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Sitting too Close to Your TV? Why Distance Matters

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Picture this: you’re headed to the movies with a friend and you’ve got your popcorn in hand. You’re the first ones there, and you can have any seat in the house. Where do you sit? For most of us, the prime location is somewhere near the center, not smack dab in front of the screen or off in the distant back rows. While it’s not exactly the same, what you want to achieve in your living room is that same prime location. You want to feel like you’re right there with Wolverine, as he battles deadly samurai as well as his inner demons. What you don’t want to feel is eye strain and headaches from being in the wrong spot.

People often choose the biggest screen that they can squeeze into their homes, but if your room is too small, this may not be the best way to go. A general guideline is to sit between 1.5 to 2.5 times the diagonal screen measurement away, with about a 30-degree viewing angle. For example, if you have a 40" TV, you should be sitting somewhere between 5 and 8.3 feet from the screen. Just keep in mind that viewing distance recommendations are a general guide, and it’s largely a matter of personal taste.

Recommendations on viewing distances vary among manufacturers, retailers, and THX specifications. Some give a fixed number; others provide a range of suitable distances. While it’s good to refer to these when doing your research and setting up your TV, you should rely on what looks best to you. You should also take into consideration the position of your speakers, seating, and other furniture in the room. Given the clarity of HD content, you’ll be able to sit closer to an HDTV without seeing individual pixels. If you’re watching lots of Blu-ray movies, you’ll be able to sit closer than if you’re planning to watch analog content. Viewing angle is also important. You want to view your TV straight-on, at a height where your eyes are level with the center of the screen.

If your parents ever told you not to sit too close to the TV, you’re not alone. Many of us heard this growing up while watching cartoons on Sunday mornings or Saved by the Bell after school. While it’s not entirely bad advice, it stems from a bygone era. In the 1960s, several color television models emitted dangerous levels of radiation—and it was hazardous to your health to sit too close. The problem was quickly fixed, but this mid-century myth endures today in living rooms across the country.

*While recommended viewing distances vary, you can refer to this chart to see a range of the minimum and maximum distances you could be sitting from your screen:

Screen Size

Recommended Range

26"

3.25' – 5.5' (1.0 m – 1.7 m)

32"

4.0' – 6.66' (1.2 m – 2.0 m)

37"

4.63' – 7.71' (1.4 m – 2.4 m)

40"

5.0' – 8.33' (1.5 m – 2.5 m)

42"

5.25' – 8.75' (1.6 m – 2.7 m)

46"

5.75' – 9.5' (1.7 m – 2.9 m)

50"

6.25' – 10.5' (1.9 m – 3.2 m)

52"

6.5' – 10.8' (2.0 m – 3.3 m)

55"

6.9' – 11.5' (2.1 m – 3.5 m)

58"

7.25' – 12.0' (2.2 m – 3.7 m)

65"

8.13' – 13.5' (2.5 m – 4.1 m)

70"

8.75' – 14.75' (2.7 m – 4.5 m)

 

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