Can you use a TV as a computer monitor? Will your spare TV work? Or should you buy that freesync monitor you've been eyeing at the computer store?
As someone who has found a 20-incher monitor lacking when watching movies or playing games on the PC and have tried to hook up my computer to old school TVs, smart TVs and so on, I understand your frustration.
Hopefully, this post should assist with your monitor vs. TV dilemma and help you decide.
Can You Use a TV as a Computer Monitor?
The simple answer is YES, you can use a TV as a computer monitor.
However, before you hook up the TV, there are 3 important things you should know:
Expensive option - If you're planning to buy a TV, which you will then use as a computer monitor, be prepared to shell out more money. This is because televisions with high pixel density and high resolution usually cost more than their monitor counterpart.
Different sharpness - Those who are used to the screens of laptops and computers may suddenly find the picture to be blurry when using a TV. This is because monitors are designed with higher pixel density that results in sharper texts and graphics. We covered IPS monitor technology here.
Accessories needed are different from IPS or TN monitors - If you've been using a computer monitor for years, you can't use the same cables for the TV to work as your monitor alternative. As such, you have to determine what kind of input/output ports your TV was built with.
How to Use TV as a Computer Monitor
Using a TV as a monitor is possible, as long as your computer graphics card supports it. Here's how to use a tv as a monitor:
1. Check connection compatibility - For the TV to work, it must be able to connect to your computer (more specifically, the GPU or graphics processing unit).
Your first bet is to look for an HDMI port (most modern TVs are built with this) on both the TV and your GPU. Try to connect them using either the male-to-male HDMI link or HDMI-to-mini-HDMI-cable. If either of these cables work, you should be able to use TV as monitor effortlessly.
2. Use alternative cables - If HDMI is not available (but a DVI port is), your solution is to purchase a DVI-to-HDMI cable, which will serve as adapter to older TVs or PCs without HDMI connections.
For computers without an HDMI, check if a DisplayPort connection is available and buy an adapter that will enable your TV to connect to your computer.
Should I Buy a Monitor or a TV for My Computer?
To buy or not to buy a TV vs computer monitor can be extra confusing because of the availability of options. You can find a monitor for gaming under $400 and a monitor for editing over $1,000, but there are also TV units within different price ranges.
Because of this, price cannot be the only consideration you should weigh.
Features to Consider Before Switching Your Monitor with a TV
Before switching your monitor for a TV, you must understand several components that would make or break your gaming or movie-watching experience. These include:
Resolution and Pixel Density
Resolution refers to the dimensions of your screen in pixels, while pixel density is the number of pixels per inch (PPI). These two details are important when you decide to use a larger TV screen as your computer monitor.
For example, if you're comparing a 27-inch monitor with a 40-inch TV, you'd be surprised to learn they can have equal amounts of resolution, but the monitor has about 140ppi pixel density compared to only 40ppi of the TV.
When this is the case, the screen with lower pixel density gives images that aren't as clear as what you're used to with monitors equipped with higher pixel density.
This is normal because TVs are often built with low pixel density since the viewer doesn't have to watch close to the TV but from a distance. In the same vein, computer monitors usually have higher pixel density since the user sits closer.
Input lag refers to the delay that occurs between the mouse and screen. Tasks like double-clicking to open a folder, right-clicking to start a program, and so on.
Generally, you should aim at a TV with less than 20 milliseconds of input lag.
Note that this may not be a big deal if you're only planning to use the TV to watch movies or stream sports. However, if you're going to use it to play games, the input lag can be a problem.
When using TV as monitor, expect the picture quality to decrease a little because it compresses images and texts.
This change shouldn't really matter if your TV is placed high up the wall, but if you position the TV like a typical monitor (in front of your desk), then the blurriness and lower picture quality would be more obvious.
The good news is you can adjust picture settings of most modern TVs to 4:4:4 and solve this problem. If you're still shopping for a TV, you can also look for a unit already equipped with 4:4:4 chroma subsampling.
Response time refers to the time it takes for pixels on your screen to change colors.
Computer monitors are designed with faster response times than TVs, but if you buy HDTVs with game mode setting, this shouldn't be an issue anymore. Once you've chosen this setting, response time of your TV should improve dramatically. For a much larger price than the monitor, though.
Refresh rate is the number of times a display "refreshes" the image per second.
The difference between monitor and TV refresh rate is often huge. Computer monitors can go as high as 240Hz, while TVs may only have refresh rates ranging from 60Hz to 120Hz.
Note that the higher refresh rates of your screen, the more responsive it is when it comes to using it for demanding tasks like fast-paced gaming or editing. Generally, 120Hz should be enough for most applications.
HDTV features to keep in mind
The considerations above are pretty useful if you're planning to replace a small computer monitor with a bigger TV on your desk. Simply using an HDTV would give you an eye strain or migraine real quick.
However, if you're going to be setting up the TV several feet away from your desk, or hung to the wall, then these factors shouldn't matter too much.
Why You Shouldn't Use a TV as a PC Monitor
If you're still asking the question: Can I use a TV as a computer monitor? until now, listen up to these three reasons why a TV as a PC monitor is a bad idea.
Differences in Connections
As you may already know, TVs and monitors have HDMI input that transfer the videos from your computer onto the display. HDMI is the industry standard, which is why you can find this on most gaming consoles and computer monitors.
However, not all monitors are built with HDMI. Some use DisplayPort or other connections. These differences in connections could complicate your set-up if not done right.
TVs Are Much Larger - You'll Need To Move Your Head a Lot
If you only have limited space in your room or office, getting a 40-inch TV (or bigger) won't make sense. On the other hand, if you are planning to set up a 50-inch TV as your monitor and the display is meant to be seen from across the room, then using a TV as monitor wouldn't be an issue.
Just make sure that the resolution matches your set-up. Having a screen with 1080p resolution positioned on a desk can look blurry up-close, even if this same setup produces quality images when hung from a wall across the room.
Not only will blurry images strain your eyes, it also means you’d have to move your head a lot while viewing, gaming or editing.
Monitors Are Made For Interactivity
One of the biggest reasons NOT to choose a TV for your computer monitor is interactivity.
In most cases, people use TVs to consume movies, TV shows, documentaries, YouTube videos and other pre-recorded content. For this reason, televisions are designed as a screen just for viewing. TV manufacturers prioritize high quality pictures, instead of improving input lag or refresh rate.
On the other hand, computer monitors are built exactly for interactivity. While the picture quality cannot always be compared to TVs, the response time, input lag, and image processing are all much faster with a monitor.
So if interactivity is important to your day-to-day requirements, whether it be video-conferencing with coworkers or playing demanding games, it is best to stick with a computer monitor.