Choose the perfect TV: Pick a spot and a time of day, you say?

Taking viewing habits and lighting conditions into account when choosing a new TV can help avoid an expensive mistake. Here’s why.

Where a modern TV is placed, as well as the general lighting conditions of the room it’s placed in, directly affect display quality and can make the viewing experience much more – or much less – enjoyable for consumers. (Image: Sony)

While choosing between an LED/LCD, an OLED or a QD-OLED model is an important step in the TV-purchasing process,  it’s just as important to take into account the spot where this TV will be placed and the hours of the day during which it’ll be used more often. All modern TV sets will work placed anywhere and happily display any content asked of them no matter what the hour, yes, but they won’t all do equally well in all situations, so here’s what consumers need to know about TV placement and lighting conditions.

Careful TV placement: the difference between screen glare and a clear picture

The spot where a new TV will be placed – be it on a wall or on furniture, it makes no difference – will determine whether its owner will have two problems to solve: screen glare and reflections (either on large or specific parts of the screen). All modern televisions reflect light to a greater or lesser degree, as such is the nature of glass that covers their screens. But (a) many TVs handle screen glare and/or reflections much better than others and (b) there are a few things consumers can do that actually help in most situations.

The most effective thing consumers can do is pick a spot for their new TV that’s not directly facing light sources – especially intense ones such as e.g. bright light bulbs, since those will definitely be reflected on the screen (and the displayed content) in a distracting manner. Natural light is more evenly dispersed in a room but it can still cause screen glare during daytime. It also makes the picture of many TVs seem dim and washed out even if not directly facing the screen (e.g. sunlight coming from side windows).

This setup as portrayed here – it’s a 3D render – could only work with premium LED/LCD TVs, not OLED/QD-OLED TVs (even MLA or 2nd-gen respectively). The former can get bright enough so as to not lose contrast under so much natural light, while the latter cannot. (Image: LG)

If the spot where a new TV will be placed can’t be easily chosen  – there are only so many places televisions can be put in most people’s houses, after all  – then it’s important to make sure there’s some way of reducing the intensity of light sources or blocking them altogether. On/off switches, dimmers, blinders, drapes or heavy curtains can all help, depending on the level of light control needed. As a reminder, LED/LCD TVs work in bright environments better than OLED TVs or QD-OLED TVs do. This happens not just because their screens are usually brighter, but because they generally cope with ambient light in a more effective way. New MLA OLED TVs or 2nd-gen QD-OLED TVs can also work in bright environments, but they are costly and still not as resistant to glare or reflections.

Certain TV models that incorporate anti-glare filters and succeed in keeping screen glare to a minimum. If there are only a couple of spots a new TV can be placed in a house and there’s no easy way to block light sources surrounding it, it’s worth seeking these models out. Samsung, for instance, seems to be doing a better job than other manufacturers in that respect, as some of its QLED TV models manage to offer an almost glare-free picture even in overly bright rooms.

Lighting conditions: the difference between enjoying a TV and putting up with it

Consumers can try reducing screen glare and reflections in different ways, but the general lighting conditions of the environment a modern TV will be working in – often having to do with the hours of the day people are using it – are just as important and worth considering before choosing which TV model to purchase.

A television, for instance, placed in a bright living room and displaying over-the-air TV programming for many hours daily should probably be an LED/LCD for various reasons. A television, on the other hand, placed e.g. in a low-lit bedroom for watching a film or a few TV episodes on at night would ideally be an OLED/QD-OLED model for just as many reasons. It’s not just that glare and reflections are annoying: the wrong lighting conditions affect the perceived brightness and contrast of the image displayed, so they have an impact on picture quality as a whole.

There is a reason why this image is 3D-rendered and not photographed: an OLED TV such as this one would never be able to maintain its black levels in such a bright environment as portrayed here. (Image: LG)

Would an OLED TV in the first example or an LED/LCD TV in the second one be unwatchable? No, but they would not be playing to each display technology’s strengths, while their respective weaknesses would be easily exposed. An OLED TV working all day long in the living room would often look dim, its deep blacks or natural, cinematic colors would be unappreciated, while the risk of burn-in would be high. The LED/LCD working in the bedroom in low light would not be able to hide typical problems of this tech, such as “haloing” around bright objects or blacks that look like deep grays.

TV placement and lighting conditions: some practical tips

So, recapping, here’s some practical advice on the correct placement of a modern TV in any space and the lighting conditions for said space that will help avoid glare and reflections:

  • Avoid placing any TV set directly opposite any light source, be it natural or artificial, regardless of the display tech used.

  • If placing a TV set directly opposite a light source cannot be helped, make sure that there’s an effective way of controlling that source when necessary.

  • If there’s no way of choosing a spot that’s unaffected by light sources and no way to control troublesome ones, then look for specific TV models whose screens sport anti-glare coating.

  • If you are planning on mainly using a TV for many hours a day in a bright room, consider going for an LED/LCD model instead of an OLED/QD-OLED one.

  • For evening-time or night-time watching in living rooms or bedrooms, OLED TVs/QD-OLED TVs are the best option (controlling light sources directly opposite the screen still applies).

OLED/QD-OLED TVs work wonders in spaces where lighting conditions can be easily controlled – something movie and TV show lovers should keep in mind when picking up a new TV set. New MLA OLED TVs and 2nd-gen QD-OLED TVs work well under almost all lighting conditions. (Image: Sony)

Before settling on a new LED/LCD TV or an OLED TV/QD-OLED TV to get the kind of picture they want, consumers should take a minute to consider the kind of picture they can have, based on the new TV’s placement and general viewing conditions it will be working under. Once that is decided, then making the correct decision regarding which display tech to go for becomes much easier.

It may only take a minute to think these things through, but that minute might be worth thousands of dollars  down the line – not to mention hundreds of hours of avoided frustration. Why risk being unpleasantly surprised when all it takes to avoid it is to just consider a few things beforehand?


Kostas Farkonas

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).




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