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Think Twice Before Using HDTV As A Computer Monitor

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 by | Filed Under: Hardware & Peripherals, TV Tech

Robert from Mississippi writes:

Like to know if I buy a 32″ or bigger TV monitor  can I keep my computer speaker hookup to my computer  or do I have to hook them up to TV monitor?

Robert, if you are planning on using the large screen primarily as a computer monitor, you’d be better off actually purchasing a 32″ or larger computer monitor as opposed to a TV. A monitor will give you a much better image. The difference between a TV and a monitor is that the television is set up to receive over-the-air broadcast signals and will probably have inputs that work with your cable or satellite provider and devices like game consoles and DVD players. A monitor is specifically designed to work with a computer.

Also, on a television your screen may be bigger, but the resolution may not increase. On a 32 inch TV, certain things may not look legible. Large format monitors offer more resolution and what you see on the screen will be easier to read.

But monitors are generally more expensive, you can get some sweet deals on large TVs if you you shop around.  One question I would ask is what you plan to use your large monitor for most often. Graphics cards can sometimes have issues with HDTVs, so if you are using it for gaming or anything that requires a good graphics card, you’ll probably want a monitor.

Now if you are using an HDTV for a monitor, you will need to make sure that your computer’s graphics card is HDMI-enabled.

Some HDMI enambed graphics cards will support audio on an HDMI connection through an HDMI cable, but not all. If that’s not the case with your computer, it’s possible you can connect a separate audio cable to the TV if it has an audio input.  Otherwise, you can use external speakers from your computer.

~ Cynthia

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24 Responses to “Think Twice Before Using HDTV As A Computer Monitor”

  1. Joel says:

    I strongly disagree with your statement “A monitor will give you a much better image.” VS

    I’ve got a 42″ HDTV that I used a lot as a monitor, and the picture has been awesome. And that is with using an RGB connection. My new Dell PC has an HDMI connection also, but I decided to try the RGB connection first. Since the picture was excellent, I decided to leave it that way. I just recently purchased a 23″ LED Monitor with ISP. I can find no difference in the quality of the picture on either the 23″ monitor, or the 42″ HDTV. They are both picture perfect. Absolutely breath taking. The only difference is the size. JOEL

    • Greg Tippitt says:

      I second this. I’ve been using a 42″ HDTV for software development for a year. It makes a great monitor. The large size is really helpful when you have multiple windows open at once. I can have my program running to test and debug the code both in readable windows.

  2. Kathy says:

    I agree with Joel. Things have changed over time and an HDMI TV is a good displaybfor a computer with an HDMI port. While I sat on the phone waiting for Best Buy to give me info about a monitor, I started wondering if the little TV in my kitchen would work. HDMI cable connected both, switched TV format to HDMI and there was a display that matched my newest Asus not-cheap notebook. I teach online and need to have multiple programs and pages open simultaneously. The screen on my laptop is never big enough. The TV is a perfect extension to my laptop display. Text is crisp and graphics stunning. Yes, I discovered you can use a TV in many ways as a display accessory to your computer.

  3. shubes says:

    I agree with Joel and Kathy. This used to be the case years ago, but not since digital TV became the norm.

    The main thing to watch for is resolution. A computer screen will look big, and won’t be able to “zoom out” to create a bigger desktop with smaller icons, because the TV screen can’t handle higher resolutions. That’s probably ok with most (especially older) folks. Some graphics chips can go well beyond 1920×1080 (aka 1080p) though, so using these on a TV limits their capability to display a lot of stuff, although they still work. Many older notebooks (and I think some current ones) can’t even reach 1080p, so it’s not an issue with them. Good idea though to use a TV as an extension display for a notebook!

    As with PC monitors, panel display quality suffers a bit when a resolution other than it’s ‘natural’ (also maximum) resolution is used. The best picture is achieved when the computer is set to use the display’s full resolution. If the computer’s graphics chip can’t reach this resolution, then results will not be optimal.

  4. Norb says:

    Guys a 42″ TV is not comparable with a 23″ monitor how could you draw the conclusion that tv is way better in this set up? Compare the same size and you will see the difference. On the other way TVs resolution stop at a point and only the size will be bigger hence pixels can be seen if you watch it closer. Thats the point between TVs and monitors (TV – watch from far, monitor – close). Basically monitors designed for image display they have a way better quality but less better audio speakers.

