Small 1080p LCD HDTVs

I’ve received a lot of promotional emails in recent weeks about new 24″ and 25″ 1080p LCD HDTVs at pretty astounding prices, some under $200. This would have been an appealing price for a 15″ LCD computer monitor just a few years ago, and now you get a widescreen and a TV tuner in the bargain. I’ll set aside the question of what quality panels go into these displays for the moment (though I would expect to find less-than-state-of-the-art technology), and focus instead on how these might be used.

The key point here is that a widescreen 24″ LCD panel has pixels that are about 0.27 mm across. That’s about 94 pixels per inch. How small is that? The Apple iPhone has 163 pixels per inch, so the dots that make up the image on these TVs are only about 70% larger than on the phone.

So what does that mean in terms of how you use it? In order to see the detail available on this screen when it’s showing high definition content (and assuming your vision is good), you’d need to sit no more than about 70% further from the TV than the viewing distance you use for the iPhone. I estimate that most people hold their phone at about 20 inches or less when viewing detailed content on the screen. 170% of that distance is about 34 inches. (In my book, Professor Poor’s Guide to Buying HDTV, my formula recommends about the same distance for a 24″ 1080p HDTV.) That’s less than 3 feet away. Sure, you could get one of these for the kitchen or to put on the wall at the foot of the bed, but you won’t be able to see the available detail. It would be like trying to read a newspaper from 15 feet away. Or your cell phone.

The bottom line here is that these are personal TVs, to be viewed by one person at a personal distance. A TV like this might be an excellent choice for a dorm room where they can serve double duty as a computer monitor (and if the computer is connected to the Internet, you can also gain access to lots of great video content that is available there). But don’t expect to get a high-def experience viewing a screen of this size from the couch across the living room.