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How to Measure Your TV

Finding the right fit is as important in a TV as it is in your party dress (or tuxedo, fellas). From mounting your flat-screen TV on the wall to keeping your TV from overwhelming your console, size matters. After decades of tube television sets, you are an expert at ball-parking TV screen size. From your little 10-inch black and white TV that you took to college to the 36-inch, 80-pound monster that was the focal point of your over-the-fireplace niche, you had no problem taking one look at a TV screen and accurately guessing its size. That is, until about five to ten years ago.

The dawn of a new age

The tube disappeared. The screen flattened out. The whole television was only a few inches thick. Everything went HD, 16:9 aspect ratio, widescreen and sleek. With this drastic design change, one would think that televisions would begin to be measured in a different way. Alas, the way we measure our flat screen TVs today is the same method we used on the tube TV: Diagonally, corner to corner.

The measurement method is the same, but the implications of the measurement have changed dramatically. Where your 36-inch tube TV fit nicely in the niche above the fireplace, a 36-inch flat screen TV is not going to squeeze in that space. If by some superhuman feat of magic and creativity you can fit it in the space, you’ll notice that the image on your 36-in flat screen TV appears much smaller than what you were used to with the 36-inch tube TV. See the illustration below for a comparison. Notice that while the diagonal measurement is the same, the horizontal and vertical measurements are very different. This affects your total viewing area.

How to offset the difference

The TV measurement on a diagonal is a good starting point. Keep in mind: A flat, widescreen TV gives better picture detail, but you need to go bigger to keep the same size picture as with your tube TV of the same measurement. Vertical measurement may be a better way to go. By matching the vertical measurement of your new flat-screen TV to your old tube TV, you will be able to keep the picture size you are used to and see more detail with the HD feature.

Matching the vertical TV measurement will mean that your traditional, diagonal screen measurement on your new TV goes up. Where your 36-inch tube TV was big enough to see from the other side of the room, your new flat-screen should be anywhere from 42 to 46 inches to display a comparably sized image.

Old Screen Size (Diag., Inches) Screen Height HDTV Screen Size (Diag.)
21 12.6 26
27 16.2 33
29 17.4 35
31 18.6 38
32 19.2 39
34 20.4 42
36 21.6 44
40 24 49
42 25.2 51
50 30 61
55 33 67
60 36 73


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