The Tragedy: A Middle Aged Man's Wife Won't Let Him Have a Bigger TV
March 9, 2015 7:29 AM   Subscribe

I have a couple questions regarding the purchase of a new (and our first) television. Mainly, what size should we get, and then of course which model. Our budget is probably around $700 for the TV itself.


For the last 15 years we have watched every bit of media on a laptop, generally between 13" and 15", either on the coffee table or on our laps in bed. My wife says that because we are used to a 13" screen, jumping up to a 35" or 40" is going to be FREAKING AMAZING. I counter that the 13" screen is never more than 2-3 feet away from our eyes, so putting that 40" screen on the wall about 12 feet away is going to be, basically, THE WORST THING IN THE WORLD. I point out that a common refrain we hear from people who bought a TV is that they love everything about it, but they wish it was just a little bit bigger. I'm thinking 60" would be about right. My theory is "ok, hold this laptop up in front of your eyes, and you see the size of the rectangle it makes against that far wall? well that's how big of a screen we need to make this relatively the same". She understands that argument, but rejects it for a variety of reasons, mostly because she doesn't want to spend all the money on the TV and wants some funds left over for a sound system (yes!).


We walked into a Best Buy yesterday killing some time, and that's how we have found ourselves in this discussion. I honestly couldn't really tell the difference between 1080 and 4K in the store. I'm sure it's a combination of the wrong distance, wrong lighting, and wrong source material, but to my wife's credit they all looked pretty great. The thing I am sensitive about is not having the blacks black enough (we had a 24" monitor we used for a while that was just completely washed out in this respect and I found it really annoying, to the point where I would rather just watch the movie on the laptop) and the soap opera effect (which I understand is a way the TV interpolates different frame rate conversions, and can be disabled in the settings). Anyway, at Best Buy all we could do was say that we wanted a TV, but couldn't agree on which model, or that any of the models on the showroom floor were better than any of the rest.

After reading around a bit, we see that the Vizio E Series televisions are generally regarded as a good value. While I haven't seen one in person yet, on paper they sound like they would work for me, and my wife agrees with the price. Is there any reason we shouldn't go with a 60" Vizio E Series (other than it might not be in stock by the time we're ready to buy)?


We don't care about 3D and we don't care about smart features since we're probably going to just buy a Playstation 3 or Roku or Apple TV or Chromecast or Amazon stick/box/thingy anyway. Curved screens seem cool but I don't really care. 1080 seems adequate enough, but if the TV happens to have 4K that's fine. Most of our source material is ripped and compressed AVI's or MKV's anyway, but I'm sure eventually I'll buy my first BluRay. Stock speakers aren't really a concern because we're going to budget about $300-400 for a sound system. My wife is not flexible on moving the couch closer to the TV, so we are about 12 feet away. The room has windows opposite the TV but they have blinds, but still, it's not a totally dark room.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints to Technology (34 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We went from a 15 to a 42.

We're now thinking of going larger.

I wanted to get the bigger one, but the girlfriend thought it would dominate the room. Now she talks about how it just doesn't seem as big as it did in the store.

I have seldom heard of anyone complaining they got one that's too big.

I would say you'll be happy with anything above a 50.

BTW, we have the Vizeo and other than running embedded Windows it's fine. I was a bit irritated when they did their first OS update and I had boo to say about it, but I guess that's the way of the future. Hold on, got to boot up the TV!
posted by cjorgensen at 7:44 AM on March 9, 2015

Up until two months ago when I was given a used (5 years old) 60" TV, I had a 35 inch (not letterbox) RCA tube TV that was about 25+ years old. I agree with your logic on the size, but from my practical experience, bigger is better.

If it were me, before making the purchase, I would go to several friends houses/apartments and check out their screens and their setups. My other piece of advice is that the more HDMI ports, the better. On my older one, I have two ports that are used for the incoming cable box and the chromecast dongle. I cannot add any more devices such as a gaming device for my college aged kids.

Finally, and this is a personal thing, I would buy a cheaper model of a size I wanted and "test" it for a year. You will know after a year, what is missing, what is overkill, what size works, etc. Then, dip into your savings and go for it.
posted by 724A at 7:45 AM on March 9, 2015

You're in kind of weird position right now, with lots of stores clearing out their 2014 TVs and 2015 Tvs , I'd advise you to wait.

