How to Install Your HDTV

Setting up your HDTV involves more than just plugging it into the wall - we go through the basics

Bringing home your shiny new HDTV is just the beginning of your home theater adventure. But don't settle, as many HDTV buyers do, for just plugging your new set into your existing setup. The next steps you need to take after bringing your HDTV home are crucial to both your enjoyment of the set and getting the most out of your investment.

The first step you'll take is deciding where to place your new set. This is critical, as placement will affect your enjoyment of your new purchase. In addition to selecting the proper spot and viewing distance for your new HDTV, you'll also need to know how to best care for your set, and how to handle power fluctuations if they crop up. These tips will help you manage the process of getting the biggest piece of your new home theater in place and ready for action.

Find the Right Distance

If you were planning to mount your new set over the fireplace, stop right now. Not only will your neck get permanently cricked from looking upward, but you'll likely be seated too far from your HDTV to see all those pixels you paid for.

The experts vary in their recommended HDTV seating distance, but in general it will be closer than you think. For a 42-inch 1080p TV, the pros at entertainment technology company THX recommend a viewing distance of about 4.2 to 6.5 feet, or 5 to 7.5 feet for a 50-inch screen. The HD Guru's calculations are similar--the site suggests 5.5 and 6.5 feet, respectively.

The closer you sit to your HDTV, the wider the viewing angle you will get, and the more immersive your experience. This is the same effect you get in a movie theater. If you sit in the first row, your visual field will be completely filled by the screen, perhaps overly so. Sit in the back row, and immersion will be much less. THX's distance recommendations are based on a viewing angle of about 40 degrees.

For HDTVs, you also need to consider the distance at which you will start to see the pixel structure or scan lines on your TV, which will limit how close you can get. The lower the overall resolution of your picture, the farther away you will need to be to avoid seeing these lines. For this reason, it's best to sit farther away when viewing 480i/480p or 720p sources on your HDTV than when you are viewing 1080i or 1080p.

When placing your TV, you should consider speaker placement as well (more on that in the Audio section).

See Eye to Eye With Your TV

Whether you choose a wall mount or a stand, keep your screen at eye level, and away from direct sunlight or light fixtures that can cause reflections or picture washouts. When buying a wall mount, consider how well it extends, tilts, turns, fits between the studs in your house and manages cables. Also make sure that the mount can support the weight of your TV.

Articulating mounting arms like the OmniMount UCL-L allow the TV to move in and out, up and down, and side to side, so you can view it from a variety of seating locations. This type of wall mount is also perfect for TVs installed at the back of deep bookcases, as you can pull the TV clear of the sides of the cabinet when viewing.

If you rent or just don't want to make holes in your walls, you can find pedestals that look like wall mounts. This sort of mount fits behind your existing furniture. Most online sellers have configurators that tell you which mounts will best support your TV. Here are some more tips on how to mount your HDTV.

If you choose to buy a stand, consider its design, access, and ventilation, as well as its allowances for height and cable management. Make sure that all your components (including future additions) will fit with plenty of air able to circulate in the space. Doors help to control dust, but hold in heat. Better stands include passive or silent ventilation. Finally, anchor the TV so that it can't tip over and fall if an earthquake occurs or if your child runs into it.

Combat Power Fluctuations

Contrary to what the salesperson at your local electronics or home theater store may tell you, unless you have a very poor electrical wiring system, you don't need an expensive line conditioner (or voltage regulator) to protect your new TV. What you do need is a good surge protector (preferably with insurance included) to protect against voltage spikes from lightning and other power surges that can heavily damage your equipment. The Belkin Concealed Surge Protector is a very solid offering.

If you have more to spend, invest in an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for your DVRs, game consoles, media server boxes, and other devices with data on flash or hard drives -- data that could be corrupted or lost in an outage or power surge. These secondary drives are just as vulnerable to sudden power loss or surges as computer drives are.

Keep a Clean Screen

Dust is the enemy of electronics, and flat-panel screens are magnets for it. Clean your screen (and the rest of your home theater components) regularly with a barely damp microfiber cloth -- this will avoid leaving streaks. You'll be amazed how much brighter and more colorful the your HDTV screen will look.

Whatever you do, don't use glass cleaners containing alcohol or ammonia. They will damage plastic coatings. Similarly, don't vacuum or brush the screen -- doing so can leave fine scratches. To remove greasy fingerprints or crayon marks, use a bit of mild dish soap and then wipe clean with the microfiber cloth. Don't use sprays whose chemicals may work their way into the crevices or vent holes of your equipment.

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Becky Waring

PC World (US online)
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