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Which TV Screen Fits You?

Choosing size and format is the first step to fine-tuning your viewing experience 

display of HD flat screens

Zoonar GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

Not too long ago, all you did to watch TV was plug in the set, flick it on, and sit back and enjoy. Today’s screens are more of a “video hub,” drawing content from many sources, which is at once thrilling and frustrating.

And there's no doubt about it: TVs have gotten huge. Go to a store, and you’ll find screens at 80 inches or larger. (FYI: TVs are measured diagonally.) Before buying, you need the proper perspective. Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting your screen:

Size Matters: How Big Should You Go?

HD TV

Measure your viewing distance in feet. Divide by 1.6, then multiply by 12. That’s the optimal screen size in inches. So if you sit eight feet away, you’d want a 60-inch high-definition (HD) TV. 

Ultra-HD TV

With such fine resolution, you can pick a screen as big as you wish; it’ll look great. If you sit eight feet away, you can go larger than 60 inches, if your space and budget allow.

Can You Tell the Difference?

An HD television has roughly 2.1 million pixels, or dots of color, on its screen. An ultra-HD (or 4K) TV has roughly 8.3 million pixels. So a 4K picture would be much sharper than that of a standard HD TV. As Alex Haslam of the website Cut Cable Today puts it: “If you watch basketball on a 4K, you can see every drop of sweat, every goose bump and every tiny twitch as hands release the ball.”

The question is, do you need that level of detail? It might make sense if you’re having trouble seeing your TV picture well. But if you’re like many people, the difference may not be that significant unless you’re watching a very large screen or are up close.

Oh! One more thing on TV innovations:

Some TVs boast more vivid colors, while others have an increased refresh rate (the number of times per second that the picture updates).

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