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The 4 signs your HDTV isn't properly configured

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Joel Johnson on the iPad


HDTV is probably the greatest thing to ever happen to the human race. It’s too bad then that a lot of us are ignorantly watching poorly set-up HDTVs. You owe it to yourself to ensure that you’re getting every ounce of enjoyment out of your expensive boob tube. There are a few common problems HDTV owners face and you can quickly diagnose an HDTV with a few simple steps. Don’t fret if you’re living with any of these calamities. Most of the time the fix is just one button away.

Dark scenes look grey next the letterbox’s black bars

Solution: A great way to quickly configure a new HDTV is throw in a DVD or Blu-ray and adjust the contrast so that the black level in the dark scene blend with the black bars left over from the letterbox. You should shoot for as dark as possible while aiming to keep the colors as lifelike and as possible. This may require some tinkering between the contrast and brightness settings.

Most HDTVs also have pre-set colors modes that might be something like Vivid, Standard, Cinema, or Games. More than likely when an HDTV produces different shades of gray instead of true black, it’s because the set is set on Vivid. Change it to Standard or Cinema.

This might cause the TV to look a little dull at first, but these two settings are the most important in an HDTV as it controls the black and white levels. If your TV cannot display the white or black levels properly, every other color is going to be wrong, too.

Color is too bright and causes headaches

Solution: Just like in the first point, the Vivid color mode may to be blamed here. This preset is designed to make the TV’s picture pop and counter a lot of ambient light — perfect for a retail showroom or bright livingroom. It’s a headache-inducing mode if used in dark rooms, though. Thankfully most TV remotes allow these settings to be switched on the fly so it’s easy to switch to a different mode if the lighting changes.

Manually changing the settings might be necessary on some HDTVs, though, as ambient light sensor are found in most mid- to top-tier sets. These little sensors measure the room’s light and adjusts the TV’s brightness and contrast levels automatically. Generally the setting is turn on by default, but the option is often located in the set’s Display or General menu just in case.

Anderson Cooper looks nearly as fat as Oprah

Solution: Some people hate, hate black bars. They look at them as if they killed their first born. But in reality, they are a by-product of a properly configured HDTV.

Those black bars are only present if the TV is showing a picture that isn’t 16:9 widescreen like basic cable. TVs and cable boxes often allow users to zoom in on the picture, but this hardly works well. Most of the time it squishes the picture from the top and stretches it from the side causing everyone and everything to look, well, fat.

Somewhere on the cable box or TV remote there’s a button that controls this. It might be labeled “aspect” or “display mode,” If not, it’s in a menu. Get those black bars back when they are appropriate like non-HD stations. It takes a lot of work to be fit and trim like Anderson Cooper. He doesn’t deserve to look like another fat American.

Standard-definition stations look just as good as high-def stations

Solution: Just because you own an HDTV doesn’t mean the picture is high definition. There is a HUGE difference between standard-def and high-def. It’s obvious. If you’re not that impressed with your fancy new TV’s picture, chances are you’re doing something wrong.

First, make sure you’re getting HDTV either from your cable company or satellite provider. The appropriate HD package is generally extra and should require at least a call to your provider to get it running. Most of the time it requires new equipment and cables, too.

Even DVDs might not look that great on an HDTV. That’s because they were designed to work with standard definition TVs and have a max resolution far less than what HDTV can do. Big movie watchers should look into upgrading to Blu-ray players that can output movies at high-def resolutions. Just make sure the Blu-ray player is connected to the HDTV with an HDMI cable

Did we miss any? If so, drop them in the comments below for the greater good.

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