The best free upgrade you can give your TV? Sort your cables out

A TV setup with screen, games consoles, soundbar and set-top boxes, and no visible cables
This is my setup, with not a cable in sight. (Image credit: Future)

Up until last year, the area surrounding my TV cabinet was a hornet’s nest of hideously tangled power leads and snaking HDMI cables. It looked terrible. Then I decided to spruce up my entertainment area with the best free upgrade you can give your existing TV setup: a thorough dose of good cable management. 

You might have the best TV in the world, but it doesn’t matter how slick that shiny OLED or QLED panel is if the surrounding area looks like it’s just been hit by a comet. This is the position I found myself in last year. Due to a combination of lockdown laziness and a life-altering flat move, the space around my TV looked like something from the final reel of Deep Impact

When you amass tech like a pixel-obsessed Borrower, the resulting pile of cables can quickly detract from the aesthetic pleasure of owning a modern smart TV, no matter how thin its bezel is. With my Apple TV 4K, PS5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and a silly amount of Philips Hue Play lightbars all adding to the labyrinthine mess of debris clogging my living room floor, you're one small push away from disaster.

And I had quite a large push: Bear, the then-eight-week-old husky puppy I got last March.

Bear necessities

When you have a mini wolf with tiny needles for teeth scampering around the detritus left by your 77-inch LG C2 OLED, a compulsory clean-up soon becomes a major priority. Couple these new doggo-conscious duties with being shamed by several tech-loving pals who all had immaculate TV areas, and I knew I had to get at least semi-serious about cable management. 

If you’re reading this as a fellow AV slob, don’t fret: getting your cables in order is both simple and cheap. Provided you buy the right cable-concealing kit, you can turn that knotted abomination of wires behind your TV into a decluttered, pleasingly clean setup. 

Cables arranged into a neat cross shape using cable ties

Ahhhh, look at what a few little ties can do. (Image credit: Future)

The ideal first order of business is to get yourself some good cable ties, and maybe a cable tidy box or two. The former will help turn a cluster of intertwined cables into a single, neatly threaded assortment of wires. As for the latter, they can prove a godsend at concealing leads from plain sight – particularly useful if you’re rocking the sort of hideously long HDMI cables that are attached to the back of my next-gen consoles. 

For those of you with wall-hung TVs who are bothered by cables slinking down their walls in unsightly fashion, cable trunking is essential. These handy, self-adhesive cable hiders can be stuck to a wall with minimal fuss, and running HDMI leads or power cables through them is as easy as tying your laces.

The free options

It can also be helpful to get creative when it comes to effective cable management. I’ve invested in all the cheap and cheerful cable-tidying accessories mentioned above, but sometimes, I’ve had to go the unorthodox route to conceal wires.

While the front of my TV cabinet (at the top of this post) looks reasonably in order – if you can count a framed The Untouchables photo and a box that once housed a plastic werewolf as “in order” – the back conceals plenty of cable management compromises. The thick end of a full roll of sticky tape has gone into hiding wires that just wouldn’t reach the three cable tidy boxes sitting under my cabinet. Luckily, from my default extra-slovenly viewing position on the sofa, I can’t see them. 

A Jurassic Park Lego set hides cables

Sam Neill and his buddy here are hiding some cable sins. Don't move the set. You can't see them if you don't move the set. (Image credit: Future)

The point is, a strategically placed houseplant, picture frame or other everyday household item can easily be used to conceal a length of cable if cable ties just won't get it all out of view. Although I’ll admit, using Jurassic Park Lego to partially hide wires my cable trunking couldn’t quite extend to is pushing the definition of a household item. 

So if you've been thinking of adding one of the best soundbars or best streaming devices to your home theater setup and the idea of having to rearrange gives you The Fear, consider a good declutter with a spot of cable management to make the whole thing feel clearer. With a little effort and minimal expense, I’ve managed to transform the tangled web of wires that used to befoul my living room and home office into areas that look reasonably tidy. It's not like it's made my TV's images look better, but it has made me more happy with the thing, and that's the ultimate goal, isn't it?

Next up: sort out my Greek tragedy of a kitchen. Wish me luck. 

Dave Meikleham

Dave is a freelancer who's been writing about tech and video games since 2006, with bylines across GamesRadar+, Total Film, PC Gamer, and Edge. He's been obsessed with all manner of AV equipment ever since his parents first bought him a hideously garish 13-inch CRT TV (complete with built-in VCR, no less) back in 1998. Over the years he’s owned more plasma and OLED TVs than he can count. On an average day, he spends 30% of his waking existence having mild panic attacks about vertical banding and dead pixels.