People often ask what we miss most about living in a house. It turns out that our list is really small. Actually, it’s a list of just two things. For Tiff, it’s a full-size bathtub. For me, it’s a big screen TV. There’s not much room for a “big” screen TV for RV full timers, but for me, it’s difficult to look at a TV if there’s too much wall surrounding it! So here’s how and why we decided to squeeze as much TV as we could into our International 27FB Airstream.
Our Airstream came with a stock 22″ Samsung TV, which is nearly half the size of our earlier TV. That wasn’t such a hard pill to swallow for our TV show or movie watching habits. Tiff and I haven’t subscribed to cable in over 6 years. We stream most of our video over the internet where HD is hard to get and expensive. We’re happy as long as we can stream without constant buffering, so screen size is nice, but doesn’t matter as much for us for video. For other things though, small screens just won’t do the job. We’re about 6.5 feet away from the screen while sitting in our “lounge” configuration (table down forming a couch against the back wall of the Airstream). At this distance, sniping Xbox aliens requires squinting and reading email is like an eye torture test. For video gaming, web surfing, or anything else that requires you to read and interact, you really need as much size as you can get. That’s really why we decided to upgrade.
Our TV for RV Living
Choosing a New TV for RV Living – Size
As with most new purchases we bring into the Airstream, making sure a new TV would fit was our first concern. In the 27FB, there are 27 inches to of cabinet wall beside the fridge. Welcome to our first challenge. TV manufacturers offer lots of options under 24″ and over 32″, but 26″ – 30″ is a ghost town. A search of 25 to 29 inch TVs on Amazon results in tons of 26″ TVs and monitors and literally only one 29″. This is where we learned more about TV measurements. You see, a TV isn’t measured by its length or height. In fact, these measurements are often more difficult to find. The number plastered all over the TV marketing material and retail outlet shelves is the DIAGONAL screen measurement from one corner to another. When measuring for a tight space, this number doesn’t tell you much about the TV’s true width or height. It also doesn’t mention how much screen real estate you lose to the plastic casing surrounding the screen (called the Bezel). But if you dig deep enough, you can typically find the L x W x H numbers that give you the real size of the TV. In addition, you should consider a couple other measurements when trying to properly size a TV for RV living:
- Measure side walls – Airstream walls are curved – measure in multiple locations to make sure all 4 corners of the TV will fit, not just 2 or 3.
- Measure the power cord – Cord length is a problem, so be sure to know how much you need, or have extensions at the ready.
- Measure the HDMI / RCA / Cable connection needs – are all of your connections close by or will you also need to run extensions?
- Measure Depth – make sure the tv you choose isn’t so “thick” that it interferes with the mounting bracket or connections.
- Measure for VESA compliance – If you’re using a mounting bracket, it will probably be VESA compliant. This ensures the holes on the back of your new TV will match the holes on the arm. If you want to be 100% sure the TV will fit, the link above should help you figure things out.
Choosing a New TV for RV Living – Power
Now that we found the right size, we needed to decide on the power source – AC or DC. Personally, I think this is becoming less and less relevant with the rapid decrease in energy consumption on most modern TVs. Let me explain as best I can. The Vizio 29″ we chose is an AC TV that consumes 33 Watts when we have AC shore power. If we want to run the TV for RV boondocking, we will need to convert from AC to DC to run on battery. That means we’ll have to use 33 Watts PLUS an extra amount of power to convert. For us, that’s around 7 watts [ 33 Watts * (1- percentage efficiency of our inverter, which is 80-90%) ] = 6.6 Watts + 33 is a total of 40Watts. The largest, most comparative DC TV for RV and Trucking i could find is the Jensen 32″ LED TV, 12V DC Power. According to Jensen, it needs ~90Watts. Sure, there are smaller DC TVs like the NAXA 22″ or 24″ that use ~18W, but then we’re back to a smaller screen and lesser known companies. So even with the inefficiency of converting AC to DC, I don’t think there’s that much difference – but I’m not an expert on the subject – what am I missing? At the end of the day, we’re probably not boondocking anytime soon, and if we do, we’ll need to do a few solar upgrades before the few watts AC vs DC TV would matter. You’re mileage may vary.
Choosing a New TV for RV Living – Features
There are a few features that i thought i wanted when I started the TV for RV hunt. I stuck myself on 1080p resolution, for sure wanted LCD, and had to have at least 2 HDMI cables in the back. I ended up with only 1 of those. 1080p was a must have for me – until I learned that 1080p really doesn’t make that much of a difference under 46″. One Gotcha – 1080p is best for “Computers”- but I still think this assumes you’re sitting 2-3 feet from the screen, not 6-7. From our lounge, text reads well and aliens die quickly. It turns out the LCD and LED aren’t that different to our eyes – I would even edge toward LED for better picture when looking at them side by side. Also, it’s hard to argue with LED’s power consumption and price. And finally, I have 2 hdmi ports, but I really only use one. I’ve found that there’s maybe a problem on the HDMI port where the stereo in the Airstream has an older version of HDMI than this TV, so audio isn’t working through the Airstream’s stereo system. Luckily a feature I didn’t think i would need, the TV’s audio features and speakers are top-notch. The quality is slightly tinny, but overall more than acceptable, and doesn’t come down on top of our heads while sitting on the lounge like the poorly placed Airstream speakers do.
Overall, this TV fits, it’s super easy on power consumption, and the picture quality is outstanding. The only cons we’ve found so far are easy to turn positive – audio doesn’t work over HDMI (possibly a hookup problem, but we like the TV’s audio quality) and so far I’ve not been able to lock the catch on our mounting bracket (another thing I’ll have to investigate, but the weight of the TV doesn’t pull the unit away from the wall at all while travelling, so this is easy to overlook). That’s why we feel that we made a very good choice with with the VIZIO E291-A1 29-inch LED HDTV. Weaselmouth Approved!