Choosing the Right TV

Here’s what to look for when choosing your display.

Choosing the Right TV

When choosing your TV, consider the display type (LCD or plasma), the display or screen size, and the resolution.

Display Type

Flat-panel displays are by far the most popular. Usually your choice will come down to LCD or plasma. Both are great, but they’re not identical.

LCD displays are:

Generally thinner, lighter, and more energy-efficient (greener)

Available in a greater range of sizes

Brighter, an advantage for daytime watching

Plasma displays offer:

Smoother motion, particularly good for sports

Wider viewing angle with a bigger “sweet spot”

You might also consider a front projector if you have a big-enough room (and budget). A front projector:

Provides the biggest—and often best—picture.

Is best suited for a larger room that you can make nearly totally dark.

Absolutely requires a screen; don’t project onto a wall.

One disadvantage: the projector plus installation plus screen can be very expensive .

Display Size

Take your room dimensions into account, then get the biggest set you’re comfortable watching. Popular home theater sizes go from 37 inches to more than 60 inches.

Don’t sit too close. If you can see the individual pixels, you’re too close.

See the general guidelines on the best viewing distance.


We recommend 1080p resolution, generally called “full HD,” to get the full benefit of the best entertainment sources.

In computer-monitor language, a 1080p display has a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels. A 720p HD display corresponds to 1280 × 720 pixels.


This shows the amount of information each resolution can deliver for any image. The more pixels, the sharper the image appears.


Home Theater Connections

Almost every display has a variety of connection options. Here are the most common.


HDMI provides the best and simplest way to connect your TV to your home theater:

One-cable connection between components

Ability to carry video and multichannel audio

The more HDMI connections you have, the better. We recommend at least three for a TV display.

Component Video

Three-cable alternative to HDMI for high-definition video

For connections to older components (some set-top boxes, for example)

Uses RCA connectors

Composite Video

Single-cable connection for standard-definition (SD) video

Needed for many legacy components, such as VCRs

Uses RCA connectors

Digital Audio

Also called S/PDIF, carries Dolby Digital signal

For components without HDMI

Uses optical (Toslink™) or coaxial (RCA) connector; coaxial preferred

Analog Audio

Conventional stereo connection

For connecting to older stereo-only audio components

Uses RCA connectors


Threaded connector

For connecting to external antenna or analog cable service (with no set-top box)


For computer input


For Internet-enabled sets

3D Television

3D is a hot topic in home entertainment. Retail ads don’t provide much detail, so here’s some background.

What to Expect from 3D HDTV

Stunning pictures

Available on plasma and LCD displays

Most 3D-ready displays are excellent for 2D as well

Some 3D HDTV Considerations

Limited program choices (at the moment)

No broadcast standards yet

Narrow viewing angle for 3D effect

Special glasses needed for most displays

3D Technologies

Three types of 3D displays are currently available:

Displays using active-shutter glasses create separate left- and right-eye full-resolution versions of each image. The glasses are synchronized to these images.

Displays that work with passive glasses create two half-resolution simultaneous polarized images, which your eyes perceive as one full-resolution 3D picture.

Displays requiring no glasses, called autostereoscopic displays, also use a polarizing technique and a special filter as part of the screen.

Currently, sets using active-shutter glasses generally offer the best performance. The glasses-free approach is in its infancy.

Keep in mind that 3D technologies are evolving rapidly on all fronts. Check out a couple of 3D TVs with Dolby  technology: the Toshiba® 55WX800U Cinema Series® 3DTV and the Toshiba 55VX700U Cinema Series TV.

What to Look For

Here are a few tips:

Pay close attention to a display’s 2D picture quality—most of your viewing will be in 2D.

Watch out for “ghosting” and other artifacts in 3D mode.

Consider the comfort and fit of the 3D glasses.

All 3D requires HDMI 1.4 or later. Any equipment labeled “3D-ready” will have it, but if the signal is going through an A/V receiver, the receiver will also need HDMI 1.4.

TV Tips: LED, LCD, and Internet TVs

Lots of jargon and claims accompany the available information on HDTV displays. Here are some clear explanations of various features and considerations you will encounter.


This refers to the type of backlight used for LCD TVs. For years, LCD screens used fluorescent (CCFL) backlights. Now LED backlights are gaining popularity.

Compared to CCFLs, LEDs

Are more energy-efficient

Can deliver brighter and more consistent light

Allow local dimming

Local dimming creates a backlight image in sync with the LCD screen. This allows purer blacks, better detail resolution, and a wider dynamic range—which add up to a better image.

Display Calibration

Most displays are set up at the factory to look their best on a wall in a retail store. They’re too bright and too blue.

The display will often look a lot better in your home if it’s calibrated after setup. Sometimes the store will do this for you, either for free or for a relatively small fee.

Otherwise, you have three choices for calibration:

Most basic: use one of the TV’s built-in “modes.” (See your owner’s manual.)

Better: use a calibration disc (cost: about $25, plus an hour of your time).

Best, but expensive: hire a calibration specialist.

Internet TV

The vast majority of HDTV sets now include an Ethernet connection and portals to popular streaming services. For a home theater, however, you may get better results connecting to the Internet through a different component.

See Streaming, Online, and Broadcast Programs.

TV Size vs. Room Size

Look at your room, at where you'll be sitting, where you plan to put the display, and go from there. Our chart gives you a starting point. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, not absolute rules.

TV SizeMin. Viewing DistanceMax. Viewing Distance
26 in3.3 ft6.5 ft
30 in3.8 ft7.6 ft
34 in4.3 ft8.5 ft
42 in5.3 ft10.5 ft
47 in5.9 ft11.8 ft
50 in6.3 ft12.5 ft
55 in6.9 ft12.8 ft
60 in7.5 ft15 ft
65 in8.1 ft16.2 ft