How to Choose the Right TV Screen Size

Picking the right screen size for your TV is more than a matter of bigger being better. If a screen is too big and you sit too close to it, you’re going to suffer from eye strain, or simply not be able to see the whole picture. It’s important to get a TV that’s the right size for your space.

Now, this is a question of comfort, and it can involve a lot of personal taste as well. Because of this, there isn’t a single, hard rule about screen size. Instead, there are several very similar but not identical rules, with different outlets and companies all maintaining their own general guidelines. RTings.com, Tom’s Guide, and even Samsung have their own varying formulas for calculating screen size based on the distance you’ll be sitting from your TV. On top of that, you might simply be more comfortable with a larger or smaller screen at your preferred viewing distance.

Here’s how we break it down at PCMag:

Size and Resolution Matter

The size of your TV will ultimately limited by the size of the models that are available, especially as they get bigger. The most common TV sizes are 42, 50, 55, 65, and 75 inches (all measured diagonally). You might find some models in between those sizes, but they’re much more rare.

A 4K TV has pixels that are a quarter of the size of a 1080p TV, so you won’t see those individual pixels until you get much closer. This means you should be able to sit closer to a 4K TV than you would a 1080p TV, and not suffer from eye strain. The same reasoning applies to 8K TVs, though we don’t recommend you buy an 8K TV just yet.

So with these factors in mind, let’s come up with some simple rules for finding the right size TV for you.

How to Measure the Right TV Screen Size for Your Room

According to the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE), your TV should occupy at least a 30-degree arc in your field of vision. THX, meanwhile, recommends a 40-degree arc for a theatrical viewing experience. However, both of these measurements are based on a resolution of 1080p, which means you should be able to get even closer than a 40-degree viewing angle with a 4K screen.

So let’s say a 4K TV should be around the appropriate size to take up 40 degrees of your field of view from the distance you want to sit, and work with that.

First, I calculated the proper ratios of distance to screen size. Then, because I haven’t done trigonometry in years (which you might be able to tell from my crude workings below), I compared my numbers with guidelines from RTings and Tom’s Guide’s.

Math65 inches.

There’s obviously some wiggle room to be had here. Going a bit bigger or smaller won’t ruin your viewing experience, and you should always consider your own comfort level more than any simple formula. This is a good way to start to find your best TV size, though.

Try a Template

If you want to play around with screen sizes before buying a TV, you can use templates on your wall to see what feels comfortable in your room. Get poster paper or cardboard and cut/tape it to the approximate size of the TV you want, and set it up where you want to put your TV. Then sit down wherever you plan to watch TV from, and see if the “screen” size feels comfortable to you.

TV TemplatesTV sizing posters (in six sizes, from 40 to 85 inches) for $44, which is a worthwhile investment especially if you’re looking to buy TVs for different rooms.

Set It Up Properly

Once you figure out the right screen size, check out our picks for the best TVs in a range of sizes, as well as our guide to what TV model numbers mean so you can make sure you’re getting the best deal.

And once you find the right TV, head over to our tips on how to calibrate it, and remember that you don’t need to spend a ton of money on pricey HDMI cables—the affordable ones work just fine.

November 25, 2020
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