Troubleshooting Steps For Common TV Problems

Updated

Having a TV that doesn't display what you want can be frustrating. There are many different reasons why your TV might not be working properly or why the image doesn't look right. Below are some of the most common issues with TVs we're asked about; even though troubleshooting your TV is on a case-by-case basis, hopefully this will help you.

Of course, the first step to any technology-related problem is to check if all components are properly plugged in. Check your HDMI connections, and if possible, unplug and plug them in again. If that doesn't fix anything, find your related issue below. Once you fix it, there's no need to do anything else.

Inputs

TV not displaying the image

  • For starters, make sure the input on the TV is set to the input your device is plugged into.
  • Verify that the input is put in properly.
  • Change HDMI cables.
  • Enable the highest bandwidth setting on the TV. TVs will have settings for 'HDMI Mode', or something similar, where you can choose between '1.4', '2.0', or '2.1', or have other settings called 'Full Color' on Vizio and 'HDMI Ultra Deep Color' on LG. This represents the TV's bandwidth; an HDMI 2.1 source won't display properly if you set the TV to '1.4', as you'll be limited in the resolution and frame rate. You should always enable the necessary bandwidth because even setting it higher than needed can cause compatibility issues.

HDR not displaying properly
The proper HDR format isn't playing

  • Make sure your source is playing HDR. You may see Dolby Vision or HDR10+ logos from streaming apps appear when you first play the content. However, not all TVs do this, and they don't specify which HDR format is playing, like on Samsung TVs.
  • Check to see if the TV supports the format your content is in. LG and Sony TVs don't support HDR10+, while Samsung doesn't support Dolby Vision. If it doesn't, it will usually end up playing in the basic HDR10 format instead.
  • Enable full bandwidth settings. If it's set to the lower bandwidth settings, like HDMI 1.4, the TV may think you don't want HDR content to be played.

Note: TVs should usually automatically switch into HDR when content is played. If not, check to see if there are any HDR settings or contact customer support.

Gaming/PC Use

Experiencing high input lag when gaming

  •  TVs only allow for low input lag when in Game Mode. Outside of Game Mode, input lag is higher, and although most people won't notice any difference, changing it into Game Mode has a positive effect on reaction-based games. Make sure the TV is either set to the Game picture mode or Game Mode is enabled; the specific settings depend on the brand. For example, Hisense, Sony TV, and LG TVs have a Game picture mode, but other brands like TCL have Game Mode toggles that you can use with any picture mode.
  • Restart the TV. Even in Game Mode, there may be a bug that doesn't put the TV in Game Mode. For example, the Sony X800H has an issue where it has high input lag if you turn on the TV and it's already in Game Mode; you need to switch it out of Game Mode then back in for it to work.

Auto Low Latency Mode not working

  • Check to see if it supports it. The Xbox Series X has support for Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). This allows the TV to switch in Game Mode when you launch a game from a compatible device for low input lag, but you need to make sure the TV supports it. If not, there's nothing you can do. Sony TVs don't have ALLM support but can detect when the PS5 is connected, and they automatically switch into Game Mode, but only if you enable Auto Picture Mode.
  • Enable Game Mode setting.
  • Make sure it's enabled on the console.
  • If ALLM isn't working, simply switch into Game Mode when you play a game.

Variable refresh rate support not working

  • The same concept as ALLM setting: check to ensure both the console and the TV support the same VRR format. The Xbox Series X supports FreeSync and HDMI Forum VRR, so G-SYNC doesn't work with it.
  • Enable any VRR or Game Mode settings. Sometimes enabling Game Mode alone enables the VRR.
  • Verify to see if it's enabled with your console/PC.
  • Contact customer support.

Note: For both ALLM and VRR, we check with the PS5 and Xbox Series X to see what signals the TV supports from the consoles. It's best to check our reviews to see if your TV is compatible with either. For example, you can see the Samsung QN90A QLED's compatibility photos with the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

Chroma 4:4:4 not displayed properly

  • If it's a TV we tested, check to see if it properly supports chroma 4:4:4. This is a type of signal that helps increase text clarity when using it as a PC monitor. Sometimes, a TV simply cannot display chroma 4:4:4 properly.
  • Set the TV to PC Mode. This is often the best way to display 4:4:4. Roku TVs automatically switch the TV into PC Mode when a PC is connected. For most TVs, you'll need to change the input label for the input you're using to PC for it to enter PC Mode.
  • Enter Game Mode. Sometimes, Game Mode has the same effect as PC Mode with low input lag and chroma 4:4:4.
  • Lower the frame rate or resolution in your PC. 4:4:4 requires extra bandwidth, so limiting the frame rate or resolution can help with it.

