TV sizes and viewing distance
How to choose the right screen size for your room
he expression "bigger is better" actually makes a pretty reasonable guideline when you're trying to decide on TV screen size. To enjoy an immersive, theater-like viewing experience, you need a picture that fills up your field of vision.
Go with the largest screen your room, viewing distance, and budget will accommodate. We occasionally hear from people wishing they'd chosen a bigger TV screen, but rarely the opposite.
Seating distance for the best picture: 1080p vs. 4K
For 1080p HDTVs, we suggest a viewing distance between 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 times the screen size
To see the extra detail of 4K, you can sit closer — 1 to 1-1/2 times the screen size.
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Distance and picture quality: 2 parts of the screen size equation
If you sat too close to an old-school tube TV, you'd be distracted by the screen's scan lines. Today's TVs don't have scan lines. If you sit too far away, you'll be missing some of the picture detail you paid for.
Of course, it is possible to sit too close to your TV. You're too close if you find yourself noticing the screen's "structure" — those rows and columns of pixels that look like tiny dots.
If you're not sure which screen size is best for your room size and viewing distance, use the charts above as a guideline. They're based on the recommendations of TV industry experts.
You'll notice that we provide a range for each screen size, rather than a hard and fast number. That's because the viewing distance you prefer will depend on your personal tastes. And rather than rearranging your room so you can sit closer, it may just be easier to get a larger TV.
4K Ultra HD TVs have much higher resolution screens than HDTVs — they can show four times the detail of a 1080p screen. Ultra HD pixels are incredibly small — even standing right next to the screen it's hard to discern individual pixels. That's why you can sit much closer to an Ultra HD TV than to a regular HDTV.
Actually, when it comes to 4K TVs, there are other reasons to consider getting one even if you choose to sit farther away than the distances recommended below.
Of course, it’s OK to sit farther away than the distances recommended above. Virtually all 4K TVs support HDR (High Dynamic Range), which can deliver wider contrast and color range when showing HDR-encoded content. HDR's improvements are typically more noticeable than 4K's added detail, and can be seen from across a room.
How to measure for a TV
To help you figure out how a TV will fit your space, we create an illustration like this and display it with the photos on our product pages.
It’s a real pain to return a TV. But it’s easy to avoid buying one that’s the wrong size. That’s why we provide several different measurements (with stand and without) that have been verified by our product research team. Look for them in our product presentations.
If you’re wall-mounting your TV, look carefully at the height and depth without the stand.
If you’re using the included stand, look at the TV’s height and depth with the stand attached, as well as the stand “footprint” (found under Product Highlights on the Overview tab of our product presentations).
Consider the width, too. Double-check all of the measurements to make sure you don’t buy a TV that’s too big for your wall space or your cabinetry.
To keep from buying a TV that’s too small, follow the recommendations in the charts above. Or try an inexpensive reality check. Outline the dimensions on your wall using painter’s tape. Or make a mockup out of cardboard.
The TV’s diagonal measurement is the one that’s touted in advertisements. But it’s the height of the TV that matters most to your eyes. That’s what really determines your perception of size.
Planning to place a sound bar in front of a stand-mounted TV? Calculate the difference between the height with and without the stand. Don’t buy a sound bar that’s taller than that.
Typical TV dimensions
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TV placement tips
No matter what display technology your TV uses, it will look its best when viewed straight-on, at eye level.
OLED TVs look great for viewers in all seats, even those way off to the side.
LED-LCD TVs provide their best picture to those sitting right in front.
Another way to deal with off-axis seating is to install your TV on a full-motion (aka “articulating”) wall mount. When the off-axis seats are occupied, you can pull the TV out from the wall and aim it toward the off-axis viewers. Or choose an in-between angle that pleases everyone. When you’re done watching, you can push the TV back flat against the wall.
A full-motion wall mount lets you aim the TV any way you want. This can help you avoid annoying screen glare.
See our guide to wall-mounting your TV for more detailed on-wall TV placement tips.
How room lighting affects your TV's picture
Light from lamps and windows can also affect your TV's picture.
A little bit of light in the right spot can have a positive effect. As long as you can’t see it reflecting off the screen, a dim light prevents eye strain and helps you perceive deeper-looking blacks.
Too much light can create on-screen glare and make your TV's colors look faded and washed out. If you're concerned about glare in your room, consider an LED-LCD TV — their bright, anti-reflective screens generally hold up the best in well-lit rooms.
If your viewing room has a lot of ambient light, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent or reduce any negative impact on your TV's picture.
Controlling your room's ambient light with window treatments and lamp dimmers can help your picture look its best at any time of day.
If you can, take room lighting into consideration when choosing a spot for your TV. A little furniture shuffling might be worth it if it means your TV won't be directly across from West-facing French doors that create afternoon glare.
Windows that let in bright sunlight should have blinds, shades, or curtains to keep reflections off the screen.
Use dimmers in your home theater room to precisely control the amount of background light. For the greatest convenience (and the biggest "wow" factor), look for "smart lighting" dimmers that are controllable by smartphone app.
What's the safest way to mount a TV?
Also, be sure your TV is placed properly on your stand, and that it's balanced left to right, and front to back.
If you have small children, wall-mounting your TV is a good way to reduce the chances of an injury caused by a TV tipping over. Or, if you're placing your TV on a stand or other furniture, a TV safety strap is a smart add-on.
Rather than the traditional pedestal stand, many new TVs are supported by two legs placed out near the edges of the screen. Be careful not to place your TV so that the legs are close enough to slip off if the TV is bumped.
You'll also find detailed safety tips for wall-mounted TVs in our in-depth wall-mounting guide.
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