The weeks leading up to the Super Bowl are often the best time to buy a new TV. Deals tend to be good as retailers clear out their inventory of last year’s models to make room for the new ones that come out in spring, and many consumers take advantage of it in time for the big game (not as big as it could’ve been, cue purple tears, but there’s still the undeniable athletic grace of Tom Brady and cutaways to Giselle Bundchen to look forward to while we blow raspberries at the Eagles). And contrary to what many people think, the biggest TV you can afford isn’t always the best choice. Scale is important for picture clarity and comfortable viewing, so room size and seating need to be taken into account to prevent nuisances like squinting or ending up with a sore neck by halftime. Here are a few guidelines:
According to Samsung, the size of your TV should be viewing distance (in inches) divided by 3. For example, if you usually sit 7 feet from the TV, that equals 84 inches viewing distance. Divide by 3 and you get a recommended screen size of 28 inches. Having said that, most homes tend to have TVs bigger than that formula perhaps because of larger great room/kitchen combinations where the screen may be viewed from a variety of distances, according to Lance Anderson, owner of AdmitOne Home Cinema of Minneapolis.
How far away?
Recommendations vary, but chances are most of us are sitting farther away than is optimum. Using the same rule of thumb as above if you have a 50 inch screen, you should multiply by 3 to get a recommended distance of 12 and a half feet. Today’s TVs, especially 4K/Ulta HD models have such high-resolution that you can sit even closer for a more immersive experience.
Most agree that the best height for the TV is at eye level from your usual viewing spot to the center of the TV screen, and Lance agrees. “Most TVs get installed too high—it’s bad for picture quality and your neck,” he said, perhaps referring to all the televisions placed over fireplaces. A better place would be next to the fireplace. The exception would be party spaces where viewing would occur while standing, eating hors d’oeuvres and milling about the room.
Do I need a speaker?
Probably. As TVs have gotten slimmer, sound quality has suffered. Lance recommends a soundbar or speakers to provide adequate volume and clarity. Most can be attached to the bottom of the television so they don’t take up extra space. Top rated models can be found for $150 and up.
by Laurie Junker
Photo courtesy of Sherry Koppel Design