Choosing an HDTV for your family room depends on two equally important factors: your budget and the size of the room. While your budget may ultimately be the deciding factor, if you want an immersive viewing experience, the size of your TV should depend on how far you generally sit from the screen.
Viewing Distance and Optimal Screen Size
For an optimal viewing experience, a reliable rule of thumb for choosing the best TV size is viewing distance—i.e., how far you'll be sitting from the TV under your usual watching conditions. Today's HDTVs offer more detail, so you can sit closer to the television, but not so close that you can see the screen pixels. Of course, you don't want to sit so far away that you miss any of the amazing details. Here's a formula that makes it really simple: Viewing distance (in inches) divided by 3 = recommended TV size. For example, if you're usually sitting 10 feet from the TV, that's 120 inches (10 feet x 12 inches). Divide 120 by 3 and the recommended screen size for you is 40 inches (remember, that's the diagonal measurement of the screen).
HDTV Sizes for Crowded Rooms
If your family room is used for more than just TV watching, space may be limited. For crowded rooms, consider at least a 40-inch screen if you are seated four to six feet from the TV. A 50-inch screen can be sufficient if you are up to 7.5 feet from the screen. If you are 6 to 9 feet away, consider at least a 60-inch screen.
Viewing angles are another important consideration when buying an HDTV for a family room. Ideally, the TV should be placed parallel to your eyes, with no more than a 15-degree angle up or down and no more than a 40-degree angle to the left or right. If you are seated at a sharp angle to the TV, you may see negative images on the screen. Most major manufacturers will tell you the maximum viewing angles at which you can watch the TV without seeing negative images. For example, a 170/170 angle measurement means you can still see a good image 170 degrees up or down from the center of the screen.
Screen Size and Resolution
The larger an HDTV screen, the more important screen resolution becomes. For an HDTV that is 40 inches or smaller, a 720p resolution may be sufficient, however once you get to a 50-inch screen or larger, you will see a definite difference between 720p and 1080p. Depending on the model, a 720p HDTV gives you 1024 by 768 pixels, 1280 by 720 pixels, or 1366 by 768 pixels. An HDTV with 1080p resolution, sometimes known as full HD, offers 1920 by 1080 pixels. Full HD becomes more noticeable on video game consoles, Blu-ray discs and true HD cable or satellite channels.
Photo Credits: Heather Milward/Demand Media
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