What Are the New Rules for Buying Bigger TVs?
CREDIT: Sharp Electronics
Americans like their TVs big and the definition of what constitutes big is growing. By 2015, the average HDTV screen size will grow from 42-inches to an impressive 60-inches, according to Sharp Electronics.
"U.S. consumers are clearly voting for large screen television," John Herrington, Sharp Electronic Marketing Co. of America’s president, said at a press conference last month when the company launched its new line of 70-inch LCD HDTVs. "It is the fastest-growing segment. Consumers are demanding big, they are looking forward to big and they want bigger."
Super-size displays call for new rules in choosing the right TV for the room.
Room size is secondary
The size of your display in relationship to room size is not the way to determine screen size. Rather, it’s the distance between the screen and where you’ll be sitting to watch the HDTV.
High definition refers to the small dots or pixels that form the picture. Standard definition has a resolution of 480p while high def has a minimum of 720p, full HD measures 1080p and ultra HD has four times the pixels and is denoted as 4320p. Ultra HD is currently being tested in Japan and isn’t expected to be available in the U.S. until sometime between 2016 and 2020.
“High definition has definitely changed the old rules,” Carlton Bale, an Indianapolis-based engineer and home theater enthusiast, told TechNewsDaily. “Screens have much higher resolutions, so you either have to be sitting closer to a screen of the same size as an older TV, or you have to get a larger TV and leave your chairs where they are.”
Most people who purchase a new HDTV aren't getting a big enough screen for their sitting distances, Bale added. They purchase a size similar to their old TV. Although they sit close enough to see improvements versus their old standard def TV, they are not close enough to get the full benefit 1080p offers.
Old rule vs. new rules
Five years ago, experts recommended that viewers divide the distance between their seats and TVs (in inches) by three to determine the best-sized TV for the room. Today, that number has shrunk to 1.5 or less. Sitting 10 feet from the TV in 2006 would have called for a 40-inch TV, while today it could be twice that size or more.
“The new rule of thumb is to take the distance in inches between your chair and your TV and divide it by 1.5 to get the diagonal screen size in inches. If you sit any farther away than that, you won't be able to see the full sharpness 1080p offers,” Bale said.
For instance, if you have a 48-inch HDTV, you will have to sit around six feet from the screen to perceive the higher resolution offered by its full HD 1080p TV. But some experts recommend even larger screens in relation to seating.
For a “truly immersive cinematic experience,” home theater standards setter THX recommends dividing the seating distance in inches by .84, which would result in an 85-inch screen when sitting at a distance of six feet.
The “Seinfeld” factor
If you’re a fan of old TV shows like "Seinfeld," you will have to watch them in a letterboxed format on an HDTV because the display size is widescreen rather than narrowscreen, the nearly square format of CRT TVs. If you plan to replace your old TV with an HDTV , you’ll want to use different measurements than those described above to avoid a nasty shock.
Screen size is measured diagonally. A 32-inch HDTV will give you a picture size that is 33 percent smaller than a 32-inch old-style TV. To compensate for the new proportions, buy an HDTV with a screen that is the same height as your old TV.
Manufacturers rarely list the top to bottom display dimension, so either take a measuring tape to the store with you or run the numbers before you leave. Multiply the diagonal screen size of your old TV by 1.22 to determine the size of a new HDTV that will give you the same picture size when watching old shows.
For example, if you’re used to watching a 32-inch TV, you’ll need to buy a 39-inch HDTV to get the same size picture for old shows. When you watch HD programming, your display will be around one-third larger.