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How Thin is Your Flat Screen TV? (Really?)

written by: Profacgillies•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 12/13/2009

Thinness is an attractive quality in a flat panel TV. Suppliers compete for the title of thinnest screen and look for ever thinner solutions. However, flat panel TVs vary considerably and your screen may not be as thin as you think. It may not even matter.

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    The thickness or thinness of flat panel TVs

    The thinnest TV screens so far demonstrated are just 3mm thick. This statistic belongs to the Sony OLED XEL-1 which has an 11-inch screen, which you can buy, and the Samsung Needle Slim LCD TV which you can’t buy yet, but was demonstrated in October 2009 by Samsung in Korea and has a 40-inch screen.

    A survey of TVs on sale currently shows a range of set thicknesses claimed from as thin as 3cm for the LG 42SL9000. There are also some thin plasma sets amongst modern sets although they tend to be expensive: the Panasonic P46Z1 is just 5cm thick but costs over £4000 in the UK.

    All flat panel sets are thin compared to traditional televisions. The question is how thin do you want to go and why?

    It seems to me that thinness is desirable either because of aesthetics or because you are seeking to minimise the extent to which the screen projects into the room. If the grounds are aesthetic, then just as in human beings, the appearance of thinness is affected by more than just dimensions. How the screen wears it depth can influence its appearance, and a tapered profile can flatter to deceive just as a well fitting suit of clothes can flatter the wearer. If you are interested in the absolute depth that a screen projects into the room, the mounting arrangements can influence as much as the actual depth of the set.

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    Mounting your set

    My flat panel sits on a stand on top of a cabinet. The cabinet is in front of the wall by the thickness of the skirting boards. The stand is approximately five times the width of the screen to ensure that the television does not topple over. Hence the front of the screen is approximately five times (the distance between the wall and the back of the stand plus the rear half of the stand) further away from the wall than the actual depth of the screen and a protuberance on the rear of the set is easily accommodated, and irrelevant to the overall depth calculation.

    If I were to choose a wall mount then the depth of this protuberance might become more critical, but it would depend upon the wall mount chosen. Typically even the slimmest mount adds over an inch to the thickness, and this is a significant figure when compared to the thinnest TVs. Less svelte mounts or those incorporating hinge or tilt mechanisms can add around two inches to the depth. Make sure that your chosen combination accommodates your plugs and leads so that you do not have to mount the screen further from the wall in order to accommodate a cable.

    There is no point in paying for the thinnest possible screen and then using a mount which places the screen a long way from the wall. Similarly, the correct choice of wall bracket may accommodate a thicker part of a screen, especially protruding sections on the rear accommodating sockets and electronics, giving a pleasing appearance of relative thinness from a set with a higher quoted overall depth.

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    The TV industry is becoming obsessed with thinness at present. Just as catwalk models are not representative of the general population, so the thinnest TVs may not seem so thin once they are installed in your living room. Before you pay a premium to acquire the latest thinnest model, think about how you are going to install it, and whether you will get the benefit.