So, you hope to get a new HD, 4K UHD or even 8K UHD TV for Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa or what have you, and you can’t wait to set it up to get the best picture possible in the least amount of time.

The following checklist will help you determine if your new set is displaying the sharpest picture with the best color. Follow along, and we’ll take you through the steps to make sure it’s in shape for optimal Yule Log viewing.

After following the instructions that came with your set to properly install the stand or feet that should have shipped with your display, ensure that the TV is firmly positioned on an appropriately sturdy table or credenza top with no over hanging stand parts or feet. If you plan to wall mount the screen, that’s going to take a little more time and skill, and we will cover that at another time.

If you have an over-the-air TV antenna installed or a suitable set of rabbit ears or equivalent antenna pad, you’ll need to connect that via a coax cable to the antenna input on the back or side of the TV screen. Then you’ll want to go into the setup menu and navigate to the TV tuner settings to perform a channel scan. This will map all of the available channels in your area and present them in an on-screen guide, if supported on your particular TV model.

This is an important and often overlooked step, but one that may be very valuable to you if you don’t plan to have a pay-TV service like cable, satellite or telco-TV. All of the signals received this way will be free, and, if you’ve got robust reception in your area, you’ll have access to some of the sharpest signals possible in 1080i or 720p HD without any additional compression.

If you happen to live out in the sticks somewhere and don’t happen to be within range of a favorite local channel, or any local channels over the air, you might want to check into an app called Locast, which will be available on most built-in smart TV platforms or set-top streaming devices. If your nearest city is part of the Locast supported markets, you’ll be able to view your station(s) for free through this app in very good quality. However, if you don’t want to be bugged every 15 minutes or so, you’ll want to sign up to make a $5 monthly donation to help keep the service going and pay for its legal fight with the broadcast industry, which doesn’t like these OTA singnals redistributed without paying their rather steep re-transmission fees (for signals that are otherwise free over the public UHF or in some cases VHF spectrum.) Another issue for another time.

If you aren’t sure if you have access to over-the-air TV signals at your location, check with and/or your local TV stations for more information about what size and type of antenna you’ll need to receive signals and in which direction to point it.

Cable/Satellite/Telco TV

Of course, due to the difficulties involved with receiving over-the-air broadcasts, a vast majority of viewers instead choose a cable, satellite or telco-TV service to get pay-TV, this can simplify your life a lot, and you likely already pay a cable or telco company for your broadband service if you have an in-home WiFi network. This will unfortunately be necessary if you intend to do any sort of streaming (other than using a hard wired Ethernet connection which still requires a broadband package.) Chances are you’ll get a discount on a pay-TV service if you bundle it with your broadband service. That is, until, the TV fee suddenly rockets up after the trial period elapses. (Again another issue for another time).

If you are getting a new 4K of 8K UHDTV, please make sure you have subscribed to a 4K service tier, if you intend to watch any native 4K/HDR (High Dynamic Range) delivered channels. The type of HDR your pay-TV provider offers (typically HLG, but Comcast does offer baseline HDR10 with some programming) and the type of HDR your new set will support will determine the type of HDR you will be able to view (or not). Mid- to high-end 4K and 8K UHDTVs sold in 2020 support HDR10 and HLG at a base level, so you’ll be good to go, if you have subscribed to a 4K/HDR service plan (make sure or you’ll drive yourself nuts trying to figure out if the show you’re watching in native 4K with HDR or not).

The quickest indicator will be whether you are able to tune in a picture at all on a channel with content marked 4K in the on-screen channel guide. Also, make sure you have the proper set-top box to receive 4K and HDR from your provider. In some cases, not all the set-top devices your cable or installer may have left you will support 4K or HDR, even though one or more other boxes in the home do. It’s good to call your service and find out in advance of watching something that captures you attention.

If you’re after native 8K UHD content, you are going to have to wait a while longer. Other than a few specially produced pieces available in native 8K on YouTube, there still isn’t much available. You’ll have to rely on upconverted 4K and HD content, which most 8K TVs will process and display very well.

If the content isn’t coming to you from the built-in smart TV platform in your set, today, virtually every external set-top device or dongle used to receive HD, Full HD, 4K, 8K or even SDTV content will need to connect to the display using an HDMI cable or directly through an HDMI port. It’s good to know exactly what HDMI features your particular set can handle, particularly if you just got a brand new PlayStation 5 or Microsoft Xbox Series X gaming console to use with it. Also, check you TV operation manual to determine which HDMI ports support 4K/HDR and 8K resolution. Sometimes, only one port will support the full bandwidth required for some of these resolution levels.

