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What size TV should you buy?

It's an age-old question: What size TV do I need?

As 65-inch 4K TVs become the norm and larger 70 to 80-inch models come in at more affordable prices, figuring out where to put your new TV becomes a challenge. Many people purchase a new TV without even considering the room it will go in, assuming any TV will work in the same spot their old set was in. This can lead to a less-than ideal experience when working your way through the best Netflix shows. But finding the right size of TV raises questions about ideal resolution, what distance from the TV is best, and whether you really want a bigger screen.

What size TV do I need?

Illustration: Tom’s Guide

We offer lots of buying advice on Tom's Guide, from general TV buying advice to in-depth reviews of the hottest new TVs. But sometimes the most basic questions are the most important.

So, before you buy your next TV, here's how to determine the best size for your needs. This guide is intended to help you with your primary, family room television, but the same principles will work for your bedroom, den and office.

Screen size and resolution

First, remember, TVs are measured diagonally. So a 55-inch screen measures 55 inches from one corner to the opposite corner. But the actual dimensions will be different, measuring roughly 49 inches wide and 29 inches tall.

Next, you have to consider the resolution of the TV. That's because the higher the resolution, the closer you can sit before you'll notice pixelation in an image. That means you can sit closer to a 4K TV (3840 x 2160) than you could a 1080p TV. This is an important factor to consider when thinking about screen size; because you can sit closer to a 4K set, you don't need to get as large a TV to fill your field of view as you would with a 1080p TV.

Room size and TV position

Consider the room in which the TV will sit. As long as the furniture in that room is not permanently attached to the floor — and you're willing to move it — then you have some flexibility in the size of the TV you can get.

There’s also the question of whether you plan to set up the TV using the included stand or use a wall-mount to hang it. Using the included stand to set the TV on a table or entertainment unit will place the set closer to the viewer, shortening the viewing distance. Be sure to account for both the depth of the TV stand and whatever furniture you plan to set it on. Some sets have relatively narrow stands, but others, like the 65-inch model seen in our LG CX OLED review, extend back nearly 10-inches with the stand attached. By contrast, the 55-inch model from our TCL 4 Series Roku TV (55S425) review is only 8 inches deep, despite the TV having a thicker chassis.

Hanging the TV on the wall, on the other hand, can add a foot or more to the viewable distance, which can be the difference between a 60-inch TV and a 72-inch model. Depending on what sort of mount you use and the thickness of the TV, your screen will still sit a few inches from the wall, but the specifics will vary from one model to the next.

MORE: Best Viewing Angle and Height to Mount Your TV

Best TVs by size

We review TVs of all sizes, and while the majority of our TV reviews center on 55- and 65-inch models, some of the best TVs we've reviewed are also available in smaller and larger screen sizes. 

Here are some of our favorites, hand-picked to give you the best performance at some of the common screen sizes, from small to extra large.

Vizio M-Series Quantum 55-inch

(Image credit: Vizio)

Vizio M-Series Quantum (M558-G1)

The best 55-inch TV

Screen Size: 55 inches | Screen Type: LCD with Quantum Dot | Refresh Rate: 60 Hz | HDMI ports: 4 | Size: 48.6 x 28.3 x 2.9 inches | Weight: 35.9 pounds

Quantum-dot display delivers vibrant color
Local dimming for great HDR performance
Decent audio quality
Flexible smart TV features
Free content included
Limited app selection on TV
Remote design is blah

For a 55-inch model, you'll be hard pressed to top the balance of quality and value offered on the Vizio M-Series Quantum, one of our favorite TVs of the year, and one of the best affordable TVs around. With QLED enhancement and dozens of local dimming zones, the performance is quite impressive, delivering rich blacks and shadows alongside vibrant colors. Vizio's SmartCast offers plenty of free content, and a built-in Chromecast opens up one of the richest app ecosystems you can get on a smart TV.

One note, however: Be sure to go with the M558-G1, and not the less-expensive M557-G0, which cuts the price by having far fewer backlighting zones, and thus offering less impressive performance. The better model is a Best Buy exclusive, while the less expensive model is a Walmart-only model that costs about $50 less.

Read our full Vizio M-Series Quantum (M558-G1) review. 

LG C9 OLED

(Image credit: LG)

LG C9 OLED (OLED65C9PUA)

The best 65-inch TV

Screen Size: 65 inches | Screen Type: OLED | Refresh Rate: 120 Hz | HDMI ports: 4 HDMI 2.1 | Size: 57 x 32.7 x 1.8 inches | Weight: 55.6 pounds

Impeccable OLED display
Cutting-edge HDMI 2.1 connectivity
Best-in-class performance
Great sound
Solid smart-TV features
Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built in
Premium price will turn many away

The LG C9 OLED is our favorite TV overall, thanks to its impeccable OLED display and solid performance. The precision, pixel-perfect lighting of OLED delivers unbeatable black levels and superb HDR performance, and LG matches that with impressive brightness and excellent color reproduction. Our 65-inch review unit was easily one of the best TVs we saw in 2019, and even manages to be relatively reasonable in price.