Picture Settings

Can’t find your recommended settings

  • Check to see if we reviewed your model.
  • Click the ‘Settings’ tab at the top of the review page.
  • If we did not review your model, visit our calibration page.

The screen is too dark

  • Increase ‘Backlight’ setting (‘Brightness’ on Sony and Samsung TVs). Keep in mind that some TVs have both the 'Backlight' and 'Brightness' settings. The 'Backlight' setting increases the intensity of the backlight, but 'Brightness' (or 'Black Level' for some brands) is an image processing setting, and we don't recommend changing it.

Note: Lower-end TVs aren't usually as bright as the premium models, so if you're in a well-lit room and the screen is hard to see, it usually means it's not bright enough to fight glare.

Colors don’t pop

  • Increase ‘Backlight’ (‘Brightness’ on Samsung and Sony TVs)
  • Change 'Color Temperature' to something colder. Colder colors have a blueish tint, giving them the appearance that they pop more. 
  • Increase the ‘Color’ setting. This usually saturates the colors, so while it technically makes the image less accurate, it makes colors pop.
  • Use the ‘Dynamic’ or ‘Vivid’ picture modes. These picture modes will use a combination of stronger colors and cooler temperatures to make the colors more vibrant.

Picture skips/jumps

  • Disable motion interpolation. Motion interpolation is a feature meant to increase the frame rate of your content to match the refresh rate of the TV. However, if it's not effective, it can drop frames and make the image look worse.
  • Try different playback sources, like different streaming apps or another DVD. It can often be the problem of the source and not the DVD.

Ball/puck disappears when watching sports
People/objects are moving too fast
Motion is blocky

  • Disable motion interpolation. Another downfall of motion interpolation features is that small objects can often get lost, or there are too many motion artifacts.

White objects/clouds too yellow or blue

  • Reset white balance & color space to default. It's possible you accidentally played with some settings that affected the picture.
  • Change the color tone. You should adjust each of these to your preference. What looks like perfect white to one person may look different to another.

Colors look wrong
Skin tones look wrong

  • Reset white balance and color space adjustments to default. If you understand how to calibrate the TV, you should be able to provide the best picture possible to you.
  • Use different color tone/temperature according to your liking.
  • Use different picture modes. Once again, adjust these to your preferences.

Blacks look gray

  • Reset the ‘Brightness’ setting (‘Black level’ on Sony TVs).
  • Make sure the source and TV RGB settings match.
  • Enable local dimming. For most TVs, setting it to 'High' is the most effective, but it's not always the case.

 Note: If it's an IPS LED TV, blacks will always look gray. This is especially noticeable in dark rooms.

 Note: All LED TVs have lighter blacks than plasma and OLED.

Brighter spots in dark scenes

  • Gently massage the affected area with a soft cloth to improve. Keep in mind TVs are delicate, and if you're unsure of yourself, it's better to simply not do it.

Note: This is a common issue, so if there's no improvement, only make a return if it's so bad that it ruins your viewing experience.

Blooming around bright objects in dark scenes

  • Adjust the local dimming setting to your liking. Often, if a TV's local dimming setting is bad, it will cause blooming in dark scenes. Either lowering the setting or disabling the local dimming can fix this.

Note: Black uniformity on TVs varies between units, and it's all about the luck of the draw. You can't fix uniformity issues. Only LED TVs will experience these blooming issues as OLEDs have perfect black uniformity.

TV not displaying maximum resolution

  • Usually, this has to do with the source and on the TV, so check the source's settings. If you're watching something like a YouTube video, it's as simple as checking to see what resolution it's playing at.

Dark portions are pixelated

  • Enable noise removal settings. Often these settings help remove any gradients but can also cause a loss in fine details.
  • Improve connection if you're streaming or raise the source's quality, like increasing the resolution.
  • If neither works or is possible, you will need to cope with the issue. This is a common problem with low-quality media.

Grain on the picture

  • For content other than movies, enable noise removal settings. The main point of these noise removal settings is to remove gradients/graininess. 
  • Improve the connection (if you're streaming) or the source quality (if it's already low-quality).
  • Reset the color space and white balance settings.
  • Try different HDMI cables and different HDMI inputs on the TV.

Note: Some movies, especially older movies, are naturally grainy.

Picture looks out of focus

  • Disable motion interpolation.
  • Increase ‘Sharpness.’
    • This makes the picture a bit less accurate.
  • Adjust the aspect ratio setting. A stretched-out image looks fuzzy and would look better in its standard format, but that would mean having black bars at the sides, for example, with 4:3 videos.

Note: Low-quality media often looks fuzzy, so if those first steps don’t help, the only solution is to watch higher-quality video.

