In short: It depends on the game you play. If you play immersive, casual games like Sims or Minecraft, you’d want a bigger screen. But if you play first-person shooter games like Battelfield and Call of Duty, you’d want a smaller screen, in the 19- to 32-inch range from my experience.
When it comes to gaming on a TV, there are plenty of things to consider like refresh rate, response time, and input lag. However, I want to talk more about the viewing experience.
To make sure we’re on the same page, I’d like to establish that a small TV is between 24- to 32-inch screen in size, which is the recommended size for competitive gaming.
Let’s talk about it.
Why do gamers play on small screens?
A smaller TV screen allows gamers to see everything without turning their heads too drastically because every part of the screen is within the gamer’s field of vision.
In other words, you’re able to see the whole screen when looking at the center of the screen.
In fact, smaller screens are popular among PC gamers, with many people saying that they can see the whole screen better on a 24-inch TV screen rather than a 50-inch TV screen.
Let me ask you a question. Would you be able to see the end of this big screen when you play? I personally wouldn’t be able to see the end of a big screen when I play.
When I play PC games, I get up close and personal with my screen, especially when I’m intensely focused on something. Staring at a humongous screen would not be enjoyable.
Let’s take a look at how the human eye sees. The human eye has a center cone of 20–30° that is near-peripheral. This is the clear, readable, focused part of your vision.
If you’re reading this article from a computer, try looking at the center part of the screen and figure out how far you can read without moving your eyes. That should be around 20°.
Smaller TVs are better for PC gaming
There are two things that make smaller screens better PC games, especially first-person shooter (FPS) games. The first is input lag and the second is your field of vision.
When you’re playing first-person shooter games, like Call of Duty or Counter-Strike, a smaller screen is better for performance and provides quicker response times from the controller.
Input lag is the time the monitor takes to register the action on screen after you’ve done something to your mouse, keyboard, or controller.
The lower the input lag, the better your gaming experience.
Usually, response times are significantly improved on a smaller screen. A smaller screen has better performance and provides quicker response times from the controller.
Now let’s talk about your field of vision.
If you play first-person shooter games, you’d want a smaller screen (between 19 to 32 inches) because you’ll be able to see the whole screen when looking at the center of the screen.
With a smaller screen, you only have to move your eyes slightly, if at all, to see the mini-map. With a bigger screen, you could move back but it reduces how well you can see the whole thing.
Naturally, there’s more to look at and more to cover on a bigger TV. I still think that I’ve never been as good as I was on Call of Duty as I was playing on my old 13” portable TV.
In fact, many PC gaming pros and enthusiasts prefer a maximum 24” size monitor as any larger one prevents you from keeping the whole screen in your center visual field.
You don’t want to take your attention to other areas of the screen to spot targets for example, which requires you to snap your eyes back to the crosshair if an enemy surprises you.
I would consider it a disadvantage.
In short, smaller TVs are better for FPS gaming on a PC because the whole screen is in your center visual field. Larger screens are better for casual, immersive games.
Wider is not always better
An extremely common mistake is that people think the wider the screen, the better.
In reality, to have a TV screen fill your field of vision, you don’t need a wider screen. You need “you” to move around, closer or further away from your screen.
This is the reason why higher resolutions exist because you don’t need to move closer to see the pixels. The human eye can only see details to a certain scale, after all.
Pixels on a screen can be small enough not to be seen by the human eye.
This is why having a 4K resolution on a smartphone is completely pointless. We can’t see the difference unless we bring our eyes 2 inches away from the screen (please don’t do that).
Are formats wider than 16:9 bad then? Nope. They’re great but only if you plan to use them instead of two separate screens, usually for work purposes. But for gaming? Quite pointless.
Bigger screens are better for next-gen consoles
Of course, the size of the screen is not as important for casual gaming.
If you play slow, casual games like The Sims or Civilization, you’d actually want a bigger screen to get the most immersive viewing experience possible.
Some gamers also choose larger TV screens because they are better suited for split-screen, multiplayer games (on a smaller, gaming monitor, finer details tend to get lost).
If you’re playing a racing game with a buddy, like Mario Kart or Gran Turismo for example, a large TV screen would actually be quite enjoyable and immersive.
Best screen size for gaming
Smaller TVs are better for gaming if you’re sitting between 3 to 5 feet away from the screen, especially if you’re playing first-person shooter games on a PC.
All things considered, 24-inch monitors are best for gaming if you’re sitting less than 3 feet from the screen, while 27-inch displays work best when sitting about 4 feet away.
Sitting any closer will result in more difficulty processing everything that’s happening on-screen. If you’re roughly 5 feet away, a 32-inch screen is suitable for gaming.
In fact, 32 inches is now considered one of the best monitor sizes for gaming. It offers more space while still preserving the 16:9 aspect ratio, giving the 27-inch model a run for its money.
Supersized screens aren’t for everyone after all.