    • Ben says:

      I run a 10 metre (very very cheap – cost me $15 US) HDMI cable to connect PC to Receiver and have the Receiver pass the signal to the TV – everything works together and I get DTS sound when I play DTS movies.​

      I prefer using my HDTV to a monitor, possibly because I now wear glasses and find it more comfortable to achieve the same resolution (i.e. retina display) by sitting a little further from the TV than I would a monitor. I have two settings – slightly larger text for when I’m sitting 3 metres from the TV, and normal size text if I want to move in to about 1.5-2m sitting at my table.

      I recently considered upgrading my 2007 19″ HP monitor (1440×900) simply so that I can continue using my desktop whilst my Plex Home Theatre runs full-screen on the TV – but came to the conclusion that it’s just not convenient for me to set up deskspace and sit in front of the monitor. My current monitor just sits on the wall next to the PC box out of view, I use Wireless keyboard and mouse.

      As far as graphics cards (people worrying about actually DRIVING the beast) I have none now, I dumped my nVidia and just rely on my i3 graphics… works great for the HDMI playing full HD movies whilst browsing something else on my monitor.

      • Edwin says:

        Thank you Ben. Your comments come on this day when I am working to hard to replace my 10 yr old 720p 27 inch TV — with all the wild new HDTV 1050p versions of HDTV. Yes, I compared, in store, various monitors which are nice and EXPENSIVE, to HDTVs which include 4K Ultra sets. Up till 3 am this morning on computer searches for best units of 32 inch 1080p capability.
        Thanks again for the practical considerations for this old, limited vision & low-skilled computer guy !

  5. DW says:

    As long as the TV’s natural resolution is the same as you want displayed and same as your computer’s graphic capability, I don’t see a noticeable difference. For me that is 1080p resolution, but for my wife she would be happy with 720p. Most TVs nowadays have VGA input same as the average laptop output. HDMI carrying audio is better if available on both ends.

    • DW says:

      I should add that my comments apply to normal work computing. If you are doing gaming, you would want the faster monitors or spring for a higher TV refresh rate 120HZ or above.

  6. Menino F Dias says:

    I plan to buy 29Inches LED TV My viewing distance is 10 to 14 feet our hall is very big say upto 30ft length.In this category TV comes in Resolution 1920-1024 and 1366-768.
    Kindly advise what would be the best resolution to suit 10 t0 14 feet distance. My present TV is 10 years old 21 ” Box type.

  7. Michael says:

    The folks in these discussions couldn’t be more wrong.

    Yes- a HDTV will look good with whatever you throw on it
    Yes- a HDTV will be compatible with most any HDMI (or DVI to HDMI adapter; or VGA) computer
    Yes- a HDTV will be very usable to display computer content in a large room

    No- a HDTV shouldn’t be put on your desk as a computer monitor.

    When computer monitors get bigger, their resolution increases. 24″ widescreen monitors are at 1680×1050 whereas your average 17-19″ is at 1280×1024 pixels. Consumer-grade 32″ computer monitor’s are all around 2560×1440. So add more space, you add more dots (pixels).

    Large TV resolution for 1080p is 1920×1080 and 720p is 1280×720. A 52″ screen is 45.3″ wide and a 32″ screen is 27.9″ wide. So despite being 62% wider, it has 25% FEWER dots across the screen.

    Sitting up close, you’ll see rough edges, find it difficult to read and see a lack of detail. You still can’t “fit” more on the screen despite it being bigger.

    In contrast, if you’re sitting at the other side of a large room, it will likely look fine for movies or photos… but you’ll have to make text bigger since you’re looking at it from so far away… which means you fit less on and really aren’t getting any benefit.

    • Joan says:

      consider Ultra HD tv sets as computer monitor

      For example:
      Samsung UE40JU6550 vs LG 34UM95-P

      3840×2160 @ 16:9 -> (WxH) 886 mm x 498 mm -> 110 ppi

      3440×1440 @ 21:9 -> (WxH) 793 mm x 340 mm -> 109 ppi

      prices are similar, but the Samsung offers 40% more screen (32% more vertical & 11% more horizontal)

      I know what I would (will) get.

    • Matt says:

      I use a Samsung 55″ HD LCD and it works PERFECTLY for a monitor – gaming included. My main purpose is to use it for an internet browser in college; research is so much easier when my browser is on my tv and Microsoft Word is on the laptop. I also do graphic design on the TV using a tablet. I connect an Asus laptop via HDMI cable to the television and connect my VisTablet Muse to the laptop, open up GIMP, Adobe Illustrator, or CorelDRAW on my laptop, and there is – pay attention – ZERO LOSS of graphic quality. Probably, this is due to the model of TV and perhaps one of the bearable qualities of Windows 8 (which typically I hate). Whatever the reason, there is absolutely no pixelization, and I have lots and lots of fun with it. The TV plays my music from Spotify, which runs on the laptop, through its built-in speakers, and I have no problems. I don’t know why I’m seeing so many issues here, but again, likely they are due to graphics cards of the PCs involved and the capabilities of the TVs in question. My TV is five years old, btw.

