Skip to content

How to Choose the Right TV Size: A Complete Guide

How to Choose the Right TV Size: The Ultimate Guide

When it comes to picking out a new television, one of the most important considerations is screen size. Choosing the right TV size for your space is crucial for creating an optimal viewing experience. Get a TV that‘s too small and you‘ll be squinting to make out details from across the room. But a TV that‘s too massive for your space can be equally problematic, overwhelming the room and making it uncomfortable to watch. You want that Goldilocks "just right" TV size.

While it‘s tempting to just get the biggest screen that will fit in your space and call it a day, there are actually a number of factors you should take into account to zero in on the perfect TV size. According to John Archer from Forbes, "the old idea that bigger is always better when it comes to TVs doesn‘t really hold true anymore. The advent of new high resolution TV technologies like 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) pictures now means that in many cases you can deliver a fantastic picture quality and immersive experience even on relatively small screens."

As an expert who spends a lot of time testing and reviewing TVs, I‘m here to walk you through everything you need to know to pick the right TV size for your needs and preferences. Let‘s dig in.

Sizing Up Your Space
The first factor to consider when figuring out the optimal TV size is the room you plan to put it in. Are you looking for a TV for an expansive living room or a cozy bedroom? The general rule of thumb is that the bigger the room, the larger the screen you can use.

To help you match TV size to room size, here are some broad guidelines:

  • Bedrooms: 32 to 40 inches
  • Kitchens: 24 to 32 inches
  • Living rooms: 55 to 75 inches (or larger if a very big room)
  • Home theaters: 75 inches or larger

In addition to room size, also think about the room‘s layout and how it may impact TV placement. Will the TV be wall-mounted or placed on top of a piece of furniture? If wall-mounting, you have more flexibility in terms of size since you can position the screen at the perfect height. With a TV stand, you‘re more constrained by the dimensions of the furniture. Be sure to measure the space your stand accommodates to narrow down size options.

Next, consider how you‘ll be arranging your seating. Will your sofa or chairs be placed directly in front of the TV or off to the sides? A TV placed in a corner may require a larger screen to deliver a good viewing experience from an angle.

Distance Makes a Difference
Another major factor in choosing the right TV size is how far away you‘ll be sitting. There‘s actually a bit of a science to figuring out the optimal screen size based on your seating distance. The goal is to find a screen size that fills up a good portion of your field of view without overwhelming your vision or causing eye strain.

Here‘s a simple formula you can use: Viewing distance (in inches)/2 = recommended TV size.

For example, if your couch is 10 feet (120 inches) from the TV wall, 120/2 = 60. So a 60-inch TV would be a good fit based on that seating distance.

For a more visual approach, you can also refer to this viewing distance chart:

  • 32" TV: 4-6 feet
  • 40" TV: 5-8 feet
  • 50" TV: 6.5-10 feet
  • 55" TV: 7-11.5 feet
  • 60" TV: 7.5-12 feet
  • 65" TV: 8-13 feet
  • 70" TV: 9-14.5 feet
  • 75" TV: 9.5-15.5 feet
  • 80" TV: 10-16.5 feet
  • 85" TV: 10.5-17.5 feet

Keep in mind, these are just general guidelines. The size you ultimately choose comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer a more immersive experience and like the feeling of the TV filling up their entire field of view. Others find that uncomfortable and would rather have a screen that‘s a bit smaller. The key is to strike a balance where the TV is large enough that you can see all the details without needing to strain your eyes, but not so massive that it feels like the TV is swallowing you up.

Resolution Matters
Another important piece of the TV size puzzle is screen resolution. Resolution refers to the number of pixels that make up the display and is a key factor in determining image sharpness and clarity. A higher resolution means more pixels are packed into the screen, resulting in a more detailed picture.

Today, there are three main resolution options available:

  • HD (720p to 1080p)
  • 4K (3840×2160)
  • 8K (7680×4320)

As a general rule, the higher the resolution, the closer you can comfortably sit to the TV without the grid-like pixel structure becoming visible (a visual distortion referred to as the "screen-door effect"). So you can sit closer to a 4K TV than an HDTV without worrying about seeing pixels. And you can sit even closer to an 8K TV than a 4K model.

Here are some approximate seating distance guidelines for difference resolutions:

  • HD (1080p): 1.5-2.5 times screen diagonal
  • 4K: 1-1.5 times screen diagonal
  • 8K: 0.75-1 times screen diagonal

So what does this mean for choosing a TV size? If you‘re opting for a 4K or 8K resolution TV, you can comfortably go with a larger screen size since you can sit closer without image degradation compared to a lower-res TV. On the flip side, if you‘re going with a lower resolution, 720p or 1080p model, you‘ll want to increase your viewing distance (and reduce screen size accordingly).

Finding Your Viewing Angle Sweet Spot
While not discussed as often as screen size and resolution, viewing angle is another important factor that impacts your TV watching experience. Viewing angle refers to how far to either side of directly in front of the TV you can watch from without the picture looking washed out or distorted.