Some of the advanced features in the next-generation gaming consoles are going to require sets with HDMI 2.1 ports (or at least some of the HDMI 2.1 features). In certain cases — like high frame rate 4K (120fps) and 8K (60 fps) — a new “Ultra High Speed” HDMI cable is going to be necessary to support a handful of these benefits. Make sure the cable you purchase specifies Ultra High Speed HDMI and/or carries a certification logo verifying “Ultra High Speed.”

If you don’t have an advanced 4K Ultra HD set or an 8K UHD model, you’ll be able to get by with a High Speed HDMI rated version as it can handle most current signal formats. Note that non-High Speed HDMI cables still being sold will potentially cause incompatibility issues with source devices so it’s best to stay away from these. Most installs need at least a two-meter (6 ft.6 inches) or three-meter (9 ft. 9 inches) run. HDMI cables do not tolerate sharp bends well, so make sure it is long enough to accommodate your setup. Amazon sells a great High Speed HDMI Cables at very reasonable prices if you don’t plan on doing any advanced gaming. Note that depending on the source device, display or even AV receiver hub, HDMI cables that are too long will sometimes cause connection difficulties. The shorter the cable, the less likely you are to have any issue now or down the road. Try to stay under 9ft (preferably 8 ft and under), if you can. Otherwise you might have to run more complex cabling to support the signals (another project for another time).

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After the box is connected to the TV, you’ll also need to set the set-top device’s video output resolution via its settings menu. Most large-screen HDTVs have a native resolution of 1080p or 4K 3840×2160, however, since their scaling circuits are generally better than the ones found in cable/satellite boxes, we recommend that any upconversion be performed by the TV. That means you’ll need to set the output of the box to its 1080i/p, 4K or the Native (if available) option. You can confirm you are getting the appropriate resolution signal by hitting the “Info” button on your TV’s remote control (the set might also display the resolution level and the supported HDR format at the top of the screen when the incoming signal is first detected).

Since setting the output resolution of a video service provider’s set-top box is very brand/model specific, HD Guru recommends that you consult your provider’s customer service department for the most specific instructions.

You’ll also need to make sure the cable/satellite box is set to “16:9″ widescreen and not the squarish “4:3″ mode. If this mode isn’t set correctly, you will see a smaller, cropped image on the screen.


Today, more and more of us are viewing a majority of the content we watch via broadband streaming app services. These apps are typically found in an app store library supplied with the TV sets smart TV platform, if the app isn’t already pre-installed in the favorite app home screen screen section of the platform. If you favorite app isn’t on the home screen at setup, you’ll need to go into the app store or library on the TV and find it. Then select it, to have it on the home screen for easy access. Virtually all smart TV platforms operate this way, including Roku TVs, Android TVs/Google TVs, Samsung Tizen TVs, LG webOS TVs, Amazon Fire TVs and others. Keep in mind that some of these apps provide free ad-supported content, but premium services generally charge a monthly fee (unless you subscribe to the service via a pay-TV package. In that case you’ll need to register you TV through your pay-TV provider through the TV app upon the initial launch). Some of the most popular subscription apps with 4K and HDR content options include Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Disney+, and starting Christmas Day, HBO Max. The latter will be premiering the new Wonder Woman 1984 movie in 4K/HDR Dec. 25 so be sure to watch for that.

Ultra HD Blu-ray Players

Another way to get movies in stellar 4K Ultra HD resolution is by using an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. In fact, this may be the best way to watch most movies in the highest available format because it affords much more robust bit rates than streaming services can or will. You can pick up dedicated 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players at a relative bargain right now, but we expect most people choosing this method will do so via one of the next-gen gaming consoles, namely the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, which both include Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drives and supporting move playback software. Again the player or gaming console will need to be connected to the television via at minimum a High Speed rated HDMI cable. Make sure the player’s output settings are set to the maximum resolution of your particular display.

Setting Up A Network Connection

Today, many smart TVs are designed to offer swift painless setup integration with a home network, and in some cases, with a mobile phone or tablet.

In the case of Android TVs, like those offered in some Sony, Hisense, TCL, Skyworth, Konka and others, set up takes place when you first turn on the set. On-screen prompts will take you through the selection of the correct picture and sound settings for the display you purchased. Make sure to select the highest resolution setting that your set is capable of displaying — typically Full HD, 4K UHD or 8K UHD this year.

