One Size Does Not Fit All

Often, people think bigger is better when it comes to TV screen size; but that is only true to a point. A large TV in a small room will seem awkward and may make watching TV uncomfortable. On the other hand, a TV that is too small will force you to squint to make out details and pull you out of the experience of what you are watching. Making the right decision about the size of your television is the first step in TV buying.

TVs range in size from 5 inches up to 64 inches and greater. TVs are measured by their screen size. This measurement is made diagonally across the viewing area. You can use this measurement to help you decide which size is right for the space you'll be using.


Photo courtesy Panasonic and Matsushita Electric Corporation of America
TV size is measured diagonally across the viewing area.

Start by mentally placing the TV in the room. Unless it's a flat-panel, a TV usually gets deeper and heavier as the screen gets larger. Make considerations for height, width and depth when placing it in the room. Make sure your location is reasonably close to a good power source.

Once you've placed the TV, measure the distance from your couch or viewing area. There is a formula to calculate the optimum screen size based on the viewing distance. Different TV sources alter the equation. The formula is simple:

Source
Calculation
Cable
Antenna
Video tape
Multiply the number of feet between you and the screen by 4 inches.
DVD
Satellite
Multiply the number of feet between you and the screen by 6 inches.
HDTV Multiply the number of feet between you and the screen by 7 inches.

Of course, very few of us watch only one kind of TV. Use the chart above as a guide to find an average distance and screen size that is appropriate for your needs.

If you already have an entertainment center or armoire that you don't plan to replace, then you will be limited to the TV size it can hold. Remember, when fitting a TV into a piece of furniture, you need to consider depth and weight in addition to height and width. You should also factor in a couple of inches into your measurement to allow for proper ventilation for the new set.

Flat-panel TVs are growing in popularity because you can get a larger screen with a smaller footprint, or even hang the TV on the wall, so space is less of a concern. Ventilation is still important, though, especially for plasmas, which generate a lot of heat.


Photo courtesy Sony
A 32-inch CRT TV is great for a simple home theater or living room set-up.

Generally speaking, 27 inches or less is good for a bedroom or secondary television. Thirty-two inches and larger is a nice size for a family television or entertainment center.