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Using a TV as a Monitor | Is it really worth it?

by Tejas Dhawan

Whether you can use a TV as a monitor or not is a question that we are often asked here. Just think of the possibilities that come with using a 50-inch 4K TV as the main monitor. Games are getting more intense than ever and the lack of multitasking storage space is a thing of the past – right? Well, not exactly. The method of using a TV as a monitor is fairly simple, but it may not be the best way. I mean, there’s a reason why dirt-cheap 32-inch TVs don’t fly off the shelves to be used by someone in a gaming setup.

The following article explains some of the different ways you can use a TV as a monitor. In addition, we will also look at the most important specifications that define how a monitor works and compare it with television sets. Finally, we want to know whether or not you should use a TV for your desktop needs.

With this in mind, let’s not waste any more time and go straight into it!

Can I use a TV as a monitor?

In short, the answer is yes, yes you can. However, let’s be clear that not every TV works with every computer. With technology evolving faster than ever, it’s not surprising that some televisions aren’t compatible with some computers. In this scenario, you may need to buy a new cable, GPU, or just a new TV. The following are the factors to consider when using a TV as a monitor:

Make sure your PC supports the connection

This means that each display has a connection through which information can be transferred between yourself and the device you are using. Now most modern TVs will be equipped with an HDMI connection – the most commonly used display input. In this scenario, almost every computer I can think of is compatible with it – unless you’re using a seriously old PC. However, some older televisions do not support this luxury. Many will be equipped with DVI / VGA cables that, to be honest, have become second fiddle in the past decade. In this scenario, first check your PC to see if support for display input is available. If so, just buy the appropriate cable and connect it. If not, you may need to purchase an adapter instead. In both cases, you should be able to connect your PC to your TV.

The resolution of your TV

Next is the resolution. Each display has a native resolution – the maximum number of pixels that a television / monitor can display at the same time. Although it is not 100% necessary to have suitable resolutions, it is recommended to get the best possible image quality. Most modern monitors use either 720, 1080 or 4K resolution, which means that your PC mostly fully supports this. That being said, it’s not always that easy.

While we’ll go into this in more detail later, the general rule is: make sure your GPU supports the same resolution as your TV. If not, you will get an uncomfortable picture that is not optimized for the size of the TV.

TV Vs Monitor: The technical data

So we found that you can actually use your TV as a monitor. However, what we have not discussed is whether a television is suitable for this particular task or not. What I mean is, if you want to use your TV for games, will it perform well? What if you want to watch movies, does it offer an impressive experience?

To answer all of these questions, we have outlined the main specifications of a monitor / TV that affect performance, picture quality and color accuracy. This should help you determine where a TV is or is not suitable for your specific needs.

Update prices

The refresh rate of your monitor / TV is extremely important when playing. It indicates how quickly your display can refresh the displayed image (per second) and is directly related to the recorded frame rate of the video you are watching. The update rate is measured in Hertz (Hz), with most modern monitors having a speed of 60 Hz to 240 Hz. This makes them very well equipped for output sources with a high frame rate (such as games). Unfortunately, while you may think that this also applies to televisions, this is not the case.

TV shows and movies are recorded at much lower frame rates, typically 24/30/60 FPS. This means that TVs don’t have to update their picture any faster. Not a big deal, is it?

If you plan to use a TV for PC gaming, the overall experience may be somewhat disappointing. Since the TV cannot update its picture quickly enough to keep up with the frame rate output of your PC, visual artifacts such as screen tears and jitter occur. Two factors that should affect every player out there.

reaction time

Next is the response time. Response time is usually measured in milliseconds (ms) and refers to how quickly a monitor / television can change the color of its pixels (using the GTG color transition). While many monitors have a response time of 1 ms, this certainly cannot be said for televisions.

