Screen Size and Aspect Ratio

Before deciding to buy a HDTV display, you must determine first how large the screen size you will need for your viewing room. “The bigger the better” thinking is not applicable here because there are a number of things you have to check for you to be able to have a satisfying HDTV viewing experience. One is the correct sitting distance from the HDTV set and another is the type of display appropriate for your room. You should also check if the TV set you’re planning to buy is already “widescreen.” This TV spec refers to aspect ratio that indicates the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the screen. There are two TV ratios available: 4:3 for SDTV (also for analog TV) and 16:9 (widescreen) for HDTV. The ratio 16:9 was selected for HDTV because it is the mean between SDTV’s 4:3 and cinema’s 2.35:1 ratios. The logic behind is so that both SDTV and cinema contents can be viewed in 16:9 widescreen monitors with minimum wastage of screen real estate. Take note that there is a remarkable increase in the sales of widescreen displays in the market these days because of the similar increase in the number of HD content. You can check with your local cable, terrestrial, IPTV, and satellite operator if they already have HD programming in their channel line-up. Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs are also sources for HD content, along with HD-capable gaming consoles.

While HD content is increasing and now being aired by TV stations, analog broadcast is still on and will be here until it is completely shut down. While this is happening, we will have both 4:3 and 16:9 contents available. We may be in situations wherein we have to view 16:9 materials in 4:3 monitors and vice versa. There are screen-formatting methods that were developed to address these issues. One is anamorphic formatting wherein a 16:9 image is vertically squeezed to fit inside the available area of a 4:3 display. To view properly in a 4:3 monitor, letterboxing is employed wherein black bars appear at the top and bottom of the screen so the image will be shown without distortion. Windowboxing is the result when both letterboxing and pillarboxing are used. The image will appear in the central portion of the screen with black borders all around the image. Other HDTV display formatting options have come up such as zoom, crop, and stretch to name a few.

Recommended display types:

For screen sizes 32 inches and below, you can consider CRT. But HDTV CRTs are a rarity these days and you can hardly find them in stores. So for 32 inches below and up to 50 inches, the wise choice would be LCD and LED TVs. These could be for typical ordinary home and office applications where longer term, regular viewing is required. For 50 inches up to 103 inches, the best value for your money would be plasma displays. For still bigger screen size requirements, DLP is the best choice. These different HDTV types have their own pros and cons that you can check in another article that discusses the different types of display.

Recommended screen sizes:

There are HDTV display types applicable for different kinds of rooms. For bedrooms and guest rooms, screen sizes of 32 inches and smaller may suffice. For living rooms, bigger screen sizes may be required, which could be from 50 to 70 inches for the whole family to enjoy. For still larger room requirements such as in home theaters and digital cinemas, screen sizes larger than 70 inches become the natural choice.

Recommended viewing distances:

The recommended viewing distance for analog and SDTV sets is from 3 to 6 times the width of the screen. For HDTV, the recommended is from 1.5 to 2.5 times the diagonal dimension of the screen. You can sit closer to a HDTV set because it displays higher resolution and you will not be annoyed by noise that may be present on the content. These are suggested viewing distances and not hard rules that should strictly be followed.

When you are already in the store and ready to make a purchase for a new TV set, there is no better option than choosing a widescreen HDTV display. Going for 4:3 displays will be a waste of money because they will soon be phased out. HD is already on the air and on wire and there is no better way of viewing them than on HDTV monitors. Regarding the proper screen size, you better do an actual trial and error viewing in the store using the recommended viewing distance. The actual placement on your room will depend on your preferences and can be adjusted as you please. Check the available lighting in your viewing venue for too much brightness and lack of adequate lighting will both result to extra strain on your eyes. The last thing to check of course is your budget. Go for the best appropriate screen size that fits your budget.