TV or Monitor: What’s Best For You?

Monitors and TVs both are video output devices and have various implications. For years, both these devices have evolved and improved their compatibility and usage. They both render themselves useful for a wide range of purposes viz entertainment, multimedia, gaming, and programming among others.

With amazing advancements being made in display technology, TVs and monitors have almost gone head-to-head with their utilities. Given their multifunctional nature, they often end up clashing as to what’s the better option. Can you use a TV as a monitor? Are they the same? Today we’ll answer these questions for you.

While TVs and monitors are more or less the same, screens displaying images, they tend to have a multitude of differences. These differences include the purpose for which they are manufactured, technical differences, as well as their implications. To understand these differences better, let’s have a comparative study of TVs and monitors

Size and Resolution

When it comes to size, it’s observable that TVs boast bigger sizes while monitors are slightly conserved in that matter. TVs measuring 100 inches are commercially available today while monitors are still working around the 30-40 inch range. Monitors also provide ultra-wide displays nowadays with wide aspect ratios of 21:9 or 32:9. Most commercial TVs have a standard aspect ratio of 16:9. The wider display allows better visibility angles for people working on a monitor. 

With content becoming increasingly available at 4K and UHD resolutions, most new and upcoming TVs provide 4K support. Also, TVs are restricted in their resolutions, with most TVs catering to more popular resolutions like HD, 4K, and 8K. With monitors, you might find a common ground with QHD monitors. Monitors also provide HD, 4K, and even 8K resolutions. For the price of a 27″ 4K monitor, you can get a 40″ 4K TV. 

It must also be mentioned that monitors are manufactured with the view that people will use it as a display up close to work, even for longer periods of time. TVs are optimized to be watched from far away, sitting on your couch. That is why this difference in sizes exists. 

Color Accuracy and Chroma Subsampling

Any pixel you see on a screen has two components, chrominance and luminance. Chrominance refers to chroma which is basically the color information for that pixel. Luminance refers to the brightness of that pixel. To help you understand, consider this. If you remove chroma from a picture, you’ll be left with a black and white image, like the old movies. 

The human eye is more sensitive to deter changes in luma than in chroma, and this is what is used in chroma subsampling. Most TVs nowadays use the 4:2:2 ratio or 4:2:0 ratio to deliver images at a faster rate. Meanwhile, monitors provide a 4:4:4 ratio which gives accurate picture quality throughout your display. But how does this affect you? It has been found that due to this color compression method, some small elements on the screen like text or symbols might become unclear or illegible. Hence, using a TV as a monitor for work could cause problems for you.

However, some TVs also have a 4:4:4 ratio mode which provides a clearer picture, but in this process, you’ll be giving up your refresh rate to some extent. Monitors do not use chroma subsampling as they are required to present accurate images to the viewer. That means that the images displayed by a monitor also have accurate colors.  TVs are mostly used as means of entertainment and multimedia and are hence made to show brighter colors with high contrast, which are appealing to the eye. These help in providing an engaging cinematic experience for viewers. 

Refresh Rates 

Modern monitors are touching refresh rates of up to 360Hz today. With monitors being used for highly demanding e-sports ventures and gaming, refresh rates are becoming more of a requisite for present-day displays. 144Hz refresh rate is easily available on most monitors now and provides a smoother viewing experience.

However, TVs are a little lacking when it comes to this matter. Most TVs nowadays work at a 60 Hz refresh rate. Also, high-end TVs today provide 120hz. But, these TVs dig deep into your pocket for the extra refresh rates, while better and more pocket-friendly options are readily available in monitors. If gaming is your niche, present-day TVs also provide a gaming mode, which optimizes your TV for performance.

However, it has been noticed that while the performance is boosted, TVs might compromise the quality of your picture. Monitors are also compatible with Variable Refresh Rate technologies like Gsync and Freesync to avoid screen tearing and other issues that arise out of high refresh rate demanding content. 

Pixel Response Time and Input Lag

The time required for a singular pixel to change its color is called the pixel response time. For a display, pixel response time could be paramount in determining the smoothness which a display provides for moving pictures. Monitors have been long used for purposes that require a lower response time, like gaming and multimedia. Overall, TVs are known to have higher pixel response times and thus are prone to issues like ghosting or blurred pictures. Monitors now provide a response time of 1ms, which is quite preferred by the professional gaming community. 

Input lag is the time between your command and the corresponding action showing up on the monitor. Monitors, long used for work and in recent times gaming, have always been looked upon to reduce input lag to create a seamless experience for users.

High input lag can really mess with a user’s work style or prove disadvantageous as a gamer. TVs usually have a high input lag of about 60-70ms on average.  It is, in some cases, high enough that you can actually experience your commands turning into actions noticeably late on the display. Most modern TVs do have a gaming mode, but again, you’re compromising quality for performance.  

TVs and monitors are really head-to-head these days, but there are different purposes that they each serve. If your purpose is multimedia viewing, entertainment, or console gaming, then TVs might be the best option for you. However, if you want to use a display for work like programming or multimedia editing where you require the colors to be accurate or if you’re a professional gamer, a monitor will best serve your purposes. TVs can undeniably be used as monitors, but viewing a big TV from up close while working on your computer isn’t comfortable for the eyes or the posture. 

While more display technologies are readily available in TVs, promising an immersive experience, monitors provide you with features that are attractive if you’re also looking to get some work done with your display. 

This article was last updated on May 25, 2021 .

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By Adam

The Display Blog staff account. We know display.