How Big Is Too Big For A TV?

52inchtv Just about everyone can afford a big-ass TV these days, and generally speaking any screen over 36 inches on the diagonal is considered “extra large” territory.

There’s plenty of articles online that will tell you in a very techy way how to determine the maximum size of TV you can use for a room, such as this this one that mentions things like the ‘rule of thirds’, angles and so on.

A much simpler way to determine how big is too big without even going to the electronics store is to use your own peripheral vision and some sticky notes.

Here’s how it works. This is absolutely not the most technical way to do it, but it is the easiest.


The outer rectangle is the wall.
The green ellipse is your field of view.
The yellow boxes are sticky notes you would put on the wall.

All you have to do here is place the sticky notes on the wall so that they are both inside your field of view when looking at the wall from the couch. It is OK if the sticky notes are slightly (but only slightly) out of focus as long as you can see them both at the same time without having to shift your eyes.

The reason you place the sticky notes bottom-left and top-right is so you can measure the distance between the two with a tape measure. Whatever distance you measure, that’s as big as you can go with a screen. Anything larger and portions of the picture will be outside of your field of view and you’ll be doing that side-to-side thing with your eyes whenever you watch TV – and that’s annoying.

If you find that two sticky notes aren’t good enough to really make a decision, “draw” a rectangle on the wall using the notes to give you a better representation of the border.

When doing this it’s convenient if you have a helper (as in your husband or wife or child) at the wall to move the notes around, else you’ll have to get up several times to move them yourself if doing this solo.

It is OK to have a screen that has picture outside of your field of view?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but consider for the moment that when you go to the movies it’s most likely true you never pick the front row. Why? Two reasons. First, you’re craning your head back just to see stuff and second, you’re eyes are constantly traveling back and forth just to see everything, and will probably result in a headache from eye strain.

Those that do have screens too big for their living rooms usually get dull headaches for the first month of ownership, and then their eyes simply get accustomed to the fact that not everything will be in view at any given time. They’re ‘training’ their eyes to ignore parts of the picture, so to speak. Personally, I’d skip all that hassle and just get a correctly-sized screen the first time.

What about people that have different fields of view?

Whoever is buying the TV is the one to please here. If you’re the one buying the big slab, your eyes are what matter. However if you want to play it safe and please everyone in the household, knock off two to four inches on the diagonal from what you measured – especially if there will be children sitting closer to the set than you will be.

How big is too big for a TV?

“Too big” is a screen where the picture is outside of your field of view. Stay within what you can see, and you’re in good shape.

2 thoughts on “How Big Is Too Big For A TV?”

Avatar Anonymous says:
Very interesting article, I’ll include this tip in my buying guide that you can find at
Thanks a lot, this is quite an easy way to determine the right size of your tv.
Avatar Happy says:
How about PLACEMENT of that large screen? Above the fireplace is WRONG, for 2 reasons: you have to constantly tilt your head or your eyes, one gives you eye strain, the other is a pain in the neck. Plus, if the fire place is operational it will generate an awful lot of extra dust that will settle on the screen’s cooling fans, shortening the duty life of the fans and ultimately the screen…

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