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The Best Computer Monitor is an HDTV

Updated on October 06, 2016
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok has a Master of Science degree and applies his professional insight to analyze products and share reviews with tips and advice.

Here’s the scoop on my personal experience using an HDTV as my computer monitor. This article is for those who use their computer for serious work and not just for playing games.

Why pay a high price for a computer monitor when you can use an HDTV for a lot less and with more quality and features?

Today's HD televisions have the same, or better, screen technology as computer monitors. In addition, for less cost they include a host of extra features, including better sound quality.

I recently bought a new computer. My old LCD monitor would have worked fine, but it was not the wide-screen type that all new computers have today. So I felt it was time to upgrade that too.

For me, a 24-inch display was all I needed. That would be adding quite a bit of “real-estate” space anyway, since I was upgrading from a 19-inch display.

I had tried several brands and became very disappointed with the quality of all computer monitors on the market. I kept buying and returning several models.

There were two things that bothered me with regular computer monitors:

  1. Narrow viewing angle
  2. Poor audio quality

The angle of display on some brands was not as good as my old monitor. Computer displays are designed for front viewing only. The argument sales reps tell me is that this is a feature to provide security from peeping eyes.

That's something I don’t need to worry about since I work at home. I don’t want to be forced to sit directly in front of the screen just to see it well.

An even worse problem was the poor quality of the sound. The speakers are so small that they produce terrible results.

The response from store sales people was always the same excuse: They say that since new displays are so thin, there’s no room to put good speakers in them. They all tell me I should buy external speakers if I want decent audio.

I was eager to avoid cluttering my desk with extra components, so I really wanted the speakers built in.

I am actually very surprised that manufacturers can’t get it right. Apple did it! The iPad is thin, with little room for good-sized speakers, and my iPad has really great audio quality.

I thought to myself: Televisions built today are also thin and they have great audio with built-in speakers. Therefore, I decided to try an actual HDTV to be used as my monitor.

My HDTV Alternative For My Computer Monitor

24-inch Vizio HDTV being used as my computer monitor with 1920 x 1080 pixels.
24-inch Vizio HDTV being used as my computer monitor with 1920 x 1080 pixels. | Source

Having done my research, I discovered that a 1080p HDTV provides the same video quality as the best digital monitor. It’s equivalent to having a monitor with 1920 x 1080 pixels.

TVs are much cheaper than computer monitors, which is ridiculous because monitors don’t have TV tuners or Internet access. So why are they more expensive. Must be because people don’t know they can use a simple TV and are willing to pay a premium for their computer display. I found a low-cost solution that actually provides better quality.

I examined the LCD TVs that were on display at several stores. I noticed that the viewing angle was wonderful. All the way up to 178 degrees with no loss of clarity or color when viewed at an angle.

VIZIO makes a 24-inch HD model that is 1080p, and as a bonus, it’s a Smart TV. That means it picks up Internet streaming channels in addition to broadcast and cable. The Internet capability includes built-in Apps to watch Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, YouTube, Pandora and more.

However, the main objective is to use it as a computer monitor, so I’ll just talk about that.

What to Look For in a Television Monitor

I bought a 24-inch VIZIO Smart TV and it has excellent audio. I was right about that.

I assume most TV’s will have great audio. I never knew one that didn’t. However, whatever brand you select, it’s important to get an HDTV with 1080p so that you have the clarity of 1920 x 1080 pixels to produce the tiniest text and clear graphics.

You also need to be sure it has an HDMI Interface to connect to your computer. Many larger HDTV’s have more than one.

HDMI carries the signals for both stereo audio and video, so you’ll have less wires running around.

I have an Apple iMac Mini, so I used a cable to connect the Mini Display Port to the HDMI interface on the TV. You can also connect Apple's Thunderbolt™ to HDMI. If you have a computer with a DVI Port, you can use a DVI to HDMI Adapter Cable.

Remember, you need a TV with two features if you are going to use it as a computer monitor:

  1. 1080p resolution
  2. HDMI interface

The Model I’m Using

VIZIO E241i-B1 24-Inch 1080p 60Hz Smart LED HDTV (Black)
VIZIO E241i-B1 24-Inch 1080p 60Hz Smart LED HDTV (Black)

I bought the VIZIO E241i-A1 24-inch 1080p LED Smart HDTV. I bought it for less than $200.

