TV vs. Monitor – Which One Should I Pick?
TV Vs. Monitor For PC Monitors usually has lower input lag, higher refresh rates, and a faster response time than TVs, making them a better gaming choice. On the other side, TVs are larger and more affordable, so they are fantastic for watching movies, TV shows, and gaming.
I was wondering if you should get a new TV or monitor.
Whether you are considering using a TV as a PC monitor (or vice versa) or just looking for a brand new screen, you should know all the differences between these two displays before making the final decision.
We’ll fill you in on everything you need to look out for when buying a new TV or monitor for everyday use and gaming.
TV vs. Monitor – Everyday Use
When buying a new TV, most people prioritize the screen size. However, screen resolution and panel type, among other things, play a more significant role in image quality.
Since more and more content is becoming available in 4K Ultra HD resolution, buying a brand new TV nowadays should definitely support 4K.
Overall, for the same amount of money, you could buy a 4K 43″ monitor or a 4K 50″-55″ TV.
While TVs are only available in Full HD and 4K UHD resolutions, monitors have an in-between option called QHD with 2560×1440 pixels. Moreover, there are ultra-wide monitors with a 21:9 aspect ratio for a more immersive viewing experience.
The screen resolution/screen size ratio is called pixel density, which measures how many pixels per inch are there. Broadly, 1920×1080 resolution is acceptable for a 32-inch TV but not for a monitor larger than 24″.
Low pixel density makes small items on-screen, such as text, appear smudgy and blurry if you look at the screen from a close range. The chart below depicts the ideal watching distance for a particular screen size/resolution.
HDR (High Dynamic Range)
If you’re buying a high-end 4K TV, it should also support HDR, which provides you with a brighter and more vibrant image quality for the compatible content.
While HDR is widely supported for TVs in terms of both hardware and content, HDR monitors are just beginning to surface; what’s more, there’s not a lot of HDR content for PC, and Windows’ HDR implementation is very buggy.
If you don’t watch regular, scheduled TV programs but stream or download your favorite TV shows and movies, you can connect your TV to the PC and stream from there. Or, you could get a smart TV with built-in Internet access via ethernet or WiFi and stream via its applications.
TV vs. Monitor – Gaming
After you’ve considered all the points mentioned above, there are other things to remember when looking for a display for gaming.
When it comes to console gaming, a TV can be a better choice since you are sitting further away from the screen so the display can be more prominent. However, you need to ensure the TV has some image post-processing bypass mode, usually called “Game Mode.”
This feature considerably lowers input lag which is a must if you wish to have smooth and responsive gameplay. We recommend that the TV has less than 32ms input lag; ideally, less than 16ms.
Another vital thing to keep in mind is the display’s response time speed, and since TV manufacturers don’t put this spec on the paper as they do with monitors, you will have to do some research.
While an average IPS panel monitor has a response time speed of ~5ms, an IPS panel TV has around 15ms, resulting in more visible ghosting and trailing of fast-moving objects.
In short, if you’re looking for a TV for gaming, make sure it has low input lag (Game Mode feature), and it should preferably have an IPS panel, as VA panels have a slower response time.
A gaming monitor can have a refresh rate of up to 240Hz, which provides you with the most responsive and fluid fast-paced gaming. TVs, on the other hand, are usually limited to 60Hz. Some TVs support 120Hz but only at 1080p.
Furthermore, some TVs offer features such as LG TruMotion120, which is supposed to convert 60 FPS (Frames Per Second) content into 120 FPS. However, these fake frames will likely hurt the image and gameplay experience.
Overall, if you want a high refresh rate TV, ensure it’s ‘true 120Hz’ and not using motion interpolation, also known as the ‘soap opera effect.’
Some gaming monitors offer variable refresh rates or adaptive-sync technology, such as AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-SYNC.
This technology requires a compatible graphics card (AMD for FreeSync monitor, NVIDIA for G-SYNC) and, in turn, provides you with a dynamic refresh rate that removes all screen tearing and stuttering.
Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X gaming consoles also support AMD FreeSync. Furthermore, Xbox One X and S also support 120Hz, unlike other consoles.
So, in this case, a FreeSync 120Hz+ gaming monitor is a perfect choice if you play both PC and console games. Also, keep in mind that some TVs will soon support AMD FreeSync.
Why Can’t You Use a TV as a Monitor??
Televisions and computer monitors are similar and use the same technology to drive the panels. You can usually use a TV with your computer, but they’re made for a different market and aren’t the same as monitors.
Differences in Connections
TVs and monitors will accept HDMI input, assuming they were made in the last decade. HDMI is the industry standard for video signals, and you’ll find them on nearly every device that outputs video from Rokus and game consoles to computers. Technically, a TV or monitor will do if you’re looking for a screen to plug something into.
