Is it Okay to Use an HDTV as a Computer Monitor?

Can you use a TV as a computer monitor?

You can definitely use a TV as a computer monitor, though even two years ago we would have said to pump the brakes. What’s changed? Today’s TVs pack more pixels into less screen-space and respond faster to inputs from a mouse or trackpad than in the past.Another game changer in using a TV as a computer monitor is casting. Devices like Google Chromecast or Miracast can turn your living room into an at-will home office. Just drop on the couch with your laptop and cast away.

Why use a TV as a monitor?

In the digital dark ages, using a TV as a computer monitor wasn’t practical. Computers had their own rooms with dedicated desks, peripherals, and a squid-like mass of dusty wiring. Even with powerful new PC-replacement laptops like the HP OMEN 17 or HP Spectre x360, computing has been slow to break its deskbound shackles. No more.Today’s much larger TVs with sky-high resolutions and vivid colors signal a welcome end to the days of the “computer room.” We’re free to save the spare room for Aunt Edna, and relax on the couch with a lap desk while we work or game in style.There are a few things to consider first, though, such as PPI, lag time, streaming devices, and knowing the best TV to use as a monitor. Once you grasp the top-line facts, you’ll settle the computer monitor-or-TV debate for good.

Check your PPI

What’s PPI and why should you care? It sounds techy, but it’s just “Pixels Per Inch.” A 4K phone is about 4,000 pixels wide. A 4K TV has the same number of pixels spread more thinly over a much bigger area. That matters when using a TV as a monitor because some older TVs don’t have great PPI scores. With a sparse pixel count, your documents and web pages can look a little fuzzy.Two years ago, low PPI was the best argument against using a TV as a computer monitor. But most new TVs in 2019 have PPI scores of 80 or above. So how do you find out your TV’s PPI? Check the manual or do a Google search for the model number and “PPI.” You can also use Noteloop’s Pixel Density chart to get a rough idea [1].

Check your lag time

Serious gamers care about delay between controller or mouse commands and on-screen actions. It’s called “input lag.” Before using a TV as a computer monitor, ask yourself if you care about it. If your answer is “yes,” find your TV’s input lag online through a database [2,3] or simply Google “input lag” and your TV’s model number.If you’re shopping for a new TV to use as a computer monitor, pick one with low input lag. The good news about today’s new TVs is that most of them slash lag times to be quicker. Most of us can’t detect lag times of less than 40 milliseconds (ms), and there are dozens of great sets for sale with lag times in the 5-15 ms range [4,5]. Either way, all but the most serious gamers won’t be bothered by longer lag times.


A Note About Using a Large Screen TV

Some people ask if they can see clear characters and details on a screen as large as 40 inches, for example.

The pixel density (pixels per inch) will decrease with larger TVs, so a 40-inch HDTV will not serve well as a computer monitor.

Large-screen TVs are for distance viewing, such as across the living room. They are not meant for detailed clarity that is necessary for computer work.

My discovery that HDTVs make good monitors is based on typical monitor sizes. A 24-inch HDTV at 1080p has extreme clarity because it has a large number of pixels per inch (PPI), so tiny characters are clear. The one I use (mentioned earlier) has crisp text even as small as 6 pt type. I never had a problem and still using it today for all my development work.

As you increase the screen size for distant viewing, the PPI is no longer sufficient for detailed computer work.

A 4K TV, of course, will provide a crisp text with larger screens. That’s confirmed with a 40-inch screen by one of my readers. However, the extra expense is not necessary for the average desk-working distance. 4K is a high-end technology meant for large screen TVs used for far-distance viewing, not working on a desktop computer.

Response Time

If you are using your LCD HDTV as a computer monitor mainly for gaming you should consider the response time of the LCD HDTV. This is the time it takes for each pixel of the LCD screen to change when displaying moving images. Each pixel literally needs to be on then off and back on again. This time is measured in Milliseconds (ms) and it can affect your PC gaming experience. Typically a slow response is seen as motion blur, which is not good for online gaming where each moment is important. Computer monitors are far better than HDTVs when it comes to response times.

