How to Calculate the Viewing Distance for a TV

Aim for 0.1 - 0.2 feet per inch of screen size

What to Know

  • You want the screen to take up at least 20% of your field of view, but typically you'll want it to be 30 to 40 degrees.
  • Don't sit further than 9-16 feet from your TV (see chart below).

This article explains how to calculate the ideal viewing distance for your TV depending on what you're watching, and gives a few distances for the most typical sizes of TVs.

How to Calculate TV Viewing Distance

The perfect distance for viewing your TV is different depending on who you talk to, but in each case, it's about maximizing the amount of space your TV takes in your field of view (FOV). Some argue that 30 degrees of your FOV is fine, while others claim that for movies at least, you want closer to 40 degrees.

In all cases, though, the minimum most agree on is 20 degrees. Anything less than that and you're not getting an optimum viewing experience and should really sit closer to your TV if you can.

A good middle ground between recommendations, and one with a lot of weight behind it, is the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), which claims that you want the TV to take up 30 degrees of your field of view for general viewing, and 40 degrees for movies.

Here is a table showing the recommended minimum and maximum viewing distances for different common TV sizes based on the SMPTE's suggestions:

 TV Size Minimum Viewing Distance (40 degrees)  Maximum Viewing Distance (20 degrees)
42-inch  4.2 feet 8.8 feet
48-inch   4.8 feet 10.1 feet
55-inch   5.5 feet 11.5 feet
65-inch   6.5 feet 13.7 feet
77-inch   7.7 feet 16.2 feet
85-inch  8.5 feet 17.8 feet

You'll also want to consider viewing angle and seating reclining in this equation. The distances cited above are based on the idea of one person sitting directly in front of the TV. You need to measure the distance from the display to where your head position will be on your sofa or armchair, not just to the front of the sofa. Also, if multiple people will be watching and you want to ensure everyone has the same excellent viewing experience, make sure to calculate additional seating distances and set up your living room space appropriately for the correct distances all around.

If your TV falls into a different size category, or you want more detailed information on how to calculate the viewing distance of your TV, RTings has a great calculating tool.

How to Measure Your TV to Calculate Viewing Distance

If you're not sure what size TV you have, it might seem as simple as breaking out a tape measure and measuring it... and it is. But you need to be aware of the right way to measure it.

TVs aren't measured by their horizontal width, but by their diagonal screen space. That means you must measure only the display panel itself, not the plastic or metal bezels around it. Measure from the bottom corner to the opposite corner at the top and you that number for your calculations when deciding where to sit.

  • How do I clean my TV screen?

    To clean a flat-screen TV, turn off the TV and wipe gently and without pressure using a soft, dry cloth. If needed, dampen the cloth with distilled water or an equal ratio of distilled water to white vinegar.

  • How do I mirror my laptop to my TV?

    Mirror your laptop to your TV on Windows, use Miracast or Wi-Fi Direct under Settings. On Macbooks, go to Airplay in Settings or use the Airplay icon.

  • What is the best viewing angle for my TV?

    Sit directly in front of the center of the TV for the best view. LED TVs typically have a maximum viewing angle of 88 degrees from the center.

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