10 Steps to a Basic HDTV Setup

If you are a first time owner of a HDTV, upgrading your old HDTV or replacing that old tube TV here are 10 tips to a basic HDTV setup.   These should help you get the most out of your new HDTV and give you the best possible picture quality.

This How To article is written to give guidance for connecting your HDTV to a cable/satellite box and a Blu-ray DVD player.  Future articles will explain how to connect Surround Sound Systems, Sound Bars,  Wi-Fi (for Wi-Fi enabled HDTVs & Blu-ray players) and Game Consoles.

Take the TV out the box

Yes this is obvious, but a word of caution. Manufacturers like to pack the parts needed to assemble your TV in very odd places. They use tape to hold the parts securely and sometimes the parts are light and don’t make any noise as you unbox your TV.  Carefully look for parts on each piece of Styrofoam in the box. Finally, don’t throw away the box until the TV is completely assembled and working, just in case.

Assembling the parts in the box

There are dozens of different pedestals for flat screen TVs. Each manufacturer has its own pedestal, some manufacturers even have multiple types of pedestals depending on the TV model. Here are links to a few of the most popular types of Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Sony instructions. The best thing to do is follow the instructions that came with your TV to assemble the pedestal. If you’re wall mounting it then just store the parts away for the future.

The back panel

Here is a basic panel on an HDTV:

HDTV back panel

There are a number of connectors back there but only a few are used in a basic High Definition setup.

  • RF Jack Used to connect an Antenna or cable service where a box is not necessary
  • HDMI port.  This is the preferred input for a HDTV.  If you want the best picture you can have this is the one to use.
  • RCA Composite Video.  This is the old school connector.  Used to hook up old VCRs or DVDs. (red, white & yellow)
  • RCA Component Video.  These are the old analog HD connectors (red, green, blue)
  • VGA Connector.  If you want to connect your laptop or desktop computer this is where you connect it using a VGA cable.
  • S-Video.  A old cable type.  Not the oldest, but close.  I used to be popular on VHS camcorders and players among others.
  • PC Audio In.  Connect your laptop or desktop here using a 1/8”(3.5mm) patch cord.  Sound from your computer will come from the TV.
  • This one is not numbered but it’s in the lower left.  Coaxial connector.  Used for connecting a powered subwoofer.

Above is a complete list of all the jacks shown in the picture. Listed below are the jacks you will need to complete your connections.

  • #1 RF Jack. This is used if you can receive HDTV over the air and don’t use a set top box (cable/satellite).
  • #2 HDMI port.  This is the preferred input for HDTV.  If you want the best picture this is the one to use.
  • #4 Component Video.  Still used by some gaming systems.

Gather the materials and devices

Cable and Satellite service providers bring cables with them when connecting new service.  However, most only use the older Component Video connectors and charge extra if you want the better HDMI cable.  If you had your box installed before you had HDTV then you probably only have an old RF coax cable(#1) or composite video cable(#3).  If you didn’t pick up cables when you bought your hardware or, as mentioned above, you’re upgrading from a non-HD TV now is the time to go out and shop for your cables.  In, HDMI Cable, Why do I need one? I cover some basic knowledge you’ll need when purchasing your HDMI cables.

If you are wall mounting the TV then you’ll need to decide which mounting style you’ll want.  In The Three Main Types Of TV Brackets there is a good overview of the difference between the brackets.

Video Source makes all the difference

If you haven’t already done so, you should get a new HD set top box from your satellite or cable provider.  Without one you’ll never really get a good picture. It may cost a bit more each month, but the difference in the picture will be worth the extra money.

Putting everything in place

If you are wall mounting, then the wall mount should already be in place.  I would suggest adding a wall shelf to hold the cable/satellite box and the DVD right below the TV.

If you are installing the TV on a stand then it should be installed at eye level for the best viewing angle.  Place your box and DVD where you want but be aware of the length of your cables.  I like using a 3 foot cables to keep the extra wire at a minimum,  but this requires everything to be close and leaves no room to snake the wire around shelves.

The Basic HDTV Setup

At this point you should have all the necessary components to setup and program your new TV.  TV’s with more than one HDMI have them numbered (figure 1).  This will be important later when programming your TV.

  • Connect the first HDMI cable to HDMI1 if your TV has more than one connector. Figure 2
  • Put the Cable/Satellite box where you want it and connect the HDMI cable to it . Normally there is only one HDMI connector in the back of the box (figure 5) .

If you’re installing a Blu-Ray DVD player follow the same procedure.

  • Connect the second HDMI cable to HDMI2 if your TV has more than one connector. It’s the lower connector in Figure 2.
  • Put the Blu-Ray DVD player where you want it and connect the HDMI cable to it . Again, normally there is only one HDMI connector in the back of the box (figure 4) .

If your TV doesn’t have a second HDMI then you can use the component video cables.  DVD players are still being made with the older component connectors (#4) (for now anyway). These are examples of the rear panel of the devices.  Your actual panel my differ but the basic jacks will be there.  (click any image for a magnified view)

Here is a diagram of basic HDTV setup for a bit more clarification:
Simple HDTV setup Diagram

Testing and Programming the TV

To verify everything is connected, start by turning on the satellite/cable box. Using the TV’s remote, press the “Source” or “Input” button until you see HDMI1. Providing the box is working, you should see and hear normal TV show programming.
Next power on the DVD/Blu-Ray, dont worry about putting in a disc the menu will be all we need to test it. Again press the “Source” or “Input” on the satellite/cable box until you see HDMI2. You should now see something different on the screen. If it’s black then try inserting a disc just to make sure the player is working. As long as you can see something like a menu or a movie you’ve hooked the thing up correctly.

Programming the Universal Remote

Last thing you need to do is program the satellite/cable box’s universal remote to work with your TV and DVD player. This part varies quite a bit due to the many different service providers and the many models of boxes they offer. Here is a short list of universal remote programming instructions and codes.

Final thoughts

That about does it for now. Time to sit back and enjoy your new HDTV Entertainment System. In the future you may want to look into improving the sound. There are several options from full 7.1 surround sound systems to the simple sound bar.

Recently installed a new HDTV? Share your experienced here for the benefit of other new HDTV owners.