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TV sizes and viewing distance

How to choose the right screen size for your room

Steve Kindig has been an electronics enthusiast for over 30 years. He has written extensively about home and car A/V gear for Crutchfield since 1985. Steve is also a volunteer DJ at community radio station WTJU, where he is a regular host of the American folk show "Atlantic Weekly," as well as the world music program "Radio Tropicale."

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Three TV sizes

Choosing the optimum TV screen size should be based on how far you'll be sitting from it, and what you'll be watching, as well as on your own viewing preferences.

In a Nutshell

Sitting up close to your TV gives you a more immersive, theater-like viewing experience. The image fills up more of your field of vision, so your eyes are less likely to stray from the action.  

For 1080p HDTVs, we suggest a viewing distance between 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 times the screen's diagonal measurement. You can sit even closer to a 4K Ultra HD TV — 1 to 1-1/2 times the screen diagonal.

You're sitting too close if you can make out the screen's "structure" — those rows and columns of pixels that look like tiny dots. 

Full Story

The expression "bigger is better" actually makes a pretty reasonable guideline when you're trying to decide on TV screen size.

Go with the largest screen your room, viewing distance, and budget will accommodate. We occasionally hear from people wishing they'd chosen a bigger TV screen, but rarely the opposite.

For HDTVs, we suggest a viewing distance between 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 times the screen diagonal.
Screen size Viewing distance range for 1080p HDTVs
40" 5.0-8.3 feet
43" 5.4-9 feet
50" 6.3-10.4 feet
55" 6.9-11.5 feet
60" 7.5-12.5 feet
65" 8.1-13.5 feet
70" 8.75-14.6 feet
75" 9.4-15.6 feet
80" 10.0-16.7 feet
85" 10.6-17.7 feet
To see the extra detail of 4K TVs, you should sit closer — we suggest from 1 to 1-1/2 times the screen diagonal.
Screen size Viewing distance range for 4K Ultra HD TVs
40" 3.3-5.0 feet
43" 3.6-5.4 feet
50" 4.2-6.3 feet
55" 4.6-6.9 feet
60" 5.0-7.5 feet
65" 5.4-8.1 feet
70" 5.8-8.75 feet
75" 6.3-9.4 feet
80" 6.7-10.0 feet
85" 7.1-10.6 feet

Shop by TV size

Viewing distance and picture quality: two parts of the screen size equation

Some people still base their viewing distance choices on experiences with old-school tube TVs, where if you sat too close you'd be distracted by the screen's scan lines. But today's TVs don't have scan lines, and if you sit too far away you'll be missing some of the picture detail you paid for.

Of course, it is possible to sit too close to your TV. You're too close if you find yourself noticing the screen's "structure" — those rows and columns of pixels that look like tiny dots.

If you're not sure which screen size is best for your room size and viewing distance, use our charts as a guideline. They're based on the recommendations of TV industry experts.

You'll notice that we provide a range for each screen size, rather than a hard and fast number. That's because the viewing distance you prefer will depend on your personal tastes. And rather than rearranging your room so you can sit closer, it may just be easier to get a larger TV.

4K Ultra HD TVs have much higher resolution screens than HDTVs — they can show four times the detail of a 1080p screen. Ultra HD pixels are incredibly small — even standing right next to the screen it's hard to discern individual pixels. That's why you can sit much closer to an Ultra HD TV than to a regular HDTV.

A few more tips on TV placement

Viewing angle

Viewing angle is another factor that affects TV picture quality. No matter what display technology your TV uses — LED-LCD, plasma, OLED — it will look its best when viewed straight-on, at eye level. So, whether you plan to wall-mount your TV or place it on a stand, try to position it so it's at or near the correct viewing height.

Today's skinny, lightweight TVs give you options: you can either go with a TV stand, or use a TV wall mount for on-wall placement. Wall-mounting saves considerable floor space and gives your home theater a nice, finished look. See our guide to wall-mounting your TV for more detailed on-wall TV placement tips.

Safety

Choose a stand or wall mount that's made to accommodate your TV's weight and size. An old coffee table may not be able to support the weight of really big TVs.

Also, be sure your TV is placed properly on your stand, and that it's balanced left to right, and front to back.

If you have small children, wall-mounting your TV is a good way to reduce the chances of an injury caused by a TV tipping over. Or, if you're placing your TV on a stand or other furniture, a TV safety strap is a smart add-on.

Rather than the traditional pedestal stand, many new TVs are supported by two legs placed out near the edges of the screen. Be careful not to place your TV so that the legs are close enough to slip off if the TV is bumped.

You'll also find detailed safety tips for wall-mounted TVs in our in-depth wall-mounting guide.

Room lighting and your TV's picture

Light from lamps and windows can also affect your TV's picture.

Properly done, it can have a positive effect, helping to prevent eye strain and providing deeper-looking blacks. But too much light can create on-screen glare and make your TV's colors look faded and washed out.

If your viewing room has a lot of ambient light from lamps and windows, there are some simple steps you can take to prevent or reduce any negative impact on your TV's picture.

TV placement and room lighting

Controlling your room's ambient light with window treatments and lamp dimmers can help your picture look its best at any time of day.

