Week 2- “How Do I . . . ?” Six commonly asked questions about home theater

By July 19, 2010 Highlights

Week 2

“How big a TV screen do I need for where I sit in my living room?”
It sounds like a joke, but it’s pretty much true: the answer is “the biggest TV you can fit through your front door.” The reason is that TV definition — i.e., the precision with which it can display an image — has gotten so much better that you can sit a lot closer than you once could.

Take the rear-projection “big screen” TVs of the eighties. A lot of these sets looked pretty good from 10 or so feet away, and were a lot of fun for watching football games, etc. But get too close to them, and the blurry blocks of color didn’t look so good.

Now, with most larger (36″ and up) TVs being HDTV-capable, you’re getting much crisper resolution than ever before — and that means these TVs are more viewable at close quarters, even if you’re just watching broadcast TV. It’s really amazing. Plus, flat-panel TVs are making it easier to have a big screen TV in your house without taking up tons of floor space.

So what would current guidelines be, assuming you’re buying a newer, HD-capable TV? Well, figure about two feet closer than you would have been before. So, whereas you’d plan on being 11-12 feet away from a 45″ analog TV without HDTV capability, you might figure on sitting about 9 feet from a 45″ HDTV-capable set. And you can get closer than that — I have personally sat about seven feet away from a 46″ HDTV-ready TV to play video games, and enjoyed it very much! For more suggestions on specific screen sizes, check out our TV viewing distance chart.

Screen size Viewing distance range
26″ 3.25 – 5.5 feet
32″ 4.0 – 6.66 feet
37″ 4.63 – 7.71 feet
40″ 5.0 – 8.33 feet
42″ 5.25 – 8.75 feet
46″ 5.75 – 9.5 feet
50″ 6.25 – 10.5 feet
52″ 6.5 – 10.8 feet
55″ 6.9 – 11.5 feet
58″ 7.25 – 12 feet
65″ 8.13 – 13.5 feet
70″ 8.75 – 14.75 feet