Last time I wrote about perceived pixel size by screen type. Today I'll write about viewing angle.

Viewing angle is the angle that your screen makes to your eyes. For a given screen, as you move closer to it, viewing angle increases. Immersiveness increases as viewing angle increases. But how much is too much? I made a table in Google Sheet to lay out all the screens I've used to find out.

Device Screen size (in) Distance to screen (m) Viewing angle (deg)
iPhone XS 5.8 0.4 19
Kindle (cheapest) 6 0.4 17
Kindle (paperwhite) 6 0.4 17
Kindle (Oasis, 2017) 7 0.4 20
iPad Mini (2021) 8.3 0.4 25
MacBook Air (Mid 2013) 13.3 0.53 30
MacBook Pro 13 (2017) 13.3 0.53 30
Dell XPS 15 15.6 0.53 35
Dell XPS 15 (OLED 3.5K) 15.6 0.53 35
Dell XPS 15 high-res 15.6 0.53 35
Dell XPS 17 17 0.53 38
Dell XPS 17 high-res 17 0.53 38
iMac (2020) 24 0.63 46
28 inch 1440p monitor 28 0.63 52
28 inch 4K monitor 28 0.63 52
32 inch 4K monitor 32 0.63 59
42 inch 1080p TV 42 0.69 68
42 inch 1080p TV 42 1.1 46
48 inch 4K TV 48 0.69 75
48 inch 4K TV 48 0.95 58
55 inch 4K TV 55 2 34
55 inch 4K TV 55 1.4 47
77 inch 4K TV 77 3 32
77 inch 4K TV 77 1.95 47
1080p projector 136 3.5 47
4K projector 136 3.5 47

When using some of those devices, I've felt that:

  • working on a 13 inch MacBook feels restrictive.
  • my 1080p projector gives awesome immersion. Despite the low resolution and low brightness, it really feels like being in a movie theater.
  • I am quite happy with my 28 inch monitor when working on my Mac Mini, be it for coding and blogging.
  • playing while sitting right in front of my 42 inch TV is borderline too much. When playing games it's still alright because I'll focus on just part of the screen.

So my personal preference is between 47 degrees and 68 degrees. Above 47 degrees, the feeling of immersion is great. Up till about 68 degrees, above which it starts to feel too big.

THX, an organism founded by George Lucas to ensure movie experiences were optimal in movie theaters, specified that the viewing angle should be over 36 degrees. See their statement.

THX recommends [...] a 36 degree viewing angle from the farthest seat in the auditorium

Some other comparisons you can make from the table:

  • to get the same immersion as when sitting 3.5m away from a 136 inch projector screen with a TV, you'd need to sit 2m away from a 77 inch TV, 1.4m away from a 55 inch TV and only 1.1m away from a 42 inch TV.
  • a 15 inch laptop is as immersive as a 77 inch TV if you're sitting 3m away, or a 55 inch TV if you are sitting 2m away.