HDTV Screen Size & Viewing Distance

January 31, 2009

Note: The table with optimal distances for each HDTV screen size is at the bottom of this post.

Knowing what is the optimal HDTV size for your room is an important step when buying a new TV. Regardless of what kind of flat-screen HDTV you intend to buy – plasma or LCD – it is a good idea to first go and measure the distance between the place you will be sitting (e.g. the couch) and the place where the HDTV will be sitting (e.g. stand, wall). Assuming that you did the measuring, you can now consult the table at the bottom of this page and see which is the recommended screen size for your viewing distance.

What Content Will You Be Watching?

As you see from the table at the bottom of this page, there are two recommended measurements. One is the minimum distance, which is recommended when watching high definition 1080p content as Blu Ray movies or 1080i TV broadcasts. The other is the maximum distance, recommended if you are watching SDTV (standard definition TV) broadcasts. In between them, is the distance recommended when watching 720p broadcasts (most sports channels). There is a range between the three distances, and you have to figure out where in this range the sweet spot is for you. But how are you supposed to do that? If you plan to watch just Blu Ray movies or 1080i TV broadcasts, then the minimum distance (closer to the TV) is the best as it offers the most detail for that content. If on the other hand you plan to watch Standard Definition TV broadcasts (480i SDTV) or Enhanced Definition content (DVDs) the recommended size is close to the maximum distance (further away). If you want to watch both types of content go somewhere in between or choose which situation you prefer – better detail on HD (high-definition) sources and uglier SD (standard-definition) sources or less detail on HD sources and better looking SD sources. Keep in mind that with time, in USA and many other countries, television broadcasts will switch to digital and all programs will eventually be high-definition.

Why is it Important to Buy the Right Size?

Buying a HDTV that has the right size can make the difference between a good looking TV and an amazingly impressive TV. No, it is not just about how much you pay for the HDTV and what features it has, but also about knowing what you need (getting the optimal size). Even if you buy a HDTV that has great picture quality, if it is not big enough, or you’re not close enough to see the full amount of detail, you will be missing some of the advantages of a high definition screen.

What if You Don’t Have Enough Money?

This is a very common problem: you have $X budget and the optimal screen size for you is Y inch or more. However, the price of a very high quality HDTV at this size is X+ALOM (ALOM stands for “A Lot Of Money”). Hence, you’re short of “a lot of money” if you are to buy a great looking HDTV.

The solution is not a nice one. You either allocate a bigger budget for this purchase or you settle for less size or less quality. If you can increase the budget enough, the problem is solved. However, you may not be able to do that. In this case, you have to choose between buying a HDTV having the right size but offering a relatively inferior picture quality or a smaller HDTV of very high quality. In other words, you have to choose between how much detail you will see (size+resolution) and how good the picture will look (black levels, contrast, color accuracy, etc.). The choice is entirely yours. As a matter of fact, only you can decide this, so don’t ask me what is better or what I recommend you.

720p HDTVs vs 1080p HDTVs Picture Quality

After you look at the distances table below, and taking into consideration the type of content you will be watching most, you may realize that a 720p HDTV offers enough resolution for your needs. There is one important aspect to keep in mind, however: all 720p HDTVs are entry-level models and their picture quality is not as good as that of mid-end or high-end models, which all happen to be 1080p. That means, even if 720p is enough resolution for your needs, if picture quality (contrast/black levels, color accuracy, etc.) is important for you, you should consider a 1080p model.

Optimal Screen Size & Distances Table

Note that the distances for 1080i/1080p apply only to HDTV models that have 1080p native resolution. HDTV models with 720p native resolution, even if they accept 1080i/1080p input, physically display the image as 720p (that’s not 100% accurate, however I don’t want to get into details and boring theory).