If I had to buy one right now, I'd either get This panasonic or the Vizio M Series.

That being said, you're going to notice a HUGE difference between compressed MKV files, HD streaming and real, high bit-rate Blurays. The PS3 is a great choice in that regard, as you get a solid BR player, tons of streaming support, and games (if that's your thing).
posted by Oktober at 7:46 AM on March 9, 2015

I have a 46" TV 8' away from my couch at eye level (not mounted on the wall), and it's perfect. I think an extra 1-2' of difference would be ok but any more than that and I'd be pretty unhappy with the size.

Personally my TV philosophy is different from a lot of folks, but it has worked great for me so I'll share. I intentionally didn't want to get the latest best thing. I got a pretty basic 1080p TV (the previous year's model, so it was cheap) and then bought a cheap desktop and an hdmi cable. The TV is my computer with a big monitor. I control it with a wireless keyboard+touchpad. No 10 kinds of remotes to deal with and the entirety of the internet is available for me to view on a big screen without going through any apps or a Chromecast. I am living my personal best TV life with this set up.

So since you guys don't appear to want the latest greatest most whiz-bang accouterments, I would also strongly suggest that you specifically look for last year's TV stock that they want to move out. You can get a bigger TV than what would be in your price range otherwise and you won't be missing out on features you have no desire to use.
posted by phunniemee at 7:47 AM on March 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

About eight years ago, I went from an ancient 13" cube TV (which my friends honestly believed was a black and white) to a 37" flat screen. It was FREAKING AMAZING. It is still FREAKING AMAZING. I remember watching The Princess Bride the first day and reeling in profoundest delight because I discovered Buttercup has freckles!

You seem pretty set on the 60", but I recommend setting up a mockup of your media wall to see if you can agree on a size or range and go from there. Maybe something in between might be a solution for you both.
posted by mochapickle at 7:48 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

(Also, my 37" is on a cart thingy so I can wheel it closer. Makes it convenient to move between the bedroom and the living room. Any larger would be tricky to move.)
posted by mochapickle at 7:49 AM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Try cutting out a piece of cardboard in various sizes and seeing how it fits in the room.

Personally we've been very happy with our 42" TV that we sit about 10-12 feet away from, but we're not looking for an immersive or cinema-like experience, and I like that the TV is dwarfed by other features in the room like the fireplace. But... next time we're in the market for a TV we'll likely go larger.

If you do want an immersive experience like watching a laptop up close, 60" is too small already. At 12 feet away, you might want to consider as large as 90".
posted by muddgirl at 7:49 AM on March 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Don't overthink this.
I get a new TV about every 5 years.
I walk into WalMart, find a Vizio that's HUGE and within my BUDGET and buy it.
The only thing I ever regret was NOT getting one a higher refresh rate.
My current TV is 60hz, you definitely want a refresh of 120, it will make everything, even regular ol' DVD's LOOK AMAZING.

I've been toying with the idea of getting a "Smart TV" (whatever the hell that is) that will allow us to run apps like Skype or Netflix or Hulu Plus, but we seem to be doing well with Netflix and HuluPlus on my PS3.

Maybe I'm not a super anal gadget guy, but man, I just think you should make this easier on yourself.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 7:52 AM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, and as far as size goes:

I went from a 32" set at (no joke) 4 feet away to a 32" set at 12 feet away, which was just unacceptable. My current TV is a 50", and while I'll use it until it dies (RIP Plasma), I kind of wish I'd shelled out extra for the next size up.
posted by Oktober at 7:53 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

We were having this same conversation a couple of months ago and ended up getting a projector. We now have a 120" projected screen and would not go back to the 32" LCD that we had before.

