Have you recently purchased a 4K TV thinking you’ve gotten yourself a nice upgrade straight out of the box? Well, you’d be surprised to know that with a little bit of tweaking, you can get an even better result and really get the most of what’s offered by the latest TV technologies.
Modern 4K TV’s come packed with a host of settings and technologies that make for an incredible viewing experience, whether you’re gaming, watching a movie or just enjoying a live sports event. But to take advantage of these new features, you’ll need to run through some quick checks to make sure everything is setup, connected and optimised for the perfect picture.
So to make things easy for you, we’ve created a beginner friendly guide covering everything you need to know to get the most out of your TV.
Positioning is key
Never determine the placement of your TV by the location of your wall socket. There are several things to take into account when finding the ideal location to place or mount your screen.
First and foremost you want to make sure your TV is facing directly at the viewing audience. You want the seating for as many viewers as possible to be directly opposite to the screen and, ideally, eye level with the top of the screen. This will prevent picture distortion of colours and backlight bleeding which will create a poor viewing experience especially if you opt for a curved screen which makes viewing angles even tighter.
Avoid placing the screen where outdoor windows may cause sunshine glare and also take your room’s lighting into consideration by keeping any ambience lighting behind the TV set and ensure it’s not overwhelmingly distracting. If you decide to mount your TV, make sure it’s at a comfortable height and is titled accordingly for comfortable viewing without any head tilt.
Finally, you may want to consider optimal viewing distances. Generally speaking, you’re looking at 1.5-2 times the diagonal length of your screen. So if you’re rockin’ a 40 inch, you’d want to be around 1.7m away from the screen whereas if you had 60″ then you’d look to be around 2.5m away. As this isn’t always possible, you should take your living space and room layout into account but try to use this as a rough guideline.
Your new TV will come with various connections capable of transmitting 4K media. Therefore, it’s important to make sure the cables you use don’t bottleneck the TV’s ability to transmit at maximum quality. You’ll still find that some unaware people continue to use a scart cable to connect their SKY Box to a new TV, unaware that this is going to prevent them from viewing true HD channels let alone 4K.
A HDMI cable will be your standard connection for most modern TV’s capable of displaying 4k video. To be specific, you’d want at least HDMI version 2.0 which support 4k at 60fps. This would allow current 4K Blu-ray players or gaming consoles to display media at full quality. You may also find HDCP 2.2 labelled HDMI inputs on your TV. These are designated to 4k capable devices that use protection technology for 4K media playback.
If you want to future proof yourself you can shop around for a HDMI 2.1 cable which goes up to a resolution of 10k at 120Hz including support for things like dynamic HDR, Enhanced Audio Return (eARC) and Variable Refresh Rates (VRR)!
Audio is often overlooked. But in most cases, HDMI will cover you as it works dual purpose for video and audio. If you have a separate soundbar or surround sound setup you may still be using an optical port which is fairly straight forward. But ideally, you’d want to connect your audio system or receiver to the HDMI port labelled with “ARC” which is the audio return channel connection meaning all audio will be amplified and played by your dedicated sound system from all sources.
The final connection, and possibly the most important, will be your internet connection. Most high-end TV’s will now come with a wireless reader which will provide an “alright” connection assuming your router is not cheap, isn’t too far and is unobstructed. However, we’d strongly suggest you go for a wired ethernet connection which would eliminate any connection problems that come with a wireless signal. This can be achieved very easily with a wireless network extender. Using your home’s power cables, you can deliver an almost lossless signal from your router to any wall socket without any cables and have a direct ethernet connection to your TV.
Do note that for 4K streaming at 60fps with extra features like HDR, you’ll need pretty high bandwidth provided by your ISP. For example, Netflix outlines that to stream their 4K content, you’ll need a steady 25megabit connection. Click here to check your internet speed in megabits if you’re unsure.
Now that you’ve positioned your TV in its perfect location and you’ve hooked up all your devices using the right cables, you can start tinkering with some of the software settings on your TV to fine-tune the picture and achieve the best results for whatever you’re watching.
When you first power on your TV you’ll probably find an “okay” picture across the board for when you watch movies, dramas, sports or play games. But “okay” doesn’t win Oscars, so we’re going to go through a bunch of software settings to get the best picture for each situation. Note that there are some very technical approaches in achieving the most “accurate” colour across various TV sets, but in this guide, we will cover a more understandable approach which everyone can have a go at trying at home.
