A group chat in which a friend with a 12,000-square-foot house describes his efforts at updating the home theater with built-in ceiling speakers:
- friend: My house has built in 5.1 speakers in the ceiling, but I assume off-axis sound is crap?
- friend: I really want Dolby Atmos now. It has real 360 degree placement and sky effects.
- friend (1.5 hours later): Bought a Pioneer Elite 11.1 channel Dolby ATMOS receiver. 12 speakers and full virtual sound placement including above you. It’s going to be incredible.
- me: we don’t have a TV
Separately, one of the advantages of living in an apartment complex/small town environment as we do is that kids can do some contemporary anthropology while out on dog walks. The 6-year-old, as part of a not-so-subtle lobbying campaign against domestic tyranny that is preventing him from watching beloved shows and movies, noted that everyone single apartment or house in the neighborhood has a TV and “they even have it on in the morning.” (we had a TV when we lived in Maskachusetts, but also a rule that we couldn’t watch anything until after dark)
Assuming that the kids can prevail over Senior Management, what size TV would make sense in our apartment? We have almost unlimited wall space for the TV. Viewing distance is 8-9′. There is no obvious place for rear channel speakers, so the sound would have to come from the TV itself or maybe some speakers on the furniture that holds up the TV.
THX says (scroll down), “we recommend you measure the distance between your couch and where your TV will be located (in inches). Then multiply that number by .835, and that should help you determine what screen size you should get.” But then they also say “or 4K or UHD TV sets, the process is a little different since the nearer you sit to these models, the more detail you’ll be able to pick up.” (and then they fail to disclose any process!)
The 0.835 factor works out to at least an 80″ TV and it would be at least 4K resolution so actually they are recommending something bigger than 80″ in our 1,950 square foot apartment! Maybe this 77″ LG OLED? Everyone who came over would say “Wow. You guys must really love watching TV!”
SMPTE uses a smaller factor. This calculator shows the alternatives. One could be nearly 11′ back from an 80-inch TV according to SMPTE (i.e., the people who make the movies), but to see every pixel with young eyes you’d want to get up to within 5′ of a 4K TV.
What about a 65″ TV that a more normal family might purchase? The above-cited calculator says that THX recommends sitting no more than 7.2′ away and SMPTE recommends no more than 8.8′ away.
What did my friend buy for his home theater? Sony 77-inch OLED for $3,000. (Runs the Google OS, so in the long run it will protect you from viewing harmful content, e.g., anything that suggests that weekly COVID-19 vaccines are not in an average 8-year-old’s best interest.) He also has an 86-inch LG “nanocell” TV that cost $1,800:
It is great in normal room light. It is tolerable in a dark room for most content. It was horrible for watching Jack Ryan Without Remorse on Netflix, as the entire movie was dark. Once you see the uneven lighting in the blacks, you can’t unsee them.
So, there are two solutions. One is the Samsung Neo QLED, which has enough local dimming to do a good job of helping black areas, but it is so close to the price of an OLED that I don’t think it makes sense, except again for daylight viewing.
For OLED, there are two to consider. Sony and LG. For 77 inch, Sony is $3000, and LG is $2900. For 83 inch, Sony is $8000 and LG is $5300. They are both great, but the Sony has a better processor and comes pre-calibrated. The LG comes set up for sports and needs a bunch of work to make it work as well as the Sony for movies. I ran a poll on a Facebook group for DolbyVision, and people there voted on the Sony by 2:1.
- Wikipedia article on organic LEDs shows that the earliest producers of practical OLED panels are now irrelevant and/or actually bankrupt (e.g., Kodak (out of bankruptcy with a market cap comparable to a day of sales for the iPhone with its included camera), Pioneer (stopped making TVs in 2010; delisted in 2018), Sanyo (acquired by Panasonic))