TV Viewing Distance Calculator

Please use the following interactive calculator to find out the right television screen size for your room, or determine the recommended viewing distance for your TV size. For the best experience, please use Chrome or Safari browsers, as you can select your sitting distance or TV screen size using sliders (otherwise you'll have to use dropdown menus).

The TV illustration (does not work in Internet Explorer unfortunately) will enlarge or shrink accordingly, and we'll even suggest three HDTVs of that particular screen size, which you can further filter according to brand, display technology or our rating.

Top 42" HDTVs

How Far To Sit From TV

Buying an HDTV can be challenging exercise for newcomers. In the past, the small size of CRT TVs, together with technological limitations and poor analogue signal made our choice easier; by and large most CRT TVs look the same at average viewing distances. Nowadays, HDTVs come in many sizes ranging from 26 inch to 65 inches, and in very different technologies too. This has a significant impact on the optimum viewing distance related to the size of the TV, and is probably the first thing you should think of before taking the plunge.

There are many factors that influence optimum viewing distance. Please note that the below factors are primarily for fixed pixel technologies (e.g. Plasma, LCDs).

1) Maximum Detail Perception

The latest HD revolution is really about providing detailed images on larger screens, without the annoying artifacts inherent in standard analogue broadcast. In modern flat panel displays, the images are formed on a grid of tightly packed pixels. Imagine watching this grid at a very small distance; you will immediately appreciate the "pixelation" problems that affect some viewers. But if you walk slowly back, you can see the pixel grid slowly disappearing to form a smooth image. At that point, you are able to see all the detail that was intended when the picture was transferred from a digital master.

Now that optimum viewing distance is of course affected by individual visual acuity and surroundings . But in general, the pixelation threshold is about 1.5 times the diagonal viewing distance of your TV at 1080 material. If you move further back the image will start to lose detail by these pixels `fusing’ into one another ie. not being able to make out the detail of an object at a large distance.

2) Viewing Angle

SMPTE and THX recommends that optimum viewing distance should also give a viewing angle of 30 degrees for an immersive cinematic experience. This is harder to control in home situations, but is possible on some large TV sets or home projectors. However, I would definitely act in favour of maximizing detail and eliminating the pixelation effect first.

3) HD Resolution Material

Most of the HD source are encoded in either 720 or 1080 resolution. This is important because when you think of it, 1080 material provides greater detail than a 720 material on a 1080 screen. So, if you upgrade the resolution, you can sit closer to the TV and enjoy the increased detail and viewing angle. I’ll make this clear in our example below.

4) TV Size

TV size and viewing distance are related. Changing both aspects always change the TV size in your eyes.

Ok. Here is the example.

Some rules.

1) Viewing distance – Too near, pixelation. Too far, loss of detail.

2) TV size – Too large, pixelation, Too small, loss of detail.

3) Material resolution – Too low, pixelation, Too high, motion sickness. (Haha we'll talk about it some other time.)

4) All changes in the above factors, must take into account that you always eliminate pixelation first, and then maximising detail at the `optimum’ distance.

So in my guide, assuming 1080p capable TV:

40-inch diagonal TV – 720 material – 8 feet (optimum pixelation/detail threshold)

1) Buy a larger TV (50 inch) without changing the other factors means you run risk of poorer picture quality due to increased pixelation. Using the above rules, you can sit further (10 feet) or increase the resolution to 1080 to counter this.

2) Increasing the resolution of the material to 1080 does not cause any pixelation, but you may lose the extra detail it affords. In effect, the 720 and 1080 material are indistinguishable at this distance to most viewers, all things kept the same. The new optimum distance should now be about 5 feet. Conversely, watching poor resolution material means that you have to sit further away to avoid pixelation.

3) Changing viewing distance has similar effect as changing the TV size. If I sit too near to the TV, I would need smaller TV to counter its effect or watch higher resolution material.

So that’s it for now. I have included a table relating viewing distance, size of TV and material resolution below for 1080p widescreen TV sets. The highlighted ones means they also enjoy a 30 degree viewing angle.

TV Size 576 resolution 720 1080
32-inch 8' feet 6' 4'
37-inch 10' 7' 4.5'
40-inch 10.5' 8' 5'
42-inch 11' 8' 5.5'
46-inch 12' 9' 6'
50-inch 13' 10' 6.5'
55-inch 15' 11.5' 7.5'
65-inch 17' 13' 8.5'

* The above is the minimum sitting distance from a 1080p TV