If you’re planning to buy a TV for a home theater, congratulations! That’s an exciting step for you and everyone who will enjoy it. Home Theaters are a huge investment, so picking the right TV is of the utmost importance.
We’ve created this guide to walk you through the important questions as you embark on your home theater journey:Best
- What’s the best TV size for Home Theaters?
- Should I get a Flat Screen TV or Projector?
- Where should I place the screen?
- Where should I place the projector?
- Flat Screen TVs for Home Theaters
If you’re here for the quick answer, let’s indulge:
To pick the best TV for your home theater, measure the number of inches between your seats to the screen location and divide by 1.2- that’s the maximum size of your screen. Choose a 4K model from Samsung, Sony, or LG in that size with HDR, HDMI 2.1, and 120Hz refresh rate.
If you want a screen that’s 100+ inches, consider a projector. Smart shoppers will want to dig deeper: are you ready?
How to calculate the Best TV Size for a Home Theater
When it comes to Home Theater TVs, bigger is better- until a certain point. When the TV becomes too big, we’re forced to dart our eyes or crane our necks to follow the action, creating an uncomfortable experience.
That’s why our formula to determine the best Home Theater TV size calculates the maximum size: anything larger and you’re doomed to a sub-par experience. You probably won’t be able to afford the maximum size anyways, nor should you attempt the feat unless you’re rich (in which case, congrats, go for it!)
To calculate the best TV size for a home theater, measure the distance between your seating and the screen location (in inches), and divide by 1.2. The resulting number is the maximum size TV you should buy for your home theater.
Make sure it’s not too tall: if your screen is absolutely massive, it’s possible that it’s too large for your room. Remember that your screen should be at least 3 feet off the ground, so the ceiling height minus 3 feet is your maximum TV height. This way, you’re never looking down at parts of the screen.
Make sure it’s not too wide: you also need a wide enough wall or space to place your screen. Multiply the maximum height of your screen (above) by 1.78 (considering a 16:9 aspect ratio) to determine the maximum width of your screen.
This science-based equation will fill your entire field of view at the maximum size, creating the most immersive viewing experience possible. However, if this will also be a Gaming TV, that might not be such a good idea (learn more in our TV Buying Guide).
TV vs Projector
Should I buy a flat screen TV or a projector? It’s debate that’s riddled aspiring Home Theater owners for ages. As the cost of truly big screens decline, so does the advantage projectors have over them.
There are two distinct scenarios in which a Projector may be more desirable than a flat screen TV:
- The optimal TV Size is 100+ inches
- The room is (or can be) completely dark
The bigger the screen, the more expensive the TV, and above 85 inches you’ll be paying a premium for a flat screen TV. At 100+ inches the options for flat screen TVs dwindles to almost nothing and the prices become astronomical. At this point, projectors become the more affordable choice (but don’t forget the cost of a projector screen, bulb replacement, and speakers).
If your room is completely dark, or you have blackout shades or blinds that can make it completely dark, you can also consider a projector. Inversely, bright rooms are not good for projectors- they work by “throwing light” at a screen, which competes with natural light, creating a washed out picture (especially in the dark scenes of a dramatic movie).
TVs have the advantage over projectors in several areas:
- Prices are better below 100 inches
- Screens get much, much brighter
- Better performance in light-filled rooms
- Better HDR and Contrast
- Comes with audio
- Require less space
- Less maintenance
Don’t be fooled by super low prices on projectors if they aren’t 4K or above: the bigger the screen, the more resolution matters, and an HD projector on a 100-inch screen will look awful compared to today’s most mediocre 4K flat screens.
We recommend flat screen TVs to the vast majority of people because of their visual advantages and “set it and forget it” nature. There are a lot more challenges, components, and considerations that come with a projector, and they’re usually not worth the hassle unless you’re putting a 100+ inch screen into a true media or cinema room and ready to invest a serious lump of green into making it magical.
Where to place the screen?
Deciding where to put a flat screen TV is relatively easy: you simply determine the best viewing distance for your screen size, calculate the proper mounting height for your TV, and place it on the optimal wall or TV stand according to those dimensions.
If you’ve decided a projector is the way to go, deciding where to place the projector screen can be tricky. Although you can project directly onto the wall, that’s generally not a good idea: walls have uneven surfaces, don’t reflect light well, and consequently display a poor picture.