Get the biggest screen you can afford. 1080p is absolutely fine as very few sources can go up to 4k today; our giant screen looks good even at 720p. Another bonus for the projector is that you can get a screen that tucks away; we ended up projecting onto the bare wall and are going to stick with it as the quality is more than acceptable for us.
posted by sid at 7:55 AM on March 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

We have a 40" television, or something right around that. I feel like anything else larger seems to take over the room more, and I didn't want our living room to seem fully focused on a television. YMMV on that. If that's a concern for your s/o, then a projector might be a good compromise.
posted by bizzyb at 7:58 AM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

I didn't want a huge TV because I am cheap and was afraid it would overpower the livingroom but I wish we'd gone a bit bigger than our 46" that sits about 8" away.. (on preview, pretty much the opposite of bizzyb -I find the newer, thin TVs with the narrow bezels to be pretty innocuous)

Bring a DVD or BluRay of a dark, action-ey CG movie like the last Harry Potter film to the store. With the cheaper, low refresh rate TVs, it's really hard to follow the action. Ask to see it with the "smoothing" settings turned off.

Don't miss out on your local OTA opportunities. A cheap outdoor digital antenna will give you the best possible picture quality for major network network shows and PBS docs. Crisper than cable or streaming.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:09 AM on March 9, 2015

As usual, the Wirecutter has you covered. (50-inch for $500)
posted by blue_beetle at 8:14 AM on March 9, 2015

Try the TV Size to Distance Calculator.
posted by gorcha at 8:17 AM on March 9, 2015 [5 favorites]

I don't think I've ever met someone who bought a tv and ended up thinking it was too big. I have definitely talked to plenty of people who wish they had gotten a bigger one. I have a 65", and if there had been good larger options at the time I bought it, I would have gotten one. And my wife agrees. We fit fairly close, so it feels pretty immersive, but not as good as a movie theater. Bigger would be better. Of course, the room that is in is used exclusively for tv and movies, so it's not a big deal to have it seem like the tv is a focal point. But my general rule of thumb has always been to buy the biggest tv you can afford and fit in your space, within reasonable quality guidelines (and I've seen some of the cheaper Vizios that definitely do not meet my standards - it's better to have a slightly smaller tv with a better picture than a massive one with a bad picture).
posted by primethyme at 8:28 AM on March 9, 2015

It really all comes down to how far away the wall really is. Bigger is not always better, if you're too close to a big screen, it looks terrible. If your room really is so massive that the TV will be 12 feet away then a 60" would be on the smaller end of the kind of size you'd be looking for.
posted by missmagenta at 8:29 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

We have a 42" HD tv and are very happy with it...basically that was the size that would fit in our space, which was the deciding factor.

One thing to consider is that, at least to me, non-HD sources look hideous on large HD TVs. If most of your source material is ripped/compressed, does that mean it's not HD?? (I'm not an expert on that, basically everything we watch now is either HD cable or Bluray.) When we do want to watch something from a non-HD source, we usually end up setting it up on a laptop anyway, because it just looks super terrible on the TV. If your sources are not HD, I don't think spending any money on an HD tv is worth it.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:52 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Im just jumping in to say that the "My theory is "ok, hold this laptop up in front of your eyes, and you see the size of the rectangle it makes against that far wall? well that's how big of a screen we need to make this relatively the same". " sentence refers to a thing called Retinal Image Size.

Also bigger is always better. When movies can stretch into your periphery, it's amazing and immersive.
posted by Brainy at 9:07 AM on March 9, 2015

We have a 54" TV. If I'm on the couch (about 11' away), and I hold up my 7 inch tablet at my preferred viewing distance in the direction of the TV, I see that my tablet has a larger viewable area. The same with a 10 inch tablet (which I hold a bit further away (but close enough that it's viewable area is larger than the tablet. If instead I'm in one of the chairs closer to the TV (about 6'), The TV is larger than the 7 inch tablet's viewable area, but slightly smaller than the 10 inch tablet's viewable area. When I say viewable area, I mean how much of your visual field is actually occupied by the screen.

How large the TV will be, will depend entirely upon how far away it is. If you're used to watching the screen pretty close (12-18 inches), and if the TV will be 10 feet away, or further, it's entirely possible that a 40" TV will actually look much smaller than you're used to.

A way that you could test, is find where you're planning on putting the TV and where you're planning on watching it. With one person standing near the TV, and the other person sitting, move the laptop between the two of you at the standard distance you watch it from. Have the person by where the TV will go hold up their hands, and have the sitter direct the stander so that their hands are in the same placement as two diagnol corners of the laptop's visible screen (I.E. upper left and lower right). Then the sitter gets up, and measures the distance between the stander's hands. This is the minimum size at that distance to have a TV appear larger.

