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The Consumer Electronics Association claims about 22 percent of all HDTVs are purchased for the specific purpose of watching the Super Bowl. But around 1 in 5 HDTV owners end up NOT watching the big game or other programs in high definition due to improper setup (source: The Nielsen Company).

The following checklist will help you determine if your HDTV is displaying the sharpest possible picture. Follow along, and we’ll take you through the steps to make sure it’s in shape for Super Bowl viewing.

There are three ways to watch Super Bowl XLIX in high definition: over-the-air broadcast TV, cable and satellite.


This year’s Super Bowl is being carried by the NBC network, meaning it is being broadcast in 1080i HDTV. Readers with 1080p TVs will see the game converted to their screen’s resolution of 1920 x 1080p for progressive . Those lucky enough to own a 4K Ultra High Definition TV will see the broadcast upconverted to 3840 x 2160 resolution. To receive the game via a free over-the-air broadcast, you will need an antenna (an over-the-air digital tuner is built-in to all  HDTVs and 4K UHDTVs) and live roughly 25 miles from your local NBC affiliate’s transmitter. You will also need to have a line of sight to the transmitter tower. If there’s a building, hill or mountain between you and the tower, you probably won’t be able to get reliable reception. Check with and/or your local NBC station for more information about what size and type of antenna you’ll need to see the game, as well as the direction where you’ll need to point it.


Because of the difficulties involved with receiving over-the-air broadcasts, a vast majority of viewers instead choose cable or satellite to get TV. But you’ll need the right cable or satellite equipment in order to see the game in glorious high definition. First, make sure your  box is a “High Definition” model. (Cable and satellite providers generally supply a standard-def box by default.) Most HD boxes are labeled “HD,” “HDTV” or “High Definition” on their front panel. If you don’t see this info, your box is probably a standard-def model and will need to be replaced before the big game.

You’ll also need an HDMI interconnect—a type that carries both video and audio over a single cable—to link the box to your HDTV. Get a High-speed version as it can handle any current or future HDTV signal format. Retail stores like Best Buy charge anywhere from $25 to over $100 for an HDMI cable. 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 Hi-Speed HDMI Cable in 3-meter ($7.49) or 2-meter lengths ($5.79).

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Cable/Satellite Box Setup

The next step for cable/satellite viewers is to find out from your program provider which channel carries NBC in high definition, as many cable and satellite companies still simulcast a standard-def version on a different channel. Tune to the NBC HD channel and confirm reception. You’ll also need to set the box’s video output resolution via its setup menu. NBC transmits in the 1080i HDTV format. Most large-screen HDTVs screens have a native resolution of 1080p, 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 or the Native (if available) option. You can confirm you are getting a 1080i signal by hitting the “Info” button on your TV’s remote control (the set should display “1080i”  at the top of the screen).

Since setting the output resolution of a satellite or cable box is very brand/model specific, HD Guru recommends that you consult your provider’s customer service department for instructions.

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

HDTV Setup

First, connect the HDMI cable from the box to an HDMI input on your HDTV. You can use “HDMI 1,″  though any HDMI input on your TV will do. Next, select the corresponding input on the TV using its remote control.

To ensure that your set is showing pictures at full high-def resolution, it’s important that you choose the correct aspect ratio mode. All HDTVs have this setting, which is usually accessible via remote control. The setting you’ll want to select should be labeled “Full.” If your set has a sub-control for aspect ratio—e.g., “Dot-by-Dot,” “Native” or “Just Scan”—select that option as well. (The sub-menu in Panasonic TVs lists two options, Size One and Size Two; Size Two is the one you’ll want.)

With the above modes selected, your HDTV will now show the entire high-definition image without cropping any pixels. (Pixel cropping is also known as “overscan,” though TVs technically no longer “scan.”). Aspect Ratio controls on some sets might be grayed-out if the set’s picture mode is set to Vivid or Sports (see below for more information). Also, broadcasters may place data (usually visible as white dots or dashes) at the top of the image. This is normal and not a malfunction of the cable/satellite box or your HDTV.

Many LED LCD TVs with a 120 Hz, 240 Hz refresh rate 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. Go to the picture setup menu and turn this on to get crisper motion when watching sports.  Such modes only apply to LCD models, however. Plasma TVs can deliver a blur-free picture without additional processing.

Picture Modes

Make a point of avoiding your TV’s following preset picture modes: “Sports”, “Vivid,” “Dynamic” and “Game.” That may sound counterintuitive, but such presets are generally meant to produce a bright image in a store rather than a high-quality picture at home. Furthermore, “Game” automatically disengages and locks out motion blur-reduction processing. Instead, use modes such as “Movie” or “Custom” to adjust your TV’s picture controls, ideally using a test disc like  Disney WOW: World of Wonder on Blu-ray  or the THX app for Android/iOS.

Note: This article is an updated version of a previous HD Guru post.


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