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Size does matter: Here’s how to get the right size TV for you, the first time out

With so many 1080p HD and now UHD or 4K TVs (which offer four times the pixel resolution of 1080p displays) available, choosing a TV screen size that’s just right for you is tougher than ever. Unlike older big screen TVs, which would lose clarity the closer you got to them ( the image would become pixelated, an effect where individual pixels are seen with the naked eye), advancements in technology have allowed manufacturers to produce high-resolution HD screens that can span much larger screen sizes without sacrificing that gorgeous HD brilliance from close-up, or far away.

Accordingly, brands are now pushing the boundaries of screen sizes, offering HD displays in the whopping 90-inch range, and jaw-dropping UHD displays at up to 110-inches in size. Basically, if you’ve got the space – in your room, and wallet – a massive screen with excellent picture quality is at your disposal.

But how big do you really need to go in order to be happy with your purchase? We’ll outline a few guidelines below to help make certain your next TV delivers the wow for years to come.

Measuring up

Samsung F9000 654KTV bezeltop2

Before deciding on what size of TV is best suited for you, we suggest you bust out your tape measure and take some measurements to see what size of TV you can accommodate. As you do, keep in mind that today’s flat screens come in slightly different sizes than they did just a couple of years ago. For instance, yesterday’s 42-inch screen has been replaced by 39-inch and 46-inch sizes. Also, remember that a few inches may not sound like a lot, but TVs are measured diagonally, so just a couple of inches can have significant ramifications on both height and width measurements. Finally, remember that not all bezels are the same! A high-end TV with a slim bezel will measure smaller than an entry-level TV with the same screen size, but a larger bezel.

Measuring ahead of time also keeps things in the right perspective. When you see a wall of TV’s it’s nearly impossible to guess which would work best because you lack the sort of perspective necessary to make an accurate determination. With numbers in hand, you’re less likely to make a mistake.

Very generally speaking, we feel bigger rooms tend to require bigger screens, depending on seating placement. Tact and aesthetics also come into play, but our general rule of thumb when it comes to TV screen size is: bigger is better. Most people spend very little time wishing they were watching a smaller screen, and in our experience, it doesn’t take long to get used to a really big display.

Weight

Consider whether you’ll be mounting your TV or placing it on a stand. If you plan to stand mount, you’ll just need to know how much surface area you’ve got available for the stand, and be sure the material can support the weight of the TV you plan to buy.

If, however, you plan to wall mount, there are a few more factors to keep in mind. You’ll need a wall-mount that can support the TV, and, depending on how heavy the TV is, you’ll need that wall mount to be affixed to studs in the wall to safely support the TV. Wall anchors can be used from some lighter TV’s, but make sure the anchors or toggle bolts you use can handle the weight of your TV. The last thing you need is a brand new TV taking a dive because your drywall gave way.

For general reference, the ‘average’ flat screen weighs around 45 lbs., with that number increasing or decreasing rapidly due to screen size and display style. The very lightest displays are edge-lit LEDs, which can be as low as 25 lbs for a mid-sized model, while backlit LEDs, plasma, and Ultra HD displays will all add a few extra pounds to the equation.

With that said, even Ultra HD TVs are now averaging only around 65-80 lbs for a sizable 65-inch display. But if you’re going really big, such as Sharp’s mondo 90-inch PN-R903, be prepared to handle up to 165 lbs of HD hardware. Bottom line: if you’re planning on putting it on the wall, make sure you’ve got the means to keep it there.

Location, Location Location!

Is the TV going to be tucked away in a bedroom, or will it be the apex of the entertainment center? Smaller screens tend to be more manageable for most bedrooms. Conversely, we recommend you go big and bold for the main room, especially if you do any entertaining. In today’s market, we recommend starting at 50-inches and working up from there. Trust us, you won’t be wishing for a downgrade.

Viewing distance

We’ve found that people tend to want a hard and fast rule to abide by – some kind of formula that says if you sit X-feet away, your TV should be Y-inches for the best results. With that in mind, we’ve provided some helpful graphs below. However, these graphs should only be taken as very general guidelines. These aren’t rules, and even if they were, we’d suggest you break them.

tv-viewing-distance-02

For most folks, seeing the pixel structure of an image isn’t likely to be a problem, unless you’re sitting unusually close to the TV. If you are, then we suggest keeping the guidelines in the graph below in mind. Otherwise, consider your field of vision. You want a display that will test the limits of your field of vision in order to maximize the “immersion” effect. For that, we suggest sticking close to the biggest screen you get based on the minimum viewing distance, as indicated in the second chart above.

resolution_chart

The Ultra HD question

One of the biggest surprises at CES 2014 was that both Vizio and Polaroid unveiled 50-inch Ultra HD models for a ridiculously low price of $1,000, making the option feasible for the average Joe. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should run out and grab one. While we can’t make the decision for you about whether or not to get into Ultra HD right now, we can give you some points to consider.

Ultra HD TVs just don’t make a whole lot of sense in sizes under 55-inches. Some would argue that breaking point is higher, say about 65-inches. But if you’re going to be sitting especially close to a display measuring over 55-inches, we recommend considering a 2014 model Ultra HD TV. These televisions’ much higher pixel density means you can sit much closer and not worry about the picture looking pixelated.

But even if you aren’t sitting super close to your television, the greater pixel density Ultra HD affords is a benefit, even from further away, if the TV is 65-inches or more. The key is to make sure you invest in a high-quality set from a major manufacturer. The budget brands (Polaroid, Seki, Konka, etc.) tend to have low quality upscaling chips inside, and quality upscaling is crucial for making standard and high definition content look good on an Ultra HD display.

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