Why You Shouldn’t Use a TV as a PC Monitor

If you still haven’t figured out why a TV when used as a computer monitor is a bad idea, listen up to these reasons. 

Differences in Connections

Almost all TVs and monitors have HDMI input, which enables games consoles and computer monitors to display movies and TV shows. HDMI is an industry standard, so you’ll find it everywhere.

Some monitors do not have HDMI inputs. Some use DisplayPort or other connections. The difference in connections can make connecting your display challenging if done incorrectly. 

TVs Are Much Larger – You’ll Need To Move Your Head a Lot

It is not sensible to buy a 40-inch TV if your space is limited. On the other hand, it is optimal if you plan to set it up in your room. 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.

Make sure the resolution matches your set-up. For example, if you have a 1080p screen on the desk, it may look blurry close up, even if it produces quality images if hung from a wall across the room. 

Not only would blurry images strain your eyes, but you’d have to make a lot of head movements while watching, gaming, or editing. 

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. 

HDTV features to keep in mind

If you’re turning your HDTV into a PC-backed multimedia powerhouse, and you plan on using it primarily as a television and streaming hub—e.g. a screen you’ll continue to view from several feet away—it will probably look fine. But if you’re trying to stick a 60-inch HDTV on a desk, you’re more likely to end up with headaches and eye strain.

There are a few different factors to keep in mind if you want to use an HDTV as a computer monitor.

Pixel density

Pixel density, or the number of pixels packed into one square inch of screen (measured in pixels per inch or ppi), is the most important factor to consider. A 15.6-inch laptop screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution has a pixel density of 141.21ppi, while a 32-inch HDTV screen with the same resolution has a significantly lower pixel density of 68.84ppi. The lower the pixel density, the less clear and detailed the image becomes.

But the importance of pixel density decreases with viewing distance. The further you sit from a screen, the lower the pixel density need to be for you to have a comfortable viewing experience. You won’t have any problems looking at a 15.6-inch/141.21ppi screen from two feet away, but you will find it much harder to view a 32-inch/68.84ppi screen from the same distance. This is why a “Retina” screen on the iPhone has a pixel density of 326ppi, but a “Retina” screen on the Macbook Pro has a pixel density of just 226ppi.

6 Series TCL TV.

6 Series TCL TV.

A normal user typically sits between two and three feet away from a desktop monitor. To comfortably view a monitor at this distance, you should aim for 80ppi or higher. This means that for 1920×1080 (1080p) resolution, your screen should be no larger than 27.5 inches diagonally, and for 4K sets, you’ll want to max out at 55 inches, like the $700 TCL 6-series 4K UHD quantum dot TV shown above. It’s our favorite bang-for-buck HDTV.

Important: “4K” is not a market standard. A 4K HDTV can mean 4x720p (3840×2160 resolution) or 4x1080p (4096×2160 resolution). Most models use 3840×2160, but you should check the exact specs of your model to determine pixel density.

Input lag

Input lag is the delay between movement you make on your input device (in this case, a mouse and keyboard) and what displays on your screen. While most computer monitors prioritize minimal lag times, HDTVs generally do not—they prioritize (laggy) video processing instead. These extra milliseconds may not seem like they matter, but they will make a massive difference if you’re trying to do something like competitive online gaming.

DisplayLag maintains a good database of input lag times, sortable by display type. An input lag of less than 30 milliseconds is considered good for an HDTV if you’re using it as an HDTV. For a computer monitor, you’ll want to aim for less than 20 milliseconds, and the lower you can go, the better.

Response time

Often confused with input lag, response time describes how long it takes for a display’s pixels to switch colors between scenes. HDTVs and computer monitors can have very different response times. HDTVs tend to prioritize richer colors, higher contrast, and wider viewing angles—all of which lend to a longer response time. Computer monitors tend to drop some of the image processing and viewing angles for faster response times. If you use a display with a slower response time, you may see “ghosting” in fast-paced video and gaming sequences.

Also pay attention to the type and number of por

Also pay attention to the type and number of ports. This is only one of two port areas on an LG TV. Many TVs offer ports nearer the side as well for the sake of easy access.

