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Our family was recently in the market for a couple of televisions.  One TV set just quit powering on; the other TV turned screen images into various hues of green.  As we began our search to replace the units I quickly became overwhelmed by all the options: How big? What resolution? How does the viewing distance affect my choices?

Thankfully the products that we settled on ended up being just fine. In case you’re in the market for a new TV, below are the ‘Cliffs Notes’ version of our research.

To start, you need a little background about screen resolution.  Pictures on a TV are created from rows and columns of tiny dots, or pixels, that form images when placed closely together. Here’s the breakdown:

720p TV

720 rows of pixels down the screen by 1280 columns across, or 921,600 pixels (720×1280=921,600).  This is largely considered “Standard Definition”, although some consider it “HD Ready.”

1080p

1080 rows of pixels down the screen, with 1920 columns across, or 2,073,600 pixels (1080×1920=2,073,600). This is considered “High Definition.”

4K

4 times the pixel resolution at 3840 rows of pixels down by 2160 columns across, or more than 8million pixels. (3840×2160=8,294,400 pixels, or 4 times more detailed than a 1080p screen).  This is considered “Ultra High Definition”, for most consumer purposes. (Ultra High Definition is also available in movie cinema productions.  UHD on a home TV is not technically the same pixel resolution as UHD on a movie cinema production, but the two are close enough that they are often considered interchangeable.)

Using these resolutions, some tips from Steve Kindig of Crutchfield Corporation provide great insight on how to choose the right screen for your specific room. Kindig writes for Crutchfield, a company specializing in a wide range of electronics. His article ‘TV Sizes and Viewing Distance: How to choose the right screen size for your room’ is a great resource.  For 1080p HDTVs, he recommends a viewing distance between 1.5-2.5 times the screen’s diagonal measurement. If you’ve got a 4K television, Kindig recommends sitting a bit closer—from 1 to 1.5 times the screen diagonal.  This means:

For a 40″ screen:

1080p: between 5-8.3 feet away

4K: between 3.3-5 feet away

For a 50” screen:

1080p: between 6.25–10.4 feet away

4K: between 4.2-6.25 feet away

In essence Kindig is recommending that the better the screen resolution, the closer the viewing distance so as not to miss ‘some of the picture detail you paid for.’ He warns that it is possible to sit too close, which is the case if you’re able to make out the rows and columns of pixels.

Content availability may be something to consider if you’re considering a 4K television.  Not all shows are available in 4K, but content is becoming more and more commonplace.

When choosing a TV there might be additional factors to consider that aren’t as obvious.  From room lighting, viewing angles, mounting equipment and more, all are elements to consider when creating an ideal viewing experience. Some vendors offer personalized advice via phone, email or a chat feature to help you select the equipment that is right for your situation. Between personal research and advice from the professionals, hopefully you’ll find the perfect TV to bring movie night, the big game, Hallmark movies, video gaming and more to life in your home.