What’s the Difference Between a Monitor and a TV?

While TVs and monitors are made using the same base technology, they generally have completely different specifications, making them better suited to certain applications.

For instance, if you’re looking to do some video editing, you’re going to want a monitor rather than a TV. However, the opposite is true if you’re looking for a home cinema or something to play console games on.

This article will cover the most important differences between TVs and monitors.

What Are The Differences Between a TV and a Monitor?

Man watching television

Televisions and monitors are very similar. They are both visual output devices and are often interchangeable. The difference is what they’re designed to do. Monitors are typically designed to sit on a desk for close viewing. They are connected to other hardware (such as a computer) to display graphical information.

In comparison, a TV is usually a standalone monitor designed for viewing much further away. TVs have in-built radio frequency tuners and other hardware to pick up cable and satellite broadcasting.

Because of their different functions, several factors differ between TVs and monitors. We will cover most of these below.

Size

One of the most obvious differences between TVs and computer monitors is the size of the unit. Usually, monitors are much smaller. This has to do with the fact that they are viewed from so close. TVs are much bigger as they are designed to be viewed from a distance.

Screen size is usually measured by the distance between the diagonal corners. Common sizes for computer monitors are between 20 and 40 inches, while it is not unusual to see TVs over 70-inches.

Aspect Ratio

Related to size, the aspect ratio is an important factor that is often different. Aspect ratio is the ratio between the width and height of the screen. TVs typically have a 16:9 aspect ratio (widescreen), while monitors can have a range of aspect ratios.

Depending on what the monitor will be used for and available space, a user will want a different aspect ratio. Whereas for TVs, 16:9 is suitable since most television and movies are made in widescreen format.

Price

Generally, the larger the screen, the more it will cost. For this reason, much larger TVs are usually more expensive than smaller monitors. There are some exceptions to this, which relate to specialized monitors.

Some monitors are designed with higher color accuracy (for image editing) or with specifications for gaming (like 240Hz refresh rate). Some of these monitors may be more expensive than TVs of the same or similar sizes.

Screen Type, Resolution, and Image Quality

A chart comparing different resolutions

Both monitors and TVs are available in a range of screen types. The most common types are LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), LED (Light-Emitting Diode), OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode), and QLED (Quantum Light-Emitting Diode). These screen types differ by how light is produced in the pixels. LCD and LED screens require backlights, while OLED and QLED technology can light each pixel independently.

QLED and OLED technology are much newer. However, while QLED and OLED TVs are becoming more common, there are still relatively few monitors on the market with these screen types.

When it comes to resolution, there’s a range available in both monitors and TVs. Resolution refers to how many pixels are on the entire screen. Available resolutions include 1280×720 (720p), 1920×1080 (1080p), 3840×1960 (4K), and now 7680×4320 (8K).

The important thing to consider here is the pixel density. Pixel density is how many pixels there are in a single square inch of the screen. The higher the pixel density, the clearer and sharper the image will be.

Because of the viewing distance of TVs, pixel density doesn’t have to be that high because the further away you are, the clearer the image will be. For monitors, pixel density is much more important.

Refresh Rate

Refresh rate refers to how many times the screen refreshes in a second. The refresh rate actually matters quite a lot. A 60Hz refresh rate means that it refreshes 60 times a second. This is important when it comes to the frame rate of the source video. You want the refresh rate to be equal to or faster than the frame rate of whatever is on screen. Otherwise, frames will be missed, and motion will appear blurrier.

TVs generally have a 60Hz refresh rate (and sometimes up to 120Hz) which is fine for most broadcast TV and movies. Some gaming monitors have up to a 360Hz refresh rate, with 120Hz now a very popular option. The faster the refresh rate, the faster your response time and smoother in-game playback will be.

Input Lag and Response Time

Input lag (also known as input delay) is the amount of time it takes for input (such as clicking on a mouse or controller) to be registered on your monitor or TV. Input lag is directly related to the refresh rate. The faster the refresh rate, the faster inputs will be registered on the display. Computer monitors typically prioritize minimal input lag while TVs prioritize smooth video.

TVs typically have lower refresh rates (like 60Hz) and process their video input far more than computer monitors, which increases the input lag. While the differences in milliseconds don’t seem much, you will notice the difference when trying to do something which requires a faster response, like online gaming. Having said that, many TVs feature a “game mode,” which reduces image post-processing to decrease input lag.

Response time is often confused with input lag. Response time is how long it takes each pixel to go from lit to black. If the response time is too slow for the screen’s refresh rate, image ghosting will occur. This will appear like fast-moving objects are trailing. To avoid ghosting in monitors, a response time of 1 millisecond or less is recommended.

Viewing Angle

Gaming With Console Controller and PC Monitor

The viewing angle is how far off-center you can get to the screen before the image starts looking inaccurate. This changes depending on the model, so make sure you pay attention if you need a TV that can be viewed from wider angles. For computer monitors, viewing angle isn’t so important as they’re often viewed directly in front.

Do You Need a Monitor or TV?

Choosing between a monitor and tv should be pretty easy. To decide, figure out what you want to do with the screen. For example, do you want to play fast-paced online games? Or watch movies in your living room?

Pay attention to the screen size, the resolution, available ports, refresh rate, and input lag, and get a screen that supports the function that you want to use it for.

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