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November 28, 2010 11:07 AM   Subscribe

How much HDTV is enough HDTV?

'Tis the season for...buying expensive electronics for myself. Namely, an HDTV.

Mostly this HDTV will be used for watching movies and playing my PS3 on it. No cable, and I don't need it to have a DVD player in it.

So, my questions is how large does it need to be in order to get a decent picture? I'm looking to spend around $350 for it. Thanks.
posted by elder18 to Shopping (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How big is your room and how far away from the TV will you be sitting?
posted by reddot at 11:14 AM on November 28, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, I'd say I'll be sitting four or five feet away. This is in my living room, which isn't too large.
posted by elder18 at 11:15 AM on November 28, 2010

The real question you should be asking is: "Here are several HDTVs that I'm looking at in the $350.00 price range, which of these should I buy to play my PS3 and watch movies."

You are probably looking at a 32" TV based on your budget alone. You will get what you pay for, ie, you aren't spending a lot, but having said that... With a PS3, you want a fast refresh rate so that the image doesn't look like utter crap.

Good luck.
posted by darkgroove at 11:22 AM on November 28, 2010

Personally, I think anything under 1080p -- and 120 Hz if you watch a lot of sports -- is a waste of money. I suggest you save up a bit more money until after the holidays and hit the post-Christmas sales.
posted by griphus at 11:26 AM on November 28, 2010

Best answer: This is a handy chart that shows the benefits of various resolutions and screen sizes at different viewing distances.
posted by dolface at 11:58 AM on November 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

120 Hz is a marketing scam. Don't buy into it please. It really does not make sports look that much better, and it makes television shows look significantly worse.
posted by lakerk at 12:09 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I bought a 32 inch 720p TV and I've been really pleased with it. You can find one for $300 new. A 32 inch TV in your space will be big without giving the gaudy look of "I spend ridiculous amounts of money on stuff I don't need to compensate for a tiny penis" Seriously. A 32 inch TV in a space like yours will be great.

I use mine mostly for DVDs and Netflix on the new AppleTV box (which I love!)
posted by 2oh1 at 12:41 PM on November 28, 2010

A PDF table similar to dolface's chart, detailing optimum viewing distances as a function of resolution and screen size.

A recent AskMe about HDTV recommendations that for some reason isn't showing up on the Related Questions section at the bottom of this page.
posted by Bangaioh at 1:36 PM on November 28, 2010

Best answer: I bought a 46" 1080p Toshiba Regza with LED backlighting and a "fake" 240hz refresh (it is 120hz with some sort of simulated 240). The two main viewing spots are 10 and 9 feet away, with a third 6 feet away. The TV didn't get great marks for viewing at an angle but the 6 foot location is at ~40 degrees (so closer than diagonal) and it is fine. I suspect a 40" would have been plenty, but from the main viewing seat it is what I would call near perfect for the "immersive" experience. I can't see pixels even if I get real close and it is sharp as a button. I don't watch much sports but when I do they look great. My roommates Xbox 360 looks great as well.

That being said, the same roommate has a 32" 720p he got two years ago for xmas that was in the $400 range back then and he sits 5 feet away from it playing his Xbox all the time. It was obviously a low-end budget tv two years ago and, to my eyes, still looks fine. 32" is more than enough for a 4-foot viewing distance.

I'd keep a watch on places like and when you see 32" sets come up for sale, do some research, check out the reviews, and I have no doubt you can find a quality set for $350. (For example, here is a 32" 1080p, though it is only 60hz, for $329 with free shipping)
posted by mbatch at 2:22 PM on November 28, 2010

Also: be aware of matte vs. gloss screens. My TV is a gloss screen and there can be a bit of glare in mid-day viewing (I use curtains). Depending on how much daylight you get in your room, this might be important.

I'll finally add that, while 720 vs 1080 and 60hz vs 120hz vs. 240 may seem important now (as you oogle specs and such), once you get any 32" in your space you will probably quickly forget the specific numbers and enjoy almost anything you might find. A 32" 720p 60hz can probably be had for near $200 if you look around.
posted by mbatch at 2:29 PM on November 28, 2010

120 Hz is a marketing scam. Don't buy into it please. It really does not make sports look that much better, and it makes television shows look significantly worse.

Do you have anything to back this up?
posted by griphus at 2:37 PM on November 28, 2010

You definitely do not need a 120Hz TV. But having it isn't necessarily a bad thing. As far as I can tell you can typically disable it. If you want to enjoy a Blu-Ray in it's full glory, really you'll want to watch it in it's native 24Hz glory. Make sure the TV supports 1080p24 and 1080p60 and has a native resolution of 1920x1080, and you'll be set for movies and games.

TV's with a 120Hz option, as far as I am aware, estimate what happens in between frames. I found watching movies with this option enabled quite distracting (this was with a Bravia's Motion Flow). It almost looks as if fast movement and pans are sped up, yet they aren't, it's a very odd effect, and is definitely not a reason to buy a TV. Nothing is broadcast using a 120 or 240Hz refresh rate, the maximum anything currently uses is 60Hz. With 120/240hz the TV simply makes up what happens between frames.
posted by iamcrispy at 4:42 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

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