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Everyone wants a big screen TV these days but bigger doesn’t always mean better, especially if you’re tight on space. Get a too-small set though, and it might leave your living room looking pretty sparse. Thankfully, we’re here to help. With a little bit of math, measurements and planning, there’s a formula for finding the best, big screen for your space.
How to Choose a TV for Your Space
Looking for the best big screen TV? We’ve broken it down to some of the most important points to consider when shopping for a new set.
Viewing Angle: Imagine you’re walking into a movie theater, and want to grab the seats where you can see the entire width and height of the screen straight-on. Right up front would be the worst option, while somewhere towards the back is best. Scaled down, the same goes for your home setup – and especially if you’ll be viewing your set from a slight angle.
A big screen may seem like the most immersive, but it’s not worth it if your eyes still can’t take it all in from far back. And that’s just for your personal prime viewing spot. Consider other people’s perspectives, and if they’ll be able to take in all the action from their seating angles too. This can also help narrow down your choices even further. An OLED screen, for example, may be a better option if family and guests will frequently be sitting around the room for movie night and needing to the screen from all directions. Otherwise, if it’s just you in a central spot, a QLED might be the way to go.
While THX recommends a 36º viewing angle, we advise keeping it under 42º in order to reduce eye strain and neck pain.
Room Size and Measurements: As you sit farther and farther away from your screen, the amount of light that hits your eyes diminishes significantly, while inching closer increases it. Sitting farther requires more “nits” – a measurement of brightness in LED TVs, and an average set can range from about 200 to 500. But thanks to 4K, we can now sit closer to our sets without seeing pixels.
To get an idea of the right size screen for your room, measure the distance from the spot where your TV will be to where you’ll be sitting. Then divide by 2 or 2.5. You can also re-create the “screen” with tape on the wall, then sit back and see if it’s comfortable to look at straight-on. Your natural eye-line should be at the center to bottom third of the screen’s height, and your eyes and head shouldn’t need to be shifting up, down, and side to side to take it all in.
It’s also important to keep in mind the dimensions of the entire set, not just the screen size. The height, width and depth are always listed, so make sure to measure your entire space or surface area and be certain that it will fit the TV’s base and back, stand and feet. Same goes for the actual space of the picture within the screen itself, and not just the screen size, as this can be misleading. A 55-inch screen, for example, can really be more like a 52-inch picture, when you factor in bezels and borders.
It’s safer to err on the side of a smaller screen rather than going larger, since there’s always going to be a limit of how far back you can move your sofa.
Lighting: Sitting too far back in a dark room can also cause “eye-fatigue,” since your pupils start to dilate in order to compensate for the darkness with just that single bright screen image in the center of your vision. After a few hours, or even a few minutes, it can range from simply irritating to a full-on headache. This is where lighting can help, specifically what’s called “bias lighting” – a soft source of light that illuminates the area right behind your display. Bias lighting can take a lot of the heavy lifting off your eyes, help avoid strain, and allow for a more comfortable viewing experience without diminishing quality.
Though it doesn’t look as cool as colored lights, a white light is the best option for bias lighting (about 6400K), as specific colored lights can actually desensitize your eyes to that color and alter what you’re seeing on-screen, particularly for smaller sets.
External Speakers: As TV sets get flatter and thinner, there’s less and less room inside for quality speakers, and sometimes there are no speakers at all. While dropping even more cash on an external sound-bar can be frustrating, it makes a world of difference, not just for audio, but for placement of the set too. With powerful speakers, and enough space, you can safely sit far back and not miss a single sound detail. It’s actually necessary to sit farther away, about 8-10 feet, especially with powerful tower speakers that are designed to blast sound far and wide, as opposed to smaller speakers that would start to distort and sound muddy if you’re too distant.
QLED Vs OLED: Both types of TVs are capable of 4K, but the tech that’s lighting up the picture is what the big difference is. QLED’s pixels are lit from the back or sides for a much brighter display, while OLED pixels are each individually lit, meaning that they light up only when the picture calls for it, and are otherwise off – or “absolute black.”
A big OLED screen will provide plenty of luminosity for full HD. Sitting 6-8 feet away is ideal, but sitting a significant distance away may strain your sight if the set’s brightness can’t get bright enough to compensate. An OLED looks good from most any angle too, while viewing a QLED from an odd angle could cause colors to be washed out and overall darker. It’s rare, but OLEDs are also prone to “burn-in,” which can leave an imprinted image on the screen if left on pause for too long.
OLED TVs are built primarily by LG and Sony using organic materials. But if you have your heart, and eyes, set on the best QLED set, that makes choosing your options a lot easier, as there’s really only one main manufacturer in the market right now: Samsung.
OLEDs generally don’t go below 55 inches, so for the smaller end of the spectrum, it’ll most likely be an LED TV – still perfectly viewable, but with a lower pop of color, and different back-lighting.
Budget: It all comes down to what fits your wallet first. Don’t just go for the biggest screen your bank account will allow, as you’ll often be sacrificing picture quality for size, and that’s not a good look. The right-priced set may even work to your advantage: For example, a screen for a small office doesn’t necessarily need the extra purchase of external speakers, as the built-in speakers might be more than enough in an enclosed space.
We’ve chosen four different-sized models here to help get you started seeing the bigger picture for finding the best-sized set for you.
1. Samsung Flat 65-Inch QLED 4K Q60 Series
If you’re planning on putting your new set somewhere where the lighting is constantly changing, this Samsung’s a safe bet.
The set was designed with altering light in mind, and is ideal for a living room or a central spot in your home where everyone has access. Thanks to Quantum Dot technology and a powerful processor, images are instantly upscaled, utilizing the wide range of hues, shades, and 100% color volume for a clean, crisp, cinematic clarity.
The screen is plenty big, beautifully bright and lifelike, with over a billion colors forming the perfect picture in varying light conditions. Details run deep, in full 4K, with a high dynamic range (HDR) consistently shifting, to form impressively vivid realism. For video games and sports especially, the graphics are stunning, and add a whole new enjoyable element without blurring, lagging, or pixelation.
A 65-inch TV is basically the new big-screen standard, with a large, immersive display for everything from movies to live sports, without overwhelming your space.
2. Sony X750H 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD LED TV
Sony’s attention to detail here is impressive – not just in the engineering of the set, but in the display itself.
The picture is pristine, thanks to their TruLuminous Display, with ultra-high resolution and a wide array of colors, textures and contrasts. Powered by Sony’s 4K Processor, the set lets you view anything with enhanced quality, even if it wasn’t filmed that way. Its MotionFlowXR240 leaves little to no lag time, which is a huge enhancement for fast action scenes or gaming.
The 55-inch screen is a just-right size for most living rooms, enough to immerse you in whatever you’re watching without overwhelming your senses or stretching beyond your normal field of vision.
But for those who want to go bigger (and louder), this is also available in 65 and 75 inches, along with a 2.0 sound-bar as well.
3. Insignia NS-43DF710NA21 43-Inch Smart 4K UHD
This HDR-compatible, 43-inch Insignia balances the perks of a smart set with the simplicity of a straightforward operating system.
The display illuminates with over eight million colors and a 60Hz refresh rate, bringing crisp clarity and lifelike images in 4K Ultra HD. Connecting to external devices is easy with three HDMI ports, allowing you to adjust each one for its own unique settings. It also integrates with the rest of your smart-home, giving you the power of voice-control over your linked-up devices.
Its DTS Studio Sound fills up a small space, but getting a sound-bar or a set of external speakers is recommended for large rooms where you’ll be sitting far back.
4. Toshiba 32LF221U21 32-Inch Smart HD 720p TV
If your space calls for a small smart set, consider this 32-inch Toshiba.
Connectivity is king here, as it’s designed to link up to pretty much everything, including Amazon Fire TV, Netflix, Hulu, and a voice remote with Alexa, along with three HDMI ports, and multiple options for inputs and outputs. It also seamlessly integrates with the rest of your smart-home.
Not only does it deliver a nice picture in a small package, but the built-in speakers pump out crisp sound, so there’s no need to get an extra sound bar that wouldn’t be practical in a tight space anyway. This also comes in a bigger 43-inch model with 1080p. There’s limited storage, meaning if you’re saving tons of shows, it’s best to use another TV as your main set.