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HOW TO... Choose the right size of TV

When it comes to TVs, one thing is for sure - size matters. For some, bigger is better, while others are horrified by the idea of being pinned to the sofa by an image so large you find yourself gazing at a movie character with a head five times the size of your own. So what, really, is the best way of deciding on the size of your new TV?

Thankfully, the way to decide the right size of set for you is very straightforward: all you need to consider is the dimensions of the room in which the set is going to go, and exactly where the TV is going to sit in relation to your favourite armchair.

Simply measure the distance from your much-loved couch potato spot – sorry, 'viewing position' – to the screen itself, then consult the diagram below to discover which size of flatscreen is right for you.

As you can see, a 42in set – or larger – will only be considered optimum if your viewing position is at least four metres from the screen. Sit closer than that, and even with the best sets you may spot picture flaws that compromise your viewing pleasure.

If your favourite comfy sofa spot is 3.5 to 4 metres from that lovely LCD or plasma panel, then a screen of between 36in and 42in will be ideal. a 2.5 to 3.5 viewing distance makes a screen of 28in to 32in the most desirable, while if you sit any closer than that, you should be looking at a maximum screen size of 26in.

Of course, once you've found the right size of set, there are other things you should do to optimise your TV's performance. First and foremost, try to get your screen at eye level. Many TV stands place the screen too low - but the modern trend for wall-mounting flatscreens over fireplaces can lead to quite the opposite effect.

In addition, a good kit rack won't just get the set at the right height - it'll also improve your picture quality. Second, to minimise reflections, avoid any direct light sources behind or above the screen.

Lastly, If you've spent big money on a new telly, be sure to spend a few hundred on a good aerial installation and some high-quality cable. Decent video cables are also essential buys. If you get all that lot right, you can be sure you've got a TV that isn't just a star in the showroom, but one that works brilliantly in your home.

Technorati Tags: Flatscreen TVs, HDTV, LCD TV, plasma, television

Andy is Global Brand Director of What Hi-Fi? and has been a technology journalist for 30 years. During that time he has covered everything from VHS and Betamax, MiniDisc and DCC to CDi, Laserdisc and 3D TV, and any number of other formats that have come and gone. He loves nothing better than a good old format war. Andy edited several hi-fi and home cinema magazines before relaunching in 2008 and helping turn it into the global success it is today. When not listening to music or watching TV, he spends far too much of his time reading about cars he can't afford to buy.