Screen Size Content Resolution
1080i/1080p
1080i TV broadcasts and 1080p Blu Ray Disk Movies
720p
720p TV broadcasts – most sports channels
480i/480p
SDTV broadcasts and regular DVD movies
32" 4.2 feet 6.2 feet 11.5 feet
40" 5.2 feet 7.8 feet 14.3 feet
42" 5.5 feet 8.2 feet 15 feet
46" 6 feet 9 feet 16.5 feet
50" 6.5 feet 9.8 feet 17.9 feet
52" 6.8 feet 10 feet 18.6 feet
55" 7.2 feet 10.7 feet 19.7 feet
58" 7.5 feet 11.3 feet 20.8 feet
60" 7.8 feet 11.7 feet 21.5 feet
63" 8.2 feet 12.3 feet 22.6 feet
65" 8.5 feet 12.7 feet 23.3 feet
Comments on HDTV Screen Size & Viewing Distance

Hello,
Gosh I am more confused than ever regarding the screen size that I need. The exact distance from my old Sony Projection T.V. and the chair that I sit in is exactly 15 feet of viewing distance. I am interested in buying the
Sony – BRAVIA / 46″ Class / 1080p / 60Hz / LCD HDTV . Can you please tell me what size LCD HDTV screen I need for my 15 ft viewing distance? It will be in my Living room.

My current Sony projection t.v. is 42 inches, a HDReady T.V. I have just recently upgraded from standard cable to Digital cable service and now have a HDTV Cable Box ( from my cable company,).

I would be most greateful if you could please tell me the size I need to buy. Please help a senior lady of 74 .
Thank you so much for any help.

Liz

BestHDTVScreen.com

@Liz: If you watch Blu Ray movies (you own a Blu Ray disk player) you need a huge screen (biggest flat-screen is 65 inch) for optimal experience. The same applies for some HDTV channels that have 1080i resolution (e.g. nature channels). For 720p resolution (most sports channels but others as well) the optimal screen size remains 65 inch. For SDTV (standard definition) content, the optimal screen size is 42 inch. For EDTV (enhanced definition) content like DVD movies you can have a slightly larger screen than 42 inch, especially if the DVD player has upconverting or the TV has good SDTV performance. So for DVD watching, 46 inch is a good size.

Now, you might still be confused by all that technical talk regarding different resolutions and types of content. The thing is, not all programs are the same and not all content you see on your TV is the same. Their quality varies a lot. Depending on how good that quality is, or in other words how high the resolution is (1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p, 480i) the bigger the recommended screen size. There is no universal recommended screen size. You have to pick the size that matches the type of programs you watch most of the time. If you watch DVDs a lot, pick the size recommended for DVDs (480p resolution / EDTV). If you watch HDTV channels from your cable company pick the recommended size for 1080i and/or 720p. If you watch Blu Ray movies pick the recommended size for 1080p resolution. I hope it’s starting to make sense…

Now, I am going to focus a bit on some particularities specific to you. Since you are 74 years old, maybe your eye sight isn’t great. In that case, you can use an even bigger screen than the recommended one. However, since the recommended screen size for you, for watching HD programs (from your HDTV Cable Box) is 65 inch or larger you’re pretty much at the upper limit of flat-screen TV size. TVs this large are pretty expensive. If you want the best HDTV experience and you afford it, buy a 65 inch TV. If you don’t afford that but you want the best HDTV experience (you watch HD programs for of the time), buy the biggest TV you can afford. If DVDs or SDTV are more important than HDTV, you can go with 46 inch. It’s a matter of choice. High-definition television is like a restaurant and you have to choose what you prefer from the “menu”. I can not tell you what size you should buy because I don’t know what you like. Only you can make this decision. I can only help you by offering you the information and knowledge you need. I hope I was able to help.

Right now I use a 32″ tv as my pc screen. Because I work with large drawings on the screen I was thinking about going to a 40″ screen. Since there is little or no motion do you think this will work from 3.5′ to 4.25′ away?

If my main seating area is about 10 feet or so from where the TV is going to be….which is a better screen size: 50″ or 54″ (Plasma)?

