Sitting Too Close to Your TV? Why Distance Matters


Choosing the right TV size for your living room or bedroom isn’t exactly like determining where to sit in a movie theater, but there are certainly similarities. In movie theaters, people generally prefer to sit centrally, maybe a little front-of-center. Studies have shown that the same is true at home—central, on-axis viewing is preferred.

In movie theaters, we generally don’t like to sit in the front third of the theater because often, we’d have to move our head or eyes from side-to-side to follow the action; the angle at which we’re viewing the screen is smaller than the angle from our eyes to the edges of the screen, so we simply can’t see the entire screen at once. On the other hand, the rear third of the theater is typically avoided because we see more than we need to, like side walls, speakers, maybe even exit signs and doors; our viewing angle is too wide at larger distances.

Scaling this down to the TV room, the main challenge is that most people will have only one row of seating (a couch or bed, for instance), so while we expect there to be a definitive rule of “I’ll be X feet from my TV, so it should be this size,” a number of variables can affect this, including architectural issues and general personal preference. Luckily, there seems to be a consensus on a “rule of thumb” for optimal screen size: A 30- to 40-degree viewing angle is preferred, equating to a nice, round, approximate 10" of screen size for each foot of distance from the screen. So, for instance, if you’ll be 6' from the TV, a 60" TV is a good place to start your search.

It’s important to note that this is a rule of thumb or a starting point, not to be taken as law. It’s always recommended to measure your viewing distance, then go into a showroom (preferably the B&H SuperStore, obviously), stand that distance from the TV you’re interested in, and judge for yourself whether that’s the right size or if you prefer something larger or smaller. Additionally, if any medical condition is a concern, such as light sensitivity, migraines, etc., please consult your doctor when deciding what size TV is right for your home.

Below, I’ve included a small chart showing some popular TV sizes and their recommended viewing distances, in feet and meters, to simplify the process for TVs that don’t measure a multiple of 10. I’ve listed the viewing distance first to make it easier to start with the variable you know. If your viewing distance is in between two on the chart, start with whichever is closest. When in doubt, go larger, as furniture and architectural features permit.

Viewing Distance Suggested Screen Size
3.2’ (0.98 m) 32"
4.3’ (1.31 m) 43"
5’ (1.52 m) 50"
5.5’ (1.68 m) 55"
6.5’ (1.98 m) 65"
7’ (2.13 m) 70"
7.5’ (2.29 m) 75"
8.5’ (2.59 m) 85"

What size screen do you have in your home? How far from it do you sit? Tell us in the Comments section.


Yes, the basic rule of thumb is that if you are moving your head side to side while watching TV, you are too close.  The B&H chart above is a good guideline to follow BEFORE you purchase the TV.  Also for those commercial or education, you can be a little further away if you are using the display just for video/movies.  However if you are using the display for presentations with data, then every inch counts

Where have we heard this yardstick rule before? As long as your head isn't swiveling the way it would watching a tennis match, you've probably got the advantage. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Robert!

I have  used a 42" TV for the past 10 years and sit about 12' away from my TV.

Our copy editor says he has roughly the same setup at home--a 47" screen and seating about 10' away, and it's quite comfortable for viewing.

When I bought my 52" Sony Bravia from B&H in 2009, the guideline was to sit between 1.5x and 3x the diagonal of the TV from the TV.  Time has proven that guideline to be pretty accurate for me.

Glenn, that's good news. We'd like to stress that the specs and guidelines we post are suggested for people with normal vision or who use eyeglasses for distance, but not for those individuals with light sensitivity or other ocular conditions.

We have 65 inch tv and sit from 11 to 13 feet away and according to your Guide we need about a 130 inch tv. It is what it is!

Again, we'd like to stress that the specs and guidelines we post are suggested for people with normal vision or who use eyeglasses for distance, but not for those individuals with light sensitivity or other ocular conditions. These guidelines represent an average. One of our copy editors says he has a 47" screen in his living room and sits about 9 to 10' away and finds viewing completely unproblematic. One must always allow for variables.

probably stand behind your couch or any  other furniture so you know your at a good distance