What is the best viewing distance for your TV, or how about the ideal TV screen size for your room? Discover how to calculate your perfect TV viewing distance.
When you buy a new flat-screen TV, there are two common questions.
What size TV do you need for your room – and what is the best TV viewing distance?
The fact is that these two things are related, and the answer you get for one question will affect the other.
Do you just buy the largest screen you can afford, or is it possible to get a screen that is just too big for the room?
Are there any guidelines you can use to decide on the best TV or projector screen size for your space?
Read on to find out.
- TV Screen Size and Viewing Distance Calculators
- How Is the TV Screen Size Measured?
- Finding the Best Screen Size and TV Viewing Distance
- 1. Recommended Distance Based on Field of View
- 2. Recommended Distance Based on Image Resolution
- 3. Recommended Distance Based on a Range
- Does the Brand of Your TV Affect How Far Away You Should Sit?
- Some Other Things to Think About
TV Screen Size and Viewing Distance Calculators
This article discusses several ways to work out the best size TV for your room – and how far to sit from your TV.
However, if you just want to get on and grab some numbers, here are two calculators that will help you do this quickly.
In the first calculator, enter your TV screen size, and you will get suggestions for the best TV viewing distance:
The second calculates the best TV size for your room.
Enter your expected viewing distance, and you will get a suggested range of TV sizes for your room:
If you want more in-depth information on how these numbers are calculated, please read the rest of the article.
First, some basics, how do you work out the size of your TV screen?
How Is the TV Screen Size Measured?
The size of a flat-screen TV is usually measured on a diagonal line from the top left corner down to the bottom right.
Or, from bottom left to top right, if you prefer.
Hopefully, it’s the same!
This distance is often quoted in inches, and different manufacturers will offer various sizes in their product range.
Sometimes you may see the size of a TV listed as the width or the height of the screen. But using the diagonal distance is the conventional way.
To learn more, check out how to measure a TV screen.
Currently, there are two main types of TV – LED and OLED. You might be surprised to know that these TV types are available in very different screen sizes.
You can expect to find LED TVs ranging from about 15 to 80 inches – and in some cases, more.
However, at the time of writing, OLED TVs are only available in larger screen sizes, usually around 50 to 85 inches.
So, one thing you need to understand is that the size of the screen you buy may be limited by the type of technology you want.
If you want to learn more about the differences between LED and OLED televisions, check out the buying guide to the best flat-screen TVs.
However, once you have decided on the type of HDTV you want, how do you choose the right screen size for your room?
And, what is the best distance to view your TV from?
Finding the Best Screen Size and TV Viewing Distance
The first thing to appreciate is that this isn’t an exact science.
Yes, some calculations are available to give you a better idea of the ideal screen size, and these are covered later.
But you should understand there are several factors that can affect your opinion of the right-sized TV for your room:
- Personal taste
- The location in the room
- The resolution of the TV pictures you are watching
- Even the quality of your eyesight!
You can put two people in the same room, and both may have different opinions of the right size screen and the best viewing distance.
However, it can help get some solid numbers to give a starting point, so how might you do this?
Well, there are three ways that you can try.
Some of the numbers presented here are based on the excellent work by Carlton Bale. If you like working with spreadsheets, you might want to download his home theater spreadsheet calculator.
The information here can be used for TV and projector screens.
1. Recommended Distance Based on Field of View
In terms of watching television, the field of view (FOV) is the viewing angle between a person and the visible area of a TV screen.
The closer you get to the screen, the field of view gets wider – and your viewing experience will be more immersive.
However, the FOV will probably be too wide for most people if you get too close.
Have you sat in the front row of an IMAX cinema? You pretty much need to turn your head to see the action at the ends of the screen.
In that scenario, most would say the field of view is too wide – although you may like it!
So, the field of view is commonly used to define a reasonable viewing distance.
In their guidelines for a movie theater, THX suggests a minimum field of view of 26° – although their recommended field of view is 36° for the back row.
Therefore, a 26° FOV is the furthest distance from the screen they recommend – but, ideally, the best distance would be a field of view of 36° or closer.
SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) also provides guidelines on the best viewing angles for watching a screen.
Their EG-18-1994 standard suggests a minimum FOV of 30°, which is slightly further away than the 36° recommendation from THX.
Therefore, according to these guidelines, you want to aim for a field of view of about 30-36°. Although you can go closer depending on your preference.
Neither of the guidelines advises how close you can get – just a maximum suggestion for how far away you should be.
Remember, the smaller angle is further away, and the bigger angle is nearer to the screen.
So, less than 26° will most likely be too far away for many people.
And greater than 36° will be more immersive but will reach a point where it is just too close.
Also, you should bear in mind these recommendations are for a real movie theater.
So, while you can use them for guidance in your home, many people will often need to make some compromises.
Another point to remember is that these recommendations don’t consider image resolution, which is something covered in more detail in a while.
