December 5 2008

LCD TV Size & Optimal Viewing Distance

Tags: Resolution, Screen Size, Viewing Distance

Knowing what LCD TV size is best for you is very important. Even if you eventually choose a smaller screen size in order to fit within your budget, you should be aware what the optimal size is for you. This is one of those must read LCD TV guides. Buying an LCD TV that has the right size for your room is probably the most important aspect. Choose a smaller screen size with 1080p resolution and you will just throw money away. Choose a screen that is too large for your room or type of content, and you might actually get yourself a magnifier glass for image flaws. You might have to settle for a smaller LCD screen size, usually because you can’t afford the size that is perfect for your viewing distance. However, if you can afford the right size, you will get the full amount of detail from the TV and the picture will blow you away.

How to Determine the Optimal Screen Size

At What Distance Will You Be Sitting?

First of all, in order to choose the right screen size you start by measuring the distance you will be sitting at. If the distance is shorter, you will need a smaller screen size, while if it is longer you will need a larger screen size. It may happen that your budget will not allow you to buy an 1080p LCD TV large enough to offer optimum amount of detail for your viewing distance. You might also prefer to invest your money in picture quality rather than resolution (detail) and go for a smaller screen that has a better picture. Resolution is not the most important aspect in obtaining a great experience, so there is no problem if you go for a smaller screen as long as you decided this yourself, knowing what you loose and what you gain. If you are unsure, just go to the store and watch the LCD TV models at the sizes and quality you are putting in balance.

What Type of Content Will You Watch?

It is very important to take the content into consideration when calculating the optimal size. It is not the same if you watch 1080p HDTV, DVD or standard definition (SD) on a 60 inch LCD TV. While 1080p could look great, and the 60 inch size could allow you to see the full detail, SD programs may actually look awful. Happily, SD programs are going to be eliminated, HDTV taking their place. Regular DVDs are also going to be replaced in time by Blu-Ray disks. However, right now many of you have just DVD players and might still watch SD content. If you are in this situation, 1080p might not be worth the money and you could opt for a smaller screen. If on the other hand, you watch 1080p Blu-Ray movies or HDTV broadcasts, then 1080p and a large screen makes sense.

LCD TV Screen Sizes and Min/Max Viewing Distances

The HDTV distance should be considered as optimal viewing distance for 1080p/1080i content. SDTV distance is maximum recommended for watching SDTV content as DVDs and SD broadcasts. If you’re mixing the content type (both SDTV and HDTV) you should consider HDTV viewing distance as minimum and SDTV distance as maximum recommended.

LCD TV Size
(inch)
Optimal Distance
for SDTV (ft)
Optimal Distance
for HDTV (ft)
32 11.2 4.2
37 12.9 4.8
40 13.9 5.2
42 14.6 5.5
46 16 6
52 18.1 6.8
55 19.2 7.2
60 20.9 7.8

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Comments:
  • Ignacio Delcorto

    Hi,

    Great website and information to boot. I have a question, my wife is wanting a new TV and shes looking at various Panasonics and LGs. I say 720P she says 1080P, its going into our bedroom and the viewing distance is approximately 9Ft (108in) what would you recommend in a 42in flavor, 720 or 1080? Or is there a size you recommend, there is no lighting issue present.

    Thank you so much,

    Ignacio

  • @Ignacio Delcorto: It depends what type of content you are watching. If you’re watching SDTV and/or regular DVDs it si obvious you should get a 720p model as a 1080p one would offer no advantage. If you’re watching HDTV (including blu-ray) go for 720p if you’re buying a 42 inch model, or go for 1080p if you’re buying a model above 60 inch. Optimal screen size for 1080p/i at your distance is 65 inch. Remember that it doesn’t matter if the TV is 1080p or not, unless you are watching 1080p or 1080i content on it.

  • On the same topic: with STDV, 1080p would not offer any advantage, or might it even be worse?

    Thanks!

  • @George D: It can’t be worse. However if the screen size is much larger than the optimal size for SDTV at that specific distance, the picture will be “softer”. Because you resize a small image to fit the big screen.

  • Thanks. I plan on getting a 50″ for a distance of 11.5′, so the screen size is much larger than recommended for SDTV therefore I’ll see a worse picture watching SDTV if I opt for a HDTV set, compared to a 720p set.

  • @George D: Both 720p and 1080p are HDTV. SDTV (480i) will look relatively bad on both. However, due to the image processing system in the TV, you can get a slightly larger set than the recommended size for your distance. Just make sure you read reviews and buy a HDTV that has good SDTV performance (e.g. noise reduction, good upscaling performance, etc). I strongly suggest that you get HD programs (cable or satellite) because it’s worth it. Not to mention a blu ray player. Good luck.

  • I am sitting 16 Feet from the screen and needed to know what sizeTV I sholud buy? I cant decide b etween and 70″ or a 65″ Sony

  • @John P Sartin: The bigger the better. For 1080p the optimal distance for a 65 inch screen is 8.5feet. For 720p the optimal distance is 12 feet. Do not expect top detail at that distance. You would need a very large screen to have an optimal image at that distance - a projector or large rear projection TV.

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