HDTV Setup: Placing and Mounting

Last updated on 03/24/2010

A brief guide to the feng shui of HDTV installation.
By Liam McCabe

At DigitalAdvisor, we're mainly here to help you buy a TV, but we'll try to help you set it up too. Here are a few tips for placing and mounting your TV--the feng shui of installation, if you will.

Pick A Good Spot

This is tougher than it seems. Ideally, you want to sit (or lie down, or stand) away from the TV at a distance of 1.5 to 2.5 times the screen size. For example, with a 32-inch set, you should set up the TV anywhere from 48 inches (4 feet) to 80 inches (6 feet, 8 inches) away from your couch, chair, or bed. Any closer, you'll be able to see the individual lines in the picture, so it loses clarity. (So, y'know, no need to mount a 55-incher above your toilet). Any further, you'll have to squint and strain your neck a bit to see the picture. Think about lighting too. If glare is a problem, you might consider repositioning lamps or investing in better window blinds. The type of finish on the panel will play into this as well; a smooth, glossy glass finish exacerbates the glare, while matte finish counteracts the glare. Most importantly, pick a spot that feels right, a spot where the TV can really "tie the room together" as a great man might say. No need to hire an interior designer, just make sure the vibe is positive.

Stand It Up...

Almost all new HDTVs are packaged with a "pedestal" (a fancy word for "boring stand") that screws into the bottom of the TV and, well, stands it up. It's effective, it's included in the cost of the TV, and it's brainless. Just make sure you have some friends or family to help you with the mount if it's a heavy big-screen set. The major downside to this method is that it limits positioning. The TV needs to sit on a flat surface with the screen perpendicular to the floor. It's impossible to angle the screen up or down if the viewing angle is uncomfortable. Most people are perfectly happy with this method, so don't go trying to fix what isn't broken.

...Or Mount It On A Wall

The main alternative is to wall-mount the TV with a bracket. Positioning is more flexible, it saves table space, and the picture almost looks like its a moving part of the wall. Brackets cost as little as $60 for a basic lightweight tilter, and up to $600 for a heavy-duty bracket with an articulating arm, 200 lbs. of support, and a channel to hide unsightly audio/video cables. Installing one of these slick setups requires tools and know-how, especially if you want to run cables through the wall for maximum sex appeal. It's a task often best left up to a professional installer. They do this for a living, so they're tuned into the often-overlooked safety details (like fire codes--they'll never make the potentially deadly mistake of running a power cord through your wall) and can finish up the project more quickly than you'll ever hope to. Several big-box retailers have installation teams, including Sears and Best Buy. Dedicated installation services like Zip Installations have excellent customer feedback. Amazon can also hook you up with a local installer. Poke around for the best deal, and don't feel compelled to pay extra for have them set up your devices. We have you covered on that one.
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