TV No Nos

There’s lots of things to consider when buying a TV: size, brand, store, and so on. After the purchase there’s even more things to remember to ensure you don’t damage it, hook it up incorrectly, or install it in a way where over time it or you get damaged. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to make sure you’re getting the best performance out of your TV too.

So here are a list of TV No Nos that should maximize your enjoyment and minimize your worry.

Dont Don’t lay your flat-panel flat – Though this is less of an issue than it once was, most brands will warn you against lying the TV face down. This is for a multitude of reasons, mostly of support. TVs are designed to support their own weight in a vertical position. Lay it flat and you could risk damaging the front glass. Damage that, and it’s game over.

The most common incidents of this is unboxing a 42-inch or larger flat panel, tipping the box over, and sliding it out. The pressure points on the Styrofoam packing material could now be pressing on the screen. Bad idea.

The only time I’ve seen a broken flat-panel was when it fell over onto its face while still in the box. So there’s that too, don’t drop it.

Dont Don't F-ConnectDon’t connect with RF – The cable (from your cable provider)  coming from your wall, the big one that screws on, won’t give your TV all the HD channels you (hopefully) get. At best it will give you the unencrypted HD channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX. If you pay for HBO HD, you can’t get that over RF into your TV. You’ll need a cablebox for those.

Unless you have CableCARD, which you don’t. No one does.

Dont Don’t connect with composite – That single yellow cable is Standard Definition only. It can only do 480i. If you want HD, you have to use component (separate red, green, and blue cables) or better yet, HDMI
. HDMI cables don’t have to be expensive.

Dont Don’t expect decent sound – I don’t care what the marketing says, what the box says, or what your brother-in-law Joe says, every TV sounds like crap. All of them. There’s no such thing as a TV with good sound. It’s physics. As the TVs have gotten thinner, the speakers have gotten smaller. A 1″-2″ driver can’t do bass, or even low midrange, and that’s about the biggest driver you can expect to find in a TV. Worst case, you could get a soundbar, which don’t work great but are at least a step up from the sound in the TV. Home Theaters in a Box (HTiBs) are a much better, but your best bet is an inexpensive receiver and some speakers.. For under $1,000 you could drastically improve your sound.

Don’t believe that you “won’t hear the difference.” Everyone can hear the difference.

Dont Don’t mount over the fireplace – Everyone also wants to put their TV over the fireplace. There couldn’t be a worse place to put a TV. For one, it’s going to be like sitting in the front row of a movie theater for everything you watch. Also, if you actually use that fireplace you’re going to cook the TV and coat its internals with soot. But it’s ok that you’re ruining the TV because your neck will hurt so much from looking up at it that you won’t want to watch it anyway.

Dont Don’t mount using wall anchors – or any other way to mount a TV to sheetrock/drywall. TVs are heavy, and drywall/sheetrock is just not going to hold them. Mount to studs or not at all.

Dont Don’t place a sub away from a wall – If you do get an HTIB or soundbar with a sub, don’t leave the sub out away from a wall. You can’t localize the sounds from a subwoofer, so in theory you could place it anywhere. The trick is, they’ll be a lot louder next to the wall, or better yet a corner. You can get upwards of 6 dB boost by placing a sub in a corner, which is a huge increase in output.

Dont Don’t put components in closed cabinets or stands – All electronics generate heat, and as such need adequate ventilation. Some studies have found that even small increases in the temperature of a component decreases its life substantially. This is especially true of receivers and amplifiers, but also true of DVRs and cable/satellite boxes. If you want to put your gear in a cabinet, make sure you invest in some way to get air in and out. Here’s a cool (pun intended) fan from Middle Atlantic, or one from Coolerguys.

Dont Don’t plug your TV or DVR directly into the wall – These are sensitive components, and even small surges of electricity can damage them. A decent surge suppressor is a must, though an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) is even better. Check out our old articles on this here and here.

Dont Don’t leave the TV in dynamic, sports, or retail mode – If you leave your TV in one of these modes, it won’t look as good as it could. It will also be drawing more electricity, costing you money. Use the Movie or Cinema mode for the best performance. Ideally, you’ll get a setup disc.

Dont Don’t settle for optical/coax – If you hooking up your Blu-ray player, don’t settle for an optical or coax connection to your receiver. Optical and coax max out at Dolby Digital, not the higher-resolution formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD. For these you’ll either need HDMI or six analog cables (and a Blu-ray player that has multi-channel analog outputs).

Dont Don’t run with scissors – we warned you

—Geoff Morrison

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