Monitor vs TV: Which is Right For You?

If you’re short on space in your home or apartment, you might be considering combining a TV and a computer monitor.

With more people turning to streaming services instead of broadcast TV, it’s easier than ever to make one screen do double duty.

But, despite what you may think, monitors and TVs aren’t the same things. Each is built to very different specifications and with very different purposes in mind.

However, they do have a lot of things in common.

If you look at the spec sheets, both TV’s and computer monitors will talk about things like resolution, refresh rate, response time, input lag, and HDR.

So what’s the difference between a monitor and a TV?

Let’s look at how they’re similar, and how they’re different. Then, you can decide which is the right choice for you.


Screen Size

Dollar for dollar, a computer monitor will always be more expensive than a TV of the same size.

You’re also never going to find a computer monitor as large as a big-screen TV.

The average size of a TV screen is between 37 inches and 45 inches, but it’s common to see TV’s of 75″ and larger. By contrast, computer monitors normally range between 19 inches to 24 inches.

Widescreen computer monitors are becoming more common, but they’re usually dedicated gaming monitors with higher refresh rates. The larger screen gives competitive gamers an advantage with a wider field of vision.

That’s because, when we’re watching TV, we’re almost always much farther away from the screen than we are when we’re on our computers.  


Screen Resolution

Both televisions and monitors share the concept of screen resolution. To measure this, you take the number of pixels along the width of the screen, and the number of pixels along the height of the screen.

How manufacturers list the screen resolution is different for computer monitors and TV’s, however.

While computer monitors usually write out the resolution (i.e. 2560 x 1080), most TV’s will shorten it to the horizontal resolution (i.e. 1080p).

In both cases, the screen is a Full-HD screen at 1080p.

However, that resolution will look very different on each device.

Monitor screens are designed to look their best when the user is up close to the screen, about an arm’s length away. By contrast, a TV screen will look their best from several feet away. The exact amount varies based on the size of the screen.

But, when viewed from the correct distance, the two different screens produce the same visual quality. 

That’s because the pixels on a TV screen are spaced further apart than the pixels on a monitor panel – even if the two screens are the same resolution. That makes it hard to use a monitor from far away,and equally hard to watch TV up close.

They just weren’t designed that way.


Refresh Rate

Similarly, each monitor and TV has a natural refresh rate.

A panel’s refresh rate is how many times the screen refreshes itself per second. The more times it can redraw the image on the screen, the better the picture quality. Screens with a lower refresh rate will have choppier video, especially during fast-moving sports or action scenes.

TV’s are designed with lower refresh rates than computer monitors. The reason being, that broadcast television signals usually max out at 60 frames per second. 120 frames per second broadcasts are still in the experimental stage at this point. (source)

Things are different with computer monitors, however.

Instead of relying on a broadcast signal, computers depend on the throughput of your graphics card. The more power your graphics card has, the higher framerates it can push through.

To give you a frame of reference, the NVIDIA GeForce 3090 can theoretically render images at over 300 frames per second.

That’s why you’ll always see computer monitors with higher refresh rates than comparable televisions.

The standard refresh rate for a monitor is 60Hz but can go as high as 144Hz, 240Hz or more.  For a TV, the newer standard is 120Hz. In previous years, the standard refresh rate for a TV was 60Hz. 

For more on the difference between 60Hz and 120Hz for your TV, check out my article here.


Ports & Connections

If it’s a wide variety of ports you’re after, then a television definitely wins out here.

Older TV’s had a wide variety of connections available. To be honest, the multiple component and composite video inputs looked a bit like a rainbow on the back of your TV.

These days, HDMI has replaced most of other ports, but you’ll still usually find some legacy ports for compatibility.

