How Far You Should Sit From a Screen

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how far to sit from a screen
A common misconception about TV and home theatres is that bigger is always better, and having a 50″ (or perhaps even larger) screen is all you need to have a premium viewing experience. However, while it is true that larger screens may help you see the image itself better, larger screens can be overkill in smaller rooms. Your overall viewing experience will depend on much more intricate factors, one of which is the distance between you and the said screen.

The optimum viewing distance for a TV depends not only on its size but also on the specific technology it uses. Similarly, other screens like monitors and projectors will require different viewing differences. Read on to learn how you can make the most out of your respective screen or screens in the long run, by figuring out how far to sit from them.

Let’s Talk About That Home Theatre of Yours

Since TV and projector screens are larger than monitor screens, and since viewing distance is not as much of an issue with monitors, the majority of this article will talk about home theatre setups. Let’s look at TVs first, pun not intended.

Why is Placement so Important Anyway?

We have already gone on and on about how an 80″ TV may not necessarily be the best use of your hard-earned money if your living room does not match up in size, but why exactly is this the case? Consider consequences other than a faulty viewing experience. The first problem you ought to worry about is eye strain.

Yes, the old wives’ tale about sitting too close to a TV making you go blind has long been proved to be false, but straining your eyes is an imminent and very real possibility. Not only will this hurt, but you will also have to take frequent breaks in-between watching to be able to rest your eyes and recover. This is a problem, especially if you want to binge-watch Netflix or marathon your favorite movies.

The second issue is image clarity. This is the inverse of the previous situation; if you end up sitting too far away from your screen instead, then you will not be able to make out the details of the images on your screen. However, with older screens, the opposite can happen, in that this problem can manifest when you sit too close to the screen; you end up seeing the pixels that constitute each image.

How Far to Sit From a TV

So how far should you sit from a TV screen then? THX has a handy guide to calculating how far you should be sitting from a screen, based on the size of that screen. But we know that you did not come here for a math lesson, so instead of boring you with the actual calculations, we will give you an idea of the recommended distances for the most common screen sizes.

The following are the recommended distances for screens under 60 inches; which are commonly used for smaller rooms, or most living rooms. You can add or subtract the distance for variations in size.

  • For 42-inch HDTVs, the recommended viewing distance is 1.2m to 1.8m.
  • For 50-inch HDTVs, the recommended viewing distance is 1.5m to 2.3m.
  • For 60-inch HDTVs, the recommended viewing distance is 1.8m to 2.7m.

Notice how all these recommendations are for HDTVs. This is because 4K TVs are a bit of a different story. In short, you can sit much closer to 4K TVs without having to sacrifice image clarity. Generally, for the same size, you can cut the viewing distance in half for 4K TVs. The caveat here, though, is that audio becomes an issue in these situations; if you are sitting too close to the screen then you might also be sitting too far away from your speakers.

Other Factors that Affect TV Placement

As a simple afterthought, here are some other things you can work on to further optimize your TV viewing experience. Remember to consider, firstly, the angle you place your TV at. Having the TV directly in front of you is the most obvious choice, but for viewers sitting at different parts of the room, make sure that they do not have to look more than 15 degrees upward or downward, or more than 40 degrees left or right, to be able to see the screen.

Next, consider lighting. Try to not place the TV directly behind any major sources of light, because doing so will result in more eye strain for you; the different brightness levels coming from the said light source and the TV itself will be distracting. Lastly, balance matters. If you are mounting a TV on a wall or stand, it is essential to make sure that the placement is balanced, both from front to back and left to right. Not only will an imbalance result in an uneven picture, but there will also be a greater risk of the screen falling.

How Far to Sit from a Projector Screen

Continuing on the general recommendations from THX, we now move on to projector screens. These are, naturally, much larger, but the principle is the same.

  • For 100-inch projector screens, the recommended viewing distance is 3m.
  • For 110-inch projector screens, the recommended viewing distance is 3.3m.
  • For 120-inch projector screens, the recommended viewing distance is 3.6m.
  • For 130-inch projector screens, the recommended viewing distance is 3.9m.
  • For 150-inch projector screens, the recommended viewing distance is 4.5m.

How Far to Sit from a Monitor

Things are a bit different when it comes to computers and monitor screens. The size variations in computer screens are not dramatic enough to warrant individual recommendations from the THX. The general rule is to have at least arm’s length distance between you and the screen. If your monitor screen is bigger than 20-inches, then you ought to sit slightly further than an arm’s length, and so on.

Lighting is again important, so be mindful of where you sit. When it comes to eye strain from monitors, blue light is the main culprit. Blue light is what gives screens their brightness, and a screen needs a lot of blue light to be visible. Some tech giants are working on a yellowish alternative, called night-light, and you can also use blue-light filters to protect your eyes.

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Mike Colwell
Mike Colwell
7 months ago

Great read.
My Samsung 60″ plasma HD is 8 feet away, centered to my viewing position, my eyes hit the center.
The surrounds are calibrated to my listen position, tey are B&W dipoles, and B&W’s all around.