HDTV Buying Guide 2008

How to Get the Most Out of Your HDTV

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Choose a Location for the TV and Arrange Seating

For optimum viewing, the viewer's angle should be not exceed 40 degrees. Image source: THX.com.
For optimum viewing, the viewer's angle should be not exceed 40 degrees. Image source: THX.com.
To enjoy your new TV at its best, you need to rearrange the furniture in your living room or home-theater room. Sketch out the dimensions of your room on a piece of graph paper, and demarcate where you want the television to go. Then add in your seating at the proper distance and viewing angle for your TV screen. To calculate the optimal viewing distance for a 1080p screen, THX (the video and audio company founded by director George Lucas) recommends multiplying your diagonal screen size by 1.2. For a 50-inch HDTV, that works out to 5 feet; and for a 70-inch screen, 7 feet. These distances may seem short for viewing such large screens, but the added picture detail in HD video allows you to get closer than would be recommended for standard-definition screens, so you can immerse yourself in the action. Of course, if you prefer, you can sit further back--up to about 2.5 times your screen size--and still get an outstanding viewing experience, but the immersive feel will be less. Finally, be sure that your viewing angle doesn't exceed 40 degrees (see the illustration above), and have your line of sight directed as close to the center of the screen as possible.

Place Your Speakers

Cambridge SoundWorks Studio Home Theater System
If you plan to add a surround-sound speaker system, sketch out locations for your speakers in your diagram. If you'll be setting up a 5.1-speaker system, place the center channel just on top of or underneath your TV, position the left and right channels on either side of the screen, and locate the two surround speakers to the sides and slightly behind your seats. You can put the subwoofer anywhere in this sound field, though situating it next to the center channel simplifies cabling--since the only long runs will be to the surround speakers. For a 7.1 setup, you'll place two additional surround speakers behind the seating area. Wondering where to hide the speaker wires? Try running them along or behind baseboards or on top of picture rails.

Speaker options can be confusing, so it's not a bad idea to compare surround sound speaker combinations.

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