  • If you can, take room lighting into consideration when choosing a spot for your TV. A little furniture shuffling might be worth it if it means your TV won't be directly across from West-facing French doors that create afternoon glare.
  • Windows that let in bright sunlight should have blinds, shades, or curtains to keep reflections off the screen.
  • Light from a window behind the TV makes it difficult for your eyes to adjust to the very different brightness of the TV screen. For watching during daylight hours, consider treating these windows with curtains and blinds.
  • If you're concerned about glare in your room, consider an LED-LCD TV — their bright, anti-reflective screens generally hold up the best in well-lit rooms.
  • Today's 4K/HDR TVs can get much brighter than models from just a couple years ago. With almost any TV (except a projector), it's best to have a little bit of light shining on the wall behind it. If you watch in total darkness, the TV's intense brightness can cause eyestrain.
  • Use dimmers in your home theater room to precisely control the amount of background light for optimum viewing comfort. For the greatest convenience (and the biggest "wow" factor), look for "smart lighting" dimmers that are controllable by smartphone app.
Last updated February 24, 2017
  • C B Gordanier from Seattle

    Posted on 5/16/2015 12:19:20 PM

    I flush mounted my 42" flat screen into a 6'X8' mini wall, popped-out 1-1/2" into the living room; then, backlit the 'floater's' perimeter with recessed LED strip lights controlled by the home automation system. The whole effect is quite pleasing, lessening eyestrain and expanding the entertainment experience in our small condominium. My current project is to display background images (similar to a PC) onto the screen when present but not viewing. This is in lieu of a big black hole staring back at me.

  • Terry Roy from St Perersburg, Fl

    Posted on 8/13/2015 6:48:35 PM

    Very informative piece, a lot of very good information.

  • none from London

    Posted on 8/31/2015 3:20:20 AM

    hate when everything is given in feet. You know, my feet is bigger than yours, you should get and start using some standard, such as SI

  • Steve

    Posted on 10/9/2015 4:52:17 PM

    Is the distance measured from tv to eyeballs or to edge or back of sofa....thanks

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/12/2015 1:48:26 PM

    Steve, I'd say if possible measure from where you're sitting on the couch (or your eyes).

  • Bionicwoman from Missouri city

    Posted on 10/24/2015 9:22:45 PM

    Trying to not put my 65 inch over the fireplace, but its center of the room. Have any other ideas?

  • Louise Fontaine from Rockville

    Posted on 11/29/2015 10:15:37 PM

    Bought 50 inch TV How far shoud be distance to watch and how high or how low should you recommend should be placed? Thank you.

  • Tom Weeks from Loganville

    Posted on 12/27/2015 11:26:43 AM

    It will make my age apparent but I can remember when the Sony 27in was the biggest screen in town. I had two of them and would watch them from 14 feet away and was just delighted. My first flat screen was a 50in Pioneer Kuro and my wife thought I was crazy because we watched it from about 12 feet away.

  • Rookie from Okinawa

    Posted on 12/29/2015 2:35:08 AM

    Hey CB, please share how your next project went: display of background images onto the screen when present but not viewing.

  • carl weil

    Posted on 1/24/2016 1:56:36 PM

    I am old enough to remember family's 8" tube in the 1950 my 24" flat screen is fine in my 16' x 16' family room is just fine from 10' away big is better is an American silliness- want big? i go to the theater

  • kerry from cherry hill

    Posted on 5/3/2016 4:50:58 PM

    I'm looking to buy a 65".....But now not sure a 1080 or a 4k?? Viewing distance on the L couch is 9'-12',.... Thoughts?

  • Jerry VanAlstyne from Gloversville

    Posted on 8/25/2016 11:56:52 AM

    I remember when all the tv's were on the floor. Now they are all up on the walls or on stands Is there a recamended height for the tv's of today

  • Joel from Bellrose

    Posted on 9/9/2016 7:05:48 AM

    4k for me all the way

  • Gus from Austin, TX

    Posted on 2/1/2017 11:02:50 AM

    Wonderful.. the future is having everyone move the loveseat to different distance from the screen for different sources. A 75" screen displaying native 4k w/HDR is mildly wasted if your eyeballs aren't appx 8 feet away. (THX viewing angle compliant) Same 75" screen will expose compression and resolution flaws closer than 14' watching 720p Fox/ABC/ESPN. Native pixel display for 720p on a 4k tv is 1/9th of the screen in the center (tic tac toe center square). Thats a huge gap and the networks are years away from catching up. Games and streaming will pinch dinosaur networks when people catch on.

  • Charles McKeller from Mattoon

    Posted on 3/14/2017 10:07:19 PM

    So if I'm reading this correct, I should stick with 1080p if my viewing distance is 12-14 ft. Is that right?

  • Russell from leeds

    Posted on 4/16/2017 8:36:22 AM

    Just bare in mind people this only applies to resolution. A flagship set thats slightly under sized for your optimum viewing distance will absolutley have a noticably better picture due to hdr/higher nit output/deeper blacks. I may be wrong but i have not seen a 1080p set in any shop that pops with such accuracy than a uhd hdr 4k tv. Im having the same size decision issues also, I should get a 75 but can only afford a 65.

  • Paul from Agoura Hills, CA

    Posted on 4/21/2017 7:31:04 PM

    For enjoyment of a video, I think sound is more fundamental than screen size. I bought a 65" for a small room and regret--the tv dominates the room. I have several viewing positions, one as close as 3 feet while sitting at the desk with the tv on the wall above. Sitting at desk, the image pixels are visible. A smaller tv would have denser pixels and look more clear at close distance. The screen looks great from the back of the room about 10'. I bought the biggest TV that would fit the space on the wall where I intended to hang the tv. A smaller TV would fit my room better, and costs less. A 50" would be better than my 65". My tv is Sony XBR-65X850D bought around January 2017.

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