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Viewing Angle of TVs

What it is: Color accuracy when viewed from the side.
When it matters: Large living rooms with multiple viewing positions.
Score components:
Score distribution

The viewing angle we list is the angle at which a TV's picture quality starts to degrade when it is watched from the side. A TV will always have the best possible picture quality when viewed directly opposite of the screen. The farther you move to the side, the more the colors will fade.

If you need a TV that looks good from various positions in a room – perhaps in a wide living room space – a wide viewing angle is very important. It doesn’t matter much, though, if you sit pretty much directly opposite the screen.

We measure each TV’s viewing angle ourselves through three metrics, as the angle stated by manufacturers is vastly inflated. We also provide video of the TV’s picture through different perspectives and verify the type of panel used by LED TVs.

Update 01/10/2017: We are now testing the viewing angles of TVs with a spectrophotometer using three different metrics: Color shift, brightness, and black level. OLED TVs are impacted the most by this update since they tend to show a shift in color at an angle. We retested most 2016 models.

Test results

For older models, see our results for 2013 and 2014 TVs.

When it matters

If you usually watch TV alone, you most likely do not need a wide viewing angle. You should just turn the television to face you directly. People with multiple couches or seats are most likely to benefit from a wider viewing angle.

Narrow room angleAny TV will do
Wide room angleYou need at least > 30°

For those setups that can benefit from wider viewing angles, the difference that they make is pretty significant. Compare a narrow viewing angle on the above left to a wider angle on the above right, and you can see how there is more leeway offered to sit and enjoy good picture quality, outside of the TV’s axis.

Our tests

Our viewing angle measurements represent how wide of an angle a TV can be viewed from before the picture quality begins to suffer. A larger number represents the TV having a better viewing angle, up to a theoretical maximum of about 90°.

Video

Our viewing angle video demonstrates the comparative quality of a TV’s video played at different angles. If you want to get an idea of what a TV will look like at the precise angles required by your seating arrangements, this video will be a big help. Below are two examples, one of a very narrow viewing angle (left), and one of quite a wide one (right).

Narrow viewing angle
Wide viewing angle

For this test, we just display an image on the TV’s screen, film the TV from a fixed position, and rotate the TV so that the full range of angles is filmed. We always maintain the same distance-to-screen-size ratio of 0.15 feet per diagonal inch, as this allows us to compare TVs of different sizes fairly. For the sake of reference, this means a distance of about 8 feet for a 55" TV.

Color Shift

LG C6 color shiftLG C6 color shift

What it is: Angle where the colors noticeable shift compared to when viewed from directly in front of the TV. 0 ° means directly facing the TV. Measurements are up to a maximum of 75 °.
When it matters: Large living rooms with multiple viewing positions.
Good value: > 50°
Noticeable difference: 10°
Score distribution

For the color shift, we measure a pure red, pure blue and pure green at 15° angle increments. The spectrophotometer then gives a Delta E (learn more about color accuracy here) reading which allows us to measure the perceptual difference in color. The results are normalized to the same level of brightness to represent the shift in colors explicitly. Our measurement is the angle at which the delta E reaches over 3 on any of the colors. Every TV's colors will change at an angle.

Brightness

Sony X700D brightness viewing angleSony X700D brightness viewing angle

What it is: Angle where the brightness drops to 50% of the brightness directly in front of the TV. 0 ° means directly facing the TV. Measurements are up to a maximum of 75 °.
When it matters: Large living rooms with multiple viewing positions.
Good value: > 50°
Noticeable difference: 10°
Score distribution

For this test, we measure how much the picture darkens at an angle. We consider a loss of 50% to be the limit of the TV’s viewing angle. IPS TVs tend to be most affected by this type of deterioration.

Black Level

What it is: Angle where the black level drops to 50% of the black level directly in front of the TV. 0 ° means directly facing the TV. Measurements are up to a maximum of 75 °.
When it matters: Large living rooms with multiple viewing positions.
Good value: > 50°
Noticeable difference: 10°
Score distribution

Our black level measurement is the angle at which blacks double in brightness. This greatly deteriorates the picture quality since it effectively halves the contrast ratio and makes the blacks look gray. This is more of an issue on VA type LCDs.

LCD Type

What it is: Type of LCD technology used by the TV.
When it matters: Different technologies have different viewing angle properties.
Good value: IPS maintains good color accuracy at an angle, but has a poor contrast ratio from in front. VA has great picture quality in front, but loses saturation at an angle.

For LCD TVs, we also verify the kind of panel technology used. There are two main types: IPS and VA. The kind of panel technology is a big determining factor for how well a TV retains quality at an angle and represents a good starting point for people who want a TV that looks good from the side. You can learn more about the different LCD types here.

IPS maintains good color accuracy at an angle. The picture only darkens when viewed from the side. The downside is that the contrast ratio in front is not as good as that of VA (see our contrast ratio measurements).

VA loses contrast at an angle, resulting in a dull/whitish picture when you watch the TV from the side. The upside of a VA panel is the deeper blacks you'll enjoy when sitting directly opposite the screen.

VA panel pixelsVA panel pixels
IPS panel pixelsIPS panel pixels

There are a couple of ways that we conduct this test. We take a photo of the shape of the pixels (you can find those photos at the bottom of our reviews). For the most part, VA TVs have rectangular pixels, and IPS TVs have pixels that are shaped like little arrows.

The other is just to base it off of how wide the TV’s viewing angle is. IPS TVs have a viewing angle of around 30 degrees or more; anything lower is a VA TV. 

Additional information

LCD vs. Plasma vs. OLED

Because of the nature of the technology, LCD/LED TVs have problems with their picture quality at an angle. The LCD layer doesn't produce its own light but rather filters the white light coming from the back of the TV (generated by the backlight). The LCD layer has a thickness, which means it blocks some of the light coming through, and more at an angle.

More specifically, VA LCDs will mostly be affected by their black levels being raised when viewed at an angle but also suffer the most from color shift. IPS TVs will instead have a constant black level but will lose luminance the greater the angle of viewing is.

Plasma and OLED panels do not have these problems because they emit their own light. OLED however, like LED TVs, will have color shift when viewed at an angle, so they aren't perfect.

Color shift of LG E6Color shift of LG E6

How to get the best results

Unfortunately, you can't do anything to improve viewing angle on a TV. If you’re experiencing sub-par picture quality because the viewing angle of your TV doesn’t match your seating arrangements, you will need to move either the TV or your seats to improve the results.

Other notes

  • The vertical viewing angle is different than the horizontal one. It's close to the same for VA LCD TVs, but for IPS, the blacks lighten more at a vertical angle than they do horizontally, a phenomenon known as 'IPS Glow.'

Conclusion

The viewing angle of a TV represents the limit of its optimal picture quality. Sit at a position at a wider angle than that of its viewing angle, and you will experience worse picture. This isn’t important for people who sit right in front of their TV but makes a difference for setups with seating off to the sides, like some living rooms. We take videos to illustrate TVs’ viewing angles, and then also verify what the type of panel technology is, as well as find the specific angle at which picture begins to degrade.

Unfortunately, there is no way to improve viewing angle on a TV. If you need a wide viewing angle, make sure to get a TV that meets that need. If you already have a TV that doesn’t cut it for viewing angle, the only option is to rearrange your setup.

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