Choosing the right TV size for your living room or bedroom isn’t exactly like determining where to sit in a movie theater, but there are certainly similarities. In movie theaters, people generally prefer to sit centrally, maybe a little front-of-center. Studies have shown that the same is true at home—central, on-axis viewing is preferred.
In movie theaters, we generally don’t like to sit in the front third of the theater because often, we’d have to move our head or eyes from side-to-side to follow the action; the angle at which we’re viewing the screen is smaller than the angle from our eyes to the edges of the screen, so we simply can’t see the entire screen at once. On the other hand, the rear third of the theater is typically avoided because we see more than we need to, like side walls, speakers, maybe even exit signs and doors; our viewing angle is too wide at larger distances.
Scaling this down to the TV room, the main challenge is that most people will have only one row of seating (a couch or bed, for instance), so while we expect there to be a definitive rule of “I’ll be X feet from my TV, so it should be this size,” a number of variables can affect this, including architectural issues and general personal preference. Luckily, there seems to be a consensus on a “rule of thumb” for optimal screen size: A 30- to 40-degree viewing angle is preferred, equating to a nice, round, approximate 10" of screen size for each foot of distance from the screen. So, for instance, if you’ll be 6' from the TV, a 60" TV is a good place to start your search.
It’s important to note that this is a rule of thumb or a starting point, not to be taken as law. It’s always recommended to measure your viewing distance, then go into a showroom (preferably the B&H SuperStore, obviously), stand that distance from the TV you’re interested in, and judge for yourself whether that’s the right size or if you prefer something larger or smaller. Additionally, if any medical condition is a concern, such as light sensitivity, migraines, etc., please consult your doctor when deciding what size TV is right for your home.
Below, I’ve included a small chart showing some popular TV sizes and their recommended viewing distances, in feet and meters, to simplify the process for TVs that don’t measure a multiple of 10. I’ve listed the viewing distance first to make it easier to start with the variable you know. If your viewing distance is in between two on the chart, start with whichever is closest. When in doubt, go larger, as furniture and architectural features permit.
|Viewing Distance||Suggested Screen Size|
|3.2’ (0.98 m)||32"|
|4.3’ (1.31 m)||43"|
|5’ (1.52 m)||50"|
|5.5’ (1.68 m)||55"|
|6.5’ (1.98 m)||65"|
|7’ (2.13 m)||70"|
|7.5’ (2.29 m)||75"|
|8.5’ (2.59 m)||85"|
What size screen do you have in your home? How far from it do you sit? Tell us in the Comments section.