Some HDTVs have a “game mode” setting, which cuts some of the image processing to improve both input lag and response time. If you plan to play PC games on your TV, definitely dig around in your HDTV’s options to see if it has this feature.

Refresh rate

Another factor that may affect performance is a display’s refresh rate. Refresh rate is the number of times a display “refreshes,” or re-draws, its image each second. Most modern displays have a refresh rate of 60Hz, which means they refresh their image 60 times per second. But you’ve probably also seen higher-end gaming monitors and HDTVs with higher advertised refresh rates—120Hz, 144Hz, or even 240Hz. This can be misleading, however, because a computer monitor with a 120Hz refresh rate may not be the same as an HDTV with a 120Hz refresh rate.

The reason for this is because the content people watch on a television is produced at either 24fps, 30fps, or 60fps. The content people view on a computer monitor can be very different—many games can output frame rates higher than 60fps if you have a powerful enough graphics card.

An HDTV with a high advertised refresh rate may use post-processing technology to achieve that rate, such as by creating additional frames to upscale content, or by adding black frames between each frame to prevent image blur. The good news is that this probably won’t make a difference if you’re not playing PC games at very fast frame rates. But if you have a PC designed for the best possible gaming experience, hooking up an HDTV instead of a computer monitor likely means that you’re not getting the most out of your machine.

How about you?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Glenn Stok

How to Use TV as a Computer Monitor

TVs may be used as monitors, provided your computer’s graphics card supports them. Here’s how:

1. Check compatibility – your TV must be compatible with the computer (also referred to as the graphics processing unit) in order for it to work. 

You ought to start by looking for HDMI ports on your TV and your GPU (most modern TVs have these). You may also use the HDMI-to-mini-HDMI cable or the male-to-male HDMI link to connect your TV to your monitor. 

2. Consider using an alternate cable – If HDMI is unavailable (but a DVI port is), you’d be better off purchasing a DVI-to-HDMI cable, which would act as an adapter for older TVs and PCs without HDMI ports.

Consider buying an adapter that will enable your TV to connect to your computer if it does not have an HDMI connection.

When you don’t have HDMI

There are two common cases where either your TV or

There are two common cases where either your TV or your computer doesn’t have the right HDMI ports. However, don’t fret: There’s a workaround.

First, if you have an older TV or computer, it may have a DVI port rather than HDMI. The former was the primary video connection before HDMI became more common. In this case, you will need a DVI-to-DVI cable, or a DVI-to-HDMI adapter cable, like this AmazonBasics model, which is very affordable.

However, using an adapter can increase the chances of input lag, lower video quality, and other issues, so there’s a tradeoff to consider.

Second, a PC may only have DisplayPort connections

Second, a PC may only have DisplayPort connections. This is unlikely on desktops but can happen even on newer computers that choose to prioritize DisplayPort or mini-DisplayPort — a standard that’s common among monitors but very rarely seen with TVs. In this case, there are affordable DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter cables for desktop and USB-C-to-HDMI adapter cables for laptops.

For desktops with only DVI video output, you may want to consider upgrading the graphics card. On laptops, you’re stuck using adapter cables unless you’re willing to spend loads of money on an external GPU dock.

A warning about eye strain

Using a TV as a computer may cause eye strain, but it all depends. For best eye health, the Mayo Clinic says TVs and monitors should be at or just below eye-level [6]. A TV high on a wall could cause eye strain after several hours of daily use. Also, using a curved 4K TV as a computer monitor could hurt your eyes [7]. Aside from that, the greater the distance from your eyes, the healthier when using TVs as computer monitors.

LCD HDTV as a Computer Monitor

It definitely can be a logical choice to use an LCD HDTV as a computer monitor. With the advancement of technology you will be able to get high definition video, surround sound setup, web surfing, online streaming, email and more all from one central location. The computer and TV could then become the center of the household, bringing families together.

If your main use of a computer is intensive online gaming or only for business purposes then stay with a computer monitor, but if you mainly watch video from your PC then using your LCD HDTV as a computer monitor is an excellent choice. Simply consider the resolution, distance, response time, and refresh rate and you will make a good purchase.


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