For an optimal viewing experience, you want to position your TV and seating so your eyes are as close to level with the center of the screen as possible. TVs generally look their best when viewed straight on rather than from an angle. The further off-center you are, the more the image is likely to degrade.

According to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), the ideal vertical viewing angle is up to 15 degrees above or below the center of the screen. For the horizontal viewing angle, it depends on the TV. LCDs tend to have a narrower viewing angle (around 45 degrees off center) while OLEDs provide wider angle viewing.

When considering TV size and placement, think about the range of viewing angles from your seating area. Will everyone have a good view of the screen or will some people be stuck with far off-angle seats? If your seating arrangement requires people to view the TV from wider angles, you may want to opt for either a larger screen or an OLED model that maintains image quality at wider viewing angles compared to an LCD TV.

Bigger Isn‘t Always Better
Now that we‘ve covered the main technical factors to consider, I want to also talk a bit about TV size trends and preferences. In recent years, there‘s been a definite shift toward larger screen sizes in general. It‘s now common to see 55, 65, and even 75-inch plus models—screen sizes that would have seemed massive in the era of CRT TVs.

A big reason for this trend is that large screen TVs have become much more affordable as manufacturing technologies have improved. You can now get a feature-rich 65-inch 4K smart TV for under $1,000, a price that would have been unheard of even five years ago for that size. And according to a 2022 report from market research firm TrendForce, 65-inch and larger TVs are expected to account for nearly a quarter of all new TVs by 2024, up from 14.7% in 2022.

But, as tempting as it is to just get the biggest screen you can afford, biggest isn‘t always best when it comes to TVs. It‘s more important to find the size that is the best match for your space, viewing distance and viewing angle. A modestly-sized TV with a great 4K HDR picture can provide an excellent viewing experience. And a smaller screen may be a better fit for your room layout and decor than a massive model.

Ultimately, it‘s about balancing what will deliver the best picture from where you‘ll be watching and what you feel comfortable with in terms of aesthetics and space. As Caleb Denison, Senior Editor at Digital Trends, puts it: "In our experience, it‘s best to aim for a screen that is adequately large, and not worry about going too big. You will rarely, if ever, wish you had gone smaller, but you might occasionally wish you had gone bigger."

Other Features to Look For
While I‘ve focused mainly on TV size in this guide, there are a handful of other key features you‘ll want to consider in your quest to find the perfect TV. These include:

  • HDR: Look for a 4K TV that supports high dynamic range (HDR) formats like HDR10 and Dolby Vision. HDR provides enhanced contrast and color compared to standard dynamic range TVs. Just keep in mind, you‘ll need native HDR content to take advantage of it.
  • Refresh rate: A TV‘s refresh rate (measured in Hertz) refers to how many times per second it refreshes the image on screen. For a smooth viewing experience, look for a TV with at least a 120Hz native refresh rate, particularly if you plan to watch a lot of fast-action sports or play video games.
  • Smart TV platform: Most TVs now have built-in smart TV platforms that provide access to popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. The specific platform (e.g. Android TV, Roku TV, webOS, etc.) comes down to personal preference but it‘s worth checking to see which one carries the apps you use most. And if you already have a favored external streaming device, you can skip the smart features altogether.
  • HDMI 2.1: If you have or plan to get a PS5 or Xbox Series X gaming console, a TV that supports HDMI 2.1 will let you take full advantage of the consoles‘ 4K@120Hz capabilities for ultra-smooth gaming. HDMI 2.1 is still relatively new so it‘s worth checking specs to confirm a TV includes it if that‘s a priority.
  • Sound: Finally, don‘t forget about audio. Look for a TV that delivers good sound right out of the box. Better yet, plan to pair your chosen TV with a soundbar or surround sound setup for more impactful audio. Even the best-looking picture falls flat without great sound to match.

The Bottom Line
I know, we‘ve covered a lot! While choosing a TV size may seem complicated, it ultimately comes down to considering your room size, viewing distance, resolution, viewing angles, and personal preferences to find the TV dimensions that are "just right" for you.

To sum up, here‘s what I recommend:

  1. Measure your room dimensions and TV viewing distance in inches
  2. Divide the viewing distance by 2 to get a ballpark screen size
  3. Compare that to the recommended screen sizes for your room type
  4. Consider if you want a more immersive (larger screen) experience or not
  5. Think about typical viewing angles from your seating area
  6. Let your resolution preference help refine size choice
  7. Don‘t forget to budget for a soundbar or speakers too!

I hope this guide has given you the information you need to choose the ideal TV size for your space with confidence. If you take the time to consider the environment the TV will be in, you can avoid frustrations like a screen that‘s too small to see clearly or one that‘s so massive it overwhelms the room and makes your eyes tired. The goal is to create a comfortable yet immersive viewing experience that you can enjoy for years to come.

If you want more advice on picking the perfect TV, check out my guide to choosing between OLED vs QLED TVs, my breakdown of the importance of refresh rates, and roundup of the best 4K TVs on the market.