But with large-screen prices ever more affordable, TV’s getting thinner and more lightweight, as well as new picture quality enhancing technologies, the temptation to go bigger is now greater than ever. Keeping ahead of the latest trends, Humans Invent investigates if bigger is really better, and whether Britain’s homes can handle an invasion of large TVs.
The CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas is normally a good predictor of what’s heading our way, and judging by the most recent edition, we won’t be lacking in opportunities to go large in 2012.
Doug Wood, General Manager at Sound Ideas, a custom installation specialist, believes that the trend in the UK towards bigger TVs is already well under way. He cites two main reasons: price and picture quality.
“To be honest, we have seen for the last 5 years a push towards bigger TVs. I think this is mainly due to the price coming down in larger LCD flatscreen TVs, and also the fact that people are beginning to understand that it is a better picture with a larger TV. Then there is the fact that it is just nice to say you have a big TV!”
But what about the commonly-held perception in the UK that our rooms are too small to allow you to fully appreciate the benefits of a bigger picture?
“In terms of what people would call the optimum viewing angle, that has changed over the last few years. It used to be around 30 degrees, but now with movies showing in 2:4 aspect ratios, you need a larger TV to cope with the wider picture. When we look at dedicated cinemas for clients the ideal viewing angle is more like 45 degrees.
“To be honest, the perfect viewing angle can be a little bit of a myth, because the perfect viewing angle is actually dictated by the aesthetic of the room. It is not that common that we come across a situation where someone says that screen is too big, because your TV is normally in a room which is dedicated to the cinematic experience. And to get to 45 degrees you actually have to be closer to the TV than you think. But in general, bigger is better. It wasn’t that long ago that 42” was deemed big, now people want a 103” screen.”
In summary, with improved picture quality, a larger screen makes for an enhanced viewing experience. This coupled with the new larger TVs being more streamlined and lightweight, you are no longer putting a bulky, heavy box on the side of a wall.
But maybe because we’ve lived with smaller screens all these years, and have a perception that UK houses are on the small side, there is a reluctance to believe that we are ever going to be comfortable with a big screen at home. Some people even suggest big is simply bad for your eyes. But that’s not a very balanced picture, according to the medical profession.
“Essentially there is always going to be an optimum distance for watching TV medically speaking,” Glenn Carp, Opthalmic surgeon at the London Vision Clinic on Harley Street explained to Humans Invent. “Therefore if you are too far way from a small screen, or too close to a big screen you can cause strain to the eyes,” Carp explained. “But it is an urban myth that you can do permanent damage. Like when your Mum says ‘don’t sit too close to the TV you eyes will go funny,’ but it isn’t a question of damage, it is more centered around eye strain.
“If you don’t have an optimum viewing distance it causes fatigue to the little muscles inside the eye having to adjust to focus, whether you are too close or too far away. You become drained, and you start to get headaches. So there is always the danger that you can have too small or too big a screen, causing you to strain, and taking away from your viewing pleasure.
“What happens is our brains are concentrating on the screen and the subject matter in hand, and that switches off the blink reflex. We blink less when we are concentrating on a fixed object, and this can cause dry eyes, and certain people are more susceptible to it. I think the size of your TV does depend on the size of your living room, and this does centre around an optimum viewing position, and before going to buy a TV you should get this measured. Essentially having too small or too big a screen could strain your eyes; it’s all about fitting your TV to your environment.”
So, the doctor’s prescription is balance; but with more affordable larger LCD TVs boasting full HD 1080p and repetition rates of 240Hz, even our opthalmic surgeon admits he would be tempted to add a few more inches.
Quite simply a large all-singing all-dancing LCD TV with fantastic picture quality is now affordable. A TV that was once the preserve of the few is now available for the middle market – so what’s stopping us? Essentially, it comes down to a trade-off between the lure of a breathtaking visual experience and what you can get away with aesthetically.
“There’s an unwritten rule that you should buy a small television for a small living room, but like most rules it’s there to be broken. So break it,” technology journalist Sam Kielsden told Humans Invent. “Today’s televisions are incredibly skinny, for one thing, but more than that they offer brilliant picture quality – and to have a huge, finely detailed image filling your field of vision is the best way to immerse yourself in a film or video game. Once you’re accustomed to that, you’ll never want to go back to a small screen.
“With each new announcement or development, it’s easy to forget just how far the home viewing experience has come in a very short time- think back even 5 years, and the idea of an affordable 60″ screen for your home was unthinkable, let alone offering 1080P full HD pictures in a set thin and light enough to hang on your wall, without taking up a huge amount of space.
“For every innovation that comes along, like 3D or connected TV, basically, the holy grail has always been a big hi-definition image with great picture quality wrapped in the slimmest possible package all with a genuinely affordable price tag. I think we’re pretty close to being there.”
While more innovative functionality continues to be added to our TVs, that means little if you don’t have the best viewing experience possible; and that means the biggest, best quality picture you can afford and/or fit in your home. And 2012 promises to be the year where size, image definition, functionality and price align in the perfect constellation. So it’s time to get that measuring tape out, because whoever can add some more inches will certainly have the bragging rights.