TVs and gaming monitors are similar in a lot of ways but they also differ in other aspects. This is especially true for older TVs and monitors but the line between these display devices has blurred over the years with advances in display technologies and consumer needs.
Gaming monitors and TVs are similar in that they are both display devices that use similar panels depending on their type. However, gaming monitors have higher refresh rates, lower input lags, better color accuracy, and faster response times. Multimedia TVs, on the other hand, are usually larger in size, have better processing capabilities are mainly suitable for far-field viewing and entertainment purposes.
But the scale of their differences is not as large as it used to be and you can now get gaming monitors with large screen sizes and TVs with faster response times which was not the case about 10 years ago.
So, if you are planning to get either a TV or a monitor for all your gaming needs, watching movies, and productivity, there are some similarities and differences that we need to look at.
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Similarities between a Multimedia TV and a gaming monitor
1. Screen resolution
TVs and monitors will have similar screen resolutions for the most part starting from as low as 720p to as high as 8K which is overkill, for now.
Resolution is taken from the number of pixels found on a display. These pixels are represented in terms of the number of pixels on the width of the display by the number of pixels on the height of the same display.
The more the pixels on both scales, the higher the resolution which will translate to more details and picture clarity.
Both monitors and multimedia TVs will have the following resolution;
- 1080p (1920 by 1080 pixels)- This resolution is also known as Full HD and can be found on most entry-level TVs and monitors.
- 4K (3840 by 2160 pixels)- This resolution is also known as Ultra-HD and can be found on both mid-range and high-end products.
But they also differ in that you can find budget 720p TVs (progressive scan) but a gaming monitor with the same 720p resolution is hard to come by. The same is true for pricey high-end 8K TVs that can be bought for exorbitant prices if you can afford it.
8K will be too much on a gaming display and will require more graphics processing power which most consumers cannot get their hands on.
On the other hand, multimedia TVs do not have a 1440p resolution (2560 by 1440 pixels) also known as quad HD. This is a common resolution in gaming monitors and is the sweet spot between 4K and 1080p.
Having a higher resolution may be great for the most part but this can be very tasking to the display, especially when it comes to power usage and processing on a computer’s graphics card.
2. Display technologies
For the most part, monitors and TVs will use the same display technologies with some exceptions here and there.
Whether it is older CRT to more advanced OLED technologies, TVs and monitors will be made of the same panels.
However, not many gaming monitors will use OLED due to burn-in but you can find some pricey models on the market today. But both multimedia TVs and monitors will have QLED displays, LCDs (most common), backlighting, edge-lighting, and so on depending on the display model and generation.
However, most LCD TVs use IPS (In-Plane Switching) panels due to the wider color gamut (color range) and wider viewing angles. The downside to this is that they have slower response times.
Most LCD gaming monitors, on the other hand, will use TN (Twisted nematic) panels due to their faster response and higher refresh rates. But you can also find some TVs that use TN panels and gaming displays that use IPS panels.
There are also VA (Vertical Alignment) panels that can be found on both displays. VA panels balance between color presentation, viewing angles, and response times but are not great for competitive games since they have more motion blur than TN panels.
These are the main similarities between multimedia TVs and gaming monitors. Apart from the two, the rest are pretty much the differences.
Differences between gaming monitors and TVs
1. Size and pixel density
Size is the most notable difference between a standard TV and a monitor.
Typically, monitors sit at between 24 and 30 inches while the smallest TVs in the market today start a screen size of 32 inches as can go to as much as 100 inches. But you can also find monitors with the larger displays going all the way to 55 inches but they tend to be overly expensive.
The reason for this huge size difference is how each of these devices is used. Monitors are meant to be used for near-field viewing and to be placed on desks that can support their weight.
TVs, on the other hand, can be wall-mounted or placed on a stand as they are heavier and can be used for far-field viewing; what’s more, they provide wider viewing angles.
The size of the display also affects the pixel density which is written as PPI or Pixels Per Inch. Pixel density is the ratio of the screen resolution and screen size. Image clarity increases with an increase in the pixel density depending on the viewing distance.
Usually, monitors will have a much higher pixel density than multimedia TVs of the same resolution. A good example would be a 24-inch 4K monitor with a pixel density of 184 PPI and a 50-inch 4K TV with a pixel density of 88.12 PPI.
At about 4 feet from either display, the image on the TV would look fuzzier than that on the gaming monitor.
2. Viewing distance and viewing angle
Screen size brings me to the next difference, how far you can watch or use the display.
