With 4K Ultra HD TVs (which offer four times the pixel resolution of 1080p HD displays) serving as the new standard, choosing a TV screen size that’s just right for you is easier 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), Ultra HD displays can span much larger screen sizes without sacrificing that gorgeous picture from close up.
Accordingly, brands are now pushing the boundaries of screen sizes, offering jaw-dropping UHD displays at a massive 85-inches in size, and higher. Basically, if you’ve got the space, a mondo screen with excellent picture quality is at your disposal. These days, there are also other picture benefits like HDR and wide color gamut, but for our purposes here, we’ll stick to size as the primary focus.
The real question: 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.
Before deciding on what size TV is best suited for you, we suggest you bust out your measuring tape to see what screen size 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 For instance, yesterday’s 42-inch screen has been replaced by 39-inch and 40-inch sizes, while yesterday’s 46-inch is likely a 50-inch or 55-inch today.
Also, remember that 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 perspective — literally. When you see a wall of TVs it’s nearly impossible to guess which would work best in your space 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 that bigger really 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.
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 you plan to wall mount, however, there are a few more factors to keep in mind. While most HD TVs are pretty light, many premium 4K Ultra HD TVs are still on the heavy side comparatively. 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 weight. Wall anchors can be used for some lighter TV’s, but again, 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 weight of an “average” Ultra HD flat screen can be anywhere between 25-60 pounds or heavier, with the number increasing or decreasing rapidly due to screen size and display style. The very lightest TVs are usually edge-lit LED TVs, which can weigh as little as 25-35 pounds for a mid-sized model. Full-array backlit 4K Ultra HD LEDs will often add a few extra pounds to the equation. Even the thinnest OLED displays, which don’t require a backlight to light up the pixels, can be heavier than you’d think (outside of crazy-light models like LG’s W7 Wallpaper OLED display), due to some of the premium materials in use.
Bottom line: if you’re planning on putting your TV 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 for the main room. Trust us, you won’t be wishing for a downgrade.
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 to get the most out of your 4K Ultra HD screen. Since virtually all TVs on the market now offer 4K Ultra HD resolution, worrying about its relevancy is essentially an exercise in futility. However, if you’re curious, the graph below shows exactly where your eyes are likely to benefit most from UHD.
It used to be with SD and even HD TVs, you’d need to worry about your minimum viewing distance — getting too close could cause pixelation of the image. Since that’s no longer relevant with 4K Ultra HD, you may want to focus instead on a display that will test the limits of your field of vision in order to maximize the “immersion” effect. For that, we again suggest sticking to the biggest screen you can afford, while of course considering the overall quality of the TV.
The Ultra HD question
While 4K Ultra HD’s much higher pixel density means you can sit much closer and not worry about the picture looking pixelated, many have argued against the necessity of 4K. Again, however, like it or not TVs have all but abandoned HD resolution and that will only expand moving forward. It’s also important to remember that, in addition to higher resolution, the latest TVs offer many other benefits worthy of investment, including the latest processing for upscaling SD and HD content, as well as support for features mentioned above like HDR and wider color gamut, which allow for better contrast and a wider color palette for a more realistic picture from any distance.
Big or small, we suggest you invest in a quality set from a major manufacturer, such as Samsung, LG, Sony, Vizio, and Panasonic. While Chinese brands like Hisense and TCL are moving up quickly, in our experience, paying up for a mid-tier model or better from an established brand is always worth it — even if you have to sacrifice a little size. Budget brands tend to have low-quality upscaling chips, poorer refresh rates, and clunkier smart interfaces, all of which can squander the benefits of your new 4K Ultra HD TV.
For more guidance, be sure to check out our latest TV reviews to help you get the biggest and best-quality picture for your hard-earned dollars.
Updated 4-03-2017 by Ryan Waniata: Added information about 4K Ultra HD resolution as the standard, TVs’ average size and weight, and debates on quality over quantity and the need for 4K.