Most TV’s include:

  • HDMI Ports: Usually you’ll find between 2-4 HDMI ports per TV. Even on high-end TV’s, you’re going to get a split between HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1 ports. So be sure you’re plugging the right device into each.  
  • Component Video Connections: These are the Red\Blue\Green video ports for legacy analog devices. If you have the option of using Component Video or HDMI, always choose HDMI.  
  • Composite Audio/Video (A/V) Port: One of the oldest connections is the Red\White\Yellow composite audio video cable.
  • Optical Port: Optical cables are used to send digital audio signals. Useful for stereo connections when HDMI isn’t an option.
  • USB Port: Many TV’s include a powered USB port so you can connect a FireStick or other streaming device. The USB connection eliminates the need for a separate power supply.
  • Ethernet Port: Newer televisions include an Ethernet port so you can hardwire your TV to your home network for better speed and reliability.

The most common ports included as part of a monitor are:

  • HDMI Port: Monitors usually only have 1-2 HDMI ports. That gives you less options to switch between video sources.
  • Displayport: Similar to HDMI, Displayport cables transmit digital video signals from most higher-end graphics cards. 
  • USB Port: Many monitors include 2-4 USB ports to plug in peripherals.

Usage

The purpose of a TV is mainly to watch TV or use cable TV alternatives, such as streaming platforms or premium add-ons. TVs are commonly mounted to walls or sitting on TV stands.

A monitor is a video display terminal or unit that is used as an electronic output device for any renderings generated by a connected computer. This includes items such as text, video, and graphics. A monitor sits atop a desk. 

Both a TV and a monitor are used for gaming, but the question of which is better for gaming depends on if you are looking to play PC games or console games. 


Build

TVs and monitors are built differently, as they look different. A Monitor vs TV is a visual display device that consists of a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen made of layered glass, circuits, casing, and requires a power supply connection.

As far as a TV, it is a bit different. They typically have a flat-screen, an internal cathode ray tube to display images, anodes, steering coils, TV phosphors, a tuner or display, inputs, and an audio signal. Many of the listed components of a TV are used to transfer electrons. Additionally, they play a role in magnetism to display the images to the watchers.


Response Time

The lower the response time is, the better. Response time refers to the latency between one pixel changing colors when rendering images. Many people do not even realize that there is a latency or response time. In a functioning monitor or TV, the latency is not noticeable to the human eye. 

Usually, the response time for a monitor and a TV is between one millisecond and ten milliseconds. When the response time is not up to par, blurring may occur. If pixels have a hard time keeping up with the speed at which images move, a trail of blurriness accompanies the display. 


Input Lag

For both TVs and monitors, input lag measures the time it takes for a signal (initiated by the user) to register by successfully reaching the port on the rear of the monitor or TV. Again, the lower the latency period, the better.  

The average time of input lag for a TV is around 40 milliseconds. For a monitor, the input lag should be within the range of 10 milliseconds to 20 milliseconds.


High Dynamic Range (HDR)

HDR is used in both monitors and TVs to improve image quality. However, it plays a more significant role in graphics populated by a monitor, especially a monitor dedicated to gaming. It works by combining different features of the process of rendering images to produce the best display. 

These features include color accuracy, responsiveness, brightness, darkness, and other factors contributing to color and contrast. In the battle between Monitor vs TV, HDR is slightly more important for monitors, especially monitors with gaming capabilities.  


Suitability for Gaming

Both TVs and monitors are great for gaming. Many manufacturers have dedicated gaming monitors or TV’s as part of their lineup.

Higher-end monitors, with their higher refresh rates, are usually better for gaming. This is especially true when paired with a high-end graphics card. However, a TV also provides a great gaming experience with a larger screen.

Personal preference also plays a role. For console gaming, such as Xbox or Play Station, the TV is a better choice. But, some people are strictly PC gamers. In that case, using a monitor is best.

Tim Wells

Tim Wells got his first computer at the age of ten and hasn't stopped tinkering ever since. After discovering Android TV boxes in 2013, he created a popular Android PC Review website and guided it to over 8 million pageviews before stepping away in 2018. After a brief hiatus from the industry he's back at the helm of AndroidTVNews.com to bring Android TV and TV boxes to the forefront of the streaming world. When he's not writing, he spends as much time as he can with his beautiful wife and his bulldog.

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