  8. Jim says:

    Thank you for finally answering this question. I recently tried this experiment (since nobody could really answer my questions) with the goal of trying to get more “screen real estate” for intensive software development. The image on the TV is too large and too bright to be viewed up close. I’m a physician and can tell you this is deleterious to the eyes! The big problem with large TV as a monitor is exactly what you wrote: it merely enlarges the image but doesn’t afford any more screen real estate to view multiple windows simultaneously. Any decent LCD computer monitor over 29″ is ridiculously priced, whereas a 46″ LED TV with high resolution is amazingly inexpensive in comparison.

    • Joan says:

      see my reply to Michael above.. Ultra HD tv sets (3840×2160) have similar ppi to the latest ultra wide screen monitors, but offer more vertical space and should cost about the same.

  9. wayne says:

    it all has to do with what kind of video card you have and what your experience / expectations are.

    in general, most “tvs” are only 1080. so other than simply having an additional monitor. you’re not really getting more real estate. youre just getting the same real estate but BIGGER. this is good and bad. most people view monitors on their desks. 18-24 inches or so from their face. in this case a tv is going to be a jaggy mess.

    if you can get back 5-6 or more feet from say a 40″ monitor (as they were designed to be viewed) it can look pretty decent. i hooked my samsung 1080 40″ into the geforce 680 in my mac this morning. and got a relatively decent looking image at 60hertz from about 5 feet away. it looked fine as an additional PLAYBACK monitor. but menus and small text was still too harsh to be enjoyed for long-term use. this is what separates a TV from a MONITOR.

    if you DO have a 4k tv, the rules change a bit. i plugged my samsung 6900 into the geforce 680 and it defaulted to some crazy high 8k resolution. which was fun. but due to the fact that my card was not hdmi2.0 it was only working (at any resolution) at 24hertz. so the general lag and sketchy mouse movement was really unusable.

  10. Don says:

    I just bought a used flat screen TV with a 29 inch monitor for $75.00. I hooked it in to my Lap top as a second monitor. It works great. The words are three times larger on the TV. It was a lot cheaper than a PC monitor and does the same thing. I do not use it for gaming, so do not know what affect it would have there.

  11. […] Think Twice Before Using HDTV As A Computer Monitor … – Mar 03, 2014  · I strongly disagree with your statement “A monitor will give you a much better image.” VS . I’ve got a 42″ HDTV that I used a lot as a monitor, and … […]

  12. […] Think Twice Before Using HDTV As A Computer Monitor … – Mar 03, 2014  · I strongly disagree with your statement “A monitor will give you a much better image.” VS . I’ve got a 42″ HDTV that I used a lot as a monitor, and … […]

  13. […] Think Twice Before Using HDTV As A Computer Monitor … – Mar 03, 2014  · I strongly disagree with your statement “A monitor will give you a much better image.” VS . I’ve got a 42″ HDTV that I used a lot as a monitor, and … […]

  14. sudip gupta says:

    In computer one does some work continuously and want to see the result of operations {display} on the monitor. If one is comfortable with a distant big display, with less resolution, one may use TV as monitor. In case one is simply playing a dvd etc on computer and again watching from a distance, TV is okay.

    In case when you want to look deep with high resolution from a close quarter, you need monitor only ..

    • S. L. says:

      One thing to note: If text doesn’t initially look crisp on your HDTV when it’s set to its native resolution (e.g. 1920×1080), then try playing with the “Sharpness” setting on the TV. On my 50 inch LG TV, with the default settings, text has a ghostly silvery shadow that makes it unpleasant to read. Lowering the sharpness value to 10 or 15 (out of 100) made the text very crisp and legible.

  15. QuietWyatt says:

    Obviously you can use a TV monitor. Most TVs and computers have HDMi input/outputs. The key is Resolution. If you haven’t seen a computer monitor with a high resolution you are missing out. If anything I would want to figure out a way to get my cable/gaming console on my computer monitor(I’m sure you can). The point is, its day and night. Yes their are TVs now with higher Res, but the Prices don’t make sense. If quality of picture is not an issue but money is… Then go with a TV. If you do?
    Gaming-1080p at least 120 hz(Hertz most important with gaming)
    otherwise 720 is fine.

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