/ Technology

Manufacturers are abandoning small TVs – are you doing the same?

The number of 32-inch TVs being released by leading manufacturers – LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony – has dwindled in recent years. Why have small TVs fallen so epically out of favour?

I have a 43-inch TV at home and even that would be considered small by today’s standards – though not when I bought it five years ago. I’m planning on upgrading to a Full HDTV this year and I won’t get one smaller than 49 inches. Budget permitting, I’d prefer one somewhere between 55 and 60 inches.

My reasons for abandoning small TVs are similar to the reasons why the top brands aren’t making them anymore. Big screen TVs are now cheaper to manufacture and buy and smart design and shrinking bezels means they aren’t such a dominating fixture of a living room. That means higher resolution content is wasted on small screens – and the quality of smaller screens is declining as a result.

Three reasons you need a bigger television

Everyone wants a bargain and getting a bargain TV used to mean buying a small one. That’s not the case anymore. By the time Black Friday and Christmas roll around, 49-inch and 55-inch TVs can be bought for around the £400 mark. And we’re not talking Polaroid and Blaupunkt either – the sales stretch to Samsung and LG, too.

While TVs have been getting cheaper, they’ve been getting better looking, too. Chunky black plastic bezels have been replaced by sleek brushed metal that are barely visible. This helps big TVs blend in with your room, meaning they aren’t the eyesore they used to be.

It also means they take up less space than you might expect. Look at the 49-inch Samsung QE49Q7F, its screen is 17 inches bigger than the 32-inch Samsung UE32J4000, but the entire TV is only 12 inches wider.

The final reason I’ll be choosing a bigger TV is also the most important. You don’t see the benefit of higher resolution content on small TVs. All that extra detail is lost. I watch most of my TV through streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Video, and most of their original content is available in 4K.

The Ultra HD Blu-ray catalogue is constantly growing too. So you can’t really get away with saying there’s no 4K content anymore. I can understand if your viewing is mainly broadcast TV, but it’s only a matter of time before the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have 4K channels and catch up services.

In defence of small TVs

Do I think 32-inch TVs should go away? No. People will always need smaller sets for bedrooms and the like, but for your living room you owe it to yourself to get a bigger TV that can display 4K content in all its glory. Want to know how big a TV your living room can accommodate? Use our free tool to see what size you should buy.

What size TV do you own? Perhaps you still have an analogue black and white set…? Will you be upgrading after reading this – or have TVs become just too big?


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The solution to the App obsolescence is of course separates – a monitor screen with separate speaker system rather than a full TV – and run it off a silent PC. Initial outlay is a bit higher, but – just like Hi Fi of yeateryear, you can pick and upgrade your separates, er, separately.

I remember when we were quite happy to watch our 25″ CRT tv, until the picture went dark and shrank to about 7″. We then moved to a 42″ Pioneer plasma still going strong with a decent picture and sound, and dumb – so an Apple tv box fed from an iPad for iplayer etc. It still seems an appropriate size for our living room – which is fairly large – but then so did the CRT at the time.

We’ve 32″ tvs in a couple of reasonably-sized bedrooms that are quite adequate and would be pushed to find the space for much bigger ones. In new, minimalist houses with shrunken rooms I doubt you’d find room for a 32″ even – difficult enough to fit in a wardrobe as it is. Maybe better to watch tv on an iPad.

Until a couple of years ago I was still using a flat-screen analogue TV with a separate Freeview box that had lost some channels and was due for replacement. When I moved home I inherited a 40 inch Sony TV that is digital but the sound quality was not as good as the old Philips because it has such tiny speakers. I use a micro stereo and bookshelf speakers which greatly improves the sound quality.

I presume the previous owners were TV nuts because there are six aerial sockets including one in the kitchen. I am quite happy to listen to the radio in the kitchen. On the odd occasion that I want to watch TV in the bedroom a laptop and iPlayer are quite sufficient.

How about: just choose the size that suits youd needs and room/personal viewing distance/preference?

As if you need someone to tell you which size of screen to have! The only people doing that have a commercial interest in it.

Some people are movie/sport lovers who want the big screen experience at home, others just want the odd documentary and news, soaps etc and are perfectly catered for by smaller sizes.

A lot of people on enthusiast sites/forums bully (admittedly spineless) people into thinking “bigger is *always* better” quoting those frankly silly THX numbers, and the people who listen to those forums end up not being able to watch the news without moving their head all around the screen!

FWIW, 55″ has turned out to be the sweet spot for me in my apt’s 10x11ft living room, with an 9ft viewing distance.
I wouldn’t want to go any bigger, but could have easily settled for 50″ (being a movie buff means 55″ works out better for me though, watching a lot of 4×3 and 2.35 content).

Blinking flip, I think 32” is large. Perhaps I should wise up.

The TV that impressed me most was the 17 inch black & white model that my parents bought when I was six.

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That’s a little before my time. My parents’ TV had a smart veneered case, walnut I believe. The more expensive models had doors concealing the screen and speaker.

According to the Which? guide, when sitting on the sofa I should be watching a 65+ inch screen when viewing from my favourite chair, reduced to 55 inches if I sit on the sofa. No thank you.