If your display has a slow response time, it becomes a victim of ghosting – a visual artifact that leaves a ghostly trail behind fast-moving images. A response time of 5 ms is more than sufficient for most entertainment purposes. However, if you include games in the equation, this cannot be said. In order to fully immerse yourself in your virtual gaming world, you want to have the lowest possible response time. Not all televisions can claim this.

resolution

We addressed the solution earlier. It refers to the maximum number of pixels that the display can project simultaneously. A monitor with a 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) can therefore display 3840 pixels horizontally to 2160 vertically. If you compare this to a 720p (1280 x 720) monitor, you can easily see how the picture quality can affect it.

Resolution is an important factor in TV sets, as it has a direct impact on the pixel density of your display. Pixel density indicates how many pixels per inch (PPI) your display has to offer. This means that two 4K monitors may offer the same number of pixels. However, the smaller of the two has a higher pixel density. Usually a higher PPI ensures better image sharpness.

Transfer this thinking to a PC that outputs a resolution of 1080p. While it looks good on your 24-inch budget monitor, it doesn’t look nearly as flattering on a 40-inch TV.

Colours

The color accuracy of your display depends on a number of different factors, but mainly on the range of colors it supports. A color gamut is a set of colors that determine how accurate the color of your display is. Color scales come in different sizes, with some offering a much wider range of colors than others. To separate individual monitors, each is measured using a percentage of a single color gamut. To make this a little more understandable, below are some of the most important color scales that are used in today’s displays.

Color scale

As you can see, the DCI-P3 color gamut supports a wider range of colors than s-RGB. Rec. 2020, on the other hand, has a much greater range than DCI-P3. Ultimately, I try to say that color is a big part of the viewing experience. You really want to watch a TV that has a wider color gamut than your monitor. If not, you will likely notice a clear difference between the two.

Is a television suitable for your needs?

Now that we have a slightly better understanding of how a display works and what specifications affect the performance and quality of the picture, it is time to decide whether a television is suitable for your requirements or not.

Below are some scenarios, followed by whether we think a TV is the best option or not:

Play

From a game point of view, it is extremely difficult to recommend a television for those who want to play at the highest level. First, let’s get competitive games out of the way. If you like to play fast competitive games, I emphasize: Do not choose a TV as the main display. TVs are much slower than gaming monitors, have a similar price, and will seriously disadvantage you in the long run. Stick to a monitor for competitive games.

If you don’t play fast games and like to limit your FPS to 60, a TV may be a very suitable option. Just make sure you find a TV that has a low response time and supportive resolution to ensure the best possible experience.

Workplace

If you’re the creative type who wants to open multiple tabs, should you choose a TV instead of a monitor? Well, it depends on the accuracy you need, both in terms of color and in terms of image quality. If you want to produce the best possible video content, you really need to find a TV with high resolution and very good color accuracy. If not, you will struggle to provide accurate colors to people who use decent monitors.

However, if you just want a bigger display that allows you to open multiple tabs without making things too small, a bigger TV overall can be a big hit.

Entertainment (films & TV series)

We finally have entertainment. This is the strength of the television, its specialty, the reason why it was realized. For people who like to watch movies and TV shows but don’t have a big enough monitor, a TV is really a good option. It gives you a big screen, decent colors, and probably better sound too.

The best TVs as monitors

There you have it, folks, our full overview of using a TV as a monitor and whether it is worth it or not. I hope we have answered most of your questions on this topic so that the next time you buy a display you can make a more informed decision. Ultimately, I would probably recommend not using a TV as a monitor. While they may be good for some scenarios, they will come up short in one way or another in the long run. If you want a big display, save for me and buy a bigger monitor. It will serve you better in the future and they are also much more versatile.

Aside from that, we’ve released some of our favorite TVs below that we think can be used as monitors (using the considerations above):

25%

TCL 6 series
35%

Samsung QN55Q80RAFXZA
29%

LG C9 series
Sony X950

If you have any questions on the subject, please feel free to send us a comment in the section below. Better yet, visit our Community Hub, where you can discuss anything related to like-minded people.

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