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How to figure out what size TV you should buy

When we romanticize thoughts of a new TV entering our homes and lives, it’s not uncommon to imagine the biggest flat-screen your entertainment center or living room wall could accommodate. In many cases, however, “biggest” isn’t always the best. When it comes to picking out a new TV, size does matter. Depending on the size of the room your TV is going into, you’ll want to be mindful of things like picture and audio quality as well as comfort for your eyes, neck, and other parts of your body. Individual preference can play a role, too. While some people might want a smaller, more basic option, others might like large flat-screens with the latest technology. 

Depending on what you’re looking for, we’ve factored in your TV size to try to simplify the buying process.

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Will it fit in your TV room?

Before you decide whether you’re looking for an HDTV, LCD TV, LED TV, or Ultra HD TV, you’ll need to decide where you want your television to reside. Once you’ve chosen the location, measure the height, width, and depth of that spot (there may be limitations due to the size of an entertainment center or the amount of space on a wall). Later, when shopping, you can match this up with the measurements of the television itself, not its screen size, to make sure it will fit. You’ll find some TVs have footprints that are physically larger than others of the same screen size, so always look at the dimensions to see whether it will slot into the space available.

Click here to try out our interactive guide to find which size and display type are ideal for your room.

How wide is the stand?

The second size-related consideration is the television’s attached stand. If you aren’t going to mount your new TV on a wall, this will play a big part in how much space it takes up on your console table, and many newer TVs have feet at the far edges. You need to ensure that wherever you plan on placing the television is wide enough to accommodate the stand. You’ll want to be strict here, too. Often, people think it’s safe to let the corners overhang, forgetting that it’s been designed to rest on a flat surface. Fail to do so and the faintest breath of wind could send the whole thing tumbling over.

For situations where you can’t wall-mount your TV and can’t see yourself parting ways with a cherished piece of home theater furniture, you can always opt for a universal TV stand. Similar to a standard TV wall mount, VESA-certified arms are screwed into the back of your TV, while a mounting bracket is fixed to the base of the stand. Many universal stands also will tilt and pivot up and down, as well as left to right.

How far away will you be?


Next, think about where you’ll be sitting in relation to the TV. There are viewing distance calculators (here is another calculator) that recommend a TV screen size based on your seating distance. If you don’t want to bother with an online calculator, there’s a simplified calculation that you can do to work it out yourself: Measure the distance from your seat to the television in inches and multiply by 0.84. This should give you the ideal screen size and the right size for your space.

This method isn’t perfect, of course. For example, if you are sitting 8 feet from the TV, the calculation calls for an 80-inch screen, and that’s just not realistic for most of us. Most living rooms will do best with at least a 50-inch screen size and, of course, taste and style are going to factor in heavily, as will the viewing angleYou can technically go as big as you like and purchase a larger screen size — just make sure you’re sitting more than 4 feet from the TV itself and you should be fine.

Size vs. quality

If you’re trying to maximize screen real estate on a tight budget, you’re going to have to sacrifice picture quality. As such, we’d recommend — as per our comprehensive TV buying guide — striking a balance between the two factors for long-time enjoyment. So instead of going for that massive 65-inch 4K TV from an up-and-coming brand that’s on the shelves for just $500, consider opting for the smaller 55-inch, big-name model next to it for $550. Chances are, it has a far better screen and better resolution, and that’ll result in a much more immersive viewing experience, even more so when using HDR.

You’ll also want to keep in mind the types of content you’ll be viewing. If you’re a Blu-ray enthusiast or 4K streaming connoisseur, your HDTV is constantly displaying the most high-fidelity image your set can deliver. If your TV of choice is closer to 80 inches, or you’ve opted for a 55-inch but you’re sitting closer to the screen, you won’t notice much distortion in the image. The other side of that coin is if you’re a big watcher of older DVDs, VHS, and home video formats, but your living room is rocking a TV with the same dimensions as above, you’ll notice more distortion and imperfections. Know what you like to watch, and how much you like to watch what you like.

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