See – even your parents’ TV was smart in one respect. Who said Smart TV is new? 😉

I had not thought of that, Roger. Just a different interpretation. 😉

A smart tv, in my book, would switch itself off when there is nothing worth watching- probably quite a lot of the time. 🙁

Agreed Malcolm. I could live without TV but would miss radio.

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Screens too high can give sore necks especially with wall-mounted. Our TVs are on low-level cabinets, so no sore necks.

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My 40″ TV does look too small now, although five years ago it didn’t. I’m not ready to replace it just yet, but when I do the new one will definitely be bigger.

I would agree with Roger P with regards to apps. I frequently connect my laptop to the TV because its apps either don’t work or are a pain to use. I don’t know what’s the biggest and best computer monitor you can buy in this country (Which? ?), but I’d be tempted to buy one.

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Curved – I think – will be the next 3D – ie, a fad. Horizontal viewing angles are improving all the time; colour fidelity is too – and crucially so is the thin-ness of the bezel.

I wouldn’t mind betting that, in a decade or so, there will be standard building blocks, erected as a single, a foursome, a nine-some, a sixteen-some… And the emphasis – for all good reason – will be fidelity of colour and extreme resolution on the central screen(s) and extreme frame rate on the outer one(s). And with appropriate framework, a subtle horizontal curvature in 3 (or 4) straight lines will be achievable – and adjustable.

Although it doesn’t get watched very often, we have a 32″ in the bedroom, and I definitely wouldn’t want anything larger there.

Jeremy says:
16 April 2018

“its screen is 17 inches bigger than the 32-inch Samsung UE32J4000, but the entire TV is only 12 inches wider” odd comment from an alleged technology writer. The measures are surely not in the same place?

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My 32″ tv has an overall width of around 26″. A 50″ in the same proportions with the same surround size would be 38.7″ wide – an extra 12.7″. So nothing remarkable here. But a 50″ certainly would be wider than a single bed.

Recommended viewing distances have decreased substantially as pixel size has reduced. So you could sit in bed and watch a 50″ tv without discerning individual pixels.

If bedroom TVs were mounted on the ceiling they could be larger and you could watch TV lying on your back. Alternatively you could have them sideways on the wall and watch TV while lying on your side.

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In the 80s a schoolfriend’s brother used to work for Telefusion, a TV rental company. He told me some grim tales about the state of some homes he visited but nothing unorthodox. He was glad to leave and work for the Civil Service.

I’m surprised that we have not discussed projectors as an alternative to large screen TVs. A ceiling mounted projector and automatic roll-up screen are less intrusive than a huge TV, in my opinion.

Both my son’s used projectors and 10′ motorised roll-up screens in their leisure rooms. Not particularly expensive and a great viewing experience. Just a bit of work they needed to do to install all the bits and conceal wiring.

We have a similar set up. There are times when the big screen experience is great, and times when you simply want to watch a smaller screen, out of the corner of your eye, I find.

What a load of patronising advertising material.
I keep my TV in a cabinet so it can be completely shut away.
The cabinet won’t take a 32 inch screen and I don’t want the expense and inconvenience of getting a larger one.

TVs need ventilation to dissipate the heat they produce, especially those with plasma screens. Using them in a cabinet could lead to overheating and increase the risk of fire.

nickwilcock says:
16 April 2018

I watch a Panasonic 32″ TV from 10 ft and that’s the largest screen I’d ever want in the living room.

I also have a 19″ TV in the kitchen, but those are fast becoming impossible to find.

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Martin says:
16 April 2018

My lounge, in a new 4 bedroom house, is only 11 foot wide and we cannot get more than 8 feet from the screen without sitting down the other end of the room, so 32 inch is the maximum. It is time someone told the TV manufacturers that UK homes are getting smaller.

As you say in this months issue of which, homes are getting smaller than the 30s so why should anybody with a grain of sense want to get a tv that is out of proportion with the room size. It can only make viewing uncomfortable by having to move ones head from side to side to take-in the full screen.A tv screen should be completely visible without having to move ones head.

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I hate large TV’s, the number of homes I’ve been in and the TV is so big it completely dominates the room as well as being ugly with wires dangling all over the place looking completly ridiculous.

I much prefer my small screen which sits in the corner of the room, its big enough to watch the news and the odd film and descreet enough not to be a focal point of the room.

Perhaps there is a market for nice watercolours to hang over massive screens when they are not in use.

Or maybe they could have a wooden surround with “smart” bi-fold doors… 😉

The first colour TV we had was an ITT one which came in a lovely teak cabinet with slide across curtain style doors to hide the screen when not in use. Very Hyacinth Bucket! I have to confess that when the set died, we stripped out the innards and used it as a drinks cupboard for a while.

I’m hoping someone will link you to my “radiogram” post if you’re interested Colin – I;’m rushing off out.

Thanks. I still have grandfather’s Grundig radio from the 50s. I think it was one of the first to get VHF (FM) signals (assuming you had a roof aerial). It still worked on Long Wave when I last tried it a couple of years ago. 4 speakers, bass & treble tone controls, beautiful sound.
My other grandfather had a TV in the 50s which might have had the first remote control – a little box attached by a cable with thumb-wheels to alter the volume and contrast.

