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Updated: 16 May 2022

Using, fixing and improving your television: the 7 most common TV questions answered

From measuring the screen to fixing one that isn't displaying anything, here are the top questions people have about using their TV
adjusting TV picture settings

The days of the simple TV are over. Where once there were five channels (four or less if you're old enough), now there are more than 100 along with numerous apps and dozens of other features that make simple TVs smart.

Smart doesn't necessarily mean complex, but more features means more to understand. It's well worth getting to grips with your TV - after all, you've spent a lot of money on it and it would be a shame to miss out on something useful.

We get asked questions about using TVs all the time, so we've picked out the ones we hear most. By the end of this article you'll have a far better understanding about what your smart TV is capable of and how to get it working the way you want it to. And if you already know all the answers, you can bask in the warm glow of self-satisfaction.

Looking to upgrade your TV? We test hundreds of TVs every year - see all our TV reviews to find your ideal set.

1. How do I improve my TV picture quality?

This is a biggie. Picture quality is easily the most important thing on a TV (it accounts for 45% of the overall test score in our TV reviews, don't you know) and taking the time to get it as lovely as possible is time well spent.

The best place to start is to type your TV's name into the tool on our guide to getting the best TV picture. We'll then tell you exactly what settings will get your specific TV looking its best.

If you'd prefer to have a tinker yourself, follow the steps below. Call us mad, but we think this is an enjoyable way to spend half an hour (okay, make that many hours).

  1. Make your picture black and white – turn off any picture enhancement modes and reduce the Colour setting until you get a black and white picture. 
  2. Adjust the brightness – pause a scene in a movie with a lot of dark scenes (something like The Matrix or The Dark Knight). 
  3. Toggle the Brightness – until you can only just make out the detail in the darkest areas. 
  4. Adjust the contrast – find a bright scene and change the Contrast setting until the picture is bright enough to be comfortable to watch, but without looking ‘washed out’. 
  5. Find a compromise – continue to tweak the brightness and contrast while switching between the bright and dark scenes until both feel comfortable to the eye but there’s still detail in the shadows.
  6. Adjust the backlight – not all TVs let you do this, the picture should pop without being lit up like a battlefield (unless you’re watching War Horse, of course). 
  7. Get those skin tones right – pause on a close up of an actor’s face, ideally during a scene with lots of natural light. Turn the Colour setting back up until the skin tones look life-like. A good rule of thumb is to keep going until the actor stops appearing sickly, but not perma-tanned. 
  8. Try your TV’s colour tone presets – some TVs come with colour tone options, such as cool, warm or neutral. Find the one which works best for your particular TV (we find neutral often works best). 
  9. Switch picture enhancements back on – picture modes or enhancement features you switched off at the start can now be turned back on. Some will reduce distortion, others will smooth out motion. The key is to try them gradually and don’t be afraid to turn them off if you see odd-looking results on screen.

2. How do I measure my TV's screen size (and what size TV do I need)?

You've supposedly bought a 55-inch TV, so you pull out the tape measure to prove it. You drag the metal strip across your screen (carefully) and recoil in horror as it's markedly less than 55 inches.

Don't panic, it's unlikely you'd been scammed - instead, you're probably just measured the wrong bit. Rather than width, TV screens are actually measured corner to corner diagonally. The total size doesn't bezels either.

The same goes for smartphones, tablets, laptops, computer monitors and more - essentially, all screens are measured in this way.

And if you're wondering what size of TV is best for you, head over to our TV screen size calculator for the answer.

3. How do I connect a laptop to my TV?

Connecting your laptop to your TV isn't just useful to watch YouTube videos on a TV that doesn't have internet connectivity, it also lets you view videos and pictures (and even listen to music) stored on your computer. Best of all, it's nice and easy to connect the two.

Using a wire to connect them is the simplest method. You'll need an HDMI input on your laptop (if yours doesn't, check out our pick of the best laptops), a similar HDMI port on your TV and a HDMI cable to go between the two.

Next, simply select the correct HDMI input on your TV and you'll see your laptop screen. 

You can use your TV as the sole display for your laptop, or use it alongside your laptop's display.

Don't fancy dealing with more wires? You may be able to connect your laptop to your TV wirelessly, but the process will differ depending on whether you're using a MacBook or Windows laptop, and version operating systems you're using.

See our guide on connecting laptops and MacBooks wirelessly to your TV to learn how (don't worry, it's not tricky)

4. How do I use my phone as a TV remote?

Ask a room of people if they've ever lost a TV remote and you'll see plenty of raised hands. If remotes were alive, David Attenborough would declare their natural habitat to be the side of the sofa, and if it isn't there then you might as well give up. 

