What is the best TV viewing distance? Here's what you need to know

Image of two people sitting on a sofa in front of an LG TV with a Netflix advert on the display featuring a kid in an orange space suit.
Credit: LG

Image of two people sitting on a sofa in front of an LG TV with a Netflix advert on the display featuring a kid in an orange space suit.
Credit: LG

Many of you will recall being young and having your parents tell you to not sit too close to the television. As such, generations have grown up with the understanding that TV viewing distance is paramount when it comes to screen time. Whether it’s through fear of getting ‘square eyes’ or just generally being told that it’s bad, a lot of us have been taught about the dangers of getting too close.

Unfortunately, that can be all too easy to ignore in this day and age. Now that we all have smart devices - phones, tablets, handheld games consoles, etc. - we’ve grown accustomed to being mere inches away from bright screens. However, it’s still worth bearing in mind what the best TV viewing distance is, especially as some people have enormous sets. Whether your television is 32 or 64 inches, there’s something to be said for making sure you have a comfortable viewing experience.

How far should I sit from my TV?

The best TV viewing distance largely comes down to how large your screen is. It makes sense that being too close to your television is probably not a great way to watch or play something. At the same time, you don’t want to be so far away that you miss details. After all, you’ve likely paid a lot of money for that LG C3 OLED 65-inch 4K set, and you want to get the most out of it.

While it’s tempting to think that the best TV viewing distance is based on nothing more than the size of the physical screen itself, there is another factor that needs to be taken into account: resolution. Obviously, sitting too close to a 65-inch TV is not the healthiest option, but if it’s a 4K model (i.e. 3840 x 2160 pixels), it’s feasible to sit a little closer than if the resolution was 1920 x 1080. This is because, while sitting closer, the individual pixels are harder to make out on a screen resolution that’s higher and sharper, therefore the viewing experience isn’t ruined too much.

For further guidance, there are tables and online calculators that can help you decide where it’s best to sit. Things like the size of the room you’re in could limit how far back you can be from the screen. However, it stands to reason that most of you won’t be trying to watch a massive 85-inch television in a living room that can barely contain a two-seater sofa. One rule of thumb is to sit approximately six times the distance from the screen’s height. Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule and, as stated above, closer viewing is fine for higher resolutions.

What will happen if I sit too close to the TV?

This is important for everyone to consider. Many of us spend hours of our daily lives looking at our television screens, so we need to be more aware of the health risks of sitting too close. One of the main drawbacks is, as you would expect, related to eyes, with the potential of getting eye strain if the viewing distance isn’t optimal.

LG C3 TV mounted onto a grey wall featuring a green and blue pattern on the display.
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Credit: LG

We’ve been hearing these things most of our lives, but there are some detrimental risks involved, such as getting a headache, tired eyelids, blurry vision, or general soreness in the eyes. This type of strain, called asthenopia, relates to how our eyes feel after focusing on something for too long, in this case, a large screen. While this is one of the main arguments against using smartphones for a long period of time, it’s still something to be wary of when watching TV too closely.

A lot of the time, eye strain is temporary, and it’s recommended that people step away from screens every so often or focus their vision on something further away for a few seconds. However, over time, this problem can lead to bigger issues, especially for those of us who use screens all day, such as for our jobs. Being too close to a TV for a long time without proper rest can lead to things like migraines and tension headaches, or even viral conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pink eye.

In short, it’s important to make sure that your TV is at the best viewing distance based on its screen size and resolution, as well as the size of the room you’re in. However, it’s always a good idea to exercise caution regardless of distance. Long periods of screen time in any context can have a negative impact on your eyes, so resting them, changing displays to warmer lights, and having your eyes checked regularly are recommended.

Does my sofa have to face the TV?

Ironically, a lot of TV shows have given us the impression that sitting directly opposite the television screen is the best option. Many of us can easily picture the Simpsons sitting on their living room sofa, facing the screen itself. It’s tempting then to assume that we should all have our furniture in perfect opposition to our TVs, in a kind of harmonious set-up. However, you’ll find that a lot of us don’t do this.

LG G3 TV sat in a well-lit room next to a window sat in front of a cream sofa and glass table.
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Credit: LG

Most of us are happy to have our televisions in a corner, and honestly, this is fine. Of course, you want to be seated comfortably while you’re viewing, but every household will have its own preference for positioning. Of course, it makes sense that sitting directly opposite the screen would be the most optimal, but most of our layouts aren’t set up this way.

Having the TV slightly off-centre is not detrimental to the viewing experience. Many people will have a U-shaped seating amenity, with additional chairs to go with their main sofa. There will also be those who have their television up on a wall, perhaps above a fireplace. This, again, may mean that furniture may be directly facing or opposite the screen. However, if your TV is on a wall, be wary of things like neck cranes if you’re having to look up too much. This goes back to optimal distance, as well as overall positioning.

The long and the short of it is, there’s no definitive reason to have your sofa facing the TV. So long as it’s comfortable for you, at a good distance that means you can still see, and that the arrangement fits the layout of whatever room you’re in, being at a slightly skewed angle or being off-set should not be a problem.

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