This is the newer version of the VIZIO HDTV that I'm using, and it’s also under $200. Try getting a computer monitor for that price.

I was happy with last year's model, so I would bet that this newer model is even better.


There’s a physical difference between last year’s model and the latest:

  • The E241i-A1 (2013 Model) has a tilted view, which I like because it sits low on my desk.

  • The newer E241i-B1 (2014 Model) is completely vertical, but that’s okay too since it has a base that makes it a little higher on the desk.

Both of these models have only one HDMI interface. That’s all you need for your computer. Larger HDTVs have more than one.

If your computer only has an RGB or composite interface, this model of the Vizio supports those too, as you can see in the image of the rear panel below. I recommend HDMI since that provides the best signal.

Rear Component Connection Panel of my VIZIO E241i-A1
Rear Component Connection Panel of my VIZIO E241i-A1 | Source

General Specs of VIZIO Smart HDTVs

Display Type
1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels)
Response time
5 ms
Video Interface
HDMI, RGB (PC), Composite
Other Inputs
Built-In Wi-Fi, Ethernet
Display Sizes
24", 32", 40" … up to 80"
Remote Control
Energy Star

Bigger Screen Sizes

VIZIO M321i-A2 32-Inch 1080p Smart LED HDTV
VIZIO M321i-A2 32-Inch 1080p Smart LED HDTV

This is the 32-inch version of the same HDTV that I'm using. For me, 24 inches (shown above) was perfect for my computer use. But you decide what's best for you.

My choice was for a 24-inch screen. If you want a larger one, you’ll still find a better deal with a HDTV instead of a computer monitor. Just remember to look for one that is 1080p and that has at least one HDMI interface or that supports your computer's monitor interface.


Of Interest to Gamers

Those who play games on PC’s and require monitors that have response times of 5ms or better will be glad to know that most modern HDTV’s are now in that range.

Gamers who have not researched this are under the impression that LCD TV’s have a slow response time, as high as 20+ ms. But I’m finding them in the 5ms range, such as the 24 inch Vizio I mentioned above that I’m using.

Vizio even has a 47-Inch Widescreen LCD 3D TV (Model XVT3D474SV) with a 4 ms response time.

I already had received thanks from a few gaming enthusiasts for guiding them to use a good quality HDTV. They saved money and since the sound with games is extremely important too, this solved their problem of having to use external speakers. The feedback I've received is that they like having less clutter. The built-in high quality speakers in an HDTV eliminated the need for having another item on their desk.

The Best of Both Worlds

Sampling of Smart TV channels
Sampling of Smart TV channels | Source

Most HDTVs today are also Smart TVs. Now that I have a Smart TV sitting on my desk, I find myself taking advantage of it. When I’m not working on the computer, I browse a variety of Internet channels that I don’t have on my regular TV.

The future of television is here. Now you can take full advantage of it to enjoy the best experience for a Computer Monitor.

How about you?

Are you considering getting an HDTV for your computer monitor?

See results

© 2014 Glenn Stok


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    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      My husband does the same thing with a humongous TV! For me, it's just too large to view and so bright it makes my eyes hurt. But I think a smaller version of it would be usable for sure.

      I think the only concern I would have is with some graphic design stuff I do. It would look so amazing on the screen, that I may forget to see how it looks on a real screen. :)

      But it is tempting!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      heidithorne - That's why I use a 24-inch screen. One wouldn't want a 70-inch screen for a computer monitor for sure. Your graphics design work would be great on an HDTV. And by the way, it IS a real screen. The technology used in a High Definition TV is the same as used in a computer monitor (as long as you go with 1080p). And a TV provides improved audio without the need for expensive external speakers.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      I have seen my son project the computer images onto the TV screen and I actually like the 54" view. Thank you for this very commonsense idea. Voted Up!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      MsDora - I guess what your son did that for was to make presentation of a computer application to an audience. A 54" screen is great for that, but on the other hand, I think it's too big for a desktop.

