How Big a Screen Do I Need for My Room?

Distance from a television screen affects your viewing experience. The closer you are to the screen, the more engaging and absorbing the experience. The farther you are from it the more distant the action will be. Sit the correct distance from the screen--not so far that you can't see the detail, but not so close that you get distracted by the rows of pixels that make up the screen. Other considerations in determining screen size for your room include cost, and any existing infrastructure, like cabinets, that will hold the TV or affect its location. Choosing the correct size screen can be accomplished by following these steps.

1. Measure the distance from your seating to the location where you intend to place the screen and write down the measurement in inches. If you are replacing an older CRT (cathode ray tube) with a flat screen you will be able to sit closer to the screen than you could with the tube television.

2. Viewing distance can be anywhere from 1.5 to 3 times the screen size for an optimal experience. Divide the viewing distance you wrote down above by 3 to determine the minimum size screen in inches. (TV screen size is measured diagonally.) Divide the viewing distance by 1.5 to determine the maximum size screen. For example, if the viewing distance is 10 feet, or 120 inches, divide 120 by 3 to get 40 inches, your minimum size. Divide 120 by 1.5 to get 96 inches, your maximum size.

3. Shop for a screen size somewhere between the minimums and maximums you determined in the previous step. Larger is better, so pick the largest one within budget. Don't buy it yet, but note the television's entire dimensions--screen plus bezel. Be aware that screens bigger than 70 inches in size will add significant physical depth to the television, too, because they use projection technology, and will not look as good.

4. Cut a piece of cardboard to the screen-plus-bezel dimensions you noted in the previous step. Place the cardboard at the proposed screen location and make sure it doesn't overwhelm the space, if that's important to you. Verify that it fits within any existing cabinetry that you plan to use.

5. In the store, check that the aspect ratio will be acceptable to you at the viewing distance you've determined. The 16:9 aspect ratio of newer televisions can be a big change from the 4:3 aspect ratio you may have been used to with a CRT. You may want to go bigger (without exceeding the "maximum" number you've calculated) to compensate.

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