Other platforms, such as Roku TV, Tizen and webOS are sometimes even easier to set up, including integration of device interoperability via a universal remote control supplied with the television. Most of these remotes even offer voice command operation via Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Bixby, etc (and sometimes more than one or two at a time). This feature is often accommodated by a mic built into the remote.

Each television should step you through the process of setting up the voice control functionality when you first turn on the TV and begin advancing through connection process. Just note, most systems require you hold down a push-to-talk button to pick up your audible commands.

Almost all of these platforms now make it painless to setup a connection to your in-home WiFi network, typically by engaging with your particular brand of mobile phone or tablet. It’s best to follow the on-screen prompts (on both the TV and mobile phone or tablet) carefully while consulting with the manufacturer’s instructions (either in a paper-based quick start guide or an online user manual) to avoid any missteps. We also recommend temporarily unplugging devices with similar platforms in the home, if any, at the set up of the new TV to avoid the new set identifying signals from unrelated devices as its own peripherals to connect to. We’ve found some Android TVs, for example, trying to connect with an NVIDIA Shield TV adapter and its wireless remote used on a television in a different room.

Depending on the device, you may also need to make sure the media adapter is set to “16:9″ and not “4:3″ mode. If this mode isn’t set correctly, you will see a smaller, cropped image.

More on HDMI 4K or HDTV Setup

Note that if you plan to use an external sound device like and AV home theater receiver or a soundbar, you will want to connect the audio component through the HDMI port marked ARC or eARC (Audio Return Channel). One HDMI port on both the TV and the audio component should be identified with a label. Connect the ARC/eARC HDMI port on the TV to the HDMI ARC/eARC port on the audio component. This will allow a bi-directional signal so that video and audio will pass back and forth between the display and audio component. In the case of ARC only devices, you’ll need to plug other HDMI peripherals into a separate HDMI input on the soundbar or AVR and the audio and video signal will output via the HDMI/ARC connection to the television. If both a TV and a sound device have HDMI eARC ports, you’ll be able to connect source devices into other HDMI inputs on the TV, which will act as an input hub, sending advanced audio formats (where available) out to the soundbar or AVR for playback while playing the picture on the TV screen.

This is a relatively new advancement, and one that everyone should try to utilize if they can. It will make your TV enjoyment a whole lot smoother using the latest models.

Picture Modes

To make sure your TV picture setting are optimized for home use, make sure any “home” use mode options are set to on and “retail” mode is switched off. The retail or store mode that many TVs are set to by default out of the box will present an image that is overly brightened to compensate for in-store overhead lighting that can wash out some TV screens. Then make sure you have switched out of any Eco or power saving picture modes, unless you care more about saving electricity more than watching the best picture you can have.

Next, you’ll want to dial in the best “picture mode” for your content and lifestyle. For movie content (and really for most anything else) make a point of avoiding your TV’s following preset picture modes: “Sports”, “Vivid,” “Dynamic” and “Game.” That may sound counter intuitive, but such presets are generally meant to produce an unnaturally bright image rather than a high-quality picture at home. Furthermore, “Game” automatically disengages and locks out motion blur-reduction processing and other circuitry so only use this when you plan to play a game on a video game system. Instead, use modes such as “Movie” or “Custom” to adjust your TV’s picture controls. Another new mode sometimes offered in select TV models is called Filmmaker Mode. Seek this out where ever provided if you watch a lot of movies and would like to view them at home in a way the producer or director intended them to be seen. This setting (as with some brands’ Movie or Cinema picture modes) will disengage things like motion smoothing that works great with live video content but can overly sharpen film-based content, shattering the illusion of a theatrical presentation.

In addition, many OLED and LED LCD TVs with a 120 Hz native refresh rate today can reduce blur in programs with fast motion—football, for example—via a special processing mode. Different makers give these modes different names such as Motion Plus, Motion Flow, etc. If you plan to watch any of the NFL or Bowl games, you might want to go to the picture setup menu and turn motion smoothing back on to get crisper motion when watching sports.

If, however, you plan to spend every waking hour playing video games, then by all means, change the Picture mode to Game Mode. This will brighten the image for more competitive game play, while in some cases enabling new circuitry like Auto Low Latency Mode, Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and other capabilities do reduce frame tearing and greatly reduce lag time.

This should get you started. Please note that after you’ve enjoyed your television for a few days or weeks, depending on how advanced a model you received, you might want to consider having the display calibrated in your home by a professional to ensure you are getting the best brightness, gamma and color adjustments custom tuned to the conditions of your viewing environment and even seating position in the room.

You’ll find a worthy certified calibrator in your area listed on the Imaging Science Foundation web site.


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By Greg Tarr

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