadlift competition. That's because you really need someone at either side of the screen to make sure you're not applying too much pressure to one side of that delicate glass.

It's good to have a clean soft blanket on hand in case you need to lay the TV down on it's front too. Some do require this to put the base on.

Right, with that out of the way, hopefully your tremendous new TV is sat on your media unit ready to go.

Planning on putting your new TV on a wall? Find out how to do it safely and securely - see how to wall mount your TV.

1. Position your new TV in the room

Couple putting their TV onto a media unit in a liv

Some people are happy to have their room revolve around the TV - and it will come as no surprise that those of us who look after the TV testing at Which? are of that persuasion. Others have one fixed place in their room where the TV will go and that's that.

But if you can, then it's worth finessing your TV placement for the best picture and sound.

  • Try and have your TV sat directly in front of where you usually sit. This will mean viewing angle is less of a factor and you'll get the best picture and sound.
  • Avoid having your TV in a position where it will have a lot of sun on it throughout the day. Direct sunlight makes its harder to see what's going on and, while opinions differ, it's possible that excessive heat and light could damage the screen. It's unlikely, but if your room gets really hot in the summer and your TV is getting sun all day then it may be worth shutting a curtain or blind to give it some shade.
  • Make sure your TV is far enough away from where you sit. Use our free TV size tool to see the optimal distance between viewer and TV for the best experience.

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2. Connect your devices to the right HDMI inputs

HDMI cable connected to a HDMI input at the back o

Unless you've bought a high-end TV, there's a chance the different HDMI inputs are different versions of HDMI, which can mean they limit certain features of the devices you connect to them.

This issue affects games consoles mostly, which take advantage of higher refresh rates on the screen and advanced HDR formats while gaming. We could go into the nitty gritty or we could just tell you to check your manual to see which HDMI inputs are version 2.1.

If you've got a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S, then make sure you prioritise these devices and connect them to HDMI 2.1 inputs. That way you're enabling things like Dolby Vision while gaming and taking advantage of 120 frames per second for smoother action.

Another thing to look out for is which of the inputs is HDMI ARC, or, more likely, eARC. If you've got a sound bar or home cinema system, then connect it to this input. These clever connections send signals to and from the TV and your audio device, so you don't need multiple cables.

These inputs, particularly eARC, which is common on 2021 TV, are compatible with the latest audio formats, too.

Use our free TV connections wizard to help you get the right setup - see how to connect audio and video devices to your TV.

3. Get your TV's picture settings just right

Someone using the picture settings on their TV

TVs have myriad settings for tweaking the picture and you can get pretty granular with all the adjustments.

How your TV looks is a personal preference, some people like a warmer image, while some people prefer it to be cooler. There's plenty of motion smoothing tech in TVs, too, the sort that make film directors Paul Thomas Andersen and Christopher Nolan baulk, but you should turn them on if you prefer the look.

Our technicians go through this process too and spend hours tweaking the settings to get the most natural, lifelike picture they can. Ultimately, they want the TV to looks its best when they make their assessments and even if you don't completely agree with their picture preferences, it's a great place to start.

You can use our free tool on our getting the best TV picture settings guide - simply type in your TV's name to see what picture settings we recommend. You'll also find them in the tech specs of each of our expert TV reviews.

Bonus: don't forget the sound

TVs have sound modes you can pick from. This is personal, too, and many people choose clear voice modes to make it easier to hear what people are saying: modern shows love a mumble.

There are other modes, too and you may prefer something a bit more bombastic when you're watching action films. Experiment with them and see which one works for you.

If you're using a sound bar or home cinema system then this is a less of a consideration, but it may be worth enabling audio passthrough in the sound settings. This will put more of the sound processing in the hands of your audio device, which is likely to be better at that sort of thing.

Read our guide on hearing your TV better for more tips on getting the sound right if can't always hear everything that's going on.

4. Download some apps and get them organised

TV display showing streaming apps

This is an obvious one and many popular apps will be preinstalled anyway, but go into the app store and have a look around. It's not just streaming apps, you'll find media server apps, games, music streaming and more. Most will be free, so there's no harm in trying them out.

When you download them they will live in your smart menu, or smart home screen. You can usually customise this screen a fair bit, move the apps around so the ones you use most are at the top of the screen.

5. Set up shortcuts on the remote

LG Magic Remote showing app shortcut buttons

You've plugged your devices in and downloaded some apps and now you want to get to them quickly. Many remotes have dedicated buttons for certain streaming apps (often Netflix and YouTube) but some, such as LG's Magic Remote, let you set up your own.

By holding in one of the number buttons the TV can take you straight to an app, input or even a channel in some cases. You can set these shortcuts up in the settings menu.

6. Get some 4K content

Someone watching 4K content on their TV

Almost without exception, TVs look their best when displaying 4K content. Some do it better than others of course, but all the extra pixels at the TV's disposal when displaying this resolution can make for a dazzling, sumptuous picture packed with detail. Missing out on this clarity would be like bringing a packed lunch to a Michelin starred restaurant.

It's a big part of the price and you need to experience it. Try YouTube if you want to see some for free, but your best bet is a Netflix, Amazon Prime or Apple TV+ subscription. Streaming services have the most 4K content available and many have a free trial.

See the best and worst streaming services to help you choose which is best for you.