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Christmas Gift Guide
TVs

Is a 46-inch TV too big for my living room?

In my new house my old 32-inch TV is too small, as the viewing distance is somewhere around 5m. For such a viewing distance, would 46 inches be too big?

I am currently looking to replace my old Toshiba 32-inch CRT TV. In my new house the screen is too small, as the viewing distance is somewhere around 5m. For such a viewing distance, is a) a 40-inch screen size okay and b) would 46 inches be too big, in your opinion?

The three products I have in mind are the new Sony KDL-46W2000 Series LCD, the Philips 42PF9831D or a similar-sized seventh-generation Pioneer plasma. My main use is Sky TV: lots of sport, with occasional movies. Lastly, I don't have a big enough budget to upgrade my DVD player, although it is does feature component outputs. Will component connected images still look okay on an LCD?

David McKenzie

You're fortunate enough to have the space to accommodate a large-size display -- and the bigger your screen, the better the cinematic viewing experience.

There are various guidelines to determine viewing distances using different calculations, but there are no scientific rules and personal preferences also play a part. We recommend that any distance over 4m requires a screen size of at least 42 inches -- so you have the space to super-size your screen to 46 inches and above if you want.

Sitting too close to a screen impairs performance, however, by revealing image build-up structures such as scanning lines and pixels -- although high-definition images allow you to sit closer without affecting quality.

All three models you've mentioned are considered class-leading performers, so it's an impressive short list. We're still waiting to see a model from Sony's W-series LCDs, but we've been overwhelmed by the performance of the latest Bravia Engine technology, especially with colour vitality and detail. The so-called 'Full-HD' (1,920x1,080-pixel) resolution will also display all high-definition formats, including the latest 1080p being used by next-generation DVD players such as Blu-ray.

Philips' 42PF9831D is a seriously stylish screen featuring Ambilight technology, which is a guaranteed head-turner. There are some useful convergent options that allow you to access digital photos or MP3 music from memory cards and portable players. The screen uses a lower WXGA resolution (1,366x768 pixels), which will only display 720p and 1080i high-definition formats, but image processing is extremely impressive and picture quality is sensational.

A review of the latest Pioneer 427XDE will appear shortly, but we can confirm that it's an exceptional plasma. The difference in technology means you don't get the same detail levels as LCD, but purists prefer the deeper contrast and more natural colours that plasma offers. Movement also appears slightly smoother, which may enhance your sports viewing.

We doubt you'll be disappointed with any of these screens but, if pressed, we'd choose the Sony's stylish design, future-proof specification and immaculate image quality.

All of these screens are equipped with component inputs and progressive-scan images from your DVD player will look fine. Screens of this stature deserve more, however, and you can enhance DVD performance using HDMI with a compatible DVD player. Upscaling models will convert standard-definition DVDs to close to high-definition quality and they're not as expensive as you might think -- try Samsung's HD860, which can be found for as little as £60.