You wouldn't buy a sports car and keep it in second gear - yet research shows that is exactly what we are doing with our TVs. According to AVForums, more than half of us (51%) have never changed the settings our set came with, and are missing out on the finer detail it can offer as a result. To give you a rough idea of the scale of the issue, we are talking about some 30 million TVs not being used to their full capacity.
Surprised? Me too, especially given that Brits are increasingly turning to larger screens and nearly half of TVs sold in 2013 are expected to be 40 inches or bigger, according to research from GfK. Clearly there's a real market for the home-movie experience, but a lack of understanding is preventing people from seeing the picture as the director intended.
So what can we do to make sure our sets aren't stuck in second gear? Here are a few simple tips for getting the most out of your TV:
A more homely approach
Switch away from the default shop settings, typically labelled 'Vivid' or 'Dynamic' mode in your TV's settings menu. These settings adapt the TV to the very bright retail environment, but in our homes they can be tiring on the eyes and don't let us see all the detail in the picture. Instead, opt for a 'Movie', 'Cinema' or 'THX' setting, which offer a more natural, balanced colour palette and fuller detail.
The best place to sit when watching TV is facing directly forward, minimising reflections from around the room. Make sure the TV is at eye-level when you are sitting down. A good rule of thumb to determine how far away you should be sitting is to multiply the size of the screen by three - so, for a 50 inch TV you should sit around 150 inches away. For 3D broadcasts, I'd recommend that you sit a bit closer - about one and a half times the size of the screen.
Matching light levels
For the majority of LCD or LED TV owners, setting the backlighting of their TV at the mid-point works best. However, if you often watch TV in a bright room, you may find that turning up the brightness of the backlighting helps the TV cope better with the lighter conditions. Similarly, if the room your TV is in does not receive much light, you might find that reducing the intensity of the backlighting results in a more balanced, comfortable image.
Pitch black isn't best
A lot of people I know think that a completely light-free room makes for the best TV viewing experience. However, having a little ambient light makes the TV picture less tiring on the eyes.
Less is more
Modern TVs come equipped with features that sound like they improve the viewing experience, but in reality can have an adverse effect on picture quality by adding artificial detail or obscuring that which is already in the image. Depending on what you're watching, I recommend you carefully use the eco mode, dynamic contrast, dimming, sharpening, noise reduction and motion enhancement features.
Check your connections
Finally, (something many of us forget) don't neglect the connections between your equipment. Make sure you always use the best quality cable, usually a HDMI cable, to connect your satellite or cable box and Blu-ray player to your TV. This will ensure you get the most detailed, reliable picture. It's also worth periodically checking external connections, such as those from a satellite dish, to make sure they are still in good working order. Worn down cables can have a negative effect on picture quality.