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Deemable Tech

Ask Deemable Tech: What Size TV Should I Buy?

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Ryan writes, "I am thinking about getting a TV for our apartment for Christmas. The question is, how big should it be? I would like a bigger TV, but our apartment is pretty small."

Smart question, Ryan. There are actually recommended guidelines for how large your TV should be depending on how far you sit away from it. If you are really hankering for a larger TV, we’ve got great news for you: you can probably get a much bigger TV than you would have expected!

For example, the average person sits about nine feet away from their television. For a “truly immersive viewing experience,” home theater experts THX recommend that person purchase a 90-inch TV! That may sound a little excessive, unless you’re going for the true “home theater” experience. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, on the other hand, recommend the slightly more conservative range of 65-70 inches (which is still a pretty good size, in our opinion).

There’s a simple formula to calculate how big your TV should be based on how far you will be sitting away from it. The minimum TV size should be your distance from the screen in inches divided by three. The maximum is the distance divided by one and a half. So, if you are sitting 10 feet from your screen, take 120 inches and divide it by three to get the minimum recommended TV size of 40 inches. 120 inches divided by one and a half will give you your maximum TV size of 80 inches.

Now, of course, these are only recommendations. You can certainly get a smaller or larger TV and still watch it just fine. A good way to see how different size TVs will look in your space is to take a piece of cardboard, cut it to the size of the TV you’re looking at, and place it on your wall. Remember that the size of the TV is actually a measurement of the diagonal length of the screen. Also remember that modern flat screen televisions have a length to width ratio of 16:9.

Another factor you should consider when shopping is what resolution you would like the TV to have. The resolution is basically how many pixels the picture on your screen is made up of. The two most common options are 720p and 1080p. Most people assume that the higher resolution the better, which is true, but depending on certain factors a higher resolution may not always be necessary. For example, if your TV screen is small or far away from where you are sitting, the pixels are already pretty small. The difference between 720p and 1080p may not even be noticeable in this case, so you should probably save yourself some money and get the cheaper, lower resolution one.

There are also new 4K TVs that are said to have four times the resolution of 1080p televisions. While we’re sure these look great, we will say that unless you have one of the largest screens your living room will allow, your eye may not be able to physically distinguish the difference between a 4K TV and a regular one. Plus, as of right now, there’s hardly any 4K content available.

So, if you’re looking for a TV to put in your bedroom, a 42-inch 720p screen may work fine for you. For most living room situations, you’re more likely going to want a 1080p television that is 50 inches or larger. 4K TVs are probably overkill unless your living room is enormous.

But hey, maybe you think we’re crazy and you’re going to get a 4K TV anyway. Feel free to invite us over so we can check it out for ourselves. We’ll bring popcorn and nachos!

For more great tech ad?vice, download the Deemable Tech app (for iPhone and Android), and listen to Deemable Tech's hour-long show at Deemable.com. You can also follow them on Twitter @Deemable.