It is common knowledge that monitors are meant to be used as a close viewing distance and a narrower viewing angle than a TV. This is mainly because of the size difference and the type of panel used on the display.
Most monitors will have a viewing angle of about 110° which is ideal for one-person viewing while TVs typically have viewing angles of about 160° meaning that you can have a larger number of people watching the TV.
The viewing distance on a monitor is also smaller due to the smaller screen. You can only appreciate how much it has to offer if you are close to it.
3. Response Time
The response time determines how fast a pixel can change color from a shade to another or from one color to another.
Gaming monitors tend to have a faster response time than multimedia TVs which makes the gaming experience as smooth as possible. This is made possible by the use of TN panels which we looked at earlier that can have a response time of as low as 1ms or as high as 10ms which is also fast.
Meanwhile, multimedia TVs have a slower response time that can be as high as 45ms to as low as around 13ms which when compared to gaming monitors is pretty slow. This is because they use VA or IPS panels. However, few TVs can have response times of as low as 5ms.
Granted, the response time will mostly be noticed by competitive gamers but not by gamers that mainly play adventure games and movie lovers.
4. Input Lag
Input lag refers to the delay between inputting a command whether it is using a mouse, a keyboard, or a console pad, and the response on the display.
A low input lag is very important, especially when playing fast-paced games which is something that gaming monitors beat TVs.
Most high-quality gaming monitors will have an input lag of 15ms and below while the input lag on TVs is usually above 20ms. This is because TVs have picture processors that enhance the image quality making it more pleasing to the eye.
However, there is a workaround to this high input lag on TVs which involves using the “Game Mode” that turns image processing off but even with it turned off, the input lag can only go as low as ~13ms on high-end TVs.
5. Refresh Rates and variable refresh rate technologies
The refresh rate is a measure of how fast a said display can refresh frames per second and is measured in Hertz which is basically frequency per second.
A higher refresh rate usually means smoother motion and helps create a more immersive experience which is essential for most games.
Now, this is where most gaming monitors outperform TVs, by a lot. Gaming monitors can have true refresh rates that can be as high as 240 Hz but most of them will have refresh rates of between 120 Hz and 144 Hz meaning that they are more responsive.
Meanwhile, most TVs are limited to 60 Hz but some can go as high as 120 Hz. Some multimedia TVs may be advertised with higher refresh rates such as 144 Hz or 24o Hz but these are usually not “true” refresh.
TVs that are advertised as having high refresh rates accomplish this by interpolating frames. What this means is that a TV can have a “true” refresh rate of 60 Hz but by adding fake frames between the actual ones, the refresh rates go to as high as 120 Hz which will not be as effective or as responsive as gaming monitors.
Another area where gaming monitors excel over TVs is on variable refresh rates. Variable refresh rates (VRR) or adaptive sync essentially allows you to adjust the refresh rate on your display device.
Some variable refresh rate technologies include;
- FreeSync by AMD– Can be found on both TVs and monitors. This is free technology.
- G-Sync by Nvidia– G-sync is mainly found on monitors and is a proprietary technology by Nvidia.
- V-Sync– This is a software adaptive sync technology that can be added to a computer but is known to add input lag, unlike the other technologies.
- HDMI Forum VRR– This is an HDMI 2.1 feature found mainly on TVs and is compatible with FreeSync. If your TV has HDMI VRR, you can activate FreeSync on the connected source whether is an Xbox console or a PC connected to the TV.
Adaptive sync technologies help to synchronize the refresh rate on your display with the frame rate on your source which helps to prevent screen tear. So, if your TV or gaming monitor has a 60 Hz refresh rate and your content or game is at 45 frames a second, the refresh rate is taken down to 45 Hz to match the FPS.
6. Color presentation and accuracy
TVs are known to have more pleasant colors while monitors prioritize color accuracy and the image is displayed as it is without any enhancements.
This is because most TVs have a wider color gamut when compared to monitors which ensure that the user is getting the best experience, especially when watching movies. Color gamut is the range of colors a screen can display.
The chips on TVs are responsible for image processing and representation which is useful for movie lovers. This does not mean that the colors are not accurate but they are enhanced to make them look better.
However, with a gaming monitor, no processing or image enhancements are done and the image will be presented exactly as it is as fast as possible.
7. Input and output connections
This is another area where TVs triumph over gaming monitors.
A gaming monitor is more like to have significantly fewer input and output connections when compared to a multimedia TV. TVs may have several HDMI inputs and outputs, a USB port, DVI input, Optical, Coaxial, and so on while monitors will most likely have a VGA input, DVI input, an HDMI input, and Aux out for audio.