Furthermore, where you place the projector screen is limited by where you can place the projector: your room might have limitations based on ceiling height, room shape, or room size. The best thing to do is identify your favorite screen location based on the flow of your room and work backwards.
There are a wide variety of Projector Screens from which you can choose:
- Electric Screens: go up or down at the press of a button
- Fixed Frame Screens : placed directly on the wall
- Portable Screens: come with a stand or tripod
- Inflatable Screens: for indoors, outdoors, and uneven surfaces
- Wall-Painted Screens: paint with reflective coating for DIY
- Manual Pull-Down Screens: mounted and pull up/down by hand
- Rear Projector Screens: comes from behind the screen
What type of screen you get will dictate where you can place it: Ceiling-Mounted, Floor-Mounted, Wall-Mounted, Desktop, or Outdoors. Let’s not forget, though, that where you place the screen depends completely on where you place the projector.
Where to place the projector?
The best place to put your projector depends completely on the type of projector you purchase and the desired location of your screen:
- Long Throw Projectors are what some people consider “normal projectors” and require about 1-inch of distance for every 1-inch of diagonal on the screen.
- Short Throw Projectors are good for smaller spaces, capable of displaying a 100+ inch picture from 3 to 4 feet away.
- Ultra Short Throw Projectors provide big pictures in really tight spaces: you can place a UST Projector 3-inches away from the screen and display 100+ inch image
To determine how close you can place the projector from the screen, multiply your projector’s “minimum throw” by the width of the screen. To calculate how far away you can place the projector, multiply by the projector’s “maximum throw”. Place your projector between these two distances.
Now that you’ve got a screen location and measured the distance needed between the projector and the screen, you can identify the exact area of the ceiling where you’ll be mounting the projector.
If the architecture of your room at the mounting point creates a problem, you’ll need to consider the alternatives of mounting the projector to a wall, placing it on a table or stand, or selecting a different style of projector (with different minimum and maximum throws) that better fits your room’s needs.
Projectors can be an excellent choice, and Ultra Short Throw Projectors have become incredibly popular for all room sizes because of their versatility; however, the brightness, vibrance, simplicity, and price of flat screen TVs are typically preferred for screens below 100 inches.
Best Flat Screen TVs for Home Theater
If you’ve come to the conclusion that a flat screen TV is the better choice for your Home Theater, you should follow the typical rules of TV buying found in our TV Buying Guide.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind:
- OLED screens produce darker darks, creating a more cinematic experience in dark rooms.
- QLED and LED screens produce brighter brights, providing better pictures in bright rooms
- The bigger your screen and the closer you sit to it, the more resolution matters. We recommend 4K TVs for the vast majority of people and it’s worth noting that movie theater projectors are often 2K resolution (8K is unnecessary overkill).
Speakers, Furniture, and Beyond
Building a Home Theater is more aspirational than buying a Big Screen TV. It suggests that you’re not just trying to buy the best TV for your room, but crafting a cinematic experience.
If you’re planning to treat your Home Theater as a decade-long investment in entertainment, you’ve got more to think about.
Home Theater Audio & Speakers
- Rectangular rooms are best for Home Theaters. Square rooms create audio distortion from the way sound waves bounce off the walls.
- Windows reflect sound, which causes audio distortion- the fewer windows the better.
- Framed art with protective glass can also reflect sound and may reduce sound quality.
- Covering large flat surfaces with curtains, drapes, or acoustic wall panels will absorb sound and improve the audio experience.
- Carpet is the best flooring for home theaters because it absorbs sound and reduces audio distortion
- Speakers should be placed 20+ inches from the wall
- 5.1 Surround Sound is the most common and it contains 5 speakers and 1 woofer: left/right/center in the front (along with the woofer) and left/right in the back.
Home Theater Furniture Ideas
- How many seats is best for a home theater?
- Will all the seats face forward?
- Will you have seats to the side?
- Will you have elevated rows of seating?
- Will you have any tables for food/drinks?
- How about floor seating like beanbag chairs?
- Does your theater connect to other rooms?
- Do you want movie theater style lighting?
- Do you need black out shades, curtains, or other window coverings?
- Do you want to create a theme for your theater?
- What color should you paint the walls in a home theater?
- How about wallpaper in a home theater?
- What carpet is best for a home theater?
- Popcorn machines or other novelties?