Sparkles/banding appearing on screen after calibration

  • Reset white balance and color space adjustments to default.
  • Try a new HDMI cable.
  • Try a different picture mode.
  • Contact manufacturer support.

Stuck pixels on screen

  • Pixels are hard to get unstuck. Trying connection a PC to the TV, and use this tool to try and unstick.
  • Try applying gentle pressure on the stuck pixel. Turn the TV on, and then off, then check.

Often, if you open the TV and you see many stuck pixels, it's better to return it. Pixels are stuck when they display the same color, no matter the content.

Temporary Image retention

  • Watch regular content for a few minutes. Temporary image retention happens after exposure to high-contrast elements, like the news, and it usually disappears after a few seconds. There's nothing you can do to fix it, and it varies between units.

Permanent burn-in

  • Sadly, there's no way to fix permanent burn-in, which only happens with OLEDs. Burn-in happens after constant exposure to static elements for many hours without watching other content. So if you only use your TV to watch the news a few hours every day, your OLED may experience burn-in. However, we don't expect this to be an issue for those who watch varied content.

Sound

TV not outputting sound

  • Make sure HDMI or audio cable(s) are securely connected to both the TV and the receiver/headphones.
  • Make sure TV is set to output audio to your source device (sound settings).
  • Make sure the source device is outputting compatible sound (PCM, DTS, Dolby Digital are safe bets).
  • Try a different audio cable.
  • See if other devices can play on the receiver.
  • If the receiver doesn't work for anything, contact the receiver manufacturer’s support.
  • If the receiver does work for other devices, contact the TV manufacturer’s support.

Note: You also need to make sure your TV supports the specific audio format. As of 2020, LG TVs don't support passthrough for DTS formats, so you can't expect it to play that audio file.

Sound is delayed

  • When using external speakers, try to see if there are ‘lip sync’ or ‘audio delay’ features on the receiver.
  • If you're using the TV’s speakers, check to see if there are any 'lip sync' or 'audio delay' settings.
  • Set the input to PC mode through the settings menu.
  • Contact customer support.

Note: If you're using a Bluetooth-connected soundbar or headphone, you'll likely hear delay because of the latency associated with Bluetooth devices.

Apps & Wi-Fi

Can't stream 4k video on 4k TV

  • Make sure the service/subscription allows 4k streaming; some videos, like on YouTube, will have an option to choose the resolution, so make sure it's set to 4k.
  • Make sure your wireless network and internet connection have sufficient bandwidth (usually at least 25 Mbps). If your internet is slow, it will take a while to achieve the proper 4k image.
  • Contact manufacturer support.

Video won't stream in TV's browser

  • There's no direct fix as the TV doesn’t support Flash video.
  • Workaround: Connect PC to use your browser for videos.

Can’t connect TV to Wi-Fi

  • Restart the TV and your internet router. Check to see if it works after. 
  • Connect the TV to the router via Ethernet and install updates, then try again.
  • Contact manufacturer support.

Can’t find/download an app

  • You won't be able to directly download apps that aren't available on the app store.

Cable, Satellite, & Over-The-Air (OTA)

Can't find/change channels

  • Run the programming feature to let the TV detect channels, then try again to see if the channel you're looking for is there.
  • If it's OTA, try repositioning the antenna for better reception.
  • Contact manufacturer support.

TV channels look fuzzy

  • Make sure the source device is outputting at least 720p.
  • Enable noise removal features, but this can cause a loss in fine details.
  • Increase sharpness a bit, but this makes the picture a bit less accurate.

Note: It’s normal for TV channels to look a bit fuzzy/blurry since they’re low quality.

Remote and Power

TV turns off randomly

  • Disable CEC. This feature allows you to control multiple devices with one remote. Another remote may be turning the TV off.
  • The power button may be stuck in the remote, which makes it think it's constantly pressed. Unstick it.
  • Remove batteries from the remote to determine whether the remote is responsible.
  • Reset or replace the responsible device.
  • Perform a factory reset of the TV then check to see if the problem persists.
  • Contact manufacturer support.

Remote doesn’t work properly

  • Try pointing the remote at all corners of the TV and see if one works/works better.
  • Move objects away from the front of the TV (soundbar, Kinect, etc.). The receiver for the remote is often right underneath the center of the TV, so you need to aim at that.
  • Move the cable/satellite box further from the TV to avoid interference.
  • Re-pair the remote with the TV (if possible).
  • Replace the batteries in the remote.
  • Contact manufacturer support.

Voice control not working

  • Often, the remote will need to be connected over Bluetooth for the voice control to work. Make sure Bluetooth is connected.
  • Make sure the remote has sufficient batteries. 
  • Be close to the TV. If you're too far, it may not work.
  • Contact manufacturer support.

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