Or you can actually use math.
It's all linear, so if you have a 15" laptop and you watch it 2 feet away from your face, if the TV will be 10 feet away from you; you need a 75" screen! If instead you watch at 2.5 feet, then you can get away with a 60" screen. Measure to find out. Unless you're planning to sit really close to the TV, and the laptops are kept far way (3' or maybe more if you estimated poorly), a 40" TV won't actually seem large, and may seem small.

For the reasons of the first paragraph, if I'm planning to sit on the couch and I'm watching something alone I won't use the TV as it's small, even if I do then have to deal with the reflections, and notifications popping up, and the other downsides of a tablet compared to having the TV and an idle tablet that you can use to do other stuff.

When we were moving, we took down the TV to show the house (small family room made to seem smaller by the TV). We switched all of our TV viewing to be on a 22" monitor about 2.5 feet away from us, which was *much* more of our visual field than we were used to.

Sorry, I can't speak much for actual models; it's been at least 4 years since I last looked at TV's. I will say that it's important to watch the sales. The TV we initially got was generally available for 1400. When it was on sale for 1250, I asked at a bigbox store if they'd sell it for 1150, and they said no. A week and a half later, I bought it at the same store for 1000 during a new sale.
posted by nobeagle at 9:44 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get a Under Bed TV Lift, that way you don't need as big of a TV.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:59 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Don't get less than 50 inches - closer to 60 inches is better. Even the largest of these things feel like they shrink after you have them a while (says someone who loves his 50+" TV).
posted by raisindebt at 10:05 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am happy with my 40 ish, but it is about five feet away in a quite small room. Go bigger.
posted by jeather at 10:37 AM on March 9, 2015

We walked into a Best Buy yesterday killing some time

You can probably ignore what tvs look like in Best Buy -- they're often in a special store setting (aka THE SUN) that looks good next to other tvs under bright lights but like ass at home, or the people at BB may have forgotten to put that set in EXTREEM TORCH MODE so it looks all washed out next to the ones that are basically intentionally miscalibrated.

I'd look at reviews on cnet or Both of them go into some detail about how the tv looks in normal light and in a dark room, but the ones at rtings are imho better. Both describe how they calibrated the tv's settings.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:40 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

We went from a 30something" to a 50" and are so happy with it. It's a smallish room, and it's at the large end of what we could accommodate. Around the same time we bought ours, my sister's family bought a 42" for their similarly sized room and are now regretting not having gone bigger. I got a BluRay for about $100 and have a Roku box instead of smart tv nonsense. That kept cost down.
posted by quince at 11:34 AM on March 9, 2015

Don't forget to check out craigslist. I saved a ton on a 47" LG from maybe 2 years ago, brand new, in box. For me the 'yuck' factor is the new high frame rate interpolation heinousness (seriously, you need to have a soul completely devoid of poetry to enjoy that)...I could give a 2 hour lecture on why this is terrible from a photography perspective, but in a nutshell, everything doesn't need to be forced to look like a soap opera and 120hz is just fine.
What I do really enjoy having is 3D (passive 3D is much brighter, less flickery, and much less headache inducing than active shutter 3D, and the glasses are cheaper...or you can use the disposable ones from the theater). There's a feature where it does automatic 2D to 3D conversion that is just plain witchcraft. It is very cool...especially in games (since you mentioned a PS3)...very immersive. Again tho: passive 3D is what you want if you go that route.
Bring your wife to the store with a tape measure after figuring out what exactly is the eyeball to screen distance to find the right size. Then get the next bigger size (I was shopping for a 42" and ended up with 47" and glad I did)
posted by sexyrobot at 11:40 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm sure eventually I'll buy my first BluRay.
We have a smart BluRay player. If you get the right one, you may not need the Chromecast/Playstation add-on.
posted by soelo at 12:41 PM on March 9, 2015

We have 2 1080p 40" Samsungs that we bought maybe 5 years ago and they are still going strong. They are both about 8-10 feet away (from the bed and couch respectively) and they seem fine to me. Really depends on how you watch TV. We specifically plan to watch a given show and don't want the TV to dominate the rest of the time. If I watched sports with a small ball (or puck) I might want a bigger one I suppose. I grew up watching a 21" TV from that far away, so it still seems big to me ... I also have never bothered to hook up the surround speakers I bought though because the TV speakers seem ok, so I bet I'm in the minority.