    • profile image

      Some Gamer 2 years ago

      This wouldn't be a good solution for gaming though, as the response time would be much higher in a TV than in a Monitor.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Some Gamer - The HD TV's built today have the same technical specs as a PC Monitor. And in addition, HD TV's have better built-in speakers than PC monitors have. Just make sure you buy a TV with 1080 pixels as I mentioned in this article. And if you are concerned about gaming speed, get one with 120 Hz, that's better than the more expensive monitors.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      Great idea - I'm using up my OK monitor until it burns out, then I'm gonna try what you recommend! Voted useful.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Suzanne Day - I stayed with my old monitor a long time too, until I decided that I was missing out by not having a wide screen. That's when I discovered how awful computer monitors are as compared to HDTVs. You just have to remember to get an HDTV with 1080p.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 2 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      You've convinced me to look into the VIZIO Smart TV. I appreciate your thorough review of this and the other options. What you said about the price comparison is amazing, too. Voted up, highly useful! and shared.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Writer Fox - Thanks for sharing this with your followers. Glad you found it useful. I've been using the Vizio HDTV for almost a year now as my computer monitor and still am amazed at the quality of the video and the sound.

    • cfin profile image

      cfin 2 years ago from The World we live in

      Hi Glenn Stok,

      What I mentioned is flash lighting, not flashing lights. It is prevalent in many side lit LED TV's. It is actually extremely common and only bothers some people. The TV was not a dudd or damaged. It is where blobs of light or stripes of lighter texture are visible across the screen when viewing dark scenes. Every unit within some models have this, and the manufacturer will just tell you that it's normal. This may be a factor or con to consider for example when using autocad or 3D renderer on the PC. It's worth researching for someone like yourself who finds this interesting. My wife is very sensitive to flashlighting and usually people who enjoy a good contrast ratio on their monitor cannot use a TV with heavy flashlighting. It is also of note that Many backlit plasma TV's do not suffer from this issue, and it is a reason why I was also a fan of plasma.

      To see flashlighting, do some work on screen that requires a very dark screen. The lighting issue will be quite clear. In some TV's it can be minimized by turning down the backlight almost completely.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      cfin - The Vizio model that I mentioned here does not have that problem. I work often on images that have mostly black backgrounds and I don't see flash lighting as you described. Thanks of that info. It goes to show that buyers need to do their due diligence.

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      Hi Glenn _ I love the way the naysayers try to convince you that you are wrong. Your reasoning is sound and makes for excitement for others to do the same thing. You investigated. You liked. You bought. What better way to get what pleases you. Wait until my husband hears this story. Sounds wonderful. Sharing Blessings, Audrey PS I like the way you think outside the box.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Thanks for noticing that, Audrey. Reading the comments brings a full picture to the surface, doesn't it? They argue, but they haven't tried it. I'm using my HDTV for over a year now with no problems. And a couple of friends did the same thing and are very happy too. Be well, Audrey. Thanks again.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 2 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Fantastic idea! Thank you! I have used my HP Touch Smart for a tv for close to five years and love it - so now that is time to upgrade a few other spaces in our home, this is a perfect alternative. Keep up the outstanding work!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      GmaGoldie - If I understand correctly, you say you are using your PC as a TV. That's fine too, but my article is about using an HDTV as a monitor. Quite the reverse. Did I miss something from what you meant?

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i also use HDTV as my monitor, cheaper than the LED

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      peachpurple - Thanks for stopping by. Glad to hear you're saving money with an HDTV as your monitor. Actually LED TVs are also HD. LED simply refers to the type of backlighting.

    • profile image

      Dave 2 years ago

      Glen, just read your article to learn we have the same tv! My question is, what are your picture settings? My image looks a little washed out, whites don't have a lot detail to them and everything looks a bit faded.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Dave - The only change I made was that I lowered the brightness because it was too bright for me. Did you play with the contrast setting? That would make it seem washed out as you mentioned. I left that set as the factory default.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 20 months ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Hi Glenn,

      You didn't miss anything, I was just offering up a dual option. I enjoy following this thread - fascinating as we are all involved in both tv and computers on a daily basis. Outstanding and well thought out post and fantastic comments. Thank you!

