It is easy to get caught up in TV specifications and forget that unless your viewing distance is optimal and your vision is 20/20, then you won’t be able to see the best possible picture that you have paid so much money for. Figuring out the best TV viewing distances in your home requires some math.
It’s rather alarming to learn that humans with ideal vision cannot resolve all the details in a 4K TV unless seated within 3 to 5 feet. And that distance corresponds to all screen sizes from 43 to 85-inches (diagonally), respectively. It’s even closer for 8K TVs!
When viewing a TV at distances greater than mentioned above, pixels effectively blend together. You won’t be able to tell the difference between 4K and 8K content. A double-blind study by Warner Bros. confirmed such findings, revealing most consumers can’t tell the difference — even under the best conditions.
The same phenomenon holds true for HDTV, often referred to as 1080p, Full HD or 720p — just at a greater distance. For example if you sit 9 feet (2.74 meters) back from a 1080p HDTV, then you’ll need at least a 69-inch (175.26 cm) TV, measured diagonally, to see all of the detail. Any other combination of greater distance or smaller screen size means you will not be able to resolve the finer details.
This information is based on the research of Bernard J. Lechner, formerly an electronics engineer and VP at RCA Laboratories. He developed two simple formulas for calculating optimum viewing distances for 16×9 HDTVs based on visual acuity.
Optimal Viewing Distance for 16:9 1080p HDTV = 1.8 x Width
Optimal Viewing Distance for 16:9 720p HDTV = 2.7 x Width
Knowing your TV width is somewhat tricky, since all TV sizes are expressed in diagonal measurements. Of course you can always get out that tape measure or calculate it. For 16:9 sets (basically every widescreen TV), width can be calculated from the diagonal screen size.
Width = 0.871575537124549 x Diagonal Size
Sony’s website offers a general rule of thumb for recommended TV viewing distance. Their calculation uses TV screen height, which can be calculated as follows:
Height = 0.490261239632559 x Diagonal Size
Then multiply height by 1.5 for 4K TVs or 3 for 1080p HDTVs. Currently, Sony does not offer guidance based on 8K TVs, but if the trend held you’d multiply 0.75 times height.
Optimal Viewing Distance for 16:9 1080p TV = 3 x Height
Optimal Viewing Distance for 16:9 4K TV = 1.5 x Height
Optimal Viewing Distance for 16:9 8K TV = 0.75 x Height
For the most precise calculations, there’s a spreadsheet available at carltonbale.com which calculates optimal viewing distances based on the resolving power of the human eye (reference), or visual acuity. The human eye with 20/20 vision can detect or resolve details as small as 1/60th of a degree of arc. This distance represents the point beyond which some of the detail in the picture is no longer able to be resolved so pixels begin to blend together.
In lieu of breaking out that calculator just yet, use the table below to see the best TV viewing distances for common screen sizes based on visual acuity. You may be surprised just how much closer you should be sitting to the TV.
Optimal Viewing Distances for 16:9 TV Screen Sizes
Use these calculations to help you choose between a HDTV, 4K or 8K TV so you can see every last detail from your beautiful big screen if you sit in the right spot. With 8K TVs requiring such up-close viewing to actually see a difference, one has to wonder why anyone should buy a 8K TV?
Our recommendation, simply buy the biggest TV you can afford and place optimally.
Apparently you can safely break the rule Mom always told you not to do about sitting too close to the TV. No, it won’t ruin your eyes.
Related reading: Best TVs to Buy Right Now