HDTV Setup 2010
For the many, many, merry of you that are unwrapping a shiny new HDTV on Christmas, the elves that run HDGuru behind the scenes have seen fit to find and update this classic Set Up article to make sure your new HDTV successfully makes the transition from boxed potential goodness to HD awesomeness.

We’ll warn you that you should read your owner’s manual first, but no one listens to elves.

1) Get Ready (It, not you)

Most flat panel TVs need to be attached to their table stand. They ship separate to make the boxes smaller, saving shipping money and indirectly the environment (more TVs per shipping container).

Unless your TV is 32-inches or less, we STRONGLY recommend using two people to remove the TV from its box. While larger TVs may seem light enough to lift, if you are gripping them too tight on the edges, you can damage the delicate wires that deliver the signal from the processors on the back to the glass on front.

You also don’t really want to lay the TV down flat, though this is less of an issue than it was. If you’re laying it down on its face, make sure the carpet isn’t going to scratch the glass. Even small objects on the floor could create enough pressure on the face of the TV to cause it to crack. If the unboxing instructions say you can lay the TV flat, then it’s ok, just clear the area first. If the instructions don’t, keep it upright just to be safe.

Try to keep the pressure to a minimum on the screen and on the edges of the TV. NEVER balance or put excessive weight on any one part of the TV, especially the corners. If you crack the glass, the TV is toast. Treat the TV like an expensive, delicate, and expensive piece of glass, which is basically what it is.

Most TVs have handles built into their cabinet. Use them. Otherwise lift from the bottom.

2) Make Sure Your New HDTV is Functional
This will save you a lot of aggravation. As soon as it’s unpacked and supported (such as assembling the table stand and attaching the panel properly by consulting the owner’s manual), connect the power cord to wall AC and power it up. Put the batteries in the TV remote and hit the menu button. If you get an on-screen menu of any kind the HDTV is functional. It probably is, so you can move on to the next step.

After verifying the on-screen menu, proceed to connect the TV to your signal sources.

Note Many of today’s sets conform to Energy Star rules. If your set does, the first screen to appear will ask if you are using the HDTV in a home or (dealer) showroom. Select the “Home” mode for the best-looking image and lowest power consumption. This screen only comes up the first time you connect your new HDTV, selecting the Home mode will automatically place the user settings far closer to ideal than you can get in the showroom mode and save a lot on electrical consumption.

If you can’t get the TV to respond to any thing, try retracing your steps. Check the power cords, check if there’s a hard power switch you missed, check for any lights at all. How about that light switch that doesn’t seem to go to anything. It’s probably controlling the socket you never use, which of course is where the TV is.

3) What You’ll Need to View Programs in High Definition

A) Over-the-air Reception You’ll need a TV antenna connected to the HDTV via the HDTV’s F type screw in connector. Most older antennas will work. If you purchased an HD monitor (not common) then there won’t be a built in tuner. You’ll need…

B)HD Cable You will need an HD cable box or HD Cable DVR. If you don’t have one yet, you can connect the cable from the wall directly into the TV’s F connector. This will let you receive the unencrypted HDTV cable channels (generally the broadcast network stations) provided your new HDTV has an unencrypted QAM tuner built-in (most digital tuner sets do, you need to check the owner’s manual for inclusion and instructions to scan in the channels once connected).

Note: Readers report a number of cable providers are encrypting network broadcast channels over cable, so the direct connection may not yield your local channels. Cable providers are supposed to distribute network channels unencrypted. If this isn’t working, it may be on their end.

C) HD Satellite You will need an HD satellite box and the appropriate dish already installed (check with your satellite provider for more information)

4) To See HDTV
With an HD satellite box or HD cable box you must use either the component video connection cable (YPrPb, colored red, green, and blue) or an HDMI cable. If you forgot to pick one up (we told you!) there is a quick and dirty trick to get you up and running until you get one. Temporarily use an audio/video cable you may have lying around (it came with your VCR, DVD player or other video component). This cable is the one that has three RCA type connectors: a yellow one, a red one and a white one at each end. Connect the yellow one to the Y (green) output jack on the cable/satellite box and the other end to the HDTV’s component video Y input. Then connect the red one to the Pr (red) output jack on the source box and the Pr input on the HDTV and finally connect the white one to the Pb (blue) jack on the HDTV and source box.

Make sure all three are on the same numbered input on the HDTV (i.e. input 3, see owner’s manual for identification of the component video input on the HDTV) With the same numbered input selected on the HDTVs video input via the “input” button on the remote control, you should be able to see an HDTV image once you tune to an HD channel (the “how to” is in the owner’s manual).

Not sure which channels are in HD? Use channel up on the remote untill you see a widescreen HD image (tip- make sure the HDTVs aspect ratio you selected is the “FULL” mode and the source box is in its 1080i output mode)

You’ll need an audio cable too, in order transfer the audio from the source box to the display (unless you are using an HDMI cable and connection).

Why is this just a temporary fix? The audio cables (red and white) weren’t designed to carry video, and are likely losing some of the signal, degrading the image slightly. When you get an HDMI cable it will look a LOT better.

5)Picture Controls
Once you have your HD image on the screen, change the user picture controls. (If the set did not have the home/showroom option mentioned above) manually get the set out of “Vivid” mode and into standard, movie or cinema mode (depending on the set). If you don’t have an input named “movie” the HDTV will have one of the others and any of these will produce a better and more accurate image than Vivid.

This function is usually under Menu button on the remote followed by picture mode setting. Next, use the remote control to turn down the contrast (aka picture) control. If the contrast is set too high, the near-white details will turn totally white and details will be obscured, such as wrinkles on a white shirt.

Adjust the brightness control low enough to get the deepest black possible but do not bring it any lower, or it will bury the dark detail (wrinkles on a DARK shirt). This will require some experimentation by raising and lowering the control to you reach the ideal level. Adjust the color and tint control to produce the most natural, accurate skin tones.

For the best setup, check out one of the calibration discs we reviewed.

Special instructions for new LCD HDTV set owners.
A) Many of the new LCD HDTV have a control that will be new to you. It’s called a “backlight” control. You will need to adjust the backlight control in conjunction with the contrast and brightness controls.
The object is for the set to produce the deepest level of black and natural (not overblown) whites while still maintaining light and dark detail. Here’s how:

Try to get the deepest black, yet still be able to see low level details such as a black suit against a dark background. You must alternate back and forth these to controls; every time you lower the backlight, you will make the blacks darker including dark details. Go back and forth until you see reach the level that the blacks are the deepest, while you still can see objects that are dark or black such as Batman’s costume against a dark sky. If set too dark, much of the costume will disappear into the background. Next, make sure the overall brightness of light colored objects such as a white shirt look correct by adjusting the picture control (also called contrast or white level control). The object is to have an adequately bright picture.

If after raising the contrast control to 100% whites are gray and/or the overall brightness of the image is too dark, you will need to slightly raise the backlight control and readjust the contrast and brightness controls, because they may now need a little more tweaking. On many LCDs, we have adjusted, the backlight control ends up at the low end of the range (around 0-20%) for the best image. The lower the backlight, by the way, the lower the energy consumption.

Remember, the object is to get the best light and dark detail in the image and the blackest blacks. This will provide the highest contrast ratio the set is capable of producing while maintaining fine detail in the light and dark parts of the image.

6) Sit back and enjoy the HDTV experience!

To all our HDGURU and HDGURU3D.com readers, we wish you a Happy Holiday.

To learn more about choosing an HDTV please click here.

For a list of last minute gift ideas, click here.

A list of items not to forget (too late!) Click here.

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