HDMI can be used to sent signals to the display but if it has an audio return channel (ARC and eARC), audio can be sent to and from the display. TVs will also have an HDMI output that is useful for those that use it for their streaming needs.
DVI and VGA inputs are common on monitors to send video signals to the display. Your TV may also have these inputs which can be used to connect directly to your PC or laptop.
Coaxial and antenna connections on TVs are important for sending broadcast signals to the TV. These inputs are not found on monitors.
TVs will also have a USB input that can be used to connect a pen drive or other devices such as Chromecast and Apple sticks for streaming.
Most TVs will have tuners that can be used to receive broadcast signal over an antenna or from a coaxial connection.
Gaming monitors do not have tuners and cannot receiver over-the-air signal but you can connect it to a cable box using HDMI if it has the input port.
Although some monitors will have speakers, most of them will not. You will be required to add external speakers or use headphones to have sound.
Meanwhile, all TVs have built-in speakers although the quality of the speakers has been going down as TVs have gotten slimmer. At least you have the option to get sound without spending extra but if you want a better experience it is always recommended to add a soundbar or separate speakers to greatly improve the sound output.
10. Smart and additional features
- HDR– This is a feature found on a large number of 4K TVs making the image more vibrant if you are playing HDR content. Gaming monitors with HDR support are not easy to come by as the technology has only started to surface in monitors and those that have are very expensive.
- Streaming– Smart TVs will allow you to stream content directly from it with an internet connection via ethernet or Wi-Fi without needing an external source. Some smart TVs may also allow you to record certain shows to your home server or an external storage device. These features are not found on monitors.
- HDMI CEC– CEC stands for Consumer Electronics Control and is an HDMI feature found on TVs and other AV devices. This feature allows you to control other CEC devices using a single remote. Monitors do not have the option for remote control in the first place and CEC implementation would not make sense on but you can always use a wireless mouse for your controls.
11. Price and value
Price and the value for what you pay for are very important as this is what will determine your buying decision in the long run, especially with a limited budget.
As far as cost and value are concerned, TVs are better than monitors since they have more features. Monitors with additional features such as HDR 10, bigger screens, and so on tend to be expensive and may not be worth it for most consumers looking to buy one display for all needs.
The main reason for this is demand and price pressure. Most consumers are known to upgrade their TVs more often than they do with monitors which means that manufacturers can sell more TVs at a lower price and still make a profit.
People change and upgrade their monitors less often and, therefore, the price has to be raised to compensate for the lower demand.
Gaming on a multimedia TV
You can play both PC and console games on your TV which will also serve other entertainment needs such as catching up on the next episode of your favorite show.
A 40-inch 4K TV with HDR 10 or Dolby Vision with an input lag of below 30ms would be great for this since it is not too large for close use and it is large enough for a wider viewing angle and far-field viewing. You can also use it to play fast-paced games by turning Game Mode on.
However, if you are a very competitive gamer, this may not be the best choice for you but you can still make it work if you mostly play competitive games for fun.
It would also be great if the TV has smart features that will make it a great value for your money since you can binge on some Netflix movies on the go as long as you have an internet connection.
Watching movies on a gaming monitor
What about using a monitor for both entertainment and gaming needs?
Gaming monitors are also great for both purposes since you can stream content directly from your TV and connect a Blu-ray player or a TV box such as Roku or Apple TV to it.
However, you would need a gaming monitor with an HDMI or use switchers and adapters if the monitor does not have an HDMI input.
The other thing to pay attention to would be the screen size. I would recommend at least 32 inches for a small room and about 40 inches for a medium-sized room with an aspect ratio of 16:9.
You would also need to improve the audio by adding external speakers whether stereo or surround.
A receiver would also be great since you can connect all your sources to the receiver and send the video signals to the monitor using an HDMI cable or an HDMI to DVI adapter. The sound would then be sent to your speakers from the powered speaker outputs on the receiver.
TV vs Gaming monitor: Final verdict
As you can this from this comparison guide, monitors and TVs have a lot of key differences and are also similar in a couple of ways.
Depending on the type of content you play for the most part any of them can be great to suit your needs as long as you make the right buying decision in terms of features, size, and so on.
Ensure that the display can balance in terms of performance if you are switching between watching movies and playing games if you do not want to have a gaming monitor for gaming and productivity and a TV for multimedia which would also be great if your budget allows you.
But as far as I am concerned a high-quality TV would be better for most of your needs.