Whether you’ve just bought a new 4K TV, or are just stuck indoors with your current one, you may be realizing that there’s more to a perfect home cinema setup than just sticking a television on the counter or wall.
But when it comes to deciding how far away to keep your furniture, how room lighting affects the picture, and all sorts of other practical points that affect your viewing experience, it can be hard to know exactly what to do. That’s where we come in.
This guide will take you through everything to consider when setting up your living room – or any room – for your 4K TV. Once that’s done, we have a separate guide to calibrating your TV for the perfect picture.
1. Where to put the sofa
This may seem an obvious point, but the distance at which you sit makes a huge difference to the quality of the TV picture.
That’s more of an issue with Full HD televisions, given how clearly you can see its pixels close up – but the increased detail of 4K means you can sit closer without that detail decreasing.
Since it’s unlikely you can easily re-position your sofa, it’s much easier to find the correct TV screen size for your room before you make a purchase. While for HD TVs the rule of thumb is to sit about 1.5 times the screen’s diagonal measurement away from the set, for 4K TVs that figure is reduced by half.
2. How to support the TV
How could the increased resolution of a 4K TV affect what it should sit on? Since a higher resolution is a tough visual sell in the store, TV manufacturers have sought to make them look irresistibly different.
They may be super-slim, but in 4K, bigger is definitely better, and 4K TVs tend to have a larger footprint than Full HD TVs. That certainly applies to a curved TV, which is also only going to be more immersive if it’s a giant-sized example – say, 65-inches in diameter. That has obvious repercussions for its footprint.
Another reason why the purchase of any 4K TV is likely to mean you needed to buy AV furniture with a larger surface area is the width of the support. With the arrival of 4K TVs, PC monitor-style desktop stands are out, and feet far on each end of the TV are in. The end result is that your new 4K TV will likely be wider than your existing AV furniture.
Check out these TV stands to house your new television.
3. Planning for a curved TV
‘Curved like your eyes’. Oh dear, did you fall for the marketing and go for a 4K TV with a bend? Though they’re sold as an easy way of creating a more immersive viewing experience, the angle of the curve is so small that such TVs can bring more cons than pros (unless you live in a lighthouse).
The most obvious issue is that curved TVs are difficult to hang on a wall. It’s not impossible to do – and some curved TVs do have the same industry-standard VESA fixings on the rear to attach to a wall-mount – but it can look pretty weird.
However, the biggest problems for rooms with curved TVs are reflections and distortion. The former can be lessened by positioning the TV away from windows and lamps, the latter by watching from the straight-on sweet-spot rather than from an angle.
4. Adjusting the lighting
Whatever mood lighting you have in your living room, the arrival of a 4K TV is going to change everything. Almost all 4K TVs are also HDR-ready, which means they can reach 1,000 nits (the exception being 4K OLED TVs). Now that’s bright.
You might think that watching in a blackout is the ideal scenario for viewing but in practice that means tired eyes and reduced contrast. Since your eyes average-out contrast in light levels, watching a very bright TV in a very dark room actually lessens the impact of what’s on screen. For instance, you’ll quickly notice that the ‘blackest-ever blacks’ claim of the TV manufacturer was pure hype; even high-end 4K LED TVs have grey-looking black in a blackout.
The answer is to put a subtle light source near your TV, thereby increasing your perception of contrast. Experiment with putting a soft lamp alongside, but just behind your TV (thereby avoiding reflections). Or you could invest in a Philips Ambilight TV, which emits light from behind the TV to purposely lessen eyestrain and increase contrast.
5. Creating a 4K home cinema
Who has a spare room to create a customised home cinema or home theater? Very few, but it’s possible to plan in detail how a living room’s design can flexibly adapt to some of the necessities of 4K.
A good way to maximise 4K is to keep out as much daylight as possible by using blackout curtains if you’re planning to watch HDR material on a bright sunny day. However, a complete blackout isn’t the optimum condition for HDR, and you can control the ambient light levels better by installing a dimmer switch for the living room’s main light. It’s even possible to buy remote control versions that can be gradually dimmed from a universal remote control.
If you really want to stick to the ‘closer is better’ mantra for 4K material, consider putting either your TV on AV furniture or cinema chairs on wheels so you can bring them closer. Is that going too far? Perhaps, but if SD, HD and 4K are equal parts of your TV’s diet and you’re after perfection, it pays to be adaptable.
6. Housing an Ultra HD Blu-ray player
Do you need an Ultra HD Blu-ray player? They’re harder to justify at a time when TV streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus stream in 4K – but you won’t get the same consistent video quality over internet as with a physical disc spinner.
It’s worth keeping in mind that games consoles like the Xbox One S or Xbox One X feature UHD Blu-ray drives, meaning you can play DVDs and Blu-rays without any buffering or sudden drops in quality due to a slow internet connection.
If you do opt for a Blu-ray player or console, it’s worth thinking practically about where to house it – say, on a counter or shelf under the television, or somewhere a bit more out of sight.Today’s best Panasonic DP-UB9000 deals