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How to optimize your new TV

You’re blown away by the image quality of the new televisions at your favorite electronics retailer, but when you take one home, it somehow doesn’t look (or sound) as good as the in-store experience.

Don’t fret. It’s not you or your new TV.

Your new flat-panel (or, perhaps, curved) television just needs a bit of tweaking to get the most out of it. These tips and tricks should help:

Beginner tips: Make sure your main TV source — cable or satellite box — is the best your provider has to offer. If it’s a couple of years old, make sure it’s at least an HD receiver.

If you prefer to get your content online, such as on Netflix, make sure you have a fast Internet connection for smooth streaming, and if it’s offered by your provider, go with unlimited data.

Some people prefer free over-the-air (OTA) service, which you can get from an indoor or outdoor antenna, with many crystal-clear high-def stations to choose from.

Ensure you’re using good cables. You don’t have to go with top-of-the-line HDMI cables, but try to do better than what’s shipped in the box with your TV. Typically, you pay a bit of a premium for thicker shielding, better connectors, longer length, faster speeds and brand. Along with uncompressed video, HDMI cables also carry audio.

A quick and easy way to improve picture quality is to turn up the contrast on your television almost to full and reduce the brightness to below half.

Calibration counts: Rather than spending a few hundred dollars to properly set up your television for you (or up to $25 for a dedicated calibration disc), if you have a LucasFilm, Pixar or some Disney discs in your library, these DVD or Blu-ray movies usually have a calibration tool included. It’s called THX Optimizer, and it can be found in the Special Features or Set Up area of the disc. There are hundreds of movies available with this included.

Simply use your remote to press Enter/Select on the THX Optimizer and follow the wizard to calibrate your home theater’s video and audio settings. The test will take you through contrast, brightness, color, tint, aspect ratio (4:3 and 16:9), speaker assignment, speaker phase and subwoofer crossover.

Another option is the THX Tune-Up app for iOS and Android phones or tablets.

Sounding off: If you don’t have the budget, space or technical know-how to set up a surround-sound system for your home theater, consider one of the newer sound bars to add some boom to your room. Sitting just below or above your television, sound bars ($50 to $2,000) house multiple speakers in a horizontal enclosure and deliver multichannel sound.

Disabling the ‘soap opera’ effect: The “soap opera effect” is really called “motion smoothing” or “motion interpolation,” designed to decrease motion blur and make movements seem more smooth and lifelike.

If you’re not a fan, enter the Settings menu on your television to turn off the feature or, at least, adjust its intensity. It might be listed as “Motion Interpolation” or “Motion Smoothing,” or called something else by the television manufacturer. Samsung, for example, calls it “Auto Motion Plus,” while Sony refers to it as “MotionFlow” and some LG TVs offer “TruMotion.”


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