Avoiding Grief with Your New HDTVIf you just bought, or are going to buy, a new HDTV this holiday season, it’s worth it to read our guide so you don’t make any costly mistakes.

From items to check while you’re still at the store, to simple setup tricks to help you when you get home. Avoid grief, read our guide.

Before you buy

Most people chose where to buy their TV based solely on price. While this is an important factor, it shouldn’t be the only factor.

What is the store’s return policy? Many retailers charge a “restocking fee” if return the product. Often 15% or more, this could be hundreds of dollars in lost money, just because you didn’t like the TV, or want something better.

Buying online is becoming more and more popular, as it should. The Web offers unlimited selection and availability, and almost always lower prices. The so-called “e-tailers” aren’t all made the same, though. Websites like Amazon offer simple return policies (going so far as to pay for return shipping). Lesser-known websites may require you to pay for return shipping. Check our full article Should You Buy an HDTV Online or From a Brick and Mortar Store?

Immediately After Purchase/Bringing it home

If you buy a product in a store, there are some things you should check before you head home. First, check the box for signs of damage. The warehouse guys in most big stores are overworked and underpaid, and honestly don’t care about your TV (why should they?). The box is designed to cushion the TV from mild mishandling, but if it looks like the forklift went through it, you might want to ask for a different one.

If possible, plug the TV in somewhere before you head home. You don’t need to take it out of the box, nor do you need a signal. Just plug in, and see if you get a menu. If so, the TV is probably fine. Any serious damage to the screen will be readily visible. If you get a menu, the insides are likely fine as well.

Getting the TV home is, of course, difficult. TVs aren’t shaped like people, and cars are shaped to fit people. If you’re like most Americans and have a bizarre fixation on sedans, the TV isn’t going to fit in your car. Don’t lay a screen over 40-inches flat in your car. Today’s thin flat screens are designed to carry their weight vertically. Laying them flat can torque the screen, cracking the thin glass. Go over one bad bump, and you could easily ruin the TV. One good scratch, and you’ll be staring at that one part of the screen for years, annoyed.

If you have a sedan, we recommend paying for home delivery. If you absolutely have to take it home yourself, one other possibility is the back seat. This method is still dangerous, but likely better than laying it flat. Stand the TV vertical in the back seat like it was a passenger, with the glass facing the front of the car. Drape blankets over it, and secure the TV with the seatbelts. Have the front passenger watch to make sure the TV doesn’t flop forward. This isn’t great, but it does put most of the weight on the bottom of the TV, and puts minimal pressure on the glass.

Honestly, just pay for delivery, or bribe your SUV-driving brother-in-law.

If you’ve got a truck or hatchback, stand the TV up and secure it without anything pressing on the sides (where a sharp turn could push against the screen.)

If you bought the TV online, when its delivered check the box for any damage, or signs of abuse. Holes in the box (more common than you’d expect) could be obvious signs of damage to the TV… or they could just be a hole in a box. You can refuse a shipment, and if the box looks mishandled, you probably should.

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Call us hoarders, but you should keep the box. They fold flat, though you’ll need to store the Styrofoam insides. If you ever need to return the TV or send it for repair, your life will be much better if you have the box. One manufacturer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told me that their TVs, after initial delivery to the store, only last 1-3 trips. As in: Trip from store to home (1), trip to repair facility (2), repair facility to your home (3). After that, the packing material and the TV itself get jostled too much and the TV just falls apart.

True, your TV isn’t likely to need repair, but what if you move? What if you give the TV to your parents/kids while you get a bigger TV. Modern TVs are very reliable, presuming they sit in one place.

In addition to the box, nearly all TV boxes have plastic clips that hold it together. Don’t lose these, trust me.

Removing the TV from the box is always a multi-person affair. I once tried to remove a 50-inch plasma by myself, torqued it, and caused a single column of pixels to always glow green.

Ideally, you’ll have three people. Two with strong backs and weak minds to heft it, and a third with good eyes and tiny hands to secure the TV to the stand (ideally, assembled before you get the TV itself out of the box.)

Take this opportunity for some cable management. Get some painter’s tape and label both ends of every cable you have. This will save you a lot of time later. If you’re replacing an older flat panel, make a note where each cable goes. A digital camera helps a lot in these situations.

Initial Setup

Once you’ve got all the cables plugged in, it’s time for the big moment. Most modern TVs, before you do anything else, ask you if the TV is at home or in a store. Of course choose home. This puts the TV in a picture mode that is likely to look pretty good at home. The store mode is the old-school “torch” mode that only looks good under store lighting. Avoid.

Now you’re ready to set up the TV. For that, I refer you to our recent TV Setup Article.


Geoff Morrison  @TechWriterGeoff
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