March Madness is around the corner! While I know little about basketball, I do know that a great deal of TV watching occurs in the month of March. So it seems like a good time to talk about televisions. And who better to talk about TV’s with than Neil Greenberg, owner of Audio Interiors, Inc., a premier audiovisual design and installation company since 1982. Having worked with Neil before he understands my dilemma when working with my clients, what size television is best for the space and where should it be located. Then there are the ins and outs of the actual TV selection. The whole process is one of design and compromise in ways that are not often seen by our clients.
As a designer, I always try to err on the smaller side, unless we are doing a screening room. This instinct of mine is in direct opposition to most of my male clients, their motto is bigger is better … my motto is bigger is too heavy visually for the room and not very sexy. There should be some relationship between the size of your room and the placement of the TV to determine its size. Part of that decision is the gut instinct of your designer and then there is Neil’s “general rule of thumb” that he has used for the past 20 years. “For optimal TV viewing, you do not want to be any closer than twice the width of the screen.” This works out that if you have a TV with an actual width, not the diagonal measurement, of 48 inches you want to be seated at least 8 ft from the screen. Neil says that this rule of thumb can be altered with the advent of the new higher resolution sets and you can sit slightly closer, though I feel a little distance is better.
When you are determining the size TV you are going to purchase, here are a few guide lines.
LCD TV’s are available in the following diagonal sizes 19/22/26/32/37/40/42/46/52/55/65/70 inch and there is a limited production 108 inch available from Sharp. Neil mentioned, “It is $100k and while have installed them, we don’t sell too many.” Neil’s preference for LCD manufacturers is Samsung, Sony and Sharp, and there are the ultrathins from Hitachi.
Plasma TVs are available in 42/46/50/58/60/65 inches and Neil recommends Panasonic, Samsung and the Runco Plasma, which is a “high end” plasma TV with a DHD (High Definition Image Processor). And for those of you for whom 65 inch isn’t large enough, Panasonic also produces a “jumbo” plasma, 103 inches diagonal.
Once you determine the size of your TV, the next question is, LCD vs Plasma? Neil answers this question, “In my opinion, the quality of the image is still better with the plasma TV and it is what I have at home. The difference is found in the black level, which is the contrast ratio, and the construction of the plasma screen is measurably sharper and brighter.” There is an added cost when you choose a plasma TV, however Neil feels it is worth it. He then added, “there is a new technology, LED Backlighting, that is worth looking into and does it’s best to mimic the black quality level of the plasma TV.” This new technology is available from Samsung and Sony. The Sony’s with LED Backlighting are available in their XBR8 series 46” and 55”, which are a little deeper than other LCD TV’s at almost 6” – so while the picture has improved, and you are giving up some depth. The Sony XBRs also have good sound quality, just in case you were not planning on integrating your TV into your sound system.
Then there is the question of what is High Definition and what is the best technology available today. A quick lesson from Neil, “High Definition TVs for a number of years have maxed out at 1080i resolution or 720p. The newest HDTVs have 1080p resolution. However there is one big caveat, you can only get that resolution from a blu-ray disk or a computer source.” So what does that mean for your TV viewing? If you want to get the most out of your fabulous new TV, you will need either watch all your movies on blu-ray or have AppleTv, Vudu or Netflix (box by Roku) streaming your movies.
Architect Jeffrey Povero’s home, Metropolitan Home, March 2008
Photographed by Peter Murdock
The last guideline for today’s post is the installation of your TV. Both Neil and I have noticed that clients have a tendency to install their TV’s too high for optimal, let alone comfortable viewing. Neil’s rule of thumb, which also happens to be my rule of thumb, is the bottom of your TV screen is ideally placed at 36- 38” above the floor and should not be placed any higher than 42” off the floor.
In the future we will talk about concealing that lovely new TV in any number of beautiful and technologically advanced ways. Until then, enjoy the game.
dale b. cohen
new york city
footnote: the top two photos are from my client’s homes here in New York City.