The most difficult decision when shopping for a new TV is often choosing the TV size. It always comes down to picking between two sizes and feeling like the world will end if you choose incorrectly.
If you choose a TV that’s too big will it overwhelm the room? If you choose a TV that’s too small will you have eternal buyer’s remorse? Should you spend your money on a bigger TV or better specs?
When choosing between a 45-inch TV and 55-inch TV the general consensus is that bigger is better: buy the 55-inch TV if you can afford it. Rarely do people complain that their TV is too big but the disappointment of buying a TV that’s too small lingers forever.
These days a 45-inch TV isn’t even considered a “big screen”: that label is technically reserved for screens 55-inches and up. If you’ve got a small room then a 45-inch TV might suffice, but for typical living rooms there’s a good chance you should actually be choosing between a 55-inch TV and 65-inch TV.
How to Choose the Right Size
The purpose of your living room is to provide balance: you want a great entertainment experience while you’re watching TV, but a functional and attractive room when the TV is turned off.
If you’re sitting less than 6 feet away from the screen, choose a 45-inch TV. If you’re sitting more than 7 feet away, a 55-inch TV is the better choice.
|Viewing Distance||Best TV Size|
|6 Feet or Less||45-inch TV|
|Between 6 & 7 Feet||Toss Up|
|7 Feet or More||55-inch TV|
If your viewing distance is between 6 and 7 feet away from the TV, both 45-inch and 55-inch TVs are considered optimal. Lean towards the purpose of the room: bigger is better for entertainment, smaller is better for balance. If you plan on watching a lot of TV in the room and can afford the larger size, going bigger is a no-brainer.
Calculate the Best TV Size
The perfect TV will fill your field of view without requiring that you crane your neck or dart your eyes around the room. Performing this simple calculation for living room TVs will help you strike the best balance between TV experience and aesthetic ambiance:
- Measure the distance from your seat to the screen in inches
- Divide by 1.6 for the best Living Room TV size
Don’t measure from the front of the couch. Measure from the position of your eyes when comfortably seated.
Best TV Size at Every Distance
|Distance||Best TV Size|
|6 feet||45-inch TV|
|6.5 feet||49-inch TV|
|7 feet||53-inch TV|
|7.5 feet||56-inch TV|
|8 feet||60-inch TV|
|8.5 feet||64-inch TV|
|9 feet||68-inch TV|
|9.5 feet||71-inch TV|
|10 feet||75-inch TV|
It’s likely that neither a 45-inch TV or a 55-inch TV is technically the “Best TV size” based on this calculation; afterall, they don’t make TVs in every possible size. Use this calculation as a guideline, adjusting to match your personal tastes and meet the constraints of your budget.
These TV Size calculations are based upon scientific principles (read more here), but if you want to have confidence in your decision, it’s worth taking a few extra steps.
Make sure it looks good
It’s important to know that the difference between a 45-inch TV and a 55-inch TV isn’t simply 10-inches. That’s the difference in their diagonal screen measurement, but what about their height and width?
A 55-inch TV is 8.7 inches wider and 4.9 inches taller than a 45-inch TV.
|TV Size||TV Height||TV Width|
|45″ TV||22 inches||39.2 inches|
|55″ TV||27 inches||48 inches|
|Difference||5 inches||8.8 inches|
Use painters tape, cardboard cutouts, or newspapers to create an artificial 45-inch TV and 55-inch TV that you can attach to the wall or prop up on a TV stand. Sit in the actual seats you’ll use and imagine watching TV on these fake screens. Does one feel more natural than the other?
This faux in-home demonstration is much more effective than visiting a retail store. Rows of poorly configured TVs, smooshed side-by-side, sitting in a warehouse-like environment with harsh lighting? It couldn’t be further from the home experience you’re trying to create and will only confuse you and complicate the process.
Retail store TV displays are designed as marketing tools rather than informational opportunities- feel free to browse but understand there is almost always sleight of hand, manipulation, or intentional negligence at work.
TV Size vs. Screen Type
If you can afford only one upgrade, should you get a larger TV or splurge for improved screen technology? The majority of people should opt for the larger screen- it’s guaranteed to provide a noticeable improvement.
Although upgraded screen tech like OLED creates a brilliant experience, you’re more likely to constantly notice the smaller screen size than the difference in screen tech unless you’re comparing TV sets side by side (another reason retail stores are dangerous).
Cutting edge screen technology comes at a premium. If you’re working with a limited budget, opt for screen size over screen tech, wait a few years, and let prices fall. Every 2 to 3 years prices fall so dramatically that previously out-of-reach television sets will become well within reach.