When you enter your TV’s picture settings, you should immediately come across something called the “picture mode”. This setting will be responsible for the top level colour balance and by default, this will likely be set to something like “normal” or “dynamic” which will do an alright job, but we recommend you switch this to either “cinematic” or “warm” and adjust the levels to your preference to achieve a richer, cinema-like colour space. Note that although cinema mode would be considered a better picture mode, it is meant for viewing in a dark room, so may not be ideal for daytime. We suggest you experiment with the available options and have presets available for viewing at day or night, or for certain types of content.
Contrast, brightness and sharpness
Next, you’ll want to adjust your contrast levels. This will normally come in the form of a slider displaying white details on a black background across a contrast spectrum. An effective way to do this is to find a scene in a film with a sky of clouds and adjust the contrast to a level where details in the clouds themselves become visible without affecting the surrounding contrast negatively.
Brightness should technically be set as high as possible up until it begins overpowering the blacks on the screen. most of the time this will be set at around the midpoint of the scale and would vary based on the TV’s ability to handle brightness based on the backlighting technologies included with the TV. But the general idea is that you want bright whites and deep, dark blacks.
Increasing sharpness would feel intuitive, however cranking it up too much will create artifacts around the edges of objects in the picture and often start ruining the image past medium settings. We suggest you keep this setting low and bump it just enough so that that it doesn’t cause defects to the end image.
Motion smoothing (soap-opera effect)
This feature is often overlooked by unwary customers who pick up a new 4K TV. For those who don’t know – have you ever watched a movie on a new TV and thought, it looks weird with a hyper-realistic motion in the way everything moves, sometimes making a movie look like a soap opera? Well, that’s the result of your new TV displaying the picture frames with high refresh rates or the result of your TV adding in extra frames to emulate smoother playback. If you’ve been watching movies in the past 2 decades you’d be accustomed to the typical 25-30 frames per second which our brain has gotten used to and is trained to give this cinematic feel. With recent advancements, movies can sometimes be produced in 60FPS and TV’s with high refresh rates can display this or even software enhance an older movie to give this unwanted soap-opera effect. This can be disabled under motion processing settings (under names such as Trumotion by LG and Motion Plus by Samsung. And if you’re like me and find this effect bothersome then I’d suggest you do so as well as for unsuspecting victims who don’t understand what’s even happening.
On the other hand, if you’re watching live sports or a drama, you may actually prefer this for a more responsive, live-action feel to the content. So again, if your TV has presets, we suggest you create a separate profile for sports, dramas, movies and gaming.
Technologies worth mentioning
Some TV’s will come with premium technologies that can be enabled to further improve image quality. When searching for the right TV You’ll likely be smacked in the face with loads of marketing fluff that tries to enhance the selling features of little software advantages offered by each manufacturer, most of which will be meaningless to you as you have no idea what it means but it sounds good so you buy it anyway. However, we want you to get the best for your money and there are only a few features worth looking out for that will set apart an average 4K TV from a truly astonishing one so here’s a list of what to look out for and check if your TV uses it so you can enable it.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a feature you must strongly consider when purchasing a new TV – even if it costs that little bit extra. It’s a feature that gives content noticeably improved contrasts and colours enhancing the picture noticeably. This is the overall biggest advancement since 4K hands-down. Look for TV’s that offer HDR and make sure it’s fully compatible with the HDR10 standard and not just some marketing mumbo-jumbo that some manufacturers claim which are misleading software tweaks that try to mimic this technology. Netflix and other popular streaming service have content specially made to take advantage of this technology, and it’s really impressive.
Local-dimming and OLED
Local-dimming is a considerable improvement over the most common edge-lit LED displays. To explain the technology, your TV has a white light behind the coloured pixels so to give your screen brightness. With a single edge LED backlight you will find light bleed from one side of the screen and the reproduction of blacks tends to be poor. With local-dimming LED backlighting, you get LED’s spread evenly around the whole screen so it can light up in areas that require more brightness and turn off in areas that require deep blacks. This is a more accurate way of reproducing blacks and gives more contrast to the picture. On the other side of the field, there’s OLED. Which for most people will still be too expensive to consider but rather than have a backlight to light the screen up, instead, each pixel has it’s own light meaning colour and brightness is an improvement over any other LED backlighting technology.
Assuming you followed this guide, you should be enjoying a much-improved picture from your new 4K TV. If you’re still looking to buy a new TV and want to get the best value for money, we suggest opting for a 4K TV with HDR and local dimming technology. If you have deeper pocket’s then splash out on an OLED and you’ve bagged yourself the best there is.