The recommended distance based on the field of view will also vary depending on the size of your screen.
Fortunately, you can easily calculate the recommended viewing distances with some math.
Here is a calculator for working out the recommended viewing distance for a 16:9 screen based on the field of view. Just select your screen size to see the results.
THX and SMPTE Viewing Distance Calculator
2. Recommended Distance Based on Image Resolution
A TV screen has a fixed native resolution. Ideally, the image that you see on that screen will have the same resolution.
Go here to understand more about image and native TV resolutions.
However, if you move away from the TV screen, there comes a point where you simply can’t see all the detail in the image.
This maximum distance will vary depending on the resolution of the image and the size of the screen.
So, the further away you get from the maximum distance, you will see less detail.
And the closer you get, the more you will see the imperfections in the image resolution.
Therefore, if you want to see all the detail of your high-resolution screen, there is a recommended distance that you must sit from the screen.
So, this is another way of deciding the best viewing distance for your TV.
Remember that this distance can vary depending on the person looking at the screen because visual acuity will vary.
It is even common to differ between men and women. So, the next time you argue with your spouse about the position of the TV – now you know why!
The generally accepted figure is that a person with 20/20 vision can detect detail as small as 1 arc minute – or 1/60th of a degree.
Therefore, as the TV resolution increases – and the TV pixels get smaller – there is a limit to how far away you can see this detail.
If you are good with formulas, you can find more detailed information on visual acuity calculations.
Alternatively, here is a calculator that shows the recommended distance by resolution for a 16:9 screen – for someone with 20/20 vision:
Visual Acuity Viewing Distance Calculator
The main thing you may notice is that, with 4K and 8K screens, using visual acuity to judge viewing distance becomes less important.
You have to sit so close to see the extra detail that it is almost not worth considering. This is why the resolution of your TV isn’t so important these days.
Screens that support HDR and a wide color gamut offer more to the perceived picture quality than the resolution.
3. Recommended Distance Based on a Range
The two previous solutions won’t necessarily give you the same recommended viewing distance.
So, you will either need to choose one or the other – or find a compromise distance that gives you the best balance between the two.
As stated previously, there is no absolute right or wrong here. It will often come down to personal taste, your eyesight or how you use the screen in your room.
So, if you don’t want to choose between one or the other – or think that getting it exactly right isn’t practical or suitable for your room – then another alternative is just to use a general rule-of-thumb that will give you a range to aim for.
One popular rule of thumb is to simply use one foot of viewing distance for every 10 inches of diagonal screen size. This might sound more complicated than it is:
- A 70-inch screen at 7 feet.
- A 60-inch screen at 6 feet.
- A 50-inch screen at 5 feet.
This gives a field of view of around 40° – which is slightly closer than the THX recommendation of 36°.
However, this is a reasonable distance for those who want to be close enough to get an excellent immersive experience – without being too close.
Of course, if you like being closer still, that’s up to you.
A rough calculation like that can be the starting point for a recommended viewing distance range.
A similar rule-of-thumb you can use is a ratio of 1.2 to 2.5 times the diagonal width of your TV.
The lower end of the scale will give you a field of view of around 40°.
The higher end will give you slightly further than the maximum allowable distance for the THX guidelines – so around 20° rather than the THX maximum of 26°.
This will allow that a home theater is more likely in a communal living area – rather than a dedicated theater space – so a long distance might be required.
It feels about right as a maximum distance, although something that far will be better for general TV viewing.
Nearer is better if you can.
Anything in this range will work well. You just need to decide if you prefer being closer – for a more immersive experience with more detail – or further away.
Of course, these are only general guidelines, so feel free to go closer or further away than this if it suits you and your room better.
When using this ratio, there are two ways you can approach it:
- Decide on the screen size you want, and then calculate the optimal viewing distance
- Estimate the viewing distance in your room, and calculate an ideal screen size for it
Here are some examples of how to work this out.
1. Calculating Sitting Distance from the TV Screen Size
If you already know the screen size for your room, then you can use this TV viewing distance formula to calculate a good viewing distance.
For example, if you have a 50-inch screen, then your ideal viewing distance will be:
- Minimum: 1.2 x 50-inches = 60-inches
- Maximum: 2.5 x 50-inches = 125-inches
Or 5 to 10 feet.
The following table shows a range of standard screen sizes and suggests a minimum and maximum viewing distance.
The numbers have been rounded a little to make it easier to read:
So you can use this as a guideline when placing your TV and furniture in the room.
You can also use the TV viewing distance calculator at the top of this page to calculate these numbers for you.
2. Calculating TV Screen Size from Your Viewing Distance
Alternatively, you can look at this from the other direction.
Start with your viewing distance, and then work out a good screen size.
In many rooms, the viewing distance from the screen is pretty limited, and there aren’t too many places to put the TV and home theater seating.