LG also delivers some of the brainiest features you'll see on a smart TV, with ThinQ AI-enhanced content recommendations, both Google Home and Amazon Alexa built-in, and a dashboard for controlling every smart device in your home right from your TV. It's our favorite TV overall, and the 65-inch model is our favorite size for the C9 OLED.

Read our full LG C9 OLED review.

Sony Master Series A9G OLED (XBR-75A9G)

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony Master Series A9G OLED (XBR-77A9G)

The best 77-inch TV

Screen Size: 77 inches | Screen Type: OLED | Refresh Rate: 120 Hz | HDMI ports: 4 | Size: 67.8 x 39.2 x 1.92 inches | Weight: 77.8 pounds

Superb performance with excellent picture and sound
Refined design
Improved remote control
Best version of Android TV yet
Very expensive
Some features disabled by default

If you want to go extra big, you also want to go with the best picture you can get, and that means the 75-inch Sony Master Series A9G OLED (XBR-75A9G), which delivers the best picture and sound of any 4K TV model we've reviewed. Sony goes above and beyond simple picture and sound with the best version of Android TV yet and Sony's redesigned remote control, which combine into a truly great smart TV experience.

As a premium Sony smart TV, it should surprise no one that the A9G is a little on the pricey side, but the Sony A9G OLED will give you superb picture even at this larger size, and pairs it with some of the most impressive sound we've heard – all enhanced by Sony's Acoustic Surface Audio+, which actually produces sound directly from the screen.

Read our full Sony Master Series A9G OLED review. 

How to calculate the best size TV for your room

Measure the distance (in inches) between where you plan to mount the TV and where you plan to sit. For a 1080p TV, many industry experts such as Amazon and Crutchfield give a range of 1.5-2.5 times your screen size, though there are almost as many formulas as there are experts.

Credit: Shutterstock

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

For example, Amazon recommends first taking your viewing distance (in feet) and multiplying that by 7.7.  So, if you have a 42-inch TV, you can sit 84 inches (7 feet) away for a comfortable and immersive experience. If you want to be safe and split the difference, you end up with a factor of 2:1, which is easy to remember. Just double the screen size for a comfortable viewing distance range.

Let's say you have a big room, a big couch, and a big coffee table between you and the television, resulting in a comfortable viewing distance of 10 feet (120 inches). You then would take 120 and divide by two, to get 60 inches.

If you're looking at a 4K ultra-high-definition television, the formula changes a bit. Because of the increased resolution, the recommended ideal viewing distance is between one and 1.5 times the screen size. So, if you bought a 50-inch TV, it should be placed between 50 to 75 inches away.

And as larger screen sizes become more affordable, you'll want to take these guidelines to heart. The recently reviewed Sony X950G Android TV is 75-inches and costs just over $3,000, making it expensive, but not so pricey that it's beyond the budget of many shoppers. Whether you're trying to fit a 75-inch or 55-inch TV into your home, remember that the goal is to see the picture, not the pixels.

TV sizeRecommended minimum distance for 4K TVRecommended minimum distance for 1080p TV
40 inches40 inches (3.3 feet)80 inches (6.7 feet)
42 inches42 inches (3.5 feet)84 inches (7 feet)
48 inches48 inches (4 feet)96 inches (8 feet)
50 inches50 inches (4.2 feet)100 inches (8.3 feet)
55 inches55 inches (4.6 feet)110 inches (9.2 feet)
60 inches60 inches (5 feet)120 inches (10 feet)
65 inches65 inches (5.4 feet)130 inches (10.8 feet)
75 inches75 inches (6.25 feet)150 inches (12.5 feet)

What's comfortable for you?

The typical TV-watcher sits 9 feet from the screen, which brings us to the comfort factor: Most people like to sit far enough away from a TV that the pixels almost don't factor into the equation. So, feel free to experiment with the placement of your new TV, and it never hurts to go a little bigger than what you think you'll need.

Whether you're shopping for a TV for your home or a home for your TV, you can now figure out the perfect viewing distance with just a couple of quick calculations.

  • glenaw
    In this article the distance calculation that is made is for distortion on the pixel lines. That is the only consideration that the article is making. The other consideration should be the peripheral vision. If you are placed so close to the TV yours eyes will be shifting constantly to view the area of view which will make it difficult and unpleasant to your vision. This should be your first consideration. After considering that one can make the other considerations to make your viewing a pleasurable and complete experience.
    Reply
  • Geodude074
    Okay, this entire guide is silly, and I have no idea where you got your numbers from.

    How far away people like to sit away from the TV is entirely subjective. I have a 65 inch 4k TV and I sit 4 feet away from it. According to your guide that's way too close, but to me it's perfect. Why? Because the bigger the screen is to your face, the more immersive it feels. If I'm watching TV and most of my vision is filled with TV screen and I can see everything on screen, to me that's perfect.

    I also use a 41 inch TV as a computer monitor, which I sit 2 1/2 feet away from. I always laugh to myself when people say they have a "big" 27 inch monitor. I don't understand why people like tiny monitors, especially when TVs these days are so cheap. Web browsing, video streaming, and PC gaming is so much more enjoyable on a bigger screen.
    Reply