If it's truly gone, you may be able to use your phone instead (and even if you haven't lost your remote, being able to control it from your phone is useful).

Most manufacturers have a dedicated app for both Android and iOS that acts as a remote.

If you're wondering why Sony isn't on the list, the bad news is that Sony doesn't offer an official app. However, there are numerous universal remote apps that should work. As with all apps, look for one that's updated often, has a large number of downloads and a solid overall star rating. It's also worth noting that even some of the official apps for other manufacturers don't have high ratings, so it may be best to have another hunt round for that remote or purchase a replacement.

5. How do I mirror my phone screen on my TV?

Just like a laptop, your phone is full of stuff that would look good on your TV. Casting is a solution for some apps, but it won't work for everything. You can just mirror your phone screen. Mirroring essentially displays everything that you would otherwise see on your phone's display, meaning you can view all your apps - and even your phone's home screen - nice and big on your telly.

Before you start, make sure your phone and TV are on the same wi-fi network.

Next, go to your TV settings, look for a screen-mirroring setting (we'll explain what to do if yours doesn't have this feature in a moment) and make sure this feature is turned on.

Now find the same setting on your smartphone. On older phones you may need to download an app, but most newer phones have the app built-in. 

  • Huawei's screen mirroring app is called MirrorShare.  
  • On Samsung phones it will either be called Screen Mirroring or Smart View.  
  • HTC's app is called HTC Connect. 
  • Sony keeps it simple by calling its app Screen Mirroring. 
  • On LG phones, it's called Miracast.  
  • Oneplus phones have Screencast.
  • Xiaomi phones have a casting option in the settings
  • On an iPhone, select screen mirroring from the control centre (you'll need you'll need a TV with AirPlay 2 built-in)

If your TV doesn't support screen mirroring, you can always use a streaming device such as Google's Chromecast, Amazon's Fire TV Stick or, to mirror iPhones, an Apple TV. You'll then connect your phone to these instead, but they plug into your TV so you'll still see your phone screen on the TV screen.

See our guide on the best streaming devices for more.

6. How do I 'cast' content from smartphone or iPhone to my TV?

The casting process is very similar to screen mirroring, but instead of displaying your phone's entire screen on a TV it streams content directly from an app (such as YouTube or Amazon Prime Video). In most cases, casting provides a better experience compared to screen mirroring.

Some TVs have built-in support for casting, but on older TVs you'll need to buy a streaming device such as Google's Chromecast. 

When you've got an app open on an Android phone, look for the cast icon (a square box with the wi-fi symbol in the bottom-left corner):

Press this icon you'll see a list of compatible devices your phone can connect to.

The process for casting from an iPhone is similar, but the icon is different (a square box with a triangle at the bottom) and there are fewer compatible TVs. Ideally you want one that supports AirPlay 2.

Learn more about connecting all sorts of things from MacBooks to sound bars, in our guide to connecting devices to your TV.

7. How do I fix it when my TV has sound but no picture?

There are several reasons why this could happen ranging from minor to catastrophic.

We've listed some troubleshooting steps for you to try, but if they don't work we'd recommend speaking to the manufacturer.

  1. Turn it off and on again. Yes it's the oldest trick in the book, but that's because it usually works. Try unplugging the TV first and leaving it that way for a minute or two before turning it on again.
  2. Check power safe mode. What better way to save power than to turn the picture off? Have a look in your settings for the power save setting and check it's off since this can cause the TV to produce sound but not picture.
  3. Is a connected device causing the issue? Try different HDMI inputs to see if the issue occurs regardless. If you don't have multiple devices hooked up then move one thing to different inputs to test them out.
  4. Is the HDMI cable the issue? Get a different cable and try that instead. They are cheap to buy, usually available for as little as £5 and you don't need to spend more than that.
  5. Factory reset the TV. Sometimes the TV's having a wobble that only getting it back its original state will fix. Go to the settings menu of your TV and look for the factory reset option. You'll likely need to download apps again and add your wi-fi details, but it's worth it if you can actually watch TV.
  6. Is there an issue with the broadcast? Freeview and Freesat aren't free from issue either. If there's any problem with the broadcast then it can account for the lack of picture. Try googling the channel you're trying to watch to see if there's an issue with the broadcast in your area.
  7. More serious issues. A lack of picture could mean a fault with the backlight, the power board or the panel itself. These are things you probably won't be able to fix at home, so give the retailer or manufacturer a call and see if you can get it repaired through them.

If you do have sound, but it's simply not up to scratch, take a look at our guide on how to hear your TV better.