Therefore, if you can estimate how far from the TV you will be sitting, you can get a rough idea of the best screen size for that room.
This time you can divide your viewing distance by 2.5 to get the minimum screen size – and by 1.2 to get the maximum screen size.
So, for example, if you know the viewing distance in your room will be about 10 feet (or 120-inches), you can work out that a good TV size will be in the range of:
- Minimum screen size: 120 inches ÷ 2.5 = 48-inches
- Maximum screen size: 120 inches ÷ 1.2 = 100-inches
Now, that still gives you quite a bit of choice, but at least you can rule out screens below 48 inches, and you have a better idea of where to start looking.
The numbers are rounded a little in the chart below to make it more straightforward:
The most helpful number in this method is the minimum screen size.
For example, if you sit 14 feet from the screen, you should be looking to buy a TV of around 68 inches and above.
Therefore, ideally, you need a big screen from that distance.
But remember, these are only rough guidelines.
So if you want to watch an 80-inch screen from 3 feet, then go ahead.
There’s no law against it!
You can use the best TV screen size calculator at the top of the page to get more results based on your viewing distance.
The screen size recommendations in the calculator are slightly different and use a 26° field of view rather than 20° as suggested here.
This is simply to limit the screen size recommendations a little more.
Either will work, and it is ultimately just a matter of preference.
Does the Brand of Your TV Affect How Far Away You Should Sit?
Many people ask what the best viewing distance for a Sony TV is – and you can insert any brand you like there – LG, Samsung, whatever.
The simple answer is that the brand of your TV doesn’t matter. Regardless of who makes it, they all have the same essential specifications – screen size and resolution.
These are the critical features to consider.
So, if you were wondering, the issue of viewing distance is the same for any television brand.
Some Other Things to Think About
The guidelines covered above give a good starting point.
However, as mentioned earlier, this isn’t an exact science. Two people will often have different opinions on suitable screen sizes for a room.
So, now you have a rough idea of your screen size and viewing distance, here are a couple of extra points to help you make your final decision.
1. Standard, High-Definition & Ultra HD Pictures
If you mainly watch high-definition or 4K Ultra HD images, a larger screen will allow you to appreciate the extra detail – and it will also look great if you sit very close.
In this case, you will probably benefit more from the following:
- A bigger screen.
- A shorter viewing distance.
On the other hand, if you still watch plenty of standard-definition TV and DVDs, then the reduced resolution may be more evident on a larger screen.
Therefore, you may see the imperfections more if you sit too close.
Or, a smaller TV may hide the reduced resolutions more effectively.
2. What Genre of TV Will You Be Watching?
If you mostly watch movies, sports and documentaries – anything where you sit down for an extended period and concentrate – then a larger screen is perfect for appreciating the action and detail.
You may also enjoy being closer to the screen.
On the other hand, if much of your TV viewing is for shorter programs that require less attention – or your TV is on ‘in the background’ much of the time – a bigger screen may be too overwhelming in the room.
So a longer viewing distance or smaller screen size may be better.
3. Where Will the TV Be Installed?
A large TV installed on a wall can sometimes integrate better into a room than one standing on a piece of furniture.
Due to the size of the wall – and because the screen appears more ‘removed’ from the room – it can often make a bigger TV appear smaller and less noticeable.
However, if standing on a unit or TV cabinet, the television can appear more ‘on top of you,’ and a larger size may seem too big.
4. In a Home – Not a Shop
Be careful if you go into a shop to get a feel for the size of a particular TV.
A large shop floor with many other TVs around can make it difficult to judge the size of a screen. If possible, try and see a similar-sized screen in someone’s home where you will get a better perspective on the size.
Another trick you can try is to cut a piece of wood or cardboard to the same size as the TV you are thinking of getting.
Place this in the approximate position in your room, and you will get a good idea of how big the TV will look when you buy it.
5. If in Doubt…
You will get used to a large screen very quickly.
When you first install a large flat-screen TV, it may seem ridiculously big compared to what you may have been used to.
However, you will very soon get used to the new size… and you may even start wishing you bought the next size up.
So, if in doubt… go for the bigger one!
If the larger TV is a bit too expensive for you, check out these 25 ways to buy a cheap smart TV and save money.
If you are wondering about the best viewing distance for your room, it can seem a difficult choice.
However, things can become much clearer once you think about things logically.
Get a feel for a good viewing distance by working it out from your screen size – then consider how you will be using the TV and the type of things you will watch.
There are similar arguments for choosing the right TV screen size for your room.
You can get a rough idea by working out the viewing distance you will have. Then, you can calculate a broad range of suitable sizes.
After that, you need to consider things like the type of images you will be watching on the TV, how you will be using the screen, and the location in the room you will be installing it.
Oh, and don’t forget the golden rule… if in doubt, get the bigger one!
About Home Cinema Guide
Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has been a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment. You can find out more here.