Why is the Picture on My TV Smaller Than the Screen?

Generally, when you purchase a new TV set, it comes with a default setting: picture/video size and quality, volume, language, etc. However, in most cases, you’d have to customize these settings to suit your viewing preference. Fortunately, these customizations are easy to set up and do not require a technical hand.

One of the most prominent issues viewers expereice while watching a television show or movie is the picture not filling the whole screen. That is, the picture showing on the screen is smaller than the TV screen.

Unlike the past decades, where TVs were square shapes and movies were filmed in a widescreen format. Now, TVs come in a rectangular shape, and most movies and shows are filmed in a wider-than-widescreen format.

What happens when you watch a show or program in a widescreen format on a wider-than-widescreen TV is a mismatch. There is a Mismatched in the Aspect Ratio.

What is Aspect Ratio in TV?

Aspect Ratio is the proportional bond between the width of the TV screen to its height. Generally, most modern TVs and media use a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio.

While older TVs use a 4:3 standard aspect ratio. Once the aspect ratio of the TV screen and the media you are watching are not proportional, the display on the TV screen will be mismatched.

If there is an aspect ratio mismatch, the TV will display black bars on the screen’s side or top and bottom. This happens when the TV screen tries to fit the whole picture on the screen without leaving anything out.

To sort this issue, most TV brands have built-in different picture settings that allow users to fix the image on the screen.

3 Common Aspect Ratio Mismatch Error

Below are some common aspect ratio mismatch errors that are hindering the picture being displayed not to fill the entire screen:

1. Pilllarbox Picture

A Pillarbox picture – black bars on the sides of the TV happen when the source device is sending programming that was recorded in a 4:3 aspect ratio or standard definition.

Usually, it is in a square image format, and while trying to stretch to both sides of the TV screen, it would either cut off a small amount of the top and bottom of the picture. In the same light, it could alter the image by making the image larger and stretched out than it should be.

2. Letterbox Picture

A Letterbox picture that is black bars on the top and bottom of the TV. This happens when the source device sends programming recorded in a wider-than-widescreen format.

That is, the actual aspect ratio number varies. But since the image is wider than the TV screen and cannot be accommodated. Hence, the TV stretches to fill the image in the screen, thereby cutting off a small amount of the left and right sides of the picture. In the same light, it could alter the image by making it taller than it should be.

3. Windowbox Picture

A Windowbox picture – black bars on all side of the TV happens when streaming from a cable or satellite TV provider. Generally, the Windowbox picture effect is the combination Letterbox and Pillarbox picture effect.

Usually, this happens when a cable or satellite TV provider broadcasts a standard definition 4:3 aspect ratio image as a 16:9 Letterbox picture or vice versa. This can result in a black border around the screen.

And unlike Letterbox and Pillarbox picture effects, the Windowbox picture effect does not fill the entire screen. Unfortunately, this issue cannot be resolved as it is from the cable or satellite TV provider.

3 Ways to Troubleshoot TV Aspect Ratio Error

With the above possible, Once you have been able to identify the kind of mismatch error affecting your TV picture, solving the error should not be difficult.

Aside from Windowbox picture error from the cable provider, Letterbox, or Pillarbox picture error, there is a solution.

Below are simple solutions you can use to correct the size of the picture viewing on your TV screen:

1. Zoom/Aspect Ratio Function

Generally, the most common solution if the picture on your TV is smaller than the screen is using the Zoom or Aspect Ratio functions. This function will effectively change the picture’s aspect ratio and fill in the available space on the TV screen.

  • Depending on the TV remote, search for the following buttons; Aspect, Zoom, Format, Stretch, Picture Size, or Picture mode.
  • Use the button for cycling through the available picture adjustment options.

If the remote control does not have any functions mentioned above, the setting could be within the TV.

2. Remote Control Settings

Check the TV remote control to reset/adjust the image by doing the following:

  • Press the Menu Option on the remote control
  • Click on the down arrow button to navigate to Settings
  • Press OK, then click on the down arrow button to navigate to Television
  • Then press OK
  • Select TV Resolution, press OK
  • Click on the arrow button to select HD 720p, or HD 1080i or HD 1080p
  • Then press OK

3. TV Picture Setting

Alternatively, you can make the TV picture adjustments on the TV settings. Below is a guide on how to go about it:

  • On the TV remote control, navigate to the Menu option
  • Press the Menu Option and search for the Picture Adjustment option
  • Select Picture
  • Then explore the different picture/screen adjustment options available
  • Make your preferred adjustment in any of the Adjustment menu options – Picture Size, Aspect Ratio & Position options
  • Set the Display Mode to 720P_50
  • The Aspect Mode should be on Auto
  • Set the Video Output to HD
  • And the Digital Audio Output to LPCM Output


Having to squint your eyes while watching your favourite show or not have a poor display quality can be upsetting. Fortunately, the solution to this issue is not far-fetched. With the recommendations above, getting your TV image to standard view should be hassle-free.

However, note that accessing the Menu option on your TV might be different as described above, depending on your TV brand. Nonetheless, once you can locate the Setting Menu, you are halfway through the process.

1 thought on “Why is the Picture on My TV Smaller Than the Screen?”

  1. My Bell expressvu satellite just altered the picture I see. Picture smaller. Black bars around whole screen.

    What can I do?

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