How big a TV do you need?

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In the old days

I remember many years ago before modern flat TVs, when Trinitron™ were the best thing since sliced bread. I bought (at great expense, I might add) a 28″ Trinitron wide-screen TV and loved it – replacing my older “square” (4:3 aspect ratio) 20″ TV. I really wanted a 32″ screen but my wife claimed that a 32″ TV was just too big; in fact she was absolutely right. But it wasn’t the size of the glass that was too big, it was the overall bulk of the TV; the rear of the TV was huge. And I mean huge; so huge that the overall bulk was often the limiting factor on how big a TV you could usefully site in the room, or indeed carry home from the shop (I recall just being able to fit the 28″ Trinitron into the back of my car and that was only by removing the packaging).

But I still maintain a 32″ screen would have been better…

These days

Leap forward into the modern age and there is no such thing as a bulky TV as we once knew it. The limiting factor is no longer the overall bulk, but how the TV fits into the overall room layout. But there comes a point when a massive TV is just just stupid; where you cannot have a conversation without feeling the TV dominating an entire wall is going to fall on you.

Assuming we stay away from stupid, just how big is the right size TV? Well – its way bigger than you might think.

For a moment, lets think about the cinema (OK let’s say “movies” even though I shudder). It’s called the big screen for a reason. I once remember watching a film too close to the screen (because they were the only available seats) and didn’t (couldn’t) enjoy it because of the neck strain. So it really is possible to be “too close” to the screen and therefore it is possible to have a screen that is too big.
Instinctively we seem to select seats that are at a comfortable viewing distance.

What we aim for is the best immersive experience – not having to peer, not getting neck strain, and not having to continually move the head to watch the film (sorry, “movie”).

What size screen then?

So, what size of screen is “optimum”. Opinions are divided even amongst those who are industry experts in immersive video, but their views in some way don’t matter (as we will see).

The screen should occupy between 30% and 40% of your total field of vision without moving your head. To save the scratched heads and calculator batteries, this is the rough calculation (for a 1080p screen):

  1. Measure the distance from your eyes to where the screen will be
  2. Multiple the distance by between 0.63 and 0.84

Hence, if you sit 10′ away (120″) from the screen, the the optimum size would be between 75″ and 100″. What!

There are two rather obvious challenges with this:

  1. Cost. A screen of that size might cost you between £3,000 and £24,000
  2. Size viability. A massive screen like this can totally dominate the room, so unless you have the luxury of designing your own dedicated cinema room, you will need to consider how big a TV will “work” in the room. In reality, few ordinary living rooms will have the space to accommodate a 78″ Television.

What to do?

After digesting the above information and (checking my budget!), my own strategy would be to buy the biggest TV I could afford that will fit properly into the room design and decor. For me, this is going to be smaller that the “optimum”.

See these Big TVc from Amazon

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