    • profile image

      Chris 19 months ago

      You seem to refute any ones response that does not agree with you, not saying your wrong but I have been using a hdtv for a couple years now and im finally switching to a monitor. Hdtv's are optimized more for viewing at a distance and while they may be perfectly fine for close quarters movie or youtube watching they have generally slower input lag and pixel response times plus the colors need to be more accurate for graphic designers. Also just because you dont have room on a desk for good speakers doesnt mean most dont, I dont know anyone who doesnt use dedicated speakers or headphones that sound considerably better than built in speakers. I dont know anyone who wants a monitor with speakers and if they need that a hdtv is probably better but even tv speakers really are not that great. Oh and before you mention it my tv is 1080p, I dont know how anyone could use even a small 720p hdtv as monitor.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 19 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Chris, Try reading all of the article before complaining. I spoke about the response time and mentioned that you need to consider this. I also listed one that has a fast response time of 5ms.

      You ended your argument stating you don't know anyone who would use a small 720p TV. If you read my article, you'd see that I clearly mentioned to use a 1080p HDTV. I am using the one in the picture and it is just as clear as any computer monitor. I work with small detail and fine print, so I need the clarity. The HDTV I am using is excellent.

      As for external speakers, that is simply one's choice. I do have room on my desk but prefer not to have extra stuff sitting around, which is why I needed good quality speakers in the TV as well.

    • profile image

      RJ73 7 months ago

      What about frame rates? Could be wrong here but my understanding is that HDMI cables can only cope with enough data to produce 30fps (1080P), most serious pc gamers will not go below 60fps. Also when many smart tv's promote 250hz etc as a refresh rate this is most often non native and is internal processing done within the TV itself - many will not even advertise the true Hz. For gamers Gsync monitors look like the best option these match the frame rate of the monitor to your GPU, smart TVs cannot do this.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 7 months ago from Long Island, NY

      RJ73 - HDMI 2.0 cables can handle up to 18 gigabits per second. That's enough to handle up to 60 fps.

      What you said about many manufactures not advertising the true Hz is correct. For that matter, many even use methods to make it seem like it's better than it is. For that reason you have to trust your own personal experience, as I do.

      I'm still using my HDTV mentioned in this article for a few years now and I'm very happy with the results. Since I use my computer for writing these articles, creating spreadsheets, and working with images, I find that small detail such as tiny lettering is completely clear and easy on the eyes.

    • profile image

      Daniel 3 months ago

      I need to upgrade my PC monitor, but also the TV in my room.

      So I'm thinking instead of buying a monitor and a TV to buy just a new TV and use it as a monitor.

      But the TV is going to be big, I'm going for the 40 inch Full HD by Hisense.

      What I wonder is if what you said about HDTV being the best monitors and how you can still see clear characters and details applies to also TV that are that big or if by increasing the size of the screen the clearness of characters decreases.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Daniel - The pixel density (or 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 made for distance viewing, such as across 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 normal 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. As you increase the screen size for distant viewing, the ppi is no longer sufficient for detailed computer work.

      I do all my work on a 24-inch HDTV monitor as I referenced in this article. At that size it matches or exceeds the clarity of a dedicated monitor.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Marcus, Your comment is not posted because you were promoting another site against the terms of service as noted. However I am pleased to respond to your concerns.

      You did not mention which brand TV you bought that had blurry text. The one I mentioned in this article has crisp text even as small as 6pt. I never had a problem and still using it today for all my development work.

      As for subsampling , you did not mention what interface to your computer you were using with the TV using 4:2:0 subsampling. That might be the issue causing your problem. Once again, the one I mentioned does not have this problem. In any case, subsampling is more of an issue for film makers using green screen backgrounds.

      As for 4K, of course that will always provide crisp text, but the extra expense is not necessary for normal desk work distance. 4K is a high end technology really meant for large screen TVs that are used for far-distance viewing.

    • profile image

      Alan 3 months ago

      I want to be able to have a 42 inch screen with great resolution that I can operate w mac computer using a cable or AppleTV. I want to work on three pages open at one time. I want to place it on a mobile stand so that I can roll it between two different rooms in the office. Please inform me what your recommendation is for these three requirements of this size screen used at a distance on a mobile stand using AppleTV. Thank you

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Alan, A 42 inch TV is not useful for computer work. Even with the best resolution available today the text would be blurry.

