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HDTV Buying Guide: Choosing the right size

Matt Burns

Choosing the right size high definition television is perhaps one of the most important decisions. You don't want to buy a set too big ‘cause you will get a headache, but at the same time, if you under-buy, perhaps you will be disappointed. The brick and mortar stores like Best Buy and Circuit City, do not do a very good job in providing you a with a proper idea on the size you are interested in.  But there are ways around this.

Americans love big TVs. Most people will buy a bigger set if it is only a few dollars more. This may not be the best decision though. If you are going from a 27-inch screen up to a 55-inch rear projection LCD but are only sitting 10 feet away, you will be disappointed. The manufacturer of that TV did not plan on having someone sitting 10 feet away watching “digital” cable. Sure these TVs look great in high-def, but not so much on standard definition.

The signal that the majority of people watch on a daily basis is still standard definition. This signal was developed over 50 years ago when TVs that were bigger then 16-inches were HUGE. Now we're still watching the same lines of resolution, sure it is a better signal, on larger, modern TVs. But the standard was never designed to give great picture quality at 42-inches, let alone 70-inches! The closer a person sits to the set the worse it looks.

Here is a little rule of thumb to go “buy” (pun intended) to determine the size of set in diagonal inches that will work in your room. 

•    Distance away from the TV x 4 for standard TV (cable, antenna)
•    Distance away from the TV x 5 for digital TV (satellite, DVDs)
•    Distance away from the TV x 6 for HDTV

So if you plan on sitting 12 feet away but watching normal cable on the set then the biggest you should get is 48-inches. Or, if you plan on just watching DVDs then a 60-inch would be appropriate.

Now like anything else, this is not set in stone. The size of the room has a lot to do with this as well. If you have a two-story great room, then buy bigger.  If it is going in a basement with low ceilings, you might want smaller.  If you are looking at a CRT projection, you have to remember that they stick out from the wall about 2 1/2  feet, while plasmas can be hung on a wall. You know your room better then we do so make a judgment call. Many TV stores have a good return policy because they understand that people over- or under-buy. Find out if there is a restocking fee or an additional charge if they have to delivery another set.

How close do you sit to your HDTV and what size is it? Also, do you think that it is the right size?

Once you figure out what size TV you can fit, come back next week, same place and same time, and we will help you figure out what kind of TV to buy.

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