Where should I put my TV?

Where the sun don't shine. Seriously.

Top Row: Omnimount. Bottom Row: BDI Omnimount, BDI
No matter what size or type of TV you're considering, ponder placement for a moment. Maybe that spot that's always been home for the TV isn't ideal. Maybe a slight shuffle of furniture will yield better picture quality, or allow for a larger TV.

I can't come to your home to help with ideas (sorry), but I can give you some dos and don'ts when it comes to TV placement, to point you in the right direction (i.e., toward the screen).

Obviously if you have a massive entertainment center, you're limited in your placement potential. But putting the option out there for a room reorganization might be the leverage you need to convince your spouse to get a new TV (or a larger TV).

Before you get the idea of a 22-inch LCD stuck in the corner of the ceiling, or an 84-inch 4K smack in the middle of the room, keep the following tips in mind.

Play

Do...

...Check height. While there's no set height for TV placement, ideally you don't want the TV to be too high. Staring up at a TV is like sitting in the front row of a movie theater. It's not ideal, not comfortable, and not conducive to long viewing sessions. Generally speaking, you want the center of the TV to be about eye level, or even slightly lower. This is true whether you're mounting the TV, or putting it on a stand. For more on this, check out How high should I put my TV?

...Check distance. It's unlikely anyone reading this is going to be sitting too close to their TV. Most people sit about nine feet from the TV, which is too far to distinguish between 1080p and 720p TVs of most sizes. Sitting closer to your TV has two benefits: it fills more of your field of view (so it's more immersive), and you can see more resolution (the image is more detailed). If you can't/don't want to sit closer, you can alternatively get a larger TV. Check out How big a TV should I buy? for more info.

...Check placement. Room lighting and reflections are the No. 1 killer of TV images according to a study I just made up. The fact is, pretty much every modern TV has a reflective screen, and I don't care how awesome your lamps are, they're not as interesting as what's on TV (OK, that's arguable.) Sure, you can just turn off the lights (or close the blinds), but sometimes that's not easy or possible. If it isn't, check out How to rid your HDTV of reflections.

If you're thinking of wall mounting, keep in mind the all the Dos mentioned so far. Plus, if you're thinking of getting an LCD, make sure you get a wall mount that's able to pivot or adjust. With few exceptions, LCDs have worse performance if you're not sitting directly in front of them. Being able to pivot or move a wall mounted TV so it's aimed directly at your eyeballs will be a huge improvement in picture quality (compared to the same TV not aimed at you). It's worth mentioning at this point TV weight is not a limiting factor when it comes to mounting.

...Consider more than style. When it comes to TV stands, there are countless options. Consider the TV height in addition to whatever style you like. Most stands are fairly uniform in height, and a few inches above or below ideal isn't going to matter, but a large TV on a tall stand isn't a great idea.

...Consider the mini-humans. Turns out, falling TVs injure a child every half-hour. Check out How to keep your TV from falling over if you've got kids or lively pets.

Don't...

...Mount the TV too high. A TV at the correct height is going to look really low when you're standing. Which is fine, since most of the time you won't be standing when you're watching.

...Mount a TV above a fireplace. For the above reason and more.

...Mount a "regular" TV outside. There are TVs made for just that. Or, if you don't want to spend the money on a TV designed for outside, just know that any TV you leave out there isn't likely to last long (even if it's under an awning). Best to bring it in when you're not using it.

...Sit too far away. However, you can get a larger TV to compensate.

...Put the TV in an awkward location. If you have to turn your head to see the screen, it's just going to lead to sore necks. Twisting your head a bit may not seem like a big deal, but keeping it that way for hours at a time can be a pain -- literally.

Bottom line

Let's take two rooms as examples. First room: you have a great TV, mounted high on a wall near the corner, with the sofa and adjacent lamps, on the other side of the room in the other corner. These poor folks have a small-seeming TV, lots of reflections, and stiff necks from turning and looking up at the TV. Second room: the TV is mounted at eye level, the sofa is eight to nine feet away, and a bias light provides soft room lighting. In which room would you want to watch a marathon of "Arrested Development"?

Proper placement can determine a significant portion of the overall enjoyment of a new TV. It's worth considering adjusting your room to be more conducive to comfortable TV viewing. Not only will you gain potential picture and comfort improvements, but in the process, you might free up more space for other things. Like a rug that really ties the room together. Or that life-sized Storm Trooper you've always wanted.


Got a question for Geoff? First, check out all the other articles he's written on topics like HDMI cables, LED LCD vs. plasma, active versus passive 3D, and more. Still have a question? Send him an e-mail! He won't tell you what TV to buy, but he might use your letter in a future article. You can also send him a message on Twitter @TechWriterGeoff or Google+.

About the author

Geoffrey Morrison is a freelance writer/photographer for CNET, Forbes, and TheWirecutter. He also writes for Sound&Vision magazine, HDGuru.com, and several others. He was Editor in Chief of Home Entertainment magazine and before that, Technical Editor of Home Theater magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling first novel, Undersea, is available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon, B&N, and elsewhere.

 

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