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Back. Thanks to Wave for the link and to Duncan for the background Armstrong information. We do have quality informative posts in here.

My (brief) encounter with Grundig radio was a tranny – I think it was a Yacht Boy. One of my friends had it and it needed some minor attention. For a portable it was very heavy! My uncle had a lovely 5 3/4″ reel-to-reel Grundig tape recorder.

I have a Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder that has not been used for many years, but might be restorable. I had problems with it soon after I bought it, around 1970, and the retailer was unhelpful. I eventually resoldered a dry joint myself. Yes it’s heavily built but it was my first introduction to the fact that expensive products are not always well made.

I am guessing it is – nears as dammit – same size as the ones I remember, 1 1/4″ thick proppable/removable lid over a 6″ tall 20″ square (with rounded corners) chassis?

Several friends (and their parents) had these and I reckon I touched up dry joints on half of them, mainly around valve bases and their anode resistors!. Not just Grundig but the lookalikes… Philips, Elizabethen… The problem was that there was no fan cooling and all the heat used to collect in the top. There was one element of the design which – even for me as a 10 year old – was poor – the dropper resistors ran too hot. Bigger ones were needed to keep the temperature down.

The dry joint in my Grundig tape-recorder was on an Earth connection, so heat was not an issue. I took the opportunity to resolder other dubious joints. We often complain about the build quality of modern products but now that automated soldering has replaced hand-soldering, dry joints are rare.

jane says:
17 April 2018

Small is beautiful – especially if you have a small sitting room. Big screens take over the whole room. I want a 32 or smaller!

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Is there any chance that the decrease in number of 32 inch TVs could simply be a matter of demand, Duncan? Some people have multiple TVs and I can’t imagine that many would want them all to be large ones. Here are some figures for numbers of TVs in households: http://www.barb.co.uk/tv-landscape-reports/tracker-number-tvs/

I use one, but I’m not declaring the number of radios I use.

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Correct. I blame austerity.

Yep, our new TV is absolutely gorgeous. 😍

And hubby would say the same. 😍

What annoys me is that as the quality of the picture improves the quality of the content declines [but remains compatible with the quality of the sound which is also deteriorating].

In order to have half-decent speakers it would be necessary to have TVs that are wider to accommodate speakers at the sides of the screen and also deeper. That would mean a huge box, hence the move to using sound bars or a separate amplifier and speakers. In an old Convo we were told that Which? had changed its scoring system for sound quality of flat-screen TVs because the standard is not as good as in the days of CRT-TVs, which were deeper and could easily accommodate better speakers.

Ten years’ ago I’d have agreed with you. However, I truly believe now with DSP and Bose-esque plumbing in front of the speakers, this could be overcome technically within slimmer cabinets (perhaps needing a 2″ deep “power bulge”). But I bet there are swathes of “thank you for not doing so” back-handers flying from Sound bar/5.1 system sellers to the Samsungs, Sonys and Panasonics of this world.

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There’s no doubt that the quality of smaller speakers has much improved but there’s a vast number of slim TVs with rotten sound quality. Like John, I’m disappointed, but as you point out there are solutions.

My first flat-screen TV had respectable speakers at either side of the screen. Now I use a separate amplifier and speakers.


I had better be careful – I may get an “off topic” slap here. Ten years ago if I could have afforded it I’d have gone for a decent pair of B & W speakers – not the snail-topped ones but the next ones down – driven by my own amp – which would have been rather simple actually – based on the Texan amp that appeared in one of Camm’s Comics back in the day – but with (then) modern VFETs in the output – and a prime mover supply with an enormous torroidal TX, full wave rectifier and a huge capacitor!

However, I now have Sonos everywhere – and love it.

Recent discussion is not entirely irrelevant because sound quality has been affected by the move to modern large and thin TVs.

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I didn’t build it Duncan. One of my mates did though at Uni. I greatly admired it for its design – and performance, and vowed that, if and when I went up market with speakers, I’d use that PCB as a starter-for-ten, but with a beefed up supply and better output transistors. I’d add to that now better op amps!

I was impressed that my mate had the foresight to include two links of wire to twist together to short out the bias setting networks on the output stages to turn it firmly into Class B when he took it to Discos – great move as Crossover distortion at full tilt made not a hoot of difference in that environment and I’m sure he saved himself several toasted output transistors.

Oh – and for the record, I independently came to the conclusion for audio that shunt feedback kept distortion lower – and as for capacitors, I’d chuck a fair few different sorts in paralel – including the ubiquitous “donkey’s d**k” electrolytic, X7R ceramics, a few microfarads of polyprop – and the odd few hundred puff of Lo K ceramic to avoid the silly parasitic taxi effect (mind you ferrite beads around speaker wires do that quite well…).

Edited to add: I am NOT an audoiphile/freak – and would if required inject plenty of oxygen into my copper cables on one side and defy anyone to tell me which side was oxygen-free cabled.. 😉