Also as a side note we have a Roku 3 next to each one and they rock.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:30 PM on March 9, 2015

Seconding consider a projector. Huge screen that rolls up and disappears! The big question here, though, is where and how to mount the projector and connect it to source(s). Spend your money on brightness over resolution.
posted by rikschell at 2:41 PM on March 9, 2015

Best Buy currently has the very last of the Samsung plasmas on clearance. It's $750, 60", and an unbelievable value. Only downside: the screen is pretty reflect-y, but if you don't have bright lights (or the sun) hitting it you'll be fine.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 2:47 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

FYI 4k is a con, there's virtually no content for it and your eyes are literally incapable of distinguishing that kind of resolution unless you sit like a for away from a gigantic screen. You can google it, it's true. That said, most TV's are 4k these days but don't let it be a decoding factor.
posted by smoke at 3:50 PM on March 9, 2015

I wouldn't get one of those Samsung plasmas if it's going to be immediately opposite a window, even a shaded window. The 5300 series is like a mirror - the screen is bright enough to power through most problems, but even with the screen pointed into the room away from the windows, I have had to draw the curtains some times in the afternoon to cut down on unwelcome reflections from the room. Great picture, but just too, too reflective.
posted by wotsac at 4:41 PM on March 9, 2015

It's been awhile since we got our big-screen teevee - I think it's like 53" - but one thing to consider is: what will the set be supported by? I dropped like $2300 on this set 10+ years ago ... and then spent about twice that on a really nice Scandanavian entertainment center.

If you're going to use a Roku or some other media player device, then you probably won't care about any of the misc "smart tv" features on some sets.

I personally could care less about 3D. 4K might be interesting when it / if it is widely adopted. I believe there's also an 8K format on the horizon, but I'll probably be blind or dead by the time it's adopted. I like super-high resolution on a huge screen for a computer desktop, but for television it seems like a waste. If you have a lot of "disk-based content", even 1080p is a bit of overkill - my sense is that 720p has been and will be a sweet-spot for many people in the trade off between file-size and picture quality, for a fairly long time.

Actually, what intrigues me about 4K is that it will supposedly support a new, larger color space. But I've not yet seen it with my own eyes, and I don't know if it will be a knock-yer-socks-off must-have kind of feature, or merely a marginal enhancement. It might be more important that your sound system is "4K ready", if you think you might upgrade your teevee to 4K someday.

Finally, make sure that your television and your audio receiver/amplifier support HDMI-CEC. I think it's kinda standard these days, but make sure. Lots of HDMI inputs on the audio receiver is a good thing, too.
posted by doctor tough love at 6:04 PM on March 9, 2015

ripped and compressed AVI's or MKV's anyway

you're going to get some artifacting and noise on 1080p and major artifacting and noise on 4k. 720p will pretty much negate a lot of that and, really, I've never been into seeing people's pores at soap opera FPS. of course, we only recently transitioned from a 25" 360p tube tv to our current 32" 720p so you might have a higher bar for visual fidelity.
posted by runt at 7:16 AM on March 10, 2015

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
This weekend we picked up a 65" Samsung TV from Costco (Samsung 65" Class (64.5" Diag) 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TV UN65KU630DFXZA), which perfectly fits into this little nook we have in our living room with about 0.5" to spare on each side. We got a Playstation 4 and a VIZIO 40” 5.1 Sound Bar System, and everything was up and running flawlessly in about an hour. The sound system is good enough for us and was within our budget (I found it as the recommended budget choice on

It's a smart TV, which I didn't initially want, but honestly using the embedded Hulu/Amazon/Netflix/YouTube apps on the TV is way easier than using the same apps on the PlayStation. I love that I can plug in my 2TB HDD into the usb port of the TV and so far it's read every file format that I've tried (.avi, .mkv, etc) and it gives you the option to choose language/subtitles. Snazzy.

I'd like to think I picked the absolute perfect components for our situation, but I think what really happened was that I totally beanplated this issue.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:00 AM on June 20, 2016

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