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I'm using a 17" TFT at 1280x1024 at home and work. I'm also using 14" TFT at 1024x768. What is the least stresfull distance for the eye to work with it? What is the general connection between screen size, resolution and viewing distance? Some kind of a formula?

Do you know of any research papers on that topic?

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I'd say that the optimum distance depends greatly on the watcher. One should use a distance that feels comfortable.

There exists quite a few HDTV distance calculators in the net but they, as their name suggests, are mainly targeted to TVs and to screen sizes of 22" and up. The rule of thumb with smaller screens used to be that you should sit an arm's length from the screen.

Some scientific sources - more or less - are listed e.g. in Wikipedia's HDTV viewing distance article.

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  • Is the rule of the arm true for smaller screens like 14" or 10" (and under)? – Ivan Petrushev Apr 22 '10 at 12:13
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This is strictly empirical ... but once long time ago, I read the safe distance for a computer monitor is about one arm's length. I remembered it back then, and it always served me well.

(30 years in front of all kinds of monitors ... perfect eyesight still :)

*post scriptum: this is becoming a problem with laptops, since one is "forced" to watch them from a smaller distance ...*

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  • I am nearsighted and can't read the screen if it is farther than 3/4 arm's length away. What should people like me do? – marcusw Apr 22 '10 at 13:20
  • @marcusw - I've no idea. I remember it said it was a "safe" distance in a way that it doesn't spoil your eyesight - I don't think it does anything in the way of "repairing" it. – Rook Apr 22 '10 at 17:59
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I don't use the "arms length rule", but the "perfect triangle rule", which results in an immersive but comfortable 60 degrees field of view, so little or no head-movement is needed.

The rule puts the screen at ca 87% of its width. For a typical 24 inch FullHD monitor this results in 46cm and its pixels will be almost invisible. Depending on your taste or monitor one can sit a bit closer of farther.

The rule explained: imagine a perfect triangle between your eyes and the sides of the screen. Now the distance of each side to the eye is the same as the width of the screen, and the monitor is at 86.6% of its width in front of you.

The intuition behind the rule is simple: if you get closer, the middle of the screen will seem to get closer faster than the distance to the sides. The differences in distance become larger and this means your eyes have to work more. Likewise unnecessary distance means pixels become smaller and harder to read.

For those with glasses, the depth of view limits how close you can be to the screen, while still having a sharp view of the sides. Don't sit too close. Good glasses permit a 60 degrees field of view (and not much more), so be sure to buy them with the strength that allows you to sit at ~87% width (as the closest you can get). With plastic glasses you need to sit a bit further away as they typically have a narrower field of view.

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