    • profile image

      Dominick 3 months ago

      I am using a tv as monitor as well...I am using the Samsung 4k smart tv at 40"...I have to tell you I thought it was going to be too big but r is absolutely perfect reason being the 4k works perfect at the distance I am sitting from...and it did NOT require a lot of adjustments whatsoever...the detail, the pixels...EVERYTHING...just works...so just wanted to share that as well...and keep up the great post!!!!

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 3 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Dominick - Thanks for sharing your experience with a 40" TV. Of course, since it's 4K, you have no problem. However, you're paying for the advantage. That's fine if that's the size you want for your computer monitor, but most people don't need 40" for desktop monitors. That's why this article is focused on smaller size monitors.

    • profile image

      alan 3 months ago

      thank you so much for your input re the choices for a large 42 inch mobile monitor so i can be a distance away from the monitor/tv (i will ck into the 4k)

      With my work, i need to keep multiple screens open

      and use table/desk in front of me to write on documents and/or read from technical books. i don't want the screen on my desk.

      if you have any ideas re:mobile stands for a 42 inch monitor please let me know

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Alan - I wouldn't call a 42-inch TV a monitor. I never even considered one as a computer monitor. You're on a new threshold, one I have not researched.

    • profile image

      Jerry Griswold 2 months ago

      How do I move between cable tv and my laptop. Do I need a TV with two hdmi ports and some sort of switch? The cable folks left me their remote and an hdmi cable. My laptop is ready for hdmi. Just trying to figure out how to move between.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 2 months ago from Long Island, NY

      Jerry Griswold - If your TV has two HDMI ports then connect your cable box to one and the laptop to the other. The TV itself has an option in it's settings menu to select the input you want to use.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 5 weeks ago from Templeton, CA

      Thank you for this information. We've been thinking of upgrading our very old TV to a smart TV that will add internet capability to the TV programming. I was reading the reviews on Amazon and some people complained of humming or clicking they could hear from 10 feet away when the unit was off. Have you heard that?

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      BarbRad - No, I never heard anything about humming or any noise coming from a smart TV. When it's off - it off. Maybe you misunderstood what you read on Amazon.

    • profile image

      Brian Adams 5 weeks ago

      For the past 5 years I have used a 42" 720p TV as a computer monitor at about 10 feet from where I sit. For the most part I use it for photo editing and some Word/Excel documents. I am now looking at upgrading to either 4K or 1080p. From what I have read it seems as though the 1080p has fewer potential problems with set up. I know you are commenting on 24" monitors, but do you have any comment on using 4K or 1080p?

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Brian Adams - I'm actually surprised you had no problems with text on a 720p TV, especially since you were using such a large screen. Even a 24" screen requires 1080p when using it as a computer monitor. Since you plan to stay with 42 inches with your new monitor, I recommend going with the highest pixels available with the present technology, and that is 4K.

    • profile image

      Shalako 4 weeks ago

      Sounds like you need to stay away from TN monitors and get yourself a good IPS one.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 4 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

      Shalako - It's really all a matter of choice. IPS display (In-Plane Switching) is actually just a different type of TFT LCD, as the one I mentioned in this article. It's nothing new. IPS technology was developed back in the late 90s to compensate for ghosting.

      That was common on LCD in those days, especially with fast motion such as with gaming. But today's LCD technology has a much faster response time (such as the ones I refer to in this article), that ghosting no longer occurs.

      In addition, TN (Twisted Nematic) displays have a much faster response time than IPS displays. TN displays also have an increased viewing angle, which I have noticed when searching for monitors. I mentioned this in this article. That's how I discovered that HDTVs offer a better viewing angle. Most computer monitors are IPS and you have to sit directly in front of it for best results. Some people may prefer that since it provides more privacy. It's a user's choice.

      An issue that old TN displays had was limited color representation. But this isn't noticeable with high-quality TN LCD, such as used in newer HDTVs.

      Despite its shortfalls, I agree with you that IPS is a better technology than TN, but you pay for it. Since it's hardly noticeable for standard computer work, most computer uses would prefer to save their money and still have a high quality TN type monitor. But if you are a creative graphics professional who requires consistent color reproduction across the entire screen without the requirement to handle fast motion, and cost is not an issue, then by all means go for IPS as you suggested.

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