BestHDTVScreen.com

@HAROLD: I think it’s too big (as you can see from the distances table). If what you are looking for is screen real estate then you might want to look at a 30 inch LCD computer monitor. Computer monitors have much higher resolution so you will be able to fit larger drawings within the screen. A 30 inch computer monitor can have a resolution of 2560×1600 as opposed to the 1920×1080 of an LCD TV. That means you get 640×520 more pixels. That’s a lot of extra resolution.

BestHDTVScreen.com

@Pete: If you’re watching high definition content 54 inch is better.

I’ll be sitting 10 ft. or so away from my TV. I watch a lot of sports and am wondering if a 50 inch 720p is a good fit? I’d rather not shell out the extra $$ but if 1080p will me immensely better am willing…

Sitting distance is watching from bed and will vary from 8-12 ft depending on where lay on the bed.The tv will be lcd 1080p 60hz and watching mostly tv from a satellite receiver capable of putting out 1080i and regular dvd’s with upconvert. Not sure what the channels actually broadcast though, but the locals are free hd even though I don’t subscribe to hd. What is the best size 32, 37, 40 ,42,46? Eventually will get a blue ray player. Thanks.

Our viewing area is from 10′ to 12′ out with some angle for some of the viewing areas. I am looking at a 46″ LCD TV. What is the best distance? We watch a lot of movies as well as HDTV. Also will I notice a difference between 720i vs. 1080i? Any suggestions where to find a good articulating mount that not only swings out and tilts but can also go down in height?
Thanks

BestHDTVScreen.com

@JP: From the perspective of resolution alone, 720p is enough. However, all 720p models are entry-level and their picture quality is not comparable to that of mid-end or high-end models (which all are 1080p). In conclusion, if picture quality is important to you, go for an 1080p HDTV. The most popular mid-end models are not a lot more expensive than the 720p models.

BestHDTVScreen.com

@tony: It depends on which content you want to look better. You can’t have both DVD movies and Blu-Ray movies look at their best, so you either have to get a size that offers a balance between the two, or one that makes your preferred content look better. For DVDs, 32-42 inch is enough; for the free HDTV broadcasts, around 50-55 inch; to get the best of Blu Ray movies, a 65 inch is best, but largest LCDs go “only” as far as 55 inch. As you see, it is a matter of what you prefer to look better and there is no such thing as one size that fits all. Since you plan to buy a Blu Ray player and switch from watching DVDs to watching Blu Ray movies, I would say a good choice would be a 52 or 55 inch HDTV.

BestHDTVScreen.com

@Tripp: As you can see from the distances table above, the optimal viewing distance for 46 inch is between 6 to 9 feet for HDTV. You will notice a difference between 720p (there is no 720i) and 1080i/1080p but only if you sit at the optimal distance for 1080p. If you sit further away, you won’t. Also, the difference isn’t very big. Certainly not as impressive as between SDTV/DVD vs 720p. However, keep in mind that even though a 720p TV might be enough, all 720p models are low-end and their picture quality is inferior compared to that of mid-end or high-end HDTVs. For TV wall mounts, check Amazon.com offer – they have quite a few wall mounts, from simple fixed ones to motorized wall mounts.

Thinking about a 58in panny 1080p. I will be sitting 17 feet from tv would this be a good choice? Also thinking about a 3d model.I am confused when looking at viewing distance calcations looks like i need a 720p. Thanks Paul G

BestHDTVScreen.com

@Paul G: You don’t need a 720p. It’s more like 720p is enough if you watch from that distance and you get a 58 inch TV. However, there are no 58 inch 720p models, anyway. If you have the money, consider a 65 inch model. You’re sitting quite far and the bigger the screen, the better.

Hi:
I will be getting a 55″ HDTV as a gift.
Is there any danger of being too close to the TV with my eyes?
Is there a minimum distance I should have between the seating area
and the HDTV?

BestHDTVScreen.com

No danger. If you sit too close, it might be uncomfortable, however. Also, sitting too close might allow you to see the actual pixels that the screen is made of, hence the image will look pixelated. You would have to sit closer than 5-6 feet for that to happen (when watching HDTV content).
There is a minimum (and most importantly, an optimal) distance. If you consult the table you will see that the optimal viewing distances vary with each type of content (1080p/i,720p,480i/p).

Your right about tv distance, at 15 to 17 ft in a store yesterday I was looking at a 55in at 16 ft. looked small! hope 65 in will work. Setting up a theater room. I might get a mount to extend it a couple ft. What do you think about the new 3d tvs? Thinking about the new Panasonic. I hope the black level prob is fixed. Do you have info? Thanks Paul G

BestHDTVScreen.com

3D TV – a lot of hype in my opinion. Maybe at some point the technology will evolve so you don’t need glasses and content will be available in 3D (not just on Blu-Ray). For not TV broadcasts are 1080i at most (not even 1080p). The bandwidth requirements for 1080p (not to mention 1080p 3D) are huge and you won’t see cable or satellite providers offering 3D content anytime soon.

I don’t know anything about the black levels problem being fixed or not. I know they decrease in depth in time on some series from 2009, but nothing about the 2010 models.

I thought Direct tv was coming out with 3 or 4 channels of 3d. What i really want is the best pic possible. Yhe high end tvs. wont most of them be 3ds? My tv is getting old. Time for a new one. I need the best teck I can get. Last tv I hope to buy For 5 to 10 years. Thats why I was thinking 3d. The way my old set is acting. not a lot of time left. Thanks Paul G

BestHDTVScreen.com

@Paul G: I pretty sure that in 5-10 years, 3D technology will advance a lot, and I am not sure if current 3D TVs will work with the future 3D content. That being said, your best bet is indeed to buy the best TV that you can find right now. So yeah, do get a high-end 3D TV, it’s not like you’re trading performance in other areas for the 3D support. They are excellent overall.

Hi :

I’m planning to purchase new LCD TV and i need your recommendation for the following :

- The best 40″ LCD TV available in the market today ( Not LED )
- The size of LCD i should go for , the room space i have ( 5 *4 sq M) .

BestHDTVScreen.com

- You can find the best models on the homepage on the left column, and also links to the best models by size on the center column.
- You can figure that out from the distance table above. It doesn’t matter what size the room is, but what distance is between you and the TV.

I want to purchase a 32″ T.V. to replace Sony 32″ trinitron in Living Room. We watch t.v. about 9-10′ away. What resolution, etc. is optimal? We only watch DVD, news, sports, and have not had the HD experience yet. We like PIP.

Hello,

I’m also new to the HDTV world and have read alot but I’m baffled when I saw your – Optimal Screen Size & Distances Table -.

Watching SD signal Television shows and sports will be what it’s fed day in and out. It will be fed higher signals with my PS3 games and Blu-Ray movies once in a while but mostly Standard Definition signals.

I sit 6 to 7 feet away from the screen and according to your chart, I would need something like a 24inch HDTV LCD for optimal viewing distance which would mean viewing the SD shows at something like 19inch at it’s normal 4:3 ratio size.

What I’m getting at.. is there something for me that would fit my Definition signal range?

- Sitting 6-7 feet away from screen.
- Mostly fed SD signals (shows and sports)
- 720p or 1080p signals with my PS3 and Blu-Ray movies.

Perhaps a term or gadget I got to look for to match the vast Definition signal range?

Thanks for your time.

- Christian

Hi,
My viewing distance is 10′ and mostly watch cable tv where my favourite channels are still SD, expected to be HD in 1+ year’s time. I also watch DVD movies occassionally. I’m planning to buy an HDLCD TV, please suggest a suitable screen size for my setup.
Also, are all blue ray disc players capable of upconverting DVD to HD like broadcast?

Hi,

I am thinking about getting a 3dtv and I sit about 6.5 feet away from the tv. I thought a 46′ tv would be ideal but I am having second thoughts. The next size is 55′ and I am worried that will be too big.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Rob

Great website! It made me realize there are a number of additional factors to figure in besides just purchasing a BAT (big a$$ TV) and being happy. I’m starting to think the 65″ Plasma deal at Bestbuy might not be the best choice. Sadly realizing that mind you!

My viewing distance is around 6 to 7 feet and I currently only have SD cable service. I am planning on purchasing a Blu ray player, but I’d still watch TV from time to time. (which is why such a large TV might not be good with SD cable) There will be an Xbox360 hooked up to it, along with the PC for games, movies, whatever.

So… will I be that miserable with a huge TV with what I currently have for content, or should I downsize it?

Thanks for the work you’ve done here btw!

I Purchased a PNc587000 Samsung Plasma and I’m sitting 10 feet back. I noticed my eyes hurt a bit after watching. Little confused because I had a 55″ before and had no trouble. Could it be that the 58″ is too big for this distance even though the chart says its fine? Also, another site recommends I should be back 14.5 feet for this TV.

Hi
We sit 7 ft 10″ from the TV. We want the clearest picture we can get sitting at that distance (so not notice pixels etc). What would the best size LCD be?
Bill

I normally like to sit 4-6 rows back at the movies. So with this in mind,would 10.5 feet be to close to sit to a 65″ plasma which I’m considering. Thanks for your time,Hal

Hi,
I’m in the market for a new flat-screen, and my wife and I have differing thoughts on size/quality/brand, etc.
We’re currently using a 27″ CRT 480i that’s over 10 years old. At this point, ANYTHING is an upgrade, but I’m looking for something that will fit best. I’ve narrowed the options down to a non-3D LCD (LED if the price is right), 120Hz. We’ve got the following questions:

1) What size is best? Closest viewing distance is around 9′, and the farthest is just over 12′. I’ve been looking at 52-55″, my wife seems to think 46-47″ is the upper limit of what we need. We’ll be watching a little bit of everything (1080/720/480). Both of those sizes technically fit into that chart above.

2) Also on the topic of size, we move a lot. What size will generally fit the average living room/viewing distance as our living rooms (and viewing distances) change?

3) What are the pros/cons of different brands? I’ve been looking at the Sony Bravia 52″, but my wife doesn’t like the price tag at the moment. She’s hung up on a Vizio 47″ 240Hz that she saw on sale. Frankly I’ve never heard of Vizio, but that doesn’t mean much. Also on my radar are Samsung and Sharp, though I’m not all that familiar with what they have to offer.

It’s probably obvious due to the fact that I still use a 10+ yr old CRT, but I’m willing to wait until the price comes down on the model/options I want. My wife on the other hand wants a new TV ‘right now’, but is only willing to pay $800-1000 for it.
Any ideas?

Thanks for the help, and have a great day!

-Matt

BestHDTVSCreen,
I was wondering if i were to buy a 65″ 1080p samsung led-lcd tv, would it be too big for a 15ft viewing distance? or should i go down to 60″. I dont want anyone to feel uncomfortable because of how big the tv might be, but if 65″ is perfect then I’d love to buy the bigger screen. Thanks!

I have about 9ft distance and have a 46″ 1080i Sony Bravia. Is it to big my eyes cannot focus. I had a 40″ with no problem before?

I have a 58″ jvc dlp tv. I am using verizon fios cable and regularly play xbox and playstation 3. Shen watching movies we use either streaming netflixs or dvds. What would the best viewing distance be? I wzs thinking between 8-10 ft. thanks.

hi
i am looking to buy a sony lcd tv to replace my old crt 21 tv, am a bit confused about the size, i looking for a 32 or 40 inch hdtv 1080p.the distance is about 9 feet from where i will be sitting,i will play hd games,watch football and films of 480i/480p.

Hi, I just purchased a 55″ HDTV with the intention of getting a HD box eventually, have been watching SDTV for the last 3 weeks at a distance of 9.5 FT. and have been feeling some eye strain. Still have a week to exchange for something smaller like a 46″, my question is, if I watch 50% HDTV and 50% SDTV should I exchange my 55″ for a 46″ to reduce eye strain?

Thanks

Leave a Reply