Monitors usually have other connections, such as DisplayPort, to support higher resolutions and refresh rates. TVs will often include multiple HDMI inputs for plugging in all your devices to one screen, whereas monitors are usually meant for using one device at a time.
Devices like game consoles usually send audio over HDMI, but monitors generally don’t have speakers and rarely have decent ones if they do. You’re usually expected to plug in headphones at your desk or have desktop speakers. However, nearly all televisions will have speakers. The high-end models pride themselves on having great ones, as they function as the centerpiece of your living room.
TVs Are Much Larger
The apparent difference is the size of the screen. TVs are generally around 40 inches or more, while most desktop monitors sit around 24-27 inches. The TV is meant to be seen from across the room, so it needs to be more significant to occupy the same amount of your vision.
This might not be an issue for you; some people may prefer a more prominent display instead of many smaller ones. So the size isn’t an automatic dealbreaker, but the resolution is–if your TV is a 40-inch panel but is only 1080p, it will look blurry when it’s close up on your desk, despite seeming just fine from across the room. If you’re using a large TV as your primary computer monitor, consider getting a 4K panel.
The opposite is true; you wouldn’t want to use a small computer monitor as your TV. It’s certainly doable, but most mid-sized 1080p TVs cost about the same as a comparable desktop monitor.
Monitors Are Made For Interactivity
With televisions, the content you’re consuming is almost entirely prerecorded, but you’ll constantly interact with your desktop on monitors. They’re built accordingly, with TVs focusing on better picture quality for movies and shows, often at the cost of processing time and input lag.
Understanding how most TVs and monitors work is essential to grasp why this matters. With TVs and monitors, devices (like your computer or cable box) send pictures to the display many times per second. The display’s electronics process the image, which delays it being shown for a short while. This is generally referred to as the panel’s input lag.
After the image is processed, it’s sent to the actual LCD panel (or whatever else your device uses). The panel also takes time to render the image because the pixels don’t transition instantly. If you slowed it down, you’d see the TV slowly fade from one picture to another. This is referred to as the panel’s response time, often confused with input lag.
As Fast As Possible
The input lag doesn’t matter much for TVs since all the content is prerecorded, and you’re not providing any input. Response time doesn’t matter much either since you’ll almost always be consuming 24 or 30 FPS content, which gives the manufacturer much more room to “cheap out” on something you’d never really notice.
But when using it on a desktop, you might notice it more. A TV with a high response time might feel blurry and leave ghosting artifacts when displaying a 60 FPS game from a desktop since you spend more time per frame in the in-between state. These artifacts look like Windows’ cursor trails for everything you move. And with a high input lag, you may feel a delay between moving your mouse around and seeing it move on the screen, which can be disorienting. Even if you’re not playing games, input lag and response time impact your experience.
However, these aren’t clear-cut differences. Not all TVs have problems with fast-moving content, and not all monitors are automatically better. With many TVs nowadays being made for console gaming, a “game mode” often turns off all the processing and accelerates the panel’s response time to be on par with many monitors. It all depends on which model you buy. Still, unfortunately, for both sides, specs like response time are often extremely misconstrued (or just outright marketing lies), and input lag is rarely tested or mentioned. You’ll often have to consult third-party reviewers to get accurate ratings.
TVs Are Made For Tuning In TV
Most TVs will have digital tuners you can use to tune into over-the-air TV with an antenna or even basic cable with a coaxial cable. The tuner decodes the digital signal sent over the air or cable. It can’t legally be marketed as a “television” in the US without a digital TV tuner.
If you have a cable subscription, you likely have a set-top box that also functions as a tuner, so some manufacturers are choosing to omit the tuner to save some money. If it doesn’t have one, it’s usually marketed as a “Home Theater Display” or “Big Format Display” and not a “TV.” These will still work fine when plugged into a cable box, but you won’t be able to receive cable without one. And you can’t connect an antenna directly to them to watch OTA TV.
As you can see, there are a lot of differences between a TV and a monitor, and the choice between the two mostly depends on what type of content you’ll be browsing through and what games you will be playing.
Monitors will never have a tuner, but if you have a cable box with an HDMI output—or even an OTA box you can plug an antenna into—you can plug that into a monitor to watch cable TV. Remember that you’ll still need speakers if your monitor doesn’t have them.
Ultimately, you can technically connect a TV to your computer and use it without any compatibility issues, provided it’s not incredibly old and still has the correct ports. But your mileage may vary on the experience of using it and vary wildly depending on the manufacturer.
Suppose you’re considering using a monitor as a TV. In that case, you can’t tune into TV without an extra box—but it’s lovely to plug an Apple TV or Roku into it to watch Netflix if you don’t mind the generally smaller ones’ size or lack of decent speakers.
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