How to set up your new TV

This story is part 12 days of advicehelping you get the most out of your tech, your home and your health this holiday season.

Did you get a new tv for the holidays? Maybe it was a Black Friday deal you couldn’t pass up, or maybe there was a really big box under the tree. Anyway, I hope it’s better than your old TV. With all this new TV potential, are you sure it’s set up to perform at its best? A few tweaks can go a long way to ensuring it performs at its peak. Luckily, these setup tips are as simple as they are important.

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Why do you need to do this at all? Out of the box, the TVs aren’t at their best. Stock settings may be correct for this entire product line, but may not be the precise settings for your exact TV. Even just changing the picture mode can make a huge difference. You may or may not need a new cable. You might need a new source, or maybe not. You definitely need to change the picture mode. It’s worth learning more about the different options and why they’re important so you can get the most out of your new purchase.

Most TVs have an initial setup routine where you connect to Wi-Fi, download software updates, and accept the license and privacy notice, but after you are alone. Here’s what to consider next.

An extreme close up of an HDMI cable.

Ranplett/Getty Images

HDMI cables

Almost everything you might want to connect to a TV these days uses the same connection: HDMI.

HDMI cables carry high-resolution images and sound over a small cable. Fortunately, HDMI cables are quite cheap. There are expensive HDMI cables out there, but they don’t offer any extra performance over most cheaper options. Generally speaking, you should be able to get a cable that works perfectly for you. for about $1 per foot.

Your current HDMI cables may be working fine. Many older HDMI cables can handle 4K resolutions. If you’re not getting the resolution you want, or if the picture flickers or drops out, new cables may solve the problem. But if what you have works, getting more expensive cables won’t improve the picture or sound.

See our list of best hdmi cables for 2022 for more information.

If you get a PlayStation 5 or Xbox series X, you probably still don’t need new cables. The exception is if you want to run them at 4K/120, something only a few TVs can handle. If so, it’s worth checking out. Premium certified cableswhich do not cost much more than non-certified cables.

Sources, from cable to streaming to games and sound

Most TVs have built-in smart TV suites for streaming, but in many cases you’ll want to connect other things as well. If you bought a new streaming box or game console, it will probably automatically detect what your TV wants (1080p or 2160p) and send it as appropriate. The same goes for regular 4K or Blu-ray players. For older devices, i.e. a cable or satellite box, make sure it is tuned for 16:9 widescreen video and tuned to HD output.

A close up of the remote control that comes with the Roku Streaming Stick 4K and 4K Plus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Simply because the cable box is capable of high definition doesn’t mean you get HD. Sometimes you have to pay extra to your provider and/or tune to the specific HD channel to watch. For example, at my provider, channel 2 is in SD, while channel 1002 is in HD. This is also true for Netflix and other streaming services. For example, with Netflix, you can only get 4K if you pay for a more expensive streaming tier.

You can also get free hdtv with antennaand 4K over-the-air is already rolling out in many cities.

If you’re trying to route audio from your TV to your soundbar or receiver, you need to follow some specific steps. It has to do with audio return channel, which is by far the most common question I get about modern TVs and home theater setups. Anyway, if you bought a 4K TV, you may need a new receiver anyway.

If you are looking to connect your 4K TV to a computer, here are some things to think about. You can also connect your laptop to your tv wirelessly.

Image settings

A middle-aged couple arguing over a remote control.

“Well actually…color temperature is very important.”

Getty Images/Zero Creation

Once you have everything plugged in, take a moment to check your TV picture settings. Most modern televisions will ask on initial startup whether the television is being used in a home or a store. Pick the one that best suits your environment (hopefully “home”; I don’t know why you would live in a Best Buy).

After going through the TV setup routine, you’ll want to choose the best picture mode for daily viewing. Even if you don’t want to adjust anything else, select the right picture mode long way to make your TV look its best. The CliffsNotes version? The TV will be most accurate (in other words, most realistic) in its Movie or Cinema picture mode. It will appear brighter in its Sports or Vivid mode.

If you want finer tweaks, you can dive into other TV settings. The Backlight and Contrast controls generally adjust the brightness of the image, while Brightness controls how dark the dark parts of the image appear. Turning down control the sharpness of your TV improves its image. A similar simple solution is to adjust TV overscan so you can see the full picture. Yes, your TV may be cropping the edges!

If you want to dive even deeper, check out our articles on how to set up your tv with the naked eye and using a set up blu-ray disc. And if you want to get the most performance out of your high-end TV, consider getting it. calibrated.

The picture settings menu on a TCL P-Series television.

Sarah Tew/CNET

TVs are also sensitive to glare, so if you’re having a problem with light washing out the picture, see how to rid your tv screen of glare. Finally, if you place your TV on a piece of furniture, make sure you know how to prevent your tv from falling.

Your new TV probably has even more settings and adjustments that we won’t cover here, but this should get you started. And if you’re looking for something to watch, check out CNET’s streaming TV insider.


As well as covering television and other display technology, Geoff takes photographic tours of museums and cool locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000-mile road trips, and more. Check out Tech Treks for all of its tours and adventures.

He wrote a best-selling science fiction novel about city-sized submarines, as well as a sequel. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.

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