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TV Size to Distance Calculator and Science

Updated Apr 22, 2014 By Cedric Demers
Comparison of television sizes
Distance:
Size:
480p
720p
1080p
4k Ultra HD
Size Width Height Area
32" 27.9"
70.9 cm
15.7"
39.9 cm
437 in2
0.283 m2
37" 32.2"
81.8 cm
18.1"
46 cm
585 in2
0.376 m2
42" 36.6"
93 cm
20.6"
52.3 cm
754 in2
0.487 m2
46" 40.1"
101.9 cm
22.5"
57.2 cm
904 in2
0.582 m2
50" 43.6"
110.7 cm
24.5"
62.2 cm
1068 in2
0.689 m2
55" 47.9"
121.7 cm
27"
68.6 cm
1293 in2
0.835 m2
60" 52.3"
132.8 cm
29.4"
74.7 cm
1538 in2
0.992 m2
65" 56.7"
136.4 cm
31.9"
81 cm
1805 in2
1.105 m2
70" 61.1"
155.2 cm
34.4"
87.4 cm
2102 in2
1.356 m2
75" 65.4"
166.1 cm
36.8"
93.5 cm
2407 in2
1.553 m2

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The science behind our TV size and distance calculator

Bigger and closer is usually better when it comes to choosing the perfect television for your room. Not only it is the biggest factor affecting the price of a television, but it also has a huge impact on the perceived picture quality.

Angular resolution

Angular resolution of a television
The closer you are, the lower will be your perceived pixel density

If you sit too close though, you will notice the pixels of the television even if you are watching a 1080p HD movie. By increasing your distance from the TV, the density of the details will also increase, producing a better image. This is the angular resolution: the amount of pixel per angle. The farther away, the higher the angular resolution will be.

Optimal viewing distance of a television by its size, for DVD, 720p, 1080p and Ultra HD (previously known as 4K) resolutions.
The chart also shows that the 4K Ultra HD resolution is not worth it if you are sitting more than 6' away and have a 50" TV. Your eye won't be able to tell the difference. Ultra HD only makes sense for a really big screen and if you sit close to it. Learn more about 4k UHD.
Screen SizeOptimal Distance
1080p
25"3.3' (1 m)
30"4' (1.22 m)
35"4.6' (1.40 m)
40"5.3' (1.62 m)
45"6' (1.83 m)
50"6.6' (2.01 m)
55"7.3' (2.23 m)
60"8' (2.44 m)
65"8.6' (2.62 m)
70"9.3' (2.83 m)

The limit that you can increase the angular resolution by stepping back depends on your visual acuity. At some point, your eyes are not good enough to distinguish all the details. Studies show that someone with a perfect 20/20 vision (or 6/6 in Europe) can distinguish something 1/60 of a degree apart. This means 60 pixels per degree, or 32.86 degrees for a 1080p television.

If you want to learn more where that limit of 1/60 of a degree comes from, you can read the Wikipedia page on the visual acuity.

Using this data, the closest you can sit from your television while still maintaining the maximum perceived angular resolution is about 1.6 times the diagonal measurement of your television. For example, a 55" television will have an ideal viewing distance of 88" (55" x 1.6), or 7 feet and 4 inches. The following table gives you the minimal distance for watching a 1080p HDTV screen while keeping the angular resolution to the maximum that the human can perceive. The chart shows the optimal distance for the DVD (NTSC 720x480 or PAL 720x576), 720p, 1080p and Ultra HD (previously known as 4K) resolutions. Only the horizontal resolution is considered, which is why both NTSC and PAL DVD resolutions are on the same line.

How do you interpret the chart?

There are a few ways to read the chart. For example, let say that you have a 50" television. Start at the bottom of the chart at 50". Up to 3', you are below the blue line. This means you can see the pixels of an Ultra HD resolution. If you go back a bit (up in the chart), between 3' and 7' is where an Ultra HD resolution does not matter because you cannot see its pixel anyway. However, you are still too close for a 1080p resolution (it will not appear perfect). Above 7', the perceived quality will start to decrease for 1080p because your eye will not see all the details. You would notice the difference though it if is 720p. For more than 10', it does not matter if it is a 720p or 1080p HDTV, your eye is not good enough to see the difference. You will still see the difference for a standard resolution though, up to a 18' distance. To summarize, you can see the pixels if you are below the line but not above.

Ideally, you want to be exactly on the line for your TV size and media resolution.

Example of artifacts for the same resolution depending on the compression
Compression Artifacts

This takes into account a perfect resolution, which is never the case in real life. Even if you are watching an HD channel with a high resolution, there will be some artifacts due to the compression algorithm. Artifacts can appear in multiple forms like noise, blurs or a pixelated image (see the picture to the right). You will be able to see artifacts from farther away, so consider the above numbers as being for a perfect 1080p media. The numbers show the minimal distance where you start losing the advantage of the resolution.

Budget

plasma vs led tv price chart

You are probably now thinking something like "My couch is 10' away from my TV, which according to the chart I need a 75 inch TV. This is insane!". Yes, if you want to take advantage of the full 1080p resolution this is the ideal size. This brings us to actual limitation of common people: the budget.

The price of a TV is exponential to its size, as shown in the chart. The chart shows the price range of all 2014 TVs by their size.

To know which TV has the best price/quality ratio for your budget and room, check out our TV buying tool. Alternatively, you can look at our best TVs of the year by size..

Conclusion

To figure out which size of a TV to buy, divide your viewing distance by 1.6 for a 1080p resolution (or use our TV sizes calculator above). You will see the pixels on bigger sizes and lose details on smaller ones